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Category: food and drink

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Nürnberg, Deutschland 🍻

Tourism is sometimes challenging. There is a struggle that popped this time to understand this city. I didn’t get it by first. Sometimes, it’s difficult to swallow. 

Understanding Nürnberg. Don’t mind the hair, I was previously partying for 7 days in my hometown Croatia

In the case of Nuremberg, we are talking about the actions and horrors done by Adolf Hitler whose legacy to Nuremberg is a tainted, poisoned one. It was his favourite city leading in rich Germanic and imperial history. It is used to be called the “most German of German cities.”

Maxbrücke (bridge) over river Pegnitz

Nuremberg became the venue for the Nazi Party and later the place of the Nuremberg Trials – it had to compensate somehow to skip the historical judgment. The city and it’s residents paid a hefty price for Nazi Germany’s obsession with the city. Nevertheless, the locals rebuilt the city, but much of the city’s original character and medieval charm got lost.

Way of Human Rights – outdoor sculpture designed by Israeli artist

So, Nurnberg is the second biggest city in Bavaria, just after Munich. The first documentary mention of the city, in 1050, referring the King Konrad III and Frederick I, Barbarossa Holy Roman Emperor (mostly famous for leading the Crusades).

We have visited the Imperial castle but unfortunately had no time to enter.

In the medieval times, the city was flourishing as being the free city for trade. Plague was coming many times but the city managed to sustain.

These are the times of the great painter Albrecht Dürer. He was born in this city and made his best works.

The cultural flowering of Nuremberg, in the 15th and 16th centuries, made it the centre of the German Renaissance. In 1525, Nuremberg accepted the Protestant Reformation which led into construction of the churches not so rich as it can be seen in other catholic cities.

Weißer Turm (White tower) and the Ehekarussell fountain (marriage carousel – representing marriage from beginning to end both good and bad moments)
Fachwerkhaus – the house with wooden construction

The large market square located at the heart of the city centre is surrounded by a multitude of must-see sights. The daily market takes place here, where you can buy all sorts of tasty treats, flowers and spices. 

Schöner Brunnen – fountain with the sculptures of all the Holy Roman Emperors

The main square is the most vivid during the winter times. The Christmas market originates from this city = the so called Christkindelmarktplatz.

Church of Our Lady at the main square

Finaly, what is Germany if there is no good beer and sausage?

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Deutschland

In case you want to experience Bavaria region in south of Germany and get lost in time and space, I definitely recommend you this city. It is well known for its well-preserved medieval old town, a destination for tourists from around the world. It is part of the popular Romantic Road through southern Germany.

The name “Rothenburg ob der Tauber” is German for Red fortress above the Tauber, as the town is located on a plateau overlooking the Tauber river.

So these was our entrance to the city surrounded by the wall. The Markus tower, preserved from 15th century. Our hotel was in this tower. Let me show you the creepiness…

The Markusturm and Röderbogen

Upon our arrival to the hotel, a lovely Lady in Bavarian clothes took our check in and helped us to find the room. Little did I know that she was Bosnian (immigration wave in the Balkans is huge and Germany is always looking for work-force). However, I was a bit surprised hearing the accent. 🙂 Later we found out that her husband is the chef in the same hotel. Oh Balkans around the world…

The hotel is the medieval tower so the halls on each floor are going in the circle. Not to mention the wooden floors, squeaky stairs, creepy porcelain dolls in the baby carts, old wooden furniture from medieval times. etc. It had a soul, dolphinately! 🐬

Hauptmarkt (main square)

Due to chinese virus situation we were allowed to stay in the Biergarten restaurant for no longer than 2 hours. Fair enough. We had to continue to hit the road the next day so not much left for partying. Except that it was my birthday that night. 🙂

Upon breakfast, quick look on the city on our way to the car. Enjoy!

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Honfleur and Le Havre, France

Another day in Normandie.

Honfleur

Honfleur is a perfect city for one day visit. It is located in the North France. It is especially known for its old port, characterized by its houses with slate-covered frontages, painted many times by artists, including in particular the impressionists like Claude Monet forming the école de Honfleur (Honfleur school) which contributed to the appearance of the Impressionist movement.

The first written record of Honfleur is a reference by Richard III, Duke of Normandy, in 1027. By the middle of the 12th century, the city represented a significant transit point for goods from Rouen to England.

The town’s defences were strengthened by Charles V (the Habsburg). If you follow my blog and read the articles across, you will make the link.

And the continued with very good sea food.

The port is now a busy tourist spot so there are many good sea food restaurants around.

It is very important to visit the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria.

It was built on the model of a market hall, using naval construction techniques, which gives the impression of an upside-down ship’s hull. 

The city is situated on the bank of the estuary of the Seine across from le Havre and very close to the exit of the Pont de Normandie. We took our day and decided to cross the bridge.

Le Havre

An urban French commune. And I would say not much to this. Industry.

It is situated on the right bank of the estuary of the river Seine on the Channel. The name Le Havre means “the harbour” or “the port”.

Largely destroyed during the Second World War, the city was rebuilt. The Church of Saint Joseph du Havre, built by Auguste Perret, dominates the city with its spire 107m high.

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The Ardennes ⛰️


The Ardennes is the name given to a region of Belgium in the south that extends into Luxembourg, France and Germany. This southern region is totally different from the busy, industrial north. The things available to do in this region are as varied as you might imagine and include some great museums, plenty of beer and even the world’s smallest city. Given the rolling hills and the lush green scenery, it will not surprise you that The Ardennes has become a popular spot for travellers who love the outdoors. 

We started our day at 9am travelling to Bouillon, chasing the Templars.

The landscape aside the highway was full of green grass, deep forests, cows and sheeps. My heart was warm.

Tombeau du Géant

There is a magnificent open view at Devil’s view, looking across to ‘Le Tombeau du Géant’ (The Giant’s Tomb), so named because one of the bends in the Semois at this point seems to enclose a coffin of gigantic proportions. It is not easy to reach it. We walked an hour through the forest athough the tracks are pretty good marked.

Saint-Hubert

Cozy little town actually hides many secrets. Hubert was actually a prince of Liege. Being passionately in love with hunting, perhaps too passionately, one day he saw a deer with the christian cross on his horns. The deer asked not to be killed and advised prince to live modesty. So prince became a monk and the patron of hunters. And later of this city.

Wéris

Well known for its megaliths from pre-historic times. Most probably Celts. It is a nice little village with stone houses and some timber houses.

Durbuy

The last the cutest. 🙂 In medieval times, Durbuy was an important centre of commerce and industry. In 1331, the town was elevated to the rank of city by John I, Count of Luxemburg, and King of Bohemia. In 1628 by permission of Felipe IV of Spain it becomes the duchy. One of the people connected to the city was the son of Lancelot II: Count of Durbuy.

The Ourthe river flows through the municipality.

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Lier, Belgium

Week 9 of Quarantine after chinese virus we were finally allowed to leave our own city and make a small change in our lives. Belgium is a tiny country but still many options were appearing.

The choice fell on Flanders region. The small city called Lier. Cute, surprisingly big, with canals just like in Amsterdam and heart-melting medieval architecture. Unfortunately, we couldn’t treat ourselves with the lunch in restaurant or a local bier called St Gummarus – according to its patron. Apparently, if you break your bone, you call for his help.

Lier is a municipality located in the Belgian province of Antwerp. It got its name thanks to muddy shores. It is mentioned first time in 7th century.

in 1496 Lier was the scene of the marriage between Philip the Handsome – son of Maximilian of Austria, and Joanna of Castile. This marriage was pivotal to the history of Europe as Charles V, who was born to this marriage (Ghent, 1500), would go on to rule both the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish Empire.

