Monday, October 29, 2018

NORTHERN COUNTRY TOUR - WARSOW (Poland)

Here is a map of the whole tour and how it started.

When we arrived in Warsaw the capital of Poland, I could see out of the bus windows the varied architecture from Gothic churches and neoclassical palaces to Soviet-era blocks and modern skyscrapers. It looked very modern and not at all as I had imagined. To be honest I had very mixed feelings. I had heard so much about Warsaw when I was a child, which had impressed me, like the story of my great grandma who died on the street in a trench fleeing from the Russians. My grandpa's family had a farm in Poland. I don't know very much about it, but it was enough. Today apparently the farm is still there.

We made a sightseeing tour around Warsaw with a Polish young woman as a guide. What we saw looked all very modern and charming, nothing reminded the dark times of WWII. Finally I asked the guide where the Warsaw ghetto had been. First she faked that she hadn't heard me, but as I insisted she pointed behind her where houses stood and nothing special and said it was there. I understood she didn't want to talk about it.

The fact is that 90% of Warsaw was destroyed in WWII and the population dropped from 1.3 millions in 1939 to 162.000 in 1944. Poland suffered the most in terms of percentage of the population (17% of the population died) during WWII !


Warsaw in 1945

and of course there were lots of memorials only I haven't seen them.





This house is still standing as a reminder


Warsaw is a wide spread town. Rather than being centred on an old market square, the capital is spread across a broad area with diverse architecture: restored Gothic, communist concrete, modern glass and steel.



When I saw this I couldn't believe that I was in Warsaw !



Nice old houses along a wide boulevard and not old cars but very modern once



The buses were yellow and the whole city looked welcoming and friendly.



shops, shops and shops !



and even palm trees



All these photos I took out of the bus,



Except this one it was the view I had from my hotel room in the Radisson Blu

Our bus stopped near the Lazienki park and we started to walk through the city. 


Chopin Monument

The park was very beautiful and well entertained

We learned that almost half the area of the city is green. There are as many as 95 parks with Łazienki on top of the list. In the summer, the famous Chopin Concerts take place in a unique outdoor setting.



The Warsaw Uprising Monument is dedicated to the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Unveiled in 1989 ! It was enormous ! 



Panoramic photos from Wikipedia



Palace of Culture and Science  was a gift from the Soviet Union to the people of Poland, the tower was finished in 1955. It is the tallest building in Poland by architectural height (237 m) with theater, sports field, and 30th-floor terrace.



The St. Alexander church was built in honor of Tsar Alexander I of Russia in 1825. The church itself was designed to be similar to the Pantheon in Rome and was hit by 9 bombs during the first nazi bombing. Reconstructed with most of its similarity, it still misses two of the original towers.

When we arrived at the old town I was delighted ! It was so beautiful and looked so old, I couldn't believe that it had all been destroyed and rebuilt exactly as it had been before. 

A labyrinth of winding cobblestone streets, ornate  facades and picturesque squares with plenty of charm, I could understand why the Old Town is Warsaw’s top tourist area.

A window into the ‘once-upon-a-time’ of Warsaw’s golden days as one of the country’s architectural pearls in addition to being its cosmopolitan capital, the Old Town represents much more to Warsaw’s citizens than UNESCO accolades. They had rebuilt it entirely after the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 ! Therefore the Old Town is also symbolic of Warsaw’s rise from the ruins of WWII.  Varsovians’ can be proud of what they have achieved, it's really a wonderful job they have done. 





Honestly I was so surprised that here too on a market I could pay with my bankcard ! I didn't need local money !



The Warsaw mermaid, symbol of the city ! It's standing on a fountain where people refreshed their feet (it was very hot) birds and dogs drank the water.



Everywhere you could see shops selling Amber. Here was even one who had a Titanic model in Amber !



We ate in an old restaurant, nicely decorated and what I found so nice was that the Goulash soup was served in an emptied bread !





Little streets leading to the market square





The pastel colored houses looked beautiful



We had a drink here on the terrace



and listened to the Beatles



Then it was time to leave. The next day we would drive to Berlin.



more participants here

Linking to Travel Tuesday



Friday, October 26, 2018

NORTHERN COUNTRY TOUR - TRAKAI - Lithuania

Here is a map of the whole tour and how it started.

On our way from Vilnius to Warsow in Poland, we stopped in Trakai still in Lithuania It was an absolutely lovely place, with its red-brick, fairy-tale castle, quaint wooden houses and pretty lakeside location. Fortunately we stopped there for a couple of hours and not only a short moment.

