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Regensburg and Walhalla – Ausweis bitte!

Regensburg

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

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

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

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

Porta praetoria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walhalla

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode finished.

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Ljubljana, Slovenia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a Laško Zlatorog beer.

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Nancy of France

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

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

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

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

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

Arc Héré

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

Place de la Carriere with Government Palace of Nancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prague vs. Brno, Czech Republic

The two cousins that like to compete. Prague is obviously the capital, and Brno a second biggest city in Czech Republic.

It is quite clear that Prague is beautiful, great historical city and a capital which means way more opportunities, foreigners, tourists, businesses.
On the other hand, Brno is a very compact city, with great atmosphere, swarms of students, many tech companies and start-ups, plus I really like the nature around the city.

When speaking to locals, I heard stories from the ones from Prague who won’t leave their car parked in Brno overnight, because the ‘A’ on their license plate indicating their from Prague means it could get damaged. Some of those same locals from Prague will also tell you that they love their city because of all the sites and history, and say that Brno has just one site worth seeing … the exit sign to Prague.

Here is what I got from a taste of the great Czech rivalry:

Prague

Situated on the Vltava river, Prague is a political, cultural, and economic centre of central and eastern Europe complete with a rich history. When you look the quarters and facades of this city, you can tell it was founded during the Romanesque and flourishing by the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras. Prague was the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia and the main residence of several Holy Roman Emperors, most notably of Charles IV  (14th century). It was an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire. The city played major roles in the Bohemian and the Protestant Reformations, the Thirty Years’ War and in 20th-century history as the capital of Czechoslovakia between the World Wars and the post-war Communist era.

When flying over Czech Republic, I spotted the power station. Short googling and it is named Počerady – the main Czech electricity producer.

My first impressions of the city, revisiting after 16 years, was about clean spotless streets and renewed facades. I had a long weekend ahead with a sunshine in my purse. Discovering started.

Prague’s architecture is like an open history book. It’s historical city center is one of the largest ones on the UNESCO World Heritage List and you can bump into most of the architecture styles ever used in Europe’s history on your walk.

Even though I was revisiting many sights and refreshing my knowledge on culture, I discovered Art Nouveau in Prague. In my younger ages, I was not that much attracted by it, ofently not understanding the concept and the time. For example, I didnt know that Prague was home to one of the greatest Art Nouveau artists, Alfons Mucha, and that the Mucha Museum on Prague Old Town Square is a must-see for Art Nouveau lovers.

Living in Brussels for 8 years now, the city brimful of art nouveau and art deco buildings, let me enlighten the term a bit: Art Nouveau is the name given to a vast range of contemporary art roughly. Originated in Belgium and France late in the 19th century, a more free-flowing expression of art and architecture emerging after decades of neo-Gothic and neo-Classical influence. Art Nouveau designs covered everything from complete buildings to items of furniture to paintings and advertisements for bars of soap. Whole buildings were now considered to be works of art. Art Nouveau architects also experimented more with form, especially bringing curves into their design. So if you see a curved doorway or a window with a curve rather than a corner, it’s highly likely you’re looking at Art Nouveau architecture. Inspiration in art nouveau comes from nature, women and geometrical shapes (more like art deco in this case).

To add to this, the art nouveau style, was followed by the period characterised by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, colonial expansion, and technological, scientific, and cultural innovations (think about the construction of Titanic!) called La Belle Époque. It started in 1890 and ended with the start of World War I. The Lost Generation was the social generational cohort that was in early adulthood during World War 1. This will later result with the Lost Generation. Lost in this context refers to the “disoriented, wandering, directionless” spirit of many of the war’s survivors in the early postwar period (Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrud Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T. S. Elliott). But that’s another story to reflect on this blog under Paris section post. 🙂

In the meantime, let’s jump back to Prague. To the Old Town Square, or in Czech: Staroměstské náměstí.

The square features buildings belonging to various architectural styles, including the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn, which has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. Its characteristic towers are 80 m high. The Baroque St. Nicholas Church is another church located in the square.

Then there is Prague Orloj: a medieval astronomical clock mounted on the Old Town Hall. The clock was first installed in 15th century, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still in operation.

The square’s centre is home to a statue of religious reformer Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake in Konstanz for his beliefs. This led to the Hussite Wars. There is also a memorial to the “martyrs” beheaded on that spot during the Old Town Square execution by Habsburgs.

Moving through the Old town, having the smell of local cuisine, the tourists are led towards another attraction: Charles Bridge, or in Czech: Karlův most. It is a medieval stone arch bridge that crosses the Vltava (Moldau) river. Its construction started in 14th century thanks to Charles IV – King of Bohemia and to become Holy Roman Emperor. He was a member of the House of Luxembourg from his father’s side and the Czech House of Přemyslid from his mother’s side; he emphasized the latter due to his lifelong affinity for the Czech side of his inheritance, and also because his direct ancestors in the Přemyslid line included two saints (I will explain the later in this post).

The Charles Bridge, that  links Old Town to Malá Strana, is a piece of medieval engineering that has stood the test of time. Why? Because Charles IV was a strong believer in numerology. The first stone was placed on the 9th of July 1357 at 5.31. That is a palindrome that creates 97531 and backwards. It also creates the pyramid.

On the 9th of July 1357 The Charles Bridge has witnessed some gut-wrenching scenes in its time: it used to serve as a place of execution or of public chastisement for criminals who were dipped into the river in wicker baskets. The most famously was when Jan Nepomuk was thrown into the river in 14th century for allegedly refusing to divulge the queen of Bohemia’s confession secrets to suspicious king Charles IV. Guess we will never know who shagged the Queen. Or do we know? Shagging or not, Jan Nepomuk was canonised in 18th century by Vatican and became a saint patron of Czech Republic.

Crossing over famous river Vltava, I couldn’t not remember famous peace of art of classical music: The Moldau, Czech Vltava, symphonic poem by Bohemian composer Bedřich Smetana that evokes the flow of the Vltava River. Listen and enjoy! 🙂 For more Czech pieces of art, check Antonín Dvořák, Symphony No. 9.

We finally arrive to Malá Strana. Boy where to start XD. District on the other side of the Vltava river that got me confused. As this Quartier was founded as a royal town (a town founded by the king) it got many privileges. You can find the stunning view on the Prague from there but as well on Petřín Tower – a steel-framework tower.

One of the recommended attractions is the The KGB Museum. If you think there will be informative museum collection on communist time espionage and some intelligence, you are wrong. So was I. Upon the entrance, there is a machine gun, a Russian ex-KGB member in retire with his personal weapon collection and stories on how to kill with a knife, gun and a wire. It is an experience, not a museum. You have to take it from there. I was initally afraid as the guy locked the door and sat me down on chair to watch the Russian military parade.  I was upset on his way of interpreting the gulags and Stalin but I got a good wtf moments to tell when he started to explain me how to paralyze a Nazi and make him mega bleed from the liver. And this is only one of the at least 20 examples of WTF moments.

Take this knife, Madam (showing me some knife from his personal collection).

– No thank you. I am not a fan.

Take it, take it. Do you know how to kill with this knife? (already squatting in the position to throw the knife at the doll)

– It never occurred to me.

You do it like this and like this and then in the liver. The victim is dead because of quick bleeding. Mega bleeding. Smell the Nazi blood. (sticking out his tongue).

Me: OMG where did I got myself into (praying to go out alive).

Anyway, you judge by yourself if you want to have this experience or you would profit more from a good lager on a sunny terrace of Prague. Me, I am still not sure…

One bizarre experience led into another one. Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague. Upon the arrival, there is a bar which serves funny alchemist cocktails. The guides are weird, but hey, after previous experience, I can’t be stopped.

Prague is a golden, mysterious city with one hundred spires, and for all that it thanks among other to the alchemists, who belong to it inseparably. Here I discovered philosopher’s stone produced by famous renaissance occultist and alchemist Edward Kelley and his friend John Dee, both financed by Charles IV to produce gold in a mysterious laboratory.