King Christian II of Denmark, accompanied by his spouse Isabella (sister to Charles V and known as Queen Elisabeth), lived in Lier until 1523, after having been expelled from Denmark by the local nobility while waiting in vain for military support from his brother in law. He attempted again to regain the Danish throne, but ended in eternal prison.

St. Gummarus Church, gothic architecture, 14th century.

The main square is a vivid space, surprisingly big for the small city. A conspicuous feature of the market square is the spot where Lier’s last witchcraft related execution is traditionally believed to have taken place.

Town hall, rococo architecture, 18th century.

Lier has one more interesting thing to visit: Zimmer tower also known as the Cornelius tower, that was originally from 14th century city fortifications. In 1930, astronomer and Louis Zimmer  built the Clock, which is displayed on the front of the tower, and consists of 12 clocks encircling a central one with 57 dials. These clocks showed time on all continents, phases of the moons, times of tides and many other periodic phenomena.

These wonder-clocks were prepared for the 1935 world exhibition in Brussels; later they were demonstrated in the USA. Around one of these dials moves the slowest pointer in the world – its complete revolution will take 25800 years, which corresponds to the period of the precession of the Earth’s axis. The wonder-clocks impressed Albert Einstein, who congratulated Zimmer on the creation of these unusual mechanisms.

At the start of the WWI, King Albert and his Chiefs of Staffs were temporarily headquartered in Lier as German lines advanced.

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Cuba libre in 13 days

Cheese and chalks!

Every corner was wtf, every moment was mind blowing! I don’t know where to start as Cuba is one of these countries that left me speechless. In one same moment I happened to be disappointed and thrilled in the same time. So the best might be just start chronologically and tell you the tales that happened on our way.

We landed to Varadero and immediately went to Matanzas. We had our taxi already arranged by the hosting lady in Matanzas.

Matanzas

Matanzas is a small city next to the Varadero hotels resorts so kinda neglected by the tourists. I found it hypsterish and cute: there are streets falling apart typically for Cuba, the smelly river but lively river coast with bars, small restaurants and artistic shops that are more like garage shops but for Cuban standards these are the galleries.

River San Juan and the city of Matanzas, Cuba, West Indies, Caribbean, Central America

Our host was a nice Lady owning the casa particular where we stayed one night only. She was curious, helpful, offering hospitality and more. We slept in an improvised room with toilets barriers – not walls! Little privacy but we didn’t care. We knew what Cuba is and where we arrived. Except that in developed part of Europe you will not pay more than 15 EUR for this type of accommodation. We paid 25.

However, she had a lovely house and garden for the cuban standards thanks to this room renting. I concluded that Cuba is changing quickly from its socialism where richer are getting richer.

The next morning she prepared us breakfast and arranged for us the shared taxi to Havana. Cubans don’t have internet – here and there you can go online at some hotspots but only for a while as many people use these hotspots which are 3G only. So no photos no videos – only quick whatsapp message to parents that we arrived safely.

We were sharing our taxi with some two Cubans. The driver was particularly nuts. He was totally against the political system, media manipulation and demanding the private ownership.

The highways is a two way fast road – no middle fence to divide and protect. Quickly I noticed that everybody goes on this highway: from 80 years old cars and trucks til’ carriageways, horses, local field workers and even unsaddled horse wandering arround.

After two hours we arrived to Havana. I got out of the car, stepped into the dog shit and crashed the screen of my phone. The warmest welcome l ever had.

Havana

We passed next to the stadium. Baseball is their national sport. One of the pure things left from the times the US was influencing the country through its mafia and banking system – which was a trigger for Cuban The Revolution in 1959.

The Stadium of La Havana

Havana is the capital city. Founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and due to its strategic location it served as a springboard for the Spanish conquest of the Americas, becoming a stopping point for treasure-laden Spanish galleons returning to Spain. The sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana’s harbor in 1898 was the immediate cause of the Spanish–American War.

We climbed to the first floor of some old house in Havana Vieja. Our host was supposed to be the anesthesiologist. We rang the door bell. Wrong one. We rang the other one. Some Lady opened. Are you Belkis? -Si, porque?

– We have a reservation at your place. – Oh really, ok, what can l do? I have a room but is not ready.

Later we discovered that she pays other person to put her house renting on the internet but this time the person forgot to inform her.

The city attracts over a million tourists annually so the local people quickly discovered the value of foreign currency 25 times stronger than cuban peso (CUP) – trying to gain that one foreign peso (CUC) at every corner pumping the prices, cheating on services and even lying to attract you for some sightseeing. For example, we were about to go to The Museum of Revolution. The boy arrived quickly to us asking if we are going to the Museum and explaining that we shouldn’t go cause it is closed for the lunch time and that we should follow him to go to some bar with some cuban cigars sells offer cause today it is a very special day and all cigars are 50% off. We didn’t follow him, we went to the Museum which was open until 19:00.

Or another typical scam: a girl asked me for some chewing gum (children are not allowed to work nor beg as Cuba provides very good health and education care system which is totally for free). I didn’t have any so she said that today is her birthday and if I could buy her something in a nearest shop. I asked her if she knows the date. She knew. 🙂 So I decided to buy her some package of chewing gums still, I am a human after all.

Few seconds later, she entered to the store, returned the package of chewing gums and got her 1 CUC/ EUR instead.

Nevertheless, I do not recommend to stay no more that two full days in Havana. It stinks, it is Europe way expensive and has not that much to offer as the other locations and cities in Cuba.

We started our exploration with Havana Vieja – old Havana. Old facades that are falling apart, not much of the hygiene on the streets and the stinky canalization since Cubans don’t throw their used toilet paper in the flush but in the trash bin next to it. Lovely!

Let me show you the market:

Conquistador Diego Velázquez founded Havana in 16th century. Soon it attracted the pirates mostly from France like famous Pirate Wooden leg or in french Jambe de Bois.

Hence the french and mostly spanish influence in architecture.

Three centuries later and numerous luxury hotels, casinos and nightclubs were constructed during the 1930s to serve Havana’s burgeoning tourist industry, which greatly benefited by the U.S. prohibition on alcohol from 1920 to 1933. These was the time of art deco buildings in Cuba and its Belle Epoque. In the 1930s, organized crime characters were not unaware of Havana’s nightclub and casino life, and they made their inroads in the city. The US mayor of Havana wanted to create the casino city bigger than Las Vegas of its time! Casino, prostitution and money laundering was happening in the famous hotel buildings like the Hotel Habana Riviera, Hotel Nacional Casino etc. At the time, Havana became an exotic capital of appeal and numerous activities ranging from marinas, grand prix car racing, musical shows, and parks. It was also the favorite destination of sex tourists.

Cubans led by brothers Castro, CheGuevara and C. Cienfuegos decided to end this with the Cuban Revolution of 1959, so the new régime under Fidel Castro promised to improve social services, public housing, and official buildings. Nevertheless, Castro allowed USSR to put nuclear rockets on Cuba (the famous Cuban crisis in 1962) facing Florida, US which is only 40 miles away from Cuban shore. So US decided to make embargo. Cuban’s economy struggled suddenly since most of ts export was towards US. The other Caribbean countries are to poor to trade.

Leaning on USSR – it didn’t last long. USSR fell apart in 1990. Cuba becomes more and more poor, but as Castro says on the national TV: we are happy people, we dance, we don’t live for the money, we are small Nation but great Nation because we faced big USA.

Not like I am a big fan of US Government and its exploration of the Latin American continent for the entire 20th century but there is something wrong in Cubans when they look at tourists as people with dollar sign on their foreheads.