Trakai is a popular tourist destination and the administrative centre of the district municipality. The town covers 497.1 square kilometres (191.9 square miles) of area and, according to estimates, is inhabited by 5,357 people. A notable feature of Trakai is that the town was built and preserved by people of different nationalities. Historically, communities of Karaims, Tatars, Lithuanians, Russians, Jews and Poles lived here.

As I had never heard of a community called Karaims, I googled and found out that they are an ethnic group derived from Turkic-speaking adherents of Karaite Judaism in Central and Eastern Europe.

The main attraction of course was the Trakai Island Castle a 14th-century fortress in the middle of Lake Galvė. Once a home to Lithuania’s grand dukes, it now houses the Trakai History Museum, with archaeological objects, coins and crafts. On the lake’s southern shore are the stone ruins of the Trakai Peninsula Castle.

We had not even a moment to go over to the castle but could see it very well from our restaurant on the beach !



The view on the lake and the castle behind



A huge garden behind the  restaurant



and a nice terrace with view on the sea




We walked around and enjoyed the beauty of the beach and the garden



to the beach promenade



Our bus waiting







for rent, to pedal on the lake



Decorations





For children to play



and when we drove away I could see the lovely houses of Trakai.

It's a pity that it isn't not yet so well known by Western Europe countries. Except some German tourists.

One moment in time I would have loved to stay, but we had to leave for Warsow





Linking to Five Minute Friday (Moment)

Monday, October 22, 2018

NORTHERN COUNTRY TOUR - VILNIUS - LITHUANIA

Here is a map of the whole tour and how it started.


The first time I heard about Vilnius was because a French singer had murdered his girlfriend a French actor. So a part from this drama I knew almost nothing about this town.

When we arrived and drove through the city I immediately liked it ! It looked so homely and the buildings and houses were just beautiful.

Of course I wanted to know a bit more and learned that the city was founded in 1323 by a grand duke who attracted Jewish and German tradesmen and merchants with generous tax exemptions.

For centuries it also became a destination for those fleeing religious persecution (there was even a Scottish Calvinist community in Vilnius) or tough trade guild regulations. The city’s coat of arms features Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travellers.

The same liberal attitude continued through the centuries, and today the city still has its Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Ruthenian Orthodox quarters. For two centuries from 1569, it was the co-capital of what was then Europe’s biggest empire – the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Later, Vilnius withstood Russian tsarist and Soviet occupation, and in 1991 gained its freedom and independence.



The Cathedral Square in Vilnius is the main square of the Vilnius Old Town, right in front of the neo-classical Vilnius Cathedral. It is a key location in city's public life, situated as it is at the crossing of the city's main streets and reflecting the city's diversity.

We even had the honor  to see a defilé of a group of Hare Krishna disciples !





Gate of Dawn
This 1500s city gate is a prominent landmark housing a chapel with an icon of the Virgin Mary.



St. Cathrine's church



St. Franciskus and Bernard





Vilnius market



a memorial of terrible times







A nice park



Nearly in the middle of Vilnius, we crossed a bridge and arrived in the (miniature) Independant Republic of Uzupis created by 12 Lithuanian Artists in 1995 on April's fool day ! It even has a 12-man army. It's a funny story which you can read  here. We met the new weds again, they posed on the bridge for their wedding pictures.





A sculpture of an angel was placed in the central square of Užupis in 2002. The bronze angel, also created by sculptor Romas Vilčiauskas, has become the symbol of Užupis.









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We walked through the charming little streets



until we arrived at this green house at the right.

 Here you could buy a stamped Constitution of the Republic of Uzhupis



A little extray of the constitution :

Everyone has the right to love.
Everyone has the right not to be loved, but not necessarily.
Everyone has the right to be undistinguished and unknown.
Everyone has the right to be idle.
Everyone has the right to love and take care of the cat.
Everyone has the right to look after the dog until one of them dies.
A dog has the right to be a dog.
A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of nee (sic).

The text of the whole constitution is here



The shop was apparently owned by this very friendly ginger cat



Because his picture was on all posters or advertisings.



The constitution was written on a mirror, so I tried to take a picture of myself in the languages I know.

Another Baltic town I would like to visit again ! 



more participants here

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I love painting, writing, travelling and photography. My favorit models are my four cats which I observe with fun and humor. I am German, married to an Italian and we live in Waterloo (15 km from Brussels) / Belgium since many years. Waterloo is a famous place to many tourists, because Napoleon lost his battle here against Wellington and other European countries.

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