Ok, I think it is enough of weirdness. Let’s focus on food. Let’s not beat around the bush here, Prague doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to food. But real foodie will have a great time. Let me show you.

How about some beer? 🙂 Cheaper than the water. One of the best lagers you will ever have!

Among other famous things in Bohemia, there is a famous Bohemian glass or crystal. It has a centuries long history of being internationally recognised for its high quality, craftsmanship, beauty and often innovative designs.

Prague has a reach deep history. There is many stories to discover. The legendary origins of Prague attribute its foundation to the 8th-century Czech duchess and prophetess Libuše and her husband, Přemysl, founder of the Přemyslid dynasty (earlier mentioned dynasty of King Charles IV). Legend says that Libuše came out on a rocky cliff high above the Vltava and prophesied: “I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars.” She ordered a castle and a town called Praha to be built on the site. The region became the seat of the dukes, and later kings of Bohemia.

One of the seats was a large Gothic castle founded in 14th century by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor-elect and King of Bohemia. The castle is called Karlštejn.

One last story about Prague: The Jewish Quarter. Definitely recommended. I wandered the streets of ex- Jewish ghetto and imagined the history of Jewish settlements in Prague which dates back to the 10th century. Of course, it has been marked by sad episodes of persecution. Therefore, the Jewish quarter of the Czech capital, known as Josefov, is a tribute to a community that has had to face continuous exile and incomprehensible turmoil. In light of this, I visited the Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery from 15th century, Maisel, Spanish and OldNew Synagogue.

I whispered to F. Kafka. It was an exchange of fine talks among two welt-schmerzers. This German-speaking Bohemian novelist and short-story writer, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature has had a complex relationship with Judaism, veering between secularism and Zionism at an uneasy time for Jews in Eastern Europe. He attended services at the Old-New Synagogue, the oldest surviving Jewish house of worship in Europe. It’s said to be the resting place of the mythical Golem, a creature that protected the city’s Jews from violence.

Franz Kafka and Me

My Jewish experience ended with kosher food at King Salomon restaurant. Just to mention, I had to wait 65 min for the food in order to align with kosher meat and milk diet.

Brno

Brno is a city in the South Moravian Region of the Czech Republic. Located at the confluence of the Svitava and Svratka rivers, on a hill that makes the streets looking cozy and trendy.

Brno is the former capital city of Moravia and the political and cultural hub of the South Moravian Region. The name derives from a Slavic verb brniti (to armour or to fortify).

In the old city center, at the main Liberty Square, you will find Brno’s Quirky Astronomical Clock in a shape of a penis. The controversial monument, made of black marble, took three years to build at the cost of 12 million Czech crowns.

Curiously, despite its name, it’s not an astronomical clock at all. It’s just a clock. It was built to commemorate a famous and unlikely victory the citizens of Brno had over invading Swedes in 1645 as part of the Thirty Years’ War. After three months of failed sieges, a Swedish general decided to give in if the city hadn’t fallen by noon that day. Faced with this ultimatum, the citizens of Brno put the town clock forward an hour at 11am, so that it read noon. Sure enough, the Swedes retreated.

There is no art nouveau here, but there is great Moravian wine. Wine in the Czech Republic is produced mainly in southern Moravia, although a few vineyards are located in Bohemia. However, Moravia accounts for around 96% of the country’s vineyards, which is why Czech wine is more often referred to as Moravian wine. Traces of the viticulture s go back to Roman times, of course. The Thirty Years’ War (17th century) destroyed a significant portion of the vineyards in the Czech Republic, and over the next hundred years they were gradually replanted. In 18th century, Austrian vintners asked Habsburg Kaiserin Maria Theresa to limit new vineyard plantings in Moravia to reduce the competition from Moravian wines.

Strolling down towards the Church of St Michael. The church was heavily damaged by the Swedish army in the 17th century. Its current Baroque form is the work of the local architect Jan Křtitel Erna. The Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre at the southern wall of the church in Dominikánská Street is modelled after the chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

There are several legends connected with the City of Brno; one of the best known is the Legend of the Brno Dragon. It is said that there was a terrible creature terrorizing the citizens of Brno. The people had never seen such a beast before, so they called it a dragon. They trembled in fear of the dragon until a brave man decided to kill the monster by tricking it into eating a carcass filled with lime. In reality the dragon was a crocodile, the preserved body of which is now displayed at the entrance of the Old Town Hall. Crocodile and dragon motifs are common in Brno. A crocodile (in Czech: krokodýl) is the local stuffed baguette, and the city radio station is known as Radio Krokodýl.

Ossuary is located underground, partially under the Church of St. James (Kostel svatého Jakuba Staršího). It is considered the second-largest ossuary in Europe. It is estimated that over 50,000 people were buried there in the 17th and the 18th centuries. The ossuary was forgotten for a long time. In 2001, a team of archaeologists discovered it while conducting excavations before the renovation of the Jakubské square. Since 2012, the Ossuary of St. James’ Church has been open to the public. I visited this obscure place with the dumpling in my throat.

To conclude this rivalry: Go and check it out. Both Prague and Brno are beautiful cities with great people. Ignore guide books. I would say, there is a massive (but mostly friendly) rivalry between Brno and Prague – Praguers tend to look down on the city seeing it as a sort of provincial outpost, with jokes portraying the Brno people as being yokels with chickens under their arms and the suchlike, laughing at the Moravian dialect, but the feeling is mutual as the Prague accent sounds hilarious to people from Brno.

Bye Czechia!

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Koblenz, Deutschland

Visiting the Burg Eltz it was inevitable to stroll down the hills of  Rhineland-Palatinate and explore.

To be honest, the navigation was not up to date as bringing us to the closed local roads or reserved only for the local agricultural vehicles. But there is a beauty in getting lost like that! 🙂

Around the hills in Wierschem

Koblenz is a German city on the banks of the river Rhine and of the Moselle, a multi-nation tributary. Thanks to its geographic position, it is one of the most beautiful vineyards location. Let me tell you our entrance to the city with this:

Schloss von der Leyen

On our right is the river Moselle, on the left the vineyards scenery on the cliffs and we are driving right through the castle. The fairytale!

No wonder, Koblenz was established as a Roman military post around 8 B.C. Its name originates from the Latin(ad) cōnfluentēs, meaning confluence. The actual confluence is today known as the “German Corner“, a symbol of the unification of Germany that features an equestrian statue of Emperor William I.

Opposite to this Deutsches Ecke – where the river Rhein and Moselle confluence and continue towards Rotterdam is the Fortress Ehrenbreitstein as seen from Koblenz.

Fortress Ehrenbreitstein as seen from Koblenz

The old city has a triangular shape, with two sides being bounded by the Rhine and Mosel and the third by a line of fortifications. The city facades are neo-baroque and classical. With loads of shopping streets and commercial centers interfered. It the Altstadt one can find bars and restaurants to enjoy german culinary and recommended wines from the valleys of Rhine and Mosel.

I couldn’t skip The cultural centre Forum Mittelrhein and the Kulturbau Forum Confluentesstands as a singular, solitary volume on the square and is wrapped in a striking, partly translucent shiny façade that reflects the sky and the clouds. It houses the public library, the Mittelrhein Museum and the tourist information of Koblenz, with their ‘Zentrum der Rheinromantik’, inviting both tourists and residents to learn more about this beautiful region.

To conclude with the Rhine riesling and Mosel gewurztraminer.

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Burg Eltz, Deutschland

Eltz Castle (German: Burg Eltz) is a medieval castle nestled in the hills above the Moselle between Koblenz and Trier, Germany. It is still owned by a branch of the same family (the Eltz family) that lived there in the 12th century, 33 generations ago.

Hidden in the western Germany, in the hills above river Mosel, deep deep in the Rhineland Palatinate region hence only local roads lead you towards. Because of this, it is pretty easy to get lost.

Rhineland -Palatinate is a southwest German state bordered by France, Belgium and Luxembourg. The lush Moselle Valley, with its riverside towns is one of Germany’s largest wine regions.

We parked the car some hour away of the castle and started our trip through the forest. There are many paths through the forest but the one towards the castle is guiding you by itself.

Upon the entrance, I was surprised with the view on the nearby forests and the endless greenery. It was in a total contrast of the strong fortification and its red wooden construction.

Time for food? Some good German bier and sausage?

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Tournai, Belgium

Guess what’s new? – Corona. Guess how long it will last? – China.

Never mind. The travel ban is still on for Belgium, so explorations within the country continues. This weekend was reserved for Tournai. A beautiful city on the west of Belgium. Kinda looks like Lille at the first sight.  Although, being part of the province of Hainaut, Tournai is part of Eurometropolis Lille–Kortrijk–Tournai.

Tournai is one of the oldest cities in Belgium and has played an important role in the country’s cultural history. It was the first capital of the Frankish Empire, with Clovis I being born here – the first king of France, crowned and buried in Reims.

Tournai, known as Tornacum, was a place of minor importance in Roman times, a stopping place where the Roman road from Cologne on the Rhine to Boulogne on the coast crossed the river Scheldt. It came into the possession of the Salian Franks in 5th century. Clovis moved the center of power to Paris. In turn, a native son of Tournai, Eleutherius, became bishop of the newly created bishopric of Tournai, extending over most of the area west of the Scheldt. In 9th century Charles the Bald, first king of Western Francia and still to become Holy Roman Emperor, would make Tournai the seat of the County of Flanders.

river Scheldt

After the partition of the Frankish empire by the Treaties of Verdun (843) Tournai remained in the western part of the empire, which in 10th century became France. The city participated in 11th-century rise of towns with a woollen cloth industry based on English wool, which soon made it attractive to wealthy merchants. An ambitious rebuilding of the cathedral was initiated in 11th century. The stone Pont des Trous over the Scheldt, with defensive towers at either end, was built in 1290, replacing an earlier wooden structure.

Le Pont des Trous à Tournai

During the 15th century, the city’s textile trade boomed and it became an important supplier of tapestry. The art of painting flourished too. It was captured in 1513 by Henry VIII of England, making it the only Belgian city ever to have been ruled by England. The city was handed back to French rule three years later, following the Treaty of London (1518).

Belfry of Tournai

In 16th century, Habsburg Emperor Charles V added the city to his possessions in the so-called Low Countries, leading to a period of religious strife and economic decline. During the 16th century, Tournai was a bulwark of Calvinism, but eventually it was conquered by the Spanish governor of the Low Countries, the Duke of Parma, following a prolonged famous Siege of Tournai in 1581. After the fall of the city, its Protestant inhabitants were given one year to sell their possessions and emigrate, a policy that was at the time considered relatively humane, since very often religious opponents were simply massacred.

Monument of local artist van der Wayden, in front of the Cathedral, 15th century

One century later, the city briefly returned to France under Louis XIV in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Following the Napoleonic Wars, Tournai formed part of the newly independent Belgium.

Unfortunately, local specialties were skipped this time as the bars and restaurants were closed.

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Roche-en-Ardenne

Still pandemic times, less travels and huge desire to go somewhere new. In case I haven’t mention yet, thank you China. One big f***ing thank you.

Anyways, how about some snow? Belgian Ardennes are a good answer. Fresh and healthy winter air with lots of white cover.

Why this city? Except the fact that we are not allowed to leave this country of Belgium if it is not an essential travel, there has been a rumour that Roche-en-Ardenne is  is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Ardennes.

La Roche is believed to have first been settled in the Neolithic era followed by the Celts and the Romans who built a fort there following their conquest of Gaul and the Ardennes.

The town’s medieval castle was in use between the 9th and 18th centuries. It provided protection to the many barges that plied their trade along the local river systems.

In World War II, the town was occupied by both Nazi and Allied forces, suffering severe damage. Freed by Americans in September 1944, the town was recaptured by the Germans in December, during the Battle of the Bulge. I was particularly surprised with the Museum of the Ardennes Battle.

The museums tells the story of local people fighting for their city. Belgian King Leopold I was advised to move his most ekite artillery and infantry towards Antwerpen thinking Hitler would never break strong cold Ardenne mountains. It happens that Hitler arrived with tanks, entered into every village in Ardennes in no second and broke Belgium. The fall of France and The Netherlands was the direct consequence of it.

The city is walking area with lots of shops, bars and restaurants. Thank you China so much for allowing me to enjoy this! We were allowed to walk down the Quay of Ourthe.

Never visit The Ardennes without buying the delicious local products: cheese, sausage made of boar and local beers. Here is what we brought home 🙂

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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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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.

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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
Books 19

Master of All Desires

by Judith Merkle Riley

In 1556 France, Queen Catherine de Medici spies on her husband, King Henri II, and his lover, Diane de Poitiers.

Driven nearly mad by jealousy, the queen, who is “very fond of do-it-yourself magic,” is frustrated with her court astrologer’s ineffective powers, until he reveals his knowledge of the magical object called the Master of All Desires.

This is a centuries-old box that contains the living head of Menander the Undying – a magus who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal life. Anyone in possession of the sharp-tongued, mean-spirited and unpleasant head may have their wishes granted, selling their own soul in the process.

With the queen in pursuit of Menander, the famous Nostradamus gets involved in the story.

Prophete Nostradamus

Not to mention that the country is on the doorstep of the civil war.

However, I found the book full of wicked thumbnail sketches of power players, riotous actions, delicious mystery and romance, luminous prose, and feisty heroines with a feminist sensibility.

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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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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 6

Mont Saint Michel

Dating a French is hard. Twinkling with my blue slavic eyes while asking him if we can go to Mont Saint Michel – easy peasy.

So our trip through Normandie started here… at some pre-area of Mont Sant Michel which is salty as the sea level goes on and off so the sheeps eat the salty grass, make salty milk and cheese and special pre-salty meat. They say it is a delicatesse!

Mont Saint Michel is an island and mainland commune in Normandy, France.
The island has held strategic fortifications since ancient times and since the 8th century AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. The structural composition of the town exemplifies the feudal society that constructed it: on top, God, the abbey and monastery; below, the great halls; then stores and housing; and at the bottom, outside the walls, houses for fishermen and farmers.

As you can see, there is an approach via the bridge. The buses are constantly circuiting around. However, many people do take the courage to walk through the mud when the tide is low. It is highly recommended to do it in the group as yearly people die by getting stuck in the vivid mud and not being able to get out of it as the tide is getting high and sea is approaching…

The island looks totally medieval. There is less than 100 people living and most of them are owning the restaurant, which are, btw total tourist trap. Some omelette costs 65 euros. :O And that omelette or cafe au lait will not be that good…

Famous family restaurant

Anyhow, we were climbing up towards the abbey.

The Mont/ mountain remained unconquered during the Hundred Years’ War; a small garrison fended off a full attack by the English in 15th century. The later it was used as a prison – especially after the French Revolution and during the Ancien Regime.

The tides can vary greatly, at roughly 14 metres between highest and lowest water marks.

Popularly nicknamed “St. Michael in peril of the sea” by medieval pilgrims  – it really offers a beautiful got-lost-in-time experience. Although, this moment might be ruined by the number of tourists surrounded.

The monks and nuns of the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem are present in this abbey since 14th century.

Archangel Gabriel – the protector of the mount

The gothic church has the golden statue of Arch-angel Michel on its top as being the protector of the knights and shelter in the battles.

By going down, we admired a bit more the architecture…

Also, did you know that in Normandy there are no vineyards? So it is this particular part of France where actually you can not get any wine… awkward…

Awkward because me – being blond and thinking how France is all about the red wine, wanted to sit on a terrace and get my self a glass of local red wine. You could imagine the face of my boyfriend and his patience when he started to educate me about the maps of the french vineyards… and none of them is in Normandie… ooops 😛

However, the region is famous for apples so they will offer the great cider