Our second stop was El Capitolio. The neoclassical building – the seat of the Republic of Cuba. Cubans say it is not the replica of Washington DC Capitol but they like to add that it is a meter higher, a meter wider, and a meter longer. 🙂 You do the conclusion here.

Across the street is the Opera house. We had amazing cocktails here with the view on the Capitolio.

Next thing we did was taking an old timer to drive us through the city. We read before on the internet that the ride should not take more than 20 tourist pesos aka CUCs (which is around 20 EUR). However, none of the drivers wanted to take us around for less that 40 CUCs.

Capitolio from the Havana Vieja street

So we got the stroll through Vedado – the district with houses of the rich and embassies. It was developed in the first half of the 20th century, during the Republic period.

In Vedado I saw brand new hotels. The driver explained that the night costs there up to 700 EUR. Later I was walking around these tall buildings again and people were approaching to me saying: Se acabo, se acabo con el socialismo. Meaning: it is finished with socialism. Pointing these huge massive 21 century hotel buildings.

We stopped at La Plaza de la Revolucion.

Plaza de la Revolucion

And then at some park with the statue of John Lennon. Apparently F. Castro did not allow to Cuban people to listen the music on english but Cubans still adored The Beatles. So F. Castro decided to built his statue.

The bar called Le Petit Paris for some cocktails and salsa dance. Never enough of Mojitos and Pina Colada. This is something Cubans really know how to do it – using their best rhum!

The rest of the day we wandered around the city, admiring, re-thinking, analysing, having fun and cocktails! 🙂 I had the best daiquiri in my life!

Of course, live music is in every bar. Salsa is everywhere. And so is the basket with the tips.

Food is bad though, but they will still ask for the tip, or propina in spanish, a EUR to go the toilet and a EUR for the music they just performed in the bar or a restaurant.

Most of the time, due to embargo, many items from the menu are missing. So the best is to go with the rice, lobster and some fish. During our stay, there was no beer for three days. People were literally driving around from the bar to the bar asking if they have some beer to sell. Talking about beer, they like to make it with some lime juice and ice. It is good, unusual but good at that heat 🙂

One of the bars had a nice examples of paintings in cubismo style. Picasso would be amazed, I am pretty sure.

The next day we were exploring the renovated part of Havana: Plaza de Armas, Cathedral, Plaza de Havana Vieja.

There is something about Cuban dogs always chilling at the middle of the road! XD

We strolled down the famous busy street or in spanish Calle Obispo and arrived to the Museum of The Revolution. The museum is housed in what was the Presidential Palace of all Cuban presidents from Mario García Menocal to Fulgencio Batista – the last US established president in Cuba.

Inside you can see items like the radio CheGuevara used to communcate or the socks of F. Castro. Poorly presented.

However, in the backyards are the vehicles that were taken from the dictator’s Batista regime like the food vendors truck and turned into army defence vehicle. Or the US plane that crashed into the sea near Havana which was long time searched by the US public together with the body of the pilot. US that time didn’t want to admit that they are involved into Cuban Revolution so they were not demanding the body to be returned for the next 40 years.

In front of the Museum is the monument to José Martí. He was a 19th century Cuban poet and philosopher, considered a Cuban national hero because of his role in the liberation of his country, and he was an important figure in Latin American literature. Very politically active, and considered an important revolutionary philosopher and political theorist. The political scientist in me is now coming to its peak 🙂  Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol of Cuba’s bid for independence from Spain in the 19th century, and is referred to as the Apostle of Cuban Independence.

Cooling down at El Malecon. The broad esplanade, roadway, and seawall that stretches for 8 km along the coast in Havana. Watching the new cruise ship entering the city – bringing more money desperately necessary. Or maybe not?

Cubans like to hang out at the street. I was particularly amazed how kids are still playing outdoors, playing football, hide and seek etc.

In the afternoon, exhausted by the heat we decided to visit the House of Ernest Hemingway. In the local bar they told me not to pay more than 15 – 20 CUCs for both ways. There was no driver wanting to take us for less than 40.

It is not allowed to enter to the House but only have a look from the doorstep. However, there were 5 ladies sitting around and looking at tourists. One of them approached to me saying: This is the living room and this is the toilet. – Thank you Captain Obvious!

Hemingway had many books – she said, pointing to the obvious again. I decided to stay away from her. – Look, there is the work of Picasso, the Bull.

Then she said that we should go to Havana like all the other tourists and visit the places there. And of course, she asked for the money explaining how Cuban people is very poor people.

The gardens around the house are very beautiful. I recommend to watch the Pappa Hemingway movie, shooted exactly in this place.

We came back to Havana center to the Floridita bar where he was having his daiquiri. 🙂

The evening was reserved for the Buena Vista Social Club show. On our way to the building, at least 3 women approached to us starting the random conversation and then suddenly saying how tonight is a special night and all the tickets are 50% off hence we should go to Buena Vista Social Club and that in fact it is very close, just here!

Viñales

Sharing the car again with some old couple from Finland and a girl from Denmark. Two hours on a cuban styled highway. Before we arrived to this city, the driver decided to stop at some local farm or how they say in Cuba – una finca of the tobacco production, manual of course.

A typical tourist trap where they sell uncertified cuban cigars but we didn’t care. We were enjoying what we were seeing and learning. Plus, I met my Austrian friend that I haven’t seen for years! Small world, isn’t it? 🙂

When we arrived to the Pinar del Rio valley, to the city of Vinales I have noticed that tourism there already changed lots of things. Houses were new, reconstructed, more equipped (I mean, better shower and the toilet that is not falling apart).

The city is famous for the valley and its nature, the tobacco fields around and the cliffs painted by the hand from the pre-historical times. We decided to do the horse riding through the tobacco fields and cliffs and degustating local version of rum made of the special plant Guayaba only growing here in Vinales. They said so.

The biggest rain shower ever fell down on us and moistened me and my horse Mandarina. El sol del Caribe.

Moving forward, from the North West of the island towards middle south on the other side of it.

We planned to go to Trinidad and after it to the city found by French. We couldn’t as we lost lots of time in the meantime. We shared a minibus which happened to be the long 1952 chevrolet where they fir 8 young people from all over the Europe and the driver. We had to drive first to Havana as there is no other road and then down to Trinidad.

Ode to the socialism on our way to Trinidad:

Trinidad

We arrived in the late afternoon to the city of Trinidad. It is the colonial old town with cobblestone streets. I loved it! So much different from weird and stinky Havana. And local people and more calm and less pushy.

Its neo-baroque main square, Plaza Mayor, is surrounded by grand colonial buildings. We entered to some restaurant with the terrace and enjoyed the great sunset.

The Trinidad cocktails is a must! With traditionally bad food. But who cares, Cuba Libre! 🙂

Sleeping dogs again…

That night we decided to do some proper rum tasting. We started with rum blanco, the Havana Club of 7 years and Rio Anejo of 15 years.

We knew that the next day we will spend at the beach. After 5 days of wandering around it was time to chill for a day.

The third day in Trinidad we went a bit out of the city. First we went out of the tourist center and faced the real Cuba again. Poor houses, stinky smell, canalisation on the road, dogs licking it flies all around.

The afternoon we spent in the Valle de los Ingenios. It is the valley that used to be full of sugar cane fields and slaves working on it. We visited the 2 haciendas where Dom Pedro lived with his wife and a daughter, having the sugar production thanks to the massive slaving he kept behind the house.

The house was yet to be reconstructed again. I asked the local guide where is the furniture. He didn’t have the answer. Perhaps it was eaten by the Revolution, I thought?

Later he claimed how the nowadays slavery is in the money and capitalism which Cubans are resisting to gloriously even though they were hungry of the oil and flour in the 90s after the collapse of the USSR. I told him I am coming from Croatia and survived the war in the 90s.

There was a Belfry in front of the House of Dom Pedro. It was used as a guarding tower, and belling the slaves to come back to their shelters as the day on the plantage finished. The higher the tower, the richer the family.

Next to this improvised bath thub of Dom Pedro, just in front of the dwellings of the female slaveries, more than 50 bottles of wine were found. You do the math here.

Archaeologist depicted all the brutality that was happening here. Slaves chopped and in chains, their feces used fr the fertilisation of the soil etc.

We were driven to another hacienda. This one has been turned into the restaurant, had lots of furniture, a very big belfry and loads of local people selling souvenirs while being pushy. Even the our cuban driver was upset saying it is not authentic anymore.

Finally, as driving through this rich land, he mentioned that in these fields and mountains many Contra revolutionaries that were against F. Castro were hiding and plotting their attacks on Castro’s regime.

He brought us to the last stop: the sugar cane factory. After the discovery of the steam engine and abolished slavery, the production of the sugar became industrial. This factory was productive until the fall of USSR.

We finished the day with local cocktails: canchanchara and trinidad. And the traditional dish called Ropa Vieja, meaning the old clothes. It is the chopped lamb with some rice.

Santiago de Cuba

The 12 hours bus ride for the tourists only (but drivers picks up locals as well) turned to be 15 hours. Why to start on time? Why not to board all 50 tourists in the bus and let them sit one hour before the ride?

During our ride we passed through the cities like:

  • Camaguey – founded in 16th century by some spanish colonist, famous for Ten Years War against Spain.
  • Holguin – the location where Christopher Columbus landed
  • Bayamo – where the cuban anthem was composed. Also, the city where Carlos Manuel de Céspedes – a cuban revolutionary hero, and a plantation owner – freed his slaves and made the declaration of Cuban independence in 1868 which started the Ten Years’ War which ultimately led to Cuban independence.

We arrived around 23:00. The taxi drivers were fighting for us at the bus station. I decided to trust to some young black guy with dreadlocks. It was a mistake. He packed us in the old russian Lada, I got stuck for some wire. I asked if 5 CUC is ok. He said 20 would be fine. So we payed 15 EUR for a 5 mins ride to our hotel. The car almost died at the hill before our hotel. The guy was explaining to me that the car is old, needs more gasoline and because it is night so the prices are hire. I was furious so I almost decided to stop the ride and continue walking. The 1litre of the gasoline costs a bit less than one EUR here in Santiago. Not to mention that he wanted to give me back money in CUP (currency for Cubans which is 25 less valuable) instead of CUC.

The hotel was amazing. A real spanish colonial architecture. No wonder, since Spaniards firstly arrived here, built the city and then moved the capital to Havana. So there is always a bit of the competition between these two cities.

We fell asleep as dead. The room had 30 years old chinese air conditioning but we dint care. We just needed a shower and the bed.

The next morning was the hottest. Santiago is in the pure south of the island and more close to the Carribbean temperatures and lifestyle. Even if it was winter there was 29 degrees. Locals had socks and long sleeves in the morning. Cause it is winter time!

We visited the Bacardi’s house. The guy who started the Bacardi rum production. A mason who liked to collect the artifacts from around the world so his house is kinda museum of the Cuban history containing the artifacts from the pre-colombian indigenous people Tanejo or the egyptian mummy that he brought after his travel to Egypt in 19th century. I mean, to be honest, there was no souvenirs that time, right? Totally understandable.

We continued exploring the old streets. There is not much toursits in the streets so the locals are pushy. Sometimes in a good will, sometimes just to tell you in which restaurant you should go cause they get provision.

Needless to say that I had very much difficulty to understand their spanish.

The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption was built in 16th century and is more beautiful than the Cathedral in Havana. I told you – competition!

The Balcony of the already mentioned Diego Velázquez – spanish discoverer and later mayor of the city was built in the 16th century, where from he was watching the maritime traffic to avoid surprise attacks of the pirates and corsairs. The building was finished many years later due to the constant interruptions for fighting against the indian uprisings that needed both money and men destinated to the ravelin.

Little bit more of the lifestyle of the Cubans in Santiago:

We discovered the school of F. Castro but we were not allowed to make photos. He went to Jesuit school. Just like Macron. 😛 Next to it was the building of the police station during the time of his rival Batista. Apparently next to it was the house where F. Castro lived but I could not locate it if it really was there since the locals were giving me mixed instructions. ??

The long white building is the Jezuit school of F. Castro, the yellow building is the former Batista police station where F. Castro was imprisoned twice

And strolling down the city to the sea.

Time to chill next to the sea.

The Museum of Rum. Literally the 3 rooms and quick peak to the nowadays factory and its machines – some three window glasses behind, and the cup of taste of the rum Santiago de Cuba. Which stands against the rum from Havana Club. Competition again.

Be careful of another potential scam! Bacardi rum doent exist in Cuba anymore.

Being the mayor of Santiago de Cuba, Bacardi family remained in Cuba with the difficult task of sustaining the company during a period of war. The women in the family were exiled in Kingston, Jamaica. After the Cuban War of Independence and the US occupation of Cuba, “The Original Cuba Libre” and the Daiquiri were both created, using Bacardi rum. During the 1959 Revolution, the Bacardi family acted as an intermediary between the revolutionaries and the CIA to assuage the latter’s concerns. Family members, employees, and facilities were put to use by the movement and the company supported the revolution publicly with advertisements and parties. But their support turned to opposition as the pro-Soviet Che Guevara wing of the movement began to dominate and as Castro turned against their interest.

 The Bacardi family and the company left Cuba after the Castro regime confiscated the company’s Cuban assets on 15 October 1960, particularly nationalizing and banning all private property on the island as well as all bank accounts.

We wanted to go to the Cemetery of Santa Ifigenia. Suddenly this boy appears on his ripsaw bicycle and says 5 CUCs but for 10 he brings us to the city later on.

He didn’t bring us to the city later but to Plaza de la Revolucion which was easier for him to bike and he asked 12 CUCs because he had an offer from other tourists but he ditched them off because of us. Really??? Is he calculating the time and efforts against the profit? How is that called? Oh yeah – capitalism 🙂 Nooooo…… :O

Nevertheless, the Cemetary where all the greats are burried. Including F. Castro – very simple and nice grave, the Bacardi with his mason pyramide, Cespuedes etc.

In Cuba – people stand in line. Waiting for groceries. We witnessed for this so many times. Sometimes they wait in line for the other people and make money out of it. Sometimes they fight who will enter first as the groceries are missing. We witnessed that too.

Santa Clara

Again the 10 hours ride with the Viazul bus for the tourists only but this time during the night so we slept until the morning. We picked up many locals on our way. God knows where were they going. We ride again through Carretera Central through the same villages. And finally we arrived to the city of Che Guevara – where the last battle of The Revolution appeared.

I have to say, it was the poorest city we visited, and the most poluted with garbage in the streets and river. But people, they live of Che Guevara and don:t push for the peso.

Travelling entire night, we quickly changed our clothes in nasty nasty dirty toilets that are charged 1 EUR. No soap, no flush. First stop was neoclassical normand church. Don’t ask how this occurred here.

Next stop was the open musuem of trams which Che Guevara attacked in Movimiento 26 Julio hence the signs M-26-7

The trains full of weapons were sent by Batista from Havana towards the South where from F. Castro started the Revolution. After the attack, Batista ran away to Florida.

The last stop was Che’s mausoleum, There is a 7 meters statue above it and the monument with his last letter to Castro after the success of the Cuban Revolution explaining how he needs to continue his battle against the imperialism. He was that time the Ambassador in United Nations, the Director of the Cuban National Bank and the hell of sexy revolutionist that went to fight to China, Colombia, Angola, Congo and finally died by assassination of CIA.

I know you are here to kill me. Shoot, you are only going to kill a man not the Revolution.

Apparently the mausoleum contains his grave, although controversial as he was killed in the late 1960s but body found in early 90s and brought to Cuba…

We ended our day in Santa Clara sitting in some coffee place of some Spanish guy who arrived some 20 years ago to Cuba to visit and stayed for ever. His bar is full of marxist collection.

Varadero

Our final destination – the hotel resorts. And we really needed it.

The internet was a bit better, the food was still bad, cocktails were amazing, beaches stunned and tourists were mostly mid-level Russians. And so were their actions.

We spent entire day on the beach having cocktails and playing big boarded chess. Oh what a times!

The resort is total tourist trap and less authentic to Cuba. The Beatles and american rock music of 90s screams from everywhere. The restaurants are trying to imitate the classy European restaurants so you can eat some fondue in Cuba of goat cheese from Cuba, or have pizza 4 Formaggi but only 2 types of cheese – cause embargo!

In the evening we went to Cabaret show! It was amazing! 🙂

So long Cuba! You hit me hard but I still love you and would recommend you always. Don|t change to much, stay authentic as much as possible! Authentic and clean!

Hasta la victoria!

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Pisa, Italy

A weekend getaway 🙂

Saturday flight from Brussels and landing in one hour to north of Italy – to Tuscany.

We started the day immediately after landing. Settling first in the hotel in the famous Giacomo Puccini street. The opera composer was born in the nearby city called Lucca.

First stop was the Corso. It is a walking street with shops and galleries that goes through the city. I was amazed how many people were there, having fun, shopping and christmasing.

First stop – quick coffee, an espresso in the typical italian espresso bar. You drink it at the bar table, quickly and happily.

Next was the pizza cut, of course 🙂 and something that is similar to pizza – didn’t find the name yet. I keep you posted.

Does anyone know the name of the cake?

So, Pisa! Everybody was telling me that it is a boring city, industrial and besides the Leaning Tower – nothing to see. So not true!

From the moment I digged into the city, and you know how much I adore medieval times -I felt intrigued.

The origin of the name, Pisa, is a mystery . However, we do know that the Etruscans, and the Ligurians had variously been proposed as founders of the city. Later taken by the Romans, the maritime role of Pisa should have been already prominent if the ancient authorities ascribed to it the invention of the naval ram. Pisa took advantage of being the only port along the western coast between Genoa (then a small village – will visit that too! 🙂 ) and Ostia (check the article about Rome).

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Pisa was a city-state with the natural opponent Saracenes – medieval term for Arab Muslims who had their bases in Corsica, for control of the Mediterranean.

City walls of Pisa

In later medieval times, Italian city states were in fight amonfst each other and the Papal state. So was the case with Pisa: against Genoa, Majorca, Naples etc.

Pisa has the river Arno that goes through the city and then to Ligurian sea.

To walk down the Lungarno di Pisa (down the river) and watch the facades of typical tuscan style was amazing.

Crossing the river Arno via Ponte di Mezzo we arrived to Piazza Garibaldi – the leader of the Italian revolution in 19th century.

It is a typical bar-hopping area so we gave a try.

The place has loads of arcades – just like Bologna.

Entering the Borgo Stretto (one of the typical names for medieval streets in old time Pisa) we entered the Church San Michele in Borgo.

Wandering around, we ended at Torre del Campano.

Nowm this is more like 19th century architecture.

That day we arrived to Piazza dei Miracoli where is the tower. But we decided to leave it for the next day.

Do you see it?

Dinner time! With lots of chianti – the local Tuscany wine 🙂

Day 2 – only the tower and cathedral 🙂 Have a look!

Cattedrale Metropolitana Primaziale di Santa Maria Assunta is a medieval Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Construction began in 11th century and expenses were paid using the spoils received fighting against the Muslims in Sicily.

It includes various stylistic elements: classical, Lombard-Emilian, Byzantine, and Islamic, drawing upon the international presence of Pisan merchants at that time. In the same year, St. Mark’s Basilica began its reconstruction in Venice, evidence of a strong rivalry between the two maritime republics to see which could create the most beautiful and luxurious place of worship.

Pisa was the birthplace of the important early physicist Galileo Galilei. Apparently, he was climbing over the Leaning tower of Pisa to prove his theory of gravity, Later he was burned by the church. Today, the airport of Pisa holds his name.

The Pisa Baptistery of St. John is a Roman Catholic ecclesiastical building in Pisa. Construction started in 12th century to replace an older baptistery, and when it was completed, it became the second building, in chronological order, in the Piazza dei Miracoli, near the Duomo di Pisa and the cathedral’s free-standing campanile, the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.

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York, UK

There is no proper introduction to this city as I arrived totally unprepared, being just a day before on the southwest of Europe (in Lisbon) – different lifestyle, different weather, different clothes…

I arrived at noon to the train station without any excitements. Noticing firstly the Georgian houses.

But then I passed the city walls and ended up in the medieval city centre. Astonished!

I have soon realize that the city is very photogenic. Especially The Shambles – once a place for butchers to trade, the houses (called Shambles) were built with overhanging timber-framed buildings to stop meat from going bad in the sun. Retaining much of their medieval charm, they’re now filled with quirky eateries and shopping spots. 

My colleagues and I were having dinners every night in different pub. As the girl who read so many books about War of Roses, my heart totally melted on the names of pubs such as Tudor bar.

Oh, and not to forget the absolute hit: House of Trembling Madness It’s an homage to ‘delirium tremens’ – an absolute cavern of beery goodness.

House of Trembling madness – a 14th century bar

A secret to share: I escaped one morning for half an hour to cross the brifge over the river Ouse to take some photos. The river was floated but still peaceful.

I have also entered some Parish church on my way back to hotel. It was from the 15th century, one of a kind…

If you ever visit York, do not skip the Richard III experience. It is about the Battle of York between two kings Henry VII and Richard III – the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty before it became united in Tudors. Of course, the Elizabeth of York had to play her part in this story as well. Chercher le femme.

Total War of Roses fan here! 🙂

The largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, York Minster dominates the skyline and has a history of building that dates back to the 8th century at least. The biggest stained glass of windows can be found here.

York was founded by the Romans. Being home of the 9th and later the 6th Legion, it soon became the city.

However, it did not become vivid until the Vikings arrived and called it Jorvik. I really recommend you to visit the Viking experience as it takes you 2000 years backwards.

My last stop was a market. Fresh and medieval in the same time. Actually, it was very useful as I found a towel with some yorkshire expressions – the dialect I was so hard to understand these 3 days.

dav
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Edinburgh, Scotland

3 days in Edinburgh! A weekend getaway 🙂 Except that we expected to see creepy, grey, sleepy, medieval town, but instead the sunshine was blessing us most of the weekend while we were running the gazes of the centre.

First stop was the bar, of course!

I mean, we arrived quite late to Edinburgh as our flight was delayed. Our hotel was in the old port called Leith so after quick check-in we ran into a first pub to eat but unfortunately too late. Some Scottish whiskey for dinner and typical Scottish pub scene: men discussing their business while holding beer, students mingling around while ordering a beer, Ladies smoking outside in their open outfits… Ever watched Transpotting? It was exactly like that.

Nobles pub

About Edinburgh: the capital of Scotland since at least from 15th century. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been invaded by the Romans so the city has splendid mazes and many main squares.

Of course, the traces of Celtic culture are visible as well.

Streets of Edinburgh
Royal Mile – the longest street in Edinburgh

In one of these first day wanderings, we went some shopping. The reason was the kilt. It’s a type of knee-length skirt worn by Scottish men. Every pattern belongs to different Scottish clan since the times of fighting against English. Ever watched The Braveheart? 🙂

Clans of Scotland and their kilts

Well, in case you didn’t, let me introduce you to William Wallace – a peasant who fought English Army and became knight. And King Robert Bruce. They are bought at the main entrance to the Castle.

Edinburgh castle

The Castle stands on volcanic rock which is more than 350 millions old and is centered in the heart of the city.

St. Margarets’ Chapel, is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh in which also, famous Mary Queen of Scots was praying (cousin of Elizabeth I). Then the famous canon that still fires every day at 13:00 is also worth to see. As well as the chambers of the prisoners and how they lived, engraved their names, secrets and compassion into the doors and walls. Many of the prisoners were from the Napoleonic wars of American War for Independence.

The view from the Castle

Time for a break again. Do you know what is haggis?

A typical scottish meal containing sheep’s pluck, minced with onion, oatmeal etc. We found a chips of haggis! 🙂

In 12th century, Edinburgh, trying to prove its essence of the capital city, Edinburgh aastarted to build the St Giles’ Cathedral, or the High Kirk of Edinburgh.

Mediaval Edinburgh was noisy, dark, with small streets, usually with poor sources of water. So living there had its own problems. Water had to be collected from water wells and carried up by many stairs. With no flush toilets, residents used to open their windows in the evening and (after shouting gardyloo) tip their foul nuisances into the streets below. Hazardous evenings, no?

Public well

Time for a beer! 🙂 and some Edinburgh Golden old ale!

More mediaval stories? Well how about the Greyfriars bobby? A nice pub, full of flowers from the outside but it actually sits on the Graveyard and is full of stories. Like the story of the dog called Bobby, who never wanted to leave his masters’ grave.

Bobby

The graveyard just behind helds the secrets of more than 60,000 people. The graveyard looks calm and nice, with students visiting the place, even J.K. Rowling when writing her Harry Potter… Until the rain comes and starts to drag down the mud and discover the bones of deaths…

Graveyard

As I said, next to it is the pub where the Harry Potter was born. The author like to sit in this pub and write the book. She was usually finding her inspiration in names at the monuments of those who were buried there.

That day, I met my lovely friend from Montenegro who lives in Edinburgh. So the medieval storytelling continued. 🙂

We strolled down the famous Cockburn street (you don’t pronounce the K – otherwise they will mock you!).

Cockburn street

Down the Cockburn street we strolled to the Grassmarket area. This place is surrounded by pubs with some really interesting names. We entered the pub called The Last Drop as the square used to be the execution place and the accused ones used to go this pub for their last drop of whisky.

Or perhaps Maggie Dicksons pub… as it used to be her own house. Maggie was famous for surviving the execution by sleeping with the executor the night before and convincing him not to strength the robe too high. After surviving this experience, she became famous across Scotland and bought the house at the Grassmarket square.

Up through to Victoria street for some more wandering…

Following the Treaty of Union in 1706, the Parliaments of England and Scotland passed Acts of Union in 1706 and 1707 respectively, uniting the two kingdoms in the Kingdom of Great Britain.

In 18th century, Edinburgh was described as one of Europe’s most densely populated, overcrowded and unsanitary towns. Visitors were struck by the fact that the various social classes shared the same urban space, even inhabiting the same tenement buildings. So the New Town was re-urbanized with parallel streets and squares. The most popular street is the Princess Street with all the shopping stores.

Princess Street – shopping street

There is a statue of Sir Walter Scott – a Scottish historical novelist and poet of 18th century Scotland. Ever heard of Ivanhoe?

Sir Walter Scott

And not to forget the Duke of Wellington. The guy who beat Napoleon at Waterloo in Belgium.

Duke of Wellington

In the second half of the century, the city was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment, when thinkers like David Hume and Adam Smith were familiar figures in its streets. Edinburgh became a major intellectual centre, earning it the nickname “Athens of the North” because of its many neo-classical buildings and reputation for learning.

PS I am really not a fan of calling some place after some other, like Venice of the North or New York of the East…

David Hume
Adam Smith

Time to stop for a second. Whiskey tasting? 🙂

Often simply called The Scotch, it is a Celtic spirit and the most popular drink here.

The Scottish Parliament is an old building from 13th century, except that in 1999 somehow Scotland decided to re-build and gave the trust to some Catalan architectures. Now, there is nothing wrong with this except that Barcelona is full of modern architecture that to my eye leads to dis-functionalities and nonsense. For example, the weird shapes of windows that are supposed to present people, or the leaves, or the birds or whatever kind of freedom because there is really no right answer, but in reality is just hard to open and close the widow and let the fresh air in. Not even talking about politics and federalism led by British Parliament in London and reasons of having (or rather not) this one here in Edinburgh… (sorry, political scientist here speaking!) 🙂

Sovereignty given by the Queen Elizabeth II

Eat haggis, sleep in Leith and climb the Arthur seat. It is an extinct volcano peak in the middle of the city, some 250 meters high where king Arthur used to come to think, before he would chair the table of the 12 knights. Remember Sir Lancelot?

The view from Arthur seat

Except the Arthur, some other notable peeps from Edinburgh like Sir James Maxwell and Alexander Graham Bell – the inventor of the telephone.

James Clerk Maxwell a Scottish mathematical physicist of electromagnetic radiation. And his dog to who him explained his equations. (?!!)

Now, there is something strange about Edinburgh – apart the fact that there are dog statues and commemorations across the city.

We noticed that almost every business from before has been turned into a pub business. Just like the birth house of the Alexander Bell above on the photo, or the pub which was the cinema before, or the barberry shop that became the pub or even the bank!

A bank turned into a pub and a statue of a loan giver. This person would used to go in pubs and offer the money to be loaned on some expensive rates, ofc.

Being now in modern ages again, we visited the Georgian houses. The typical architectural style from the times of George V. When he died, all the doors were supposed to be coloured in black but the Scots and Irish protested and coloured in pink, green, red, blue…

Georgian houses

The last day was used to visit Britannia – famous ship of The Queen Elizabeth II, but retired and given to tourists for visit. You can see the ship from the inside, check the rooms of the Queen or even the private sleeping room of Princess Diana and Prince Charles when they outset for they honeymoon.

Britannia ship
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Andorra

Andorra is a tiny little country in Europe, between France and Spain, in the mountains of Pyrenees and has no airport.

How to fly there? Well, I got to Girona first and rent the car from there. Google says 3 and half hours for 220 km. How is that possible? Well, when we saw the landscape – mountains crossed with steep bends we realized that the max speed is going to be 50 km/h.




Believed to have been created by Charlemagne, Andorra is nowadays ruled by the diarchy headed by two Princes: the Catholic Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia, Spain, and the President of France.

Anyhow, driving through Pyrenees was amazing. Green hills, sunshine and blue sky and far away the white snow in the mountains…

We couldn’t help but stop to admire and take some fresh air. You know how they say: Fresh air makes hunger. So we had a diner in this beautiful old house – restaurant:

The Andorran people are a Romance ethnic group of originally Catalan descent. The spoken languages are French and Spanish (both castillan and catalan).

Anyhow, we arrived to our hotel which was not in the capital city but some small city called Erts. Something like 15 min away from the capital. Honestly, if we would have been driving 15 min more we would end up in France.

It was off the winter season, and seems like in Andorra they live for winter tourism so the Christmas decorations were still on. The price was cheap cause they don’t have VAT taxation and yeah, it is off the season. Andorra is not a member of the European Union, but the euro is its official currency.

So we had the most beautiful room with the view on waterfall and mountains. It was loud all night and relaxing… 🙂

Next day after the healthy breakfast in the mountains, we took a walk around the river and admired the nature.

Then, the journey planned was the capital city Andorra la Vella. Btw, I noticed the little bicycles placed on the street lights. Cute, isn’t it? 🙂

And the cable car 🙂 Unfortunately, we didn’t stop… Next time when I come back, I promise!

And then we arrived to the capital, after some minutes of drivings.

The principal industry is tourism, as already mentioned, although the country also earns foreign income from being a tax haven. Furniture and brandies are local products. Being at an elevation of 1,023 m, it is the highest capital city in Europe and a popular ski resort.

La Valira river

However, it was time to sit and make a planning of the afternoon.

We had a local beer. It tasted nicely, I have to admit.

The beer is called Boris according to an adventurer and nobleman Boris Skossyreff, who in 1934 self-proclaimed himself a Kinfg of Andorra with his promise of freedoms and modernization of the country and wealth through the establishment of a tax haven and foreign investments. He was arrested by the Co-Prince and Bishop.

After the small break we continued towards the city center. They call it old city but there is nothing old there, except three houses which were anyhow destroyed and rebuilt.

In the city centre was the Church of St Esteve, ocated on Plaça del Príncep Benlloch. It was built in the 11th-12th century and then restored in the 20th century.

Andorra nowadays continued with the same economic system that it had during the 12th–14th centuries with a large production of metallurgy and with the introduction of tobacco and import trade. The fair of Andorra la Vella was ratified by the co-princes in 14th century being the most important annual national festival commercially ever since. Indeed, the tobacco shops are present everywhere for the very cheap price.

Casa de la Vall is a historical house built in 16th century as a manor and tower defense by the Busquets family. Until recently it was the seat of the legislative and executive power of Andorra.

We entered the building and had a nice tour with a guide.

Folklor
Criminal Court

Andorra is a parliamentary co-principality with the President of France and the CatholicBishop of Urgell (Catalonia, Spain) as Co-Princes. When I asked the guide how many times do they meet, I was told that the Bishop is regularly coming to govern but the French Presidents come twice in the mandate. Well…

Also, just a hint, imagine if Catalonia gets the so much wanted independence?! You can let me know your answers and possible scenarios in the comments 🙂

Anyhow, Andorra la Vella is one big shopping centre, so let’s do things as the Andorrans (tourists) do.

And then it was time to eat. Nice local specialties but more like Spanish food, I would say.

pinchos 🙂

Driving back was even more complicated. I guess all these tourists were coming back from their shopping weekend.

It was nice to meet you Andorra – officially country number 46. 🙂

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Girona, Catalunya, Spain

Again some short weekend trip to some EU city. You gotta love it, right? Well, we did 🙂 We hopped on the plane Friday after work and landed to some cute hotel nearby airport in Girona. That night was reserved for spa and some nice tapas.

The next day was about to explore the city of Girona. Apparently entire season 6 of Game of Thrones was filmed here. Let me show you the data:

Entrance to medieval city of Girona at the confluence of the rivers Ter, Onyar, Galligants, and Güell

The first historical inhabitants in the region were Iberians.  Later, the Romans built a citadel there. Until it was conquered by the Moors in 8th century. Finally, Charlemagne reconquered it in late 8thcentury and made it one of the fourteen original counties of Catalonia. Yes, Girona is in Catalonia, right next to grande Barcelona. 🙂

As of then it has been given to spanish kings of Aragon.

Important to mention is that during this period of time the Jewish community of Girona flourish, having one of the most important Kabbalistic schools in Europe. The presence of the Jewish community of Girona came to an end in 15th century, when the Catholic Monarchs outlawed Judaism throughout Spain and Jews were given the choice of conversion or exile.

As a result of many battles by different rulers, Girona has amazing and long defensive city walls untouched but abandoned.

In recent years, the city walls on the eastern side of the city have been reconstructed. Called the Passeig de la Muralla it now forms a tourist route around the old city.

Time for break 🙂

The typical beer here is Estrella. Lager.

As the many things on this photo above remind about the Catalonia resistance, I couldn’t help but notice that the protesting symbols and marks are everywhere around.

Especially the yellow ribbons are symbol of protest for Catalonian Independence and freedom of political prisoners.

The ancient cathedral, which stood on the site of the Roman Forum, was used by the Moors as a mosque, but nowadsy is a fine and excellent example of Catalan Gothic architecture. It is approached by eighty-six steps.

The Collegiate Church of Sant Feliu or Saint Felix 🙂 is noteworthy from an architectural point of view. Its style is 14th-century Gothic and it is one of the few Spanish churches which possesses a genuine spire. It contains, besides the sepulchre of its patron and the tomb of the valiant Álvarez, a chapel dedicated to St. Narcissus, who according to tradition was one of the early bishops of the see.

The last thing we visited was the Museum of Art. If you love romantic and gothic art, you will love this place as well.

Before you leave this city, amke sure you got this amazing view on the cityscape at the sunset 🙂

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Köln, Deutschland

Some time ago, still living in Brussels, – I realized I have a friend from hometown in Croatia that lives currently in Köln.

I used some app for shared drive and arrived in 2 hours. My friend was waiting for me at the main station. 🙂

It  is the largest city of Germany’s most populous federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, making it the fourth most populous city in Germany after BerlinHamburg, and Munich. It is the largest city on the Rhine river…

The city is famous for the Cologne Cathedral or in deu. Kölner Dom. This roman catholic monument started to be built in 13th century and it is the biggest example of gothic architecture.

Cologne’s medieval builders had planned a grand structure to house the reliquary of the Three Kings and fit its role as a place of worship for the Holy Roman Emperor. Despite having been left incomplete during the medieval period, Cologne Cathedral eventually became unified as “a masterpiece of exceptional intrinsic value” and “a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe”

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Rouen, France – steps of Jeanne d’Arc 🗡

Rouen is a city on the River Seine in the north of France. It is the capital of the region of Normandy. Formerly one of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe, Rouen was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy during the Middle Ages.

We made a short stop in this city to have lunch and spread our legs from the long ride as coming back to Brussels. Bad for me, I soon realized this city deserves much more attention. So I promised to come back – event though I do not re-visit. Life is to short! World is to wide!

The first stop was Le gros horloge (The Big Clock) recently restored, located in the middle of the Rue du Gros Horloge.

Le gros horloge

It is a 14th century astronomical clock.

The clock is installed in a Renaissance arch. The mechanism is one of the oldest in France. The Renaissance facade represents a golden sun with 24 rays on a starry blue background. The dial measures 2.5 metres in diameter. The phases of the moon are shown in the oculus of the upper part of the dial. It completes a full rotation in 29 days. The week days are shown in an opening at the base of the dial with allegorical subjects for each day of the week.

Already in love? Me too…

The little cobbled pedestrianised streets will accompany your weekends, holidays… These incomparable charming streets are decked on both sides with timber-framed houses dating from the Middle Ages were so cozy to my traveller heart…

Then the 16th century glory of the Palais de Justice… no it is not a cathedral, yet…

Now, this is the Cathedral… Ready?

It started on the site of the 4th century local church. Then, all the buildings perished during a Viking raid in the 9th century. The Viking leader, Rollo, founder of the Duchy of Normandy, was baptised here in 10th century and buried as well. The next generations of his sons were re-constructing the building to become greater and greater.

The gothic church became the Cathedral in 15th century . In the late 16th century the cathedral was badly damaged during the French Wars of Religion: the Calvinists damaged much of the furniture, tombs, stained-glass windows and statuary. 

The statue of Jeanne d’Arc
The relics from the baptizing ceremony of Viking king who brought the Christianity later to Baltics

Time for lunch. We went typical Norman: the neck of the beef… yuck! But apparently the favourite dish of the former French president Jacques Chirac.

The last rushy thing we did was the Place du Vieux Marché – famous again for the timer houses but also for being the burning site of Joan of Arc. Yes, I am a total fan of this discussible icon so the feeling was weird. Ebven more, when I realised that the marking place was some badly recognized statue and modern church… Not enough for this French saint who ran the battles against English to free the nothern France.

However, there is still a lot to see and space to update this post… Gustave Flaubert, Claude Monet…

Until next time, Rouen!

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Normandie: Alencon, Domfront, St-Céneri-le-Gérei, Le Mans

Easter was a trip to northern part of France: Normandie or
historical Duchy of Normandy.

Driving through its landscapes was total mind relaxation 🙂

Domfront

On our way to Mont St Michel, we had an opportunity to stop in city of Domfront – established in the 6th century round the oratory of the hermit St. Front, and played an important part in the wars against the English and the French Wars of Religion.

The most impressive was the castle from 11th century. Firstly occupied by the forces of Geoffrey of Anjou, and then it was besieged by William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy.

Who ever possessed the castle, had an amazing view on the lilacs 🙂

Alencon

The city is located less than 200 km from Paris.

William Duke of Normandy, later known as William the Conqueror and king of England
Then the citizen William of Poitiers insulted William by hanging animal skins from the walls, in reference to his ancestry as the illegitimate son. As a revenge, William had a number of the citizens’ hands and feet cut off so Alençon remained occupied by the English during the Anglo-Norman wars until 13th century.

It was Great Saturday so we decided to visit the local market and buy some food for the Eastern breakfast.

Quail

The 16th century Basilica of Notre-Dame d’Alençon is more or less dominating the cityscape.

Alençon lace or point d’Alençon is a needle lace that originated in Alençon. It is sometimes called the “Queen of lace.” Lace making began in Alençon during the 16th century and the local industry was rapidly expanded during the reign of Louis XIV, producing the lace in the Venetian style in 17th century. So soon, Alencon became famous as the prominent historical personalities like Marie Antoinette were wearing dresses trimmed with Alençon lace.

The rest of the day we spent in the park. I have to say I was impressed with mini labyrinths and bridges and houses for birds 🙂

Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei

A short afternoon trip to this place just to get more into nature and have a drink while watching the sunset. It was incredible.

Every corner of this small, beautiful place is picturesque and calling for a beauty shot.

Some sacrla bees which attacked the church demolishers

Le Mans

In the old town, the Gothic-style Le Mans Cathedral of St Julian occupied my mind, as it features stained-glass windows and flying buttresses.


Henry II Plantagenet, king of England, was born and baptized here

As being located on the Sarthe River, it was reaching its glory in medieval times. Hence the streets and houses dating from that time are just astonishing:

abbey 10

Corsica – Île de Beauté

What a beautiful island! 🙂 Landed with AirCorsica some beautiful Thursday afternoon just shortly after French President Macron.

My hotel was a splendid accommodation with a view on the Mediterranean.

As my flight has been postponed couple of times, I decided – totally tired and exhausted – just to chill in my hotel and read the Corsica intro.

The next morning I was totally fresh and ready to start exploring as of early in the morning.

Ajaccio

Totally italian city, but french speaking, but with italian accent. 🙂

After being ruled by the Republic of Genoa since 13 century, Corsica was briefly an Italian-speaking independent republic from 18th century, until it was officially ceded by the Republic of Genoa to France.

Port of Ajaccio

The people of Corsica are very proud of their flag so you can literally find it anywhere:

The very first day I went n the market at Place Foch. To go completely local. Spot the flag there as well:

Statue of Napoleon at Place Foch

The Musée Fesch is the central museum of fine arts in Ajaccio on Corsica. Located within the gated Palais Fesch, it is in the town’s Borgu d’Ajaccio quarter. It was established by Napoleon I’s uncle, cardinal Joseph Fesch. I did not enter as this time I had an intention to skip the masterpieces of renaissance.

However, I continued walking and admiring the italian style of the city.


Ex Grand Hôtel Continental (now office of the Collectivité territoriale de Corse)

Even the Cathedral is very simple style, dating from 16th century, called officially the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Ajaccio.

My day continued with the visit to the birthplace of Napoleon. He was born and lived until the age of 9 in the Bonaparte House. He returned once shortly after his battle in Egypt.

Statue of Napoleon

And then continuing towards the citadelle with the city walls from 16th century.

The city is even more beautiful as the city has the beach just there in the city center called Plage Saint – Francois.
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And yes, there is a Place Charles de Gaulle, as well.

Place Charles de Gaulle

And then it was the lunch time. Do you like sea food? Yap urchins!

Corte

Then I took the train towards the center of the island. Corsica is a mountainous island with its highest peak of 2,700 meters. Surprisingly, on my way through the mountains, there was some snow. And many animals like goats and sheeps…

Cortu is a historical capital in the middle of the island, deep in the mountains.

A small town in the heart of Corsica, Corte was the capital of the island (in 18th under Pasquale Paoli – a name you will hear often in Corsica as he was
a Corsican patriot, statesman and military leader who was at the forefront of resistance movements against the Genoese and later French rule in the island ).

As well as being an interesting town in itself Corte is in a great location for exploring the mountains, valleys and scenery of central Corsica and the surrounding Natural Park.

As I arrived in Corte – it is the dramatic citadel sitting on top of a rocky outcrop above the town and the Tavignano valley that first grabbed my attention.

Sertena

The third day I continued towards the south and passed through the beautiful city of Sertena – famous for wines!

This territory will allure you by the diversity of its landscapes: vineyards, forests, cliffs…

Bonifacio

This city was a total discovery for me and the main reason of what I will remember Corsica for!

It is the southest of the island and the setting of Guy de Maupassant‘s short story “Vendetta”

The citadel of Bonifacio

The city in evidence today was founded as a fortress by and subsequently named after Boniface II of Tuscany in 9th century. He had led a naval expedition to suppress the Saracens (Saracens’ head on the flags) of North Africa and returned to build an unassailable fortress and naval base from which the domains of Tuscany could be defended at the outermost frontier.

Short lunch and then taking the stairs towards the city fortress…

The city lays on the cliffs which were demolished by the sea so when you look at the citadelle, you can notice that it is practically hanging… Totally anti – gravitation…

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Bonifacio is located directly on the Mediterranean Sea, separated from Sardinia by the Strait of Bonifacio.

The island of Sardinia across the Bonifacio
Stairs of Aragon Kings
Entrance to Citadelle

There is also the largest church of the island, built in Norman style: Église Saint-Dominique de Bonifacio

Saint Dominique church

Îles Sanguinaires

The last day was reserved for Isles Sanguinaires (together forming the Archipelago of the Sanguinaires) which are about 15km from Ajaccio by boat but only just off the headland at Pointe de la Parata. 

The Parata headland is itself classified as one of the ‘grand sites of France’ and there is a Genoese lookout tower here.