Monday, 30 April 2012



Kraków also Cracow, or Krakow, is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life and is one of Poland's most important economic hubs. It was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1569; the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569 to 1596; the Grand Duchy of Kraków from 1846 to 1918; and Kraków Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1999. It is now the capital of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship.

The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Poland's second most important city. It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill and was already being reported as a busy trading centre of Slavonic Europe in 965. With the establishment of new universities and cultural venues at the emergence of the Second Polish Republic and throughout the 20th century, Kraków reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre.

Kraków's prehistory begins with evidence of a Stone Age settlement on the present site of the Wawel Hill. A legend attributes Kraków's founding to the mythical ruler Krakus, who built it above a cave occupied by a dragon, Smok Wawelski. The first written record of the city's name dates back to 966, when Kraków was described as a notable commercial centre owned by a Bohemian duke Boleslaus I. The first crowned King of Poland Mieszko took Kraków from Bohemians and incorporated it into the holdings of the Piast dynasty towards the end of his reign.

In 1038, Kraków became the seat of the Polish government. By the end of the 10th century, the city was a leading centre of trade. Brick buildings were constructed, including the Royal Wawel Castle with St. Felix and Adaukt Rotunda, Romanesque churches such as St. Adalbert's, a cathedral, and a basilica.

Mariacki Church
After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany at the start of World War II, Kraków was turned into the capital of Germany's General Government. The Jewish population of the city was moved into a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto, from which they were sent to extermination camps such as Auschwitz and the concentration camp at Płaszów.

In 1978, Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, was elevated to the papacy as Pope John Paul II – the first Slavic pope ever, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. Also that year, UNESCO approved the first ever sites for its new World Heritage List, including the entire Old Town in inscribing Cracow's Historic Centre.

Florian Gate
The beauty of Krakow starts just 5 mins from the main train station (dworzec glowny), when you come up to 'stare miasto' (old town) and one of the main gates into it. From there, you can wander the cobbled streets til your hearts content, stopping off for a traditional polish tea with lemon or a fantastically fresh apple pie.

The centre of 'stare miasto' is 'rynek glowny (main square) with the focal point being Sukiennice (the old Cloth Hall), where all the souvenir shopping action happens. Walking through the cobbled centre will show you exactly what trinkets you can buy on your visit - leather, wooden goods, nice glass, crystal, lots and lots of silver. The stalls in Sukiennice can be more expensive, so either try the side road shops or haggle like you’ve never haggled before. 

Krakow is famous for its many restaurants, some like Wierzynek, have seen many crowned heads in their time grace their tables. Try the restaurant Pod Gruszka to dine in the charming room full of antique furniture. In the Old Town there is a huge choice of places to eat as old gothic cellars house a few hundred restaurants, pubs and cafes This is a great place to sample traditional polish food and Krakow specialities but also any other European & exotic cuisine. 

Kraków's cuisine has been influenced by the cultures that have inhabited central Europe, as well as the Austro-Hungarian empire. If you want to try Polish cuisine for outstandingly good-value prices (a big lunch for one person for about 8PLN) then find a 'Bar Mleczny' (a milk bar - a kind of cafeteria very prevalent in Communist times so called because it serves no alcohol).  They offer classic Polish food such as  Pierogi which are dumplings that are most often filled with "ruskie" ("ruskie" meaning "Ruthenian" - with curd cheese and potato), meat, cabbage, mushroom, bilberries, apples, and strawberries. The fruit Pierogi are usually served with cream and sugar. When you are in Kraków, you can't miss zapiekankas in Kazimierz district, at Plac Nowy. These are delicious baguettes with different types of topping.

Polish cakes are pretty delicious. The main ones to look out for are 'szarlotka' (apple cake), 'sernik' (cheesecake), 'piernik' (honey cake), 'makowiec' (poppy seed cake) and of course 'paczki' (donuts). 'Szarlotka' is often filled to the brim with apples, with a crumbly dough on top, and if you're lucky to find a traditional one - it'll have a lovely egg maringue layer on top too.

'Piernik' is a lovely warming cake, and the interesting thing about it is that you can keep it around for weeks and it actually gets nicer. 'Makowiec' is a popular polish cake for New Year's Eve, as the poppy seeds are meant to signify money in the New Year! So the more poppy seeds at New Year's, the more prosperous the year will be.

'Paczki' are different to English donuts in that they're larger, crispy, covered in glaze and with real strawberry inside (less sweet than English). You can now also get them with custard inside and various other jams. They're a lovely snack and of course a must on shrove Tuesday.

Wawel Castle

                                                        Kraków’s Top 5:
  1. The Wawel Cathedral or by full name Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Stanislaus and Wenceslaus, is a Roman Catholic church located on Wawel Hill. More than 900 years old Polish national sanctuary traditionally has served as coronation site of the Polish monarchs and as well as the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Kraków. Pope John Paul II offered his first Mass as a priest in the Crypt of the Cathedral on 2 November 1946. The current, Gothic cathedral, is the third edifice on this site: the first was constructed and destroyed in the 11th century; the second one, constructed in the 12th century, was destroyed by a fire in 1305. The construction of the current one begun in the 14th century on the orders of bishop Nanker.  The Cathedral has been the main burial site for Polish monarchs since the 14th century. As such, it has been significantly extended and altered over time as individual rulers have added multiple burial chapels.
  2. Wawel Castle.  The Gothic Wawel Castle was built at the behest of Casimir III the Great and consists of a number of structures situated around the central courtyard. In the 14th century it was rebuilt by Jogaila and Jadwiga of Poland. Their reign saw the addition of the tower called the Hen's Foot (Kurza Stopka) and the Danish Tower. The Jadwiga and Jogaila Chamber, in which the sword Szczerbiec, was used in coronation ceremonies, is exhibited today and is another remnant of this period. Other structures were developed on the hill during that time as well, in order to serve as quarters for the numerous clergy, royal clerks and craftsmen. Defensive walls and towers such as Jordanka, Lubranka, Sandomierska, Tęczyńska, Szlachecka, Złodziejska and Panieńska were erected in the same period.
  3. St. Florian's Gate or Florian Gate, is one of the best-known Polish Gothic towers, and a focal point of Kraków's Old Town. It was built about the 14th century as a rectangular Gothic tower of "wild stone", part of the city fortifications against Turkish attack.  Until the 19th century, Kraków had massive medieval city walls. The inner wall was some 2.4 meters wide and 6–7 meters high. Ten meters outside the inner wall was an outer, lower one. The walls were punctuated by defensive towers 10 metres high. In the 19th century — just before they were demolished by the Austrian authorities — there were 47 towers still standing. Now there are only three Gothic towers left in all Kraków: the Carpenters', Haberdashers' and Joiners' Towers, connected to St. Florian's Gate by walls several dozen meters long.
  4. St. Mary's Basilica  also known as the Mariacki Church is a Brick Gothic church re-built in the 14th century (originally built in the early 13th century), adjacent to the Main Market Square. Standing 80 m (262 ft) tall, it is particularly famous for its wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz). On every hour, a trumpet signal—called the Hejnał mariacki—is played from the top of the taller of St. Mary's two towers. The plaintive tune breaks off in mid-stream, to commemorate the famous 13th century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city. St. Mary's Basilica also served as an architectural model for many of the churches that were built by the Polish diaspora abroad, particularly those like St. Michael's and St. John Cantius in Chicago, designed in the so-called Polish Cathedral style.
  5. Sukiennice.  The Renaissance Sukiennice (Cloth Hall, Drapers' Hall), is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the Main Market Square in the Kraków Old Town. It was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, Sukiennice was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the East – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.

Intrepid Travel (Intrepid Guerba)

Sunday, 29 April 2012



Jerez de la Frontera is a municipality in the province of Cádiz in the autonomous community of Andalucia, in southwestern Spain, situated midway between the sea and the mountains. As of 2010, the city, the largest in the province, had 208,896 inhabitants; it is the fifth largest in Andalucia. It has become the transportation and communications hub of the province, surpassing even Cádiz, the provincial capital, in economic activity. Jerez de la Frontera is also, in terms of land area, the largest municipality in the province, and its sprawling outlying areas are a fertile zone for agriculture. 

There are signs of human presence in the area from the upper Neolithic, and Jerez has been inhabited by humans since at least the Copper or Neolithic Age, but the identity of the first natives remains unclear. The first major protohistoric settlement in the area (around the third millennium BC) is attributed to the Tartessians. 

Later it was a Roman city, under the name of Asta Regia. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it was ruled by the Vandals and the Visigoths, until it was conquered by the Arabs in 711. In the 11th century it was shortly the seat of an independent taifa. Some years later it was united to Arcos by 'Abdun ibn Muhammad, who ruled both c. 1040-1053. In 1053 it was annexed to Seville. From 1145 to 1147 the region of Arcos and Jerez was briefly an emirate under dependency of Granada, led by Abu'l-Qasim Ahyal. Later the city was conquered by the Almohads. In the 12th and 13th centuries Jerez underwent a period of great development, building its defense system and setting the current street layout of the old town.

The Discovery of America and the conquest of Granada, in 1492, made Jerez one of the most prosperous cities of Andalucia through trade and its proximity to the ports of Seville and Cadiz. Despite the social, economic and political decadence that occurred in the seventeenth century, towards the end of the Habsburg rule, the city managed to maintain a reasonable pace of development, becoming world wide famous for its wine industry.

Modern Jerez boasts all the shopping facilities you would expect from a sizeable city. It is pleasant to walk around the city, much of which is pedestrianised. A shopping experience in Jerez is an opportunity to enjoy the city itself, stopping occasionally to people watch or enjoy a tapa. The main shopping streets are located between Plaza Romero Martinez and Plaza del Arenal. The open air shopping centre, Jerez Centro Comercial Abierto, where many shops and businesses of all types are brought together is also worth a visit.

Jerez has always been an important trading city in which the most traditional products and ancient crafts can be found (barrel-making, wicker work, items related to wine or flamenco, saddling, etc.), with the many boutiques and companies where you can find the most exclusive of these products.

Jerez holds worldwide acclaim for its sherry and brandy production. The word Jerez is derived from Arabic and has now become synonymous with the English word ‘sherry’. The city is equally famous for its fine horses as well as Flamenco music and dance. 

Jerez is also the site of Circuito de Jerez, formerly called the Circuito Permanente de Jerez, where the annual Motorcycle Grand Prix is contested. The race course is a prime destination for Formula One teams who wish to perform off-season testing; it also hosted the highly controversial 1997 European Grand Prix. 

The town possesses a charming old town, casco antiguo, with beautiful palm lined squares. The 11th century Moorish fortress, or Alcazaba, has been partially restored. Of special interest is its church, originally built by the Arabs as a mosque. The Sacristy of the Cathedral del Salvador is home to a lovely painting by Zurbarán, The Sleeping Girl. Today the city of Jerez has a remarkably aristocratic air with wide streets, squares and magnificent rows of jacaranda trees during spring.

Jerez enjoys the very best of fresh local produce, to which is often added the world famous sherry, brandy and vinegar of Jerez. These are used as main ingredients in many recipes, thus allowing Jerez to provide a surprisingly varied cuisine of the highest quality. Shellfish and fish from the coast, meat and game from the hills, along with salads and traditional stews are staple dishes to be found in this region. They are often served "al Jerez" or "a la Jerezana", enhanced with Fino sherry, Amontillado, Oloroso or Pedro Ximénez, Brandy.

The restaurants in Jerez are generally of very high standard, having improved in quality over recent years. Many restaurants offer traditional Jerez cuisine of the highest level, prepared by professional chefs with long standing experience. The main restaurant area is located along the C/Constitorio and Plaza Vargas. In Spain it is unusual to eat an evening meal before 9.00pm. and Spaniards are often to seen arriving to eat as late as 11.00pm. Lunchtime too, begins later than in many other countries and diners can arrive as “late” as 3.30 or 4.00pm.

                                                        Jerez’s Top 5:
  1. The Cathedral of San Salvador is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Asidonia-Jerez. It was declared Bien de Interés Cultural in 1931. Built in the 17th century, it is a mix of Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassicist style. It was elevated to the rank of cathedral in 1980. The church is on the central plan, a nave and four aisles of uneven height, supported external by normal and flying buttresses; in correspondence of the crossing of the transept is a dome. The interior houses a Virgin Mary by Francisco Zurbarán, and a late 15th century Gothic Crucifix (named Cristo de la Viga).
  2. The Charterhouse of Jerez  is a monastery in Jerez de la Frontera. Its architecture is of a Late Gothic style, corresponding to the start of construction in the 15th century, with Baroque aspects dating from the 17th century. The building, completed in the 17th century, has been designated by the Spanish government as an Historic-Artistic Monument.  The impulse behind the monastery dates back to Alvaro Obertos de Valeto, a knight of Genovese descent, appointed during the Reconquista by Alfonso X of Castile to defend the city shortly Alfonso had conquered it from Muslim rule in 1264. Lacking descