Castle 5

Chateau de Bouillon – home of Godfrey of the Crusades

A medieval castle in the town of Bouillon in the south of Belgium… impressively standing on the hill and witnessing  its glory.

 

Although it was mentioned first in 988, it has been there, on the same site for a much longer time. The castle is situated on a rocky cliff of the river Semois .

In 11 century it came to the possession of Godfrey of Bouillon who sold it to Bishop of Liège in order to finance the First Crusade. The castle was later used for heavy artillery in the late 17th century.

 

Inside the castle you can walk from from room to room, to what used to be a library, to underwater passages,warehouses with of course – the brewery 🙂 until the dungeon where some detainees were tortured or killed. It is a great insight to medieval times!

 

Godfrey of Bouillon, 11th century was a Frankish knight, and one of the leaders of the First Crusade from 1096 until his death. To the Buillon castle he brought the best in technology and production to recreate the first Crusade in the company of thousands of men making their way to Jerusalem. After the successful siege of Jerusalem in 1099, Godfrey became the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. He refused the title of King, however, as he believed that the true King of Jerusalem was Christ.

godfrey-of-bouillon
Episodes in the history of Belgium up until the 13th century with Godfrey Buillon

Of course, he made himself a final destination in the city of Bouillon. Although not buried in the castle, his grave is very close to the city walls with the museum opened a few years ago.

 

 

 

 

Home page 38

London, London

London attracted over 16 million international visitors in 2014, myself included, making it the world’s most visited city.

Settling my company in this city makes me visiting it quiet often, so every time I try to visit something new and discover more! I usually take the Eurostar train from Brussels under the famous canal La Manche and Viola! – in 2 hours I am in London, baby!

oxford-street-shopping

I usually start with shopping in Oxford street and around –  Europe’s favourite shopping area, in the City of Westminster. The road was originally a Roman road,  but later in middle ages known as Tyburn Road  where prisoners from Newgate Prison would be transported towards a public hanging. It became known as Oxford Street in the 18th century changing its character into commercial and retail purposes by the late 19th century, also attracting street traders, confidence tricksters and prostitution.

London was founded by the Romans, who named it Londinium after which  Anglo-Saxon settlement started to grow until the fall of Roman Empire and Vikings invasion. By the 11th century, London was beyond all comparison one of the largest towns in Europe and Westminster Abbey, rebuilt in the Romanesque style by King Edward the Confessor, was one of the grandest churches in Europe. Later, mainly the Gothic abbey church became cathedral as most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs. When I entered the abbey, I was absolutely astonished with the architecture, but also the tradition and longtime history of England. Whenever I stepped or looked, there was a grave of some english king or queen or memorial to the poet or discoverer.

In the cloisters of the church, I found the oldest door of Britain! Nearly a thousand years old the oak trees growing in the forest outside London a thousand years ago and the door itself was probably constructed and put in place about 1050 when Edward the Confessor built Westminster Abbey next to his palace at Westminster.

The Palace of Westminster is today the Parliament of the United Kingdom – ‘heart of British politics’. It was built on the site of river Thames in the 11th century as the primary residence of the Kings of England, strategically important during the Middle Ages. In 1855, it was added ”the prince of timekeepers”: the biggest, most accurate  clock in the world – Big Ben.

On the river Thames is located the Tower of London as well,  a historic castle  founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The construction was started by  William the Conqueror and later expanded by  Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. Under the Tudors, the Tower became used less as a royal residence and more as place of artillery and prison. In one of the towers, the ravens are having their nests. It is said if all the ravens ever leave the tower then the British crown and British kingdom will fall.

tower-of-london

Very next to the Tower is the Tower Bridge: a masterpiece of 19 century architecture with its  hydraulic system.

Now when I crossed the river, I could take some walk through the Jubilee Gardens on the South Bank where is also a modern but already very popular tourist attraction: the London Eye, a giant observation wheel 135 meter tall structure, built as part of London’s millennium celebrations.

london_eye_below_blue_sky_

Continuing to the north, on my way was The Globe theater, an Elizabethan playhouse built for the pays of famous write William Shakespeare, in 16 century. 

Close by is my favourite bar with traditional fish and chips dish. So I gave myself a break and ordered like a local. 🙂

The next day was the day reserved for museums. As it was the first Sunday in month, most of the museums were free. So I went to Trafalgar Square –  the square that commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, a British naval victory in the Napoleonic Wars. In the center is Admiral Nelson’s column. The British Museum, National Gallery and National Portraits Gallery are just there. Btw, I almost died at Trafalgar square, crossing the street on a green light when the ambulance came out of nowhere, actually behind the doubledecker that stopped on the pedestrian crossing (so I was not able to see it coming). The bus driver was honking, the people on the opposite side of the street were waving when I started to cross the street… and the ambulance suddenly passed by furiously in front of me. Ooops!

Although I have been twice to British Museum and saw its offers and pride, my favourites goes to National Gallery of Portraits with all the royal and aristocracy portraits of their times. Seems like they are real and all my characters from historical novels that I read about became vivid. My imagination gets crazy and I get goosebumps.

From Trafalgar square I continued through Pall Mall Avenue, decorated with British flags that leads to the Buckingham Palace where the Queen Elisabeth ll and the royal family live.

 My favourite site in London is this World War ll monument dedicated to the women that carried the burden of war by themselves working what is called ‘a men’s job’ and often not being appreciated for it.

the-women-of-wwii

I finished the day at Wembley stadium and dinner there. The daylight was slowly coming to its end and the building started to glow somehow, so I couldn’t resist to seize the moment and take the photo! My mother says it is a true postcard of London.

14980657_10211340747016892_407967829241991226_n

 

 

Home page 22

Sibiu, Romania

A small city in Transylvania, also known as Hermannstadt in German, located in north-western Romania was a pure discovery for me! 🙂 It was designated the European Capital of Culture for the year 2007 thanks to its medieval charm.

Sibiu got its importance in 14 century when  it became an important trade centre. In 1376, the craftsmen were divided in 19 guilds and Sibiu became the most important ethnic German city among the seven cities that gave Transylvania its German name Siebenbürgen (german: seven citadels). A number of traders, practitioners and intellectuals of the time mingled around the historic center of Sibiu enclosed by its medieval walls.

The center of happening was Piata Mare (big square) – the largest public square in the old town that witnessed the economic activities of traders in Sibiu. Numerous of assemblies of citizens, fairs and even executions were organized there.

city-square

646x404

In this market it was beheaded  in 1703 Johann von Sachs Harteneck, one of the most important personalities of the Transylvanian Saxons. During his tenure first topographical and city maps were being made. His political positions have attracted many enemies and led to the trial and sentencing to death by beheading.

After World War I, when Austria-Hungary was dissolved, Sibiu became part of Romania; the majority of its population was still ethnic German (until 1941) and counted a large Romanian community, as well as a smaller Hungarian one. Starting from the 1950s and until after 1990, most of the city’s ethnic Germans emigrated to Germany and Austria.

Pasajul scarilor (rom. Passage of the Stairs) leeads down into lower Sibiu. It descends along some fortifications under the support arches. It is the most picturesque of the several passages linking the two sides of the city.

Make sure to be on your best behavior as you cross the Bridge of Lies. It is said that young virgins in medieval times, came on this bridge to meet the boys and to plan the wedding and their future. However, girls were caught lying about their virginity, so they were thrown off this bridge. The legend says they can still be heard whispering in the quiet pubs of Sibiu.

bridge-of-lies

Walking the streets I really felt weird like something’s been stalking me. And soon my friends and I realized what is all about: Sibiu is known as the city with eyes. The old historic city is composed of an uptown and downtown connected by intertwining alleyways, having tall attics with small windows known as the city’s eyes. Most of these houses are dated 15th to 19th centuries.

 

Home page 4

Budapest – the Pearl of the Danube

When Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi was asked if he believed in extraterrestrials, he replied: “They are among us, but they call themselves Hungarians”

This small country is one of the oldest European countries, situated in the middle of the continent in Central Europe.

Hungarians speak a language and form a culture unlike any other in the region: this distinctiveness has been both a source of pride and an obstacle for more than 1100 years.

The country’s capital and largest city is Budapest and sometimes is called the Paris of Middle Europe. Probably because of the beautiful Parliament building. It lies in Lajos Kossuth Square (Governor-President of the Kingdom of Hungary during the revolution of 1848–49.), on the bank of the Danube.

parliament_budapest

Budapest became a single city occupying both banks of the river Danube with the unification of Budim on the west bank, with Pest on the east bank on in 1873. The origins of the names Buda and Pest are obscure. According to chronicles from the Middle Ages, the name Buda comes from the name of its founder, Buda, brother of the Hunnic ruler Attila.

For long time under Ottoman rule, the city entered a new age of prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Budapest became a global city after its unification. It also became the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a great power that dissolved in 1918, following World War I.

On the opposite side of the Parliament is Budim castle settled. The historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings dating from 13 century.

budapestcastle

The bridge that connects both sides of the city is called Széchenyi Chain Bridge  and it was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary and an icon of the city’s 19th century development. The bridge leads to the building of Corvinus University.

I visited the city twice and each time I found another corner or the building of interest, as it is rich with the late baroque architecture.

Home page 9

Krakow, Poland

Krakow is one of the most culturally and politically significant cities in Poland. Although you could easily spend a few happy days in Krakow and fill your time with a variety of entertaining activities; one day is enough to take in the city’s top ‘must-see’ attractions.

Traditionally it has been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life and is one of Poland’s most important economic hubs. It was the capital of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland from 11-16 century, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 16 – 18 century, then the Free City of Kraków in 19 century; and Grand Duchy of Cracow until early 20 century.

My brother and I arrived early in the morning and wandered the Old town first and the main market square. It dates back to the 13th century and is one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe.

It was surrounded by historic townhouses and churches. The center of the square is dominated by the Cloth Hall (polish Sukiennice).  On one side of the cloth hall is the Town Hall Tower (polish Wieża ratuszowa), on the other the 10th century Church of St. Adalbert and 1898 Adam Mickiewicz Monument – the greatest polish romantic poet.

After so many sites at the main square, we climbed to the hill where the Wawel castle is placed, built at the behest of King Casimir III the Great in the 13 century. In the 14th century it was rebuilt by Jadwiga of Poland (also known as Hedwig) – the first female monarch of the Kingdom of Poland. Part of the castle is the very known Wawel cathedral as well.

krakow-wawel-cathedral

From the castle’s courtyard entrance the view shoots on the river Vistula, the largest river in Poland.

Home page 11

Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

My travels through South America continue.

From Peru I continued to travel to Bolivia. A poor landscape but great people on my way! I stopped in peruvian city of Puno and continued my way.

My next stop was another wonder: Lake Titicaca – the highest volcano lake in the world. It ays on the border of Peru and Bolivia. The origin of the name Titicaca is a distortion of the term thakhsi cala, which is the 15th century name of the sacred rock on the Island of the Sun, which I visited!

me-on-lake-titicaca-with-totora-plants-around

On the Island of the Sun and many others around it, the indigenous groups still live and they are called Uro. They live on the mentioned floating island. It is believed that they are the owners of the lake and water. Uros used to say that they have black blood because they did not feel the cold.

The islands are floating because they are made of totora – a giant plant dried and composted forcefully. From the same plant the houses and boats are constructed as well.

Home page 22

Peru: Macchu Picchu

I was driving through the dessert of Atacama from the northern Chile to southern Peru. The landscape of South America changes quickly… When I arrived to old city of Cusco – a historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th until the 16th century  when Spanish conquered. In 1983 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

From the Cusco I took the very fashion tourist train to Aguas Calientes where from l climbed to Macchu Picchu.

When I finally arrived to Aguas Calientes, my journey to climb to Macchu Picchu started. It was the time of monsoons in Peru and semi rain forests were foggy, rany and cold. So I got myself a ride! Some local workers put me in the backside of their camionette and we arrived up in 20 min. The only problem was that I needed to lay down in camionette for about next 10 more min because their boss was going around the workers didn’t want to get their penalty. Long live guys, wherever you are 🙂 I will never forget your help and care.

And I arrived!

A 15th-century Inca citadel situated on a mountain ridge 2,430 metres above sea level. The lost city of Incas lays mystically on the edge of the hill. Amazingly how the city was built and erect in such a wild landscape. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built around 1540 when the Incas were running from the spanish colonisation and the STD’s they were bringing with themselves.

Incas were using the language of Quechua (Macchu Picchu loosely translated means Old Peak) and respected the social structure. In the city of Macchu Picchu it is very well seen how the agricultural people lived on the lower parts of the cliff, while the priests and the supreme chief had their houses on the peak.

macchu-picchu-4

Incas were mostly growing corn and taking care of llamas. Llamas are still wandering there around as a reminder on once vivid city. I got friends with this one but then she spit into my face! Whatever I did to her…

Little information describes human sacrifices at Machu Picchu. Animal, liquid and dirt sacrifices to the gods were much more common, made at the Altar of the Condor.

coca-tea

Half a day I spent wandering around the city and finally decided to go down. As my ears changed the air pressure again, I decided to take the local’s advice and have a mate de coca (esp tea of coca leafs) to loose my ear plums. 🙂

Home page 9

Iguazu Falls: Argentinian and Brazilian side

South America is wild, diverse, strong, challenging, mesmerizing and musical. You can use all of these same attributes for the Falls of Iguazu. Why?

The Falls of Iguazu are waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. They are the largest waterfalls system in the world producing huge amount of energy for the  Itaipú hydroelectric plant.

260px-iguacu-004
The power of the water…
cataratas-de-iguazu-3
… and its sound!

My friends and I got there by local bus that drove us from Buenos Aires.

triple-frontier

We visited both the argentinian and brasilian side of the national park and the point where these two countries meet with Paraguay as well, the so-called Triple Frontier.

Home page 26

Buenos Aires, Argentina

A cosmopolitan city that makes you dance and follow the rhythm of tango while walking the streets of it… literally! My friends and I found ourselves passing the center and jig while the local man plays his mini accordion and couples dance the most passionate dance of the lovers. They say Argentina is the Paris of South America. I don’t like these kind of associations but for sure, it is the most european south american city. Have a look!

Plaza del Mayo is the center where the popular Casa Rosada (esp The Pink House) is – the presidents palace. he characteristic color of the Casa Rosada is baby pink, and is considered one of the most emblematic buildings in Buenos Aires. I found it interesting because of much loved First Lady Eva Peron (mid 20th century). As the First Lady and the Chief of Cabinet of Social Care, Evita used to give her speeches from the balcony of the Casa Rosada on behalf of labor rights.

Caminito (spanish Little walkway) is lively street museum in the neighborhood La Boca where the football player Diego Maradona is coming from. The place has a cultural significance because it inspired the music for the famous tango “Caminito” (in 1926).

In the evening we walked down the port and enjoyed the lights and the wind coming from the Atlantic ocean. Of course, we tried delicious Argentinian plata: the Patagonian steak and ham, cheese and red wine. Oh, what a time of my life! 🙂

The next we went a bit outside of Buenos Aires. We visited many of the deltas of the city that flows into Rio del Plata. We took a boat ride on Delta del Tigre and admired the private islands with fairytaled houses and gardens.

Castle 73

Verona, Italy

The city of love, where you can still find the places of the famous tragedy of Romeo and Juliette… My grandfather, brother and I visited it for one day and discovered all the romance of this city!

Frst we took a cup of nice italian coffee at the main Piazza Bra – very happening square, with the great view of the typical roman monument Arena. Soon we continued to visit other sites r like the Castel Vecchio Bridge over the Adige river . The bridge is from the 14 century and leads to the fortress of the medieval times.

 

Verona is an old city, and as the Romans conquered the Italian peninsula, thereby they started to build the city walls which were later in 15 century expanded and adjusted to its times. Later was the city walled in the 1800’s as a stronghold of the Austro-Hungarian empire’s Italian holdings.

 

The best we left for the end! The house of Juliette and her balcony where she was expressing her love to Romeo. In front of the house is her statue and Muro dell’ amore (tal. Wall of love) where lovers leave their secret messages and love wishes.

giuliette-and-the-balcony-verona

 

Home page 23

6 months in Chile ♥ Santiago and Valparaiso

Back in 2010 I went on a journey of my life on a student exchange to Santiago de Chile in South America. The country is diverse and the only state that spreads on 3 continents: mainland in South America, Chilean Antarctic Territory and Easter Island in the continent domain of Australia and Oceania.

The country goes from the cold arctic climate on the south, with many islands and ice bergs through the ocean climate in the middle, snowy mountain climate from the Andean cordilleras to the dessert of Atacama in the north.

Santiago de Chile, the capital in which I lived, studied and left my heart is located in the country’s central valley, founded in 1541, Santiago has been the capital city of Chile since colonial times. The city has a downtown core of 19th century neoclassical architecture. The master piece of the architecture is La Catedral placed in the city center square Plaza des Armas.

The river Mapocho (named after the indigenous people of southern Chile has a long history dating back as an archaeological culture to 600–500 BC) flows through the city. Today, many Mapuches are engaged in the so-called Mapuche conflict over land and indigenous rights in both Argentina and in Chile.

In the vicinity is the Cerro San Cristóbal (spanish San Cristóbal Hill) named by the Spanish conquistadors for Christopher Columbo (spannish Cristobal Colon), in recognition of its use as a landmark. Its original indigenous name is Tupahue. From the hill  shoots beautiful view on the sity itself. On the top of it is the Statue of the Virgin Mary which can be seen from many places in downtown city.

Another hill that is to be conquered when in Santiago in Cerro Santa Lucia. It is an urban park situated at the Avenue del Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins (a chilean independence leader who, together with José de San Martín, freed Chile from spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence. and became the Supreme Director of Chile (19 century). However, the hill St Lucia was firstly used by spanish conquerors as a point of reconnaissance, or a lookout in the years of the Conquista (16 century).

cerro-st-lucia

Living in Chile in 2010 was especially good hit because the country was celebrating its bicentenario – 200 years since the independence of the spanish rule. For this occasion, the presidents palace La Moneda was specially coloured and performed a light show of the history of Chile. The palace is remarkable 18 century neoclassical building.

Bicentenario was celebrated for three days. At the campus where I studied, the barbeques and fiestas patrias were organized with la fonda  (place to dance) and traditional dance of Chile – la cueca in traditional clothes. So I needed to get myself a traditional dress too! Plus, the earrings! 🙂

The place where I studied was Pontificia Universidad Catolica (PUC) – the most prestigious university in South America and the second recognized educational institution in Latin America (after PUC de Mexico). Even though it is named after the religion spread by the spanish colonists, today has nothing to do with the religious doctrine. 

Where I lived was Barrio Brasil in a student house with the spanish speaking habitants of South America and Spain and had a beautiful every morning view from my room on the skyscrapers and Andes. The barrio was full of bars, murals that were expressing the state of south american social-democracy.

Living in Chile was also the time of Chilean mining accident when the minors of the Atacama dessert remained trapped in the 121 years old San Jose gold mine and spent 17 days in 5 km deep whole. All 33 miners were rescued safe with the help of US Governent and NASA shuttle.

And when the time came for Christmas, it was particularly weird celebrate it on 41 Degrees with the Christmas tree in the main square. But we used to cheer ourself in the popular La Piojera – an old and well-known bar, a symbol of the guachaca culture (a type of urban popular culture in Chile assimilated to lower and usualy vulgar class) and the republican spirit, that is, an icon of the chilenidad (the mass culture of Chile). The place is always filled with people and kinda dangerous, as tourists usually take the local drink terremoto (white wine, spirit pisco, pineapple ice cream and sugar) that follows the replica, taking the photo in front of the bar and then get robbed.

My friends and I often went on a weekend break to Valparaíso – a major seaport of Chile and one of the South Pacific’s most important seaports in general. This great pool of history and culture like the poet Pablo Neruda, murals and colourful architecture makes you feel magic and captured in times of burlesque.  It is called sometimes Little San Francisco or The Jewel of the Pacific.

croata-loca-con-la-guitara

Living in such a vivid surroundings made me start to learn playing guitar. Although I did not get far with my lessons, I can still catch the tact from time to time and mesmerize my second home!

 

 

Home page 24

:Istanbul: where East meets West

It was back in 2010 when my brother Martin and I visited this magic city. So much controversies: beauty and garbage in the streets, peace and roar, colours and grayness… divided by the strait of Bosporus, it is where Europe meets Asia!

However, we indeed enjoyed the great history of this city and its cultural heritage. The city was ruled by Phoenicians, Byzantine and then Ottoman Empire.

Upon our arrival the first thing to do was to walk down the Sultanahmet District – the oldest district of Constantinople (the old name of Istanbul from the times of  capital city of Roman/Byzantine Empire named by Emperor Constantine the Great, in 330 AD).

Many of Istanbul’s historical gems, mostly consisting of Byzantine and Ottoman-built monuments are in Old City. Most are located a short walk away from, if not immediately on the edges of, Sultanahmet Square, like the Hagia Sophia (turkish Aya Sofya) – a 6th century church, today a museum. From the date of its construction until 15 century, it served as an Orthodox cathedral except between in the times of Crusades, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire of Constantinople. The building was later converted into an Ottoman mosque until early 20 century when it became secularized and opened for visitors.

maxresdefault

What I find interesting inside of this amazing old beauty is the icon of Virgin Mary on the ceiling protruding like a scratch between subsequently colored Islamic inscriptions and added icons. The legend says, when the church came to the hands of Ottomans, they added Islamic features—such as the mihrab, minbar, and four minarets, but miraculously, the icon of Virgin Mary was always coming out no matter how many times it was over painted. 320px-hagiasophia_domeverticalpano_pixinn-net

From the other interesting point in the church interior I would highlight a Wishing column and the tomb of Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice who commanded the Sack of Constantinople in 1204 (Crusades).

Wishing column with a hole in the middle is covered by bronze plates.The legend has it that, Emperor Justinian wandering in the building with a severe headache leaned his head to this column and after a while he realized that the headache was gone. This story had been heard among the public and the rumor regarding the healing effect of the column got around. Hence, people believed that they would get better if they put their fingers into that hole on the column and then rub them to the place where disease is felt.

No wonder the church is one of the wonders of the world!

Opposite of the Aya Sofya stands a historic Blue Mosque or Sultanahmet Mosque. It is called blue because of its blue tiles, and the blue is the popular colour in Turkey. It impressed enough early French visitors to call it turquoise – the colour of the Turks. So I decided this time to go blue, instead of usual red riding girl. 🙂 With its six minarets and sweeping architecture it impresses from the outside. Unlike Haghia Sophia, this is still a working mosque, but no shoes, shorts or bare shoulders are allowed, so I needed to cover myself with a shawls. I remember my brother was amazed with the softness of a carpet inside the mosque, while I was impressed by chandeliers. 🙂

Continuing to explore the very same district we entered the Basilica cistern. The story about one of the oldest cisterns from the ancient world lies beneath the city of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople as mentioned before). It dates from the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. At the corner of the cistern there are bases of two columns carved with the visage of Medusa. The origin of the two heads is unknown, though it is thought that the heads were brought to the cistern after being removed from a building of the late Roman period. However, there is no written evidence that suggests they were used as column pedestals previously. Tradition has it that the blocks are oriented sideways and inverted in order to negate the power of the Gorgons’ gaze (greek’s growling female creature).

Little bit more down to the south of the city is the  Hippodrome of Constantinople. It was a circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, as already mentioned. Today it is a square with only few fragments of the original structure surviving.

tr49-4-05

The Grand Bazaar is the world’s oldest shopping mall, covers several blocks and features a labyrinth of side streets to keep you lost for the better part of a day. Well, it did my brother and me. We lost, we wandered, we negotiated with traders and realized they are excellent merchants, we shopped and bought more things ever we planned or thought to buy!

The following day we decided to deep a bit more into history, so we visited the National Archaeology Museum and saw the copy of the footprint of the prophet Mohammed, or the sarcophag of Alexander The Great (of Macedonia).

My favourite place was the Topkapi palace because of the lavishly decorated rooms with four courts of increasing grandeur, as it was the imperial enclave of the Ottoman emperors for four centuries. In the second court is the entrance to the Harem, then next to it the Imperial Treasury, housing a weapons display. And of course, the view from the palace terrace and gardens over the Bosporus is spectacular!

Pretty nice view on the strait of Bosphorus and the city itself spreads from the Galata tower. A medieval stoned tower built by the Genoese merchants.

To go on the other side of Bosporus is easy. We walked across one of the bridges and enjoyed the view on blue sea and sky. Indeed, blue is the colour of Turkey.

Although, there is not much to see on the asian side, we enjoyed turkish delights, drank tea and famous turkish beer efes, smoked narghile and bought the Evil eye which is suppose to protect us.

Home page 14

Copenhagen hygge

It can be hard to explain the Danish word ‘hygge’ (sounds a bit like ‘hooga’). Roughly it translates to coziness, but that definition doesn’t quite cover it. Hygge is so much more and always involves creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people around you.

The capital Copenhagen is packed with atmospheric restaurants and cafes, beautiful gardens, charming winding waterways, and countless places and ways to experiences Danish hygge. Here are the suggestions for travelers seeking a touch of hygge on their trip to Copenhagen!

Originally a Viking fishing village founded in the 10th century, Copenhagen became the capital of Denmark in the early 15th century. Primary as a fishing settlement and later a market, the name of the city reflects its origin as a harbour and a place of commerce. Køpmannæhafn, means “merchants’ harbour.” Around the harbour Nyhavn with colourful houses the city has developed. Today, Nyhavn is a popular tourist place with lots of restaurants to eat.

Of course from there, it is possible to take a canal tour and do the hygge, enjoying beautiful skyscape of the city.

Around the harbour the market was soon created out of which the village Kongens Nytorv, nowadays a public square in Copenhagen with imposing neoclassical façade. It is a good place to eat the famous Smørrebrød and onion soup. I had one with herring (local fish) and rye bread. PS haring is a wild sardine and we do not eat it in Croatia, considering it inedible, though it seems to be delights in Denmark. Oh, cultures!

In 17th century Copenhagen consolidated its position as a regional centre of power with its institutions, defences and armed forces. After suffering from the effects of plague and fire in the 18th century, the city underwent a period of redevelopment. Mostly from these times, the fortresses were built. The oldest one is Kastellet initiated by the King Christian IV of Denmark in 17 century. It has a shape of a star and very close to it is a statue of a Little Mermaid – based on the fairy tale of the same name by danish author Hans Christian Andersen.

Once the power was consolidated, Denmark became the oldest monarchy in the world. It was the time of the renaissance of the north. Soon the mentioned king Christian IV started to build more castles. The most famous one is Rosenborg which houses a museum exhibiting the Royal Collections, artifacts spanning a breadth of royal Danish culture, from the late 16th century of the mentioned Christian IV to the 19th century. Some of these articles once belonged to the nobility and the aristocracy.

My special interest was Schatzkammer (dann. treasury chamber) displaying the Crown Jewels and the Danish Crown Regalia located in the castle. A Coronation Carpet is also stored there next to the Throne Chair of Denmark.

Christian IV is the most popular, ambitious, and proactive Danish king, having initiated many reforms and projects. He ruled in 17 century and obtained for his kingdom a level of stability and wealth that was virtually unmatched elsewhere in Europe.

14-roundtower

One of the architectural examples of Christian IV is the Round Tower used as the astronomical observatory, university library and today as the view point for tourists.

Amalienborg castle is where the Danish royal family lives. It consists of four identical classical palaces with rococo interiors around an octagonal courtyard. In the centre of the square is a monumental equestrian statue of Amalienborg’s founder, King Frederick V. One of the streets leads to the royal cathedral.

Copenhagen is full of stunning churches from various period of architecture. My favourite is the Church of Our Savior. This beautiful baroque church is most famous for its helix spire with an external winding staircase that can be climbed to the top, offering extensive views over central Copenhagen. From the inner side, I have captured an elephant carrying the organs – a very rare appearance in Christianity.

National History Museum is a must see which will give you the idea of creation of Denmark from the prehistoric times, through Middle Ages and renaissance, wars with Sweden, Germany and Norway… It represents the lifes of Inuits, since the Greenland is part of danish territory too. I would definitely highlight The Sun Chariot – Holy Horse from the Bronze Age and The Rune Stones from the Vikings era.

Danish people are the first to market toys. The popular dollhouse and Lego store are easy to find in the city center Strøget, a walking area made for good shopping. 🙂

20161029_154039

Walking down the streets, I noticed this building on which is placed the thermometer. Interestingly, the thermometer doesn’t show more than 20 degrees. 🙂 Btw, the inventor of the thermometer is a danish scholar Niels Bohr.

A part of the Copenhagen is the little free town called Christiania. Personally didn’t like it – maybe because I am a political scientist and I like the theory of the state where the order and laws exist. Unlike Christiania – a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood of about 850 residents, which is a source of controversy since its creation. Small drugs are allowed, however violence is not. The entire neighborhood is kinda protest against capitalism. No commercial is to be seen when walking the streets of Christiania filled with houses of weird shape. Anyhow, I did not feel safe and was looking for the escape. When I saw the inscription ”You are now leaving Christiania and entering the EU” – I couldn’t be more happy!

So, I needed a drink!

I went a bit outside of the city to Carlsberg brewery 🙂 to taste the sample of beers and get familiar with the J.C. Jacobsen, the founder of Carlsberg beer. This  visioner named the brewery after his son Carl and the hill (dan. berg) on which the factory was founded. He was a great collector of beer bottles too. His son continued and expanded the brewery to global business. Today the brewery is open for visitors for a ‘exbeerience’ 🙂 Ofcourse, I tried some of the samples you don’t get in store everyday, like 8.5% dark Carlsberg Porter beer.

20161029_154254Good fun in Copenhagen is also guaranteed by the amusement park Tivoli Gardens – the oldest of its kind in Europe. When I visited Copenhagen, the park was decorated seasonly for Halloween. Tivoli’s founder, Georg Carstensen (19 century), obtained a five-year charter to create this amusement park by telling King Christian VIII that “when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think about politics”. 🙂

Such a typical danish hygge.

Home page 20

Malmö, Sweden

 

1When I was in Copenhagen, I decided to hop on the train and pass the famous Øresund Bridge that turns into a tunnel and arrived to Malmo.

It was a one – afternoon trip with no special sites to see, but it was nice thought to be in Sweden for a couple of hours.

Plus, it was sunny… 🙂

So I discovered Sweden’s third largest city and at the same time the home of the Scandinavia’s tallest building, beautiful parks, edgy contemporary museums, wide shopping streets and cozy squares…

As Malmo was a huge market place back in Middle Ages as a part of Hanseatic League, most of the citadel was builded in 15 century. From that time, the houses with wooden construction were very popular. Some of the examples are still present, like the ones at the Lillatorg (engl Little square). 

Malmö was one of the earliest and most industrialized towns of Scandinavia, but it struggled with the adaptation to post-industrialism. As a result the modern buildings landmark is marking nowadays city. One of the examples is the Turning torso – tallest building in Scandinavia, kinda  neo-futurist, residential skyscraper.

20161030_144757The city’s  symbol is the griffin’s head – a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle’s talons as its front feet. Because the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle the king of birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. The griffin was also thought of as king of all creatures. Griffins are known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions.

All in all, good day in Sweden.

Home page 3

All the weirdness in Sofia

Bulgaria is hitting an economic boom! The tech sector is growing and is the main focus of the country’s start-up activity, with the capital Sofia at the centre.

Sofia’s grey communist-era of the cityscape is slowly vanished and gives the place to shine to beautified golden Orthodox domes, leafy parks and the grandeur of the surrounding mountains. There are plenty of lively bars and restaurants too.

The cathedral of Sofia is called The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It is the center of orthodox religion in Bulgaria, built in Neo-Byzantine style in 19 century. The cathedral was created in honour to the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, as a result of which Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule.

cathedral-of-sofia

parliaent-of-bulgaria

Everything in Sofia is aligned with the cathedral as the center of citizen’s life. That’s the reason we find the several sites around it. I. e. bulgarian Parliament called The National Assembly of Neo-Renaissance style. The slogan on the facade above the entrance “Obedinenieto Pravi Silata”, loosely translated means ”United we are strong.”

On the left side of the main Cathedral is a flea market with lots of old goods from communist period. Definitely something to get  lost in time. My brother – the old coins collector was stunned and spent entire Sunday morning there.

Then again to it’s right is a nice orthodox church that we never managed to find out the name of it. The reason is that my brother and I were in Sofia in 2010 when no tourist office existed yet. When we asked in the street a certain passenger for a tourist office, he asked: why? We said we need a map. Remember in 2010 there were no smartphones yet.

However, the church:

orthodox-church-sofia

Then, this:

typical little street stores of Bulgaria.jpg

Every street corner had this window store in the level of a sidewalk with empty bottles and sacks as the exhibits of items to sell. (I am not saying anything here) o.O

Anyways, my brother Martin and I continued to visit the Archaeological Museum with the ancient heritage and the heritage from the time of Thrace especially the Thracian gold. I found the Lapidarium with ancient remnants of concrete columns very attractive and mystique as the fog was coming down on them.

There is a bar on every corner in the centre of Sofia and in certain residential areas, such as ‘Studentski Grad‘ (Students’ Town),  where simply sitting for a coffee, dinning or having a great night out is just the way to spend the time in Sofia. 🙂 For some reason Martin and I choosed the Budha bar that had something a little different to offer – style, good music and that certain something … well, if you ever meet my brother – ask him… and had a great time!

Home page 11

Berlin, the I am sorry

The capital of Germany, Berlin is best known for its historical associations as the german capital, internationalism and tolerance, lively nightlife, its many cafés, clubs, bars, street art, and numerous museums, palaces, and other sites of historic interest.

Although badly damaged in the final years of World War II and broken apart during the Cold War, Berlin has reconstructed itself greatly, especially with the reunification push after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

For 30 years, the Berlin Wall was the defining symbol of the Cold War, separating families and keeping the people from jobs and opportunity in the west. … The Berlin Wall stood until November 9, 1989, when the citizens of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) as an ecstatic crowd swarmed the wall. Some crossed freely into West Berlin, while others brought hammers and picks and began to chip away at the wall itself. To this day, the Berlin Wall remains one of the most powerful and enduring symbols of the Cold War.

checkpoint_charlie_berlin

The best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War was the Checkpoint Charlie. Today is just a tourist attraction where you approach to the military officer with a  EUR coin and your passport and he hits you 4 stamps that were needed to cross the wall.

If you wanna know more about the Cold war times in Berlin and biased life of the Berlin citizens between East and West, you should definitely visit the DDR Museum. The DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) or GDR in english, contains a kitchen from the 50’s or 60’s with all its wall decorations, the popular car Trabant etc…

Close to Check point Charlie is the The Brandenburg Gate (German: Brandenburger Tor). An 18th-century neoclassical monument in Berlin, and one of the best-known landmarks of Germany.

Brandenburger_Tor_abends.jpg

Next to the Brandenburg Gate is The Bundestag – the national Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is open for visiting and once you get on the top you get a nice view on the river Spree. The Parliament was almost completely bombarded during the World War ll, so the building is renovated like it used to be (19 century building) but the large glass dome was added. At the very top of the Reichstag has a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The main hall (debating chamber) of the parliament below can also be seen from inside the dome, and natural light from above radiates down to the parliament floor.

The dedication Dem deutschen Volke, meaning To the German people, can be seen on the frieze of the building.

When talking about beautiful buildings in the city, I have to mention the cathedral or in german Berliner Dom. It is located on Museum Island in the Mitte (central) borough. It is an evangelistic church and a main work of Historic architecture of the Kaiserzeit – the times of the German Empire.

I got the impression that Berlin is one big I am sorry to the rest of the world. One of the things that made me think about the city this way are the Jewish Memorial and the 2 men kissing statues and murals.

A very popular meeting point is the Alexanderplatz with the world clock. It is where I spotted many colourful bears. These bears are quite popular attraction in the city since 2002. The idea was to bring the street art back and remind the citizens on the origin of the name of the city: german der Bär, english bear.

But my favourite place is Charlottenburg Palace! 🙂 The largest palace in Berlin,  built at the end of the 17th century with much of exotic internal decoration in baroque and rococo styles. The palace is surrounded with amazing gardens and pavilions. The palace was built by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III – Elector of Brandenburg (meaning the prince of Holy Roman Empire) and Duke of Prussia. The visit inside the palace is recommended since the inner rooms are described as “the eighth wonder of the world” like the room filled with porcelain or next to it the Amber Room (Bernsteinzimmer), a room with its walls surfaced in decorative.

b16

My second favourite place is the Humboldt University. I dreamed about studying here. Well it was one of the dream places… The Uni was founded in 19th century by the liberal Prussian educational reformer and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt. Since then it has been home to many of Germany’s greatest thinkers of the past two centuries, among them the subjective idealist philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, or Otto von Bismarck the first german chancellor, Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Max Weber…

17927431

And of course the night out! If you go out in the night in Berlin, I recommend you to go to the Hackischer Markt. It is a vibrant area with many bars, discos and restaurants. It is a square in the central Mitte locality of Berlin and considered as a starting point for the city’s nightlife. A friend of mine Matea and I went there on a Saturday night and we had amazing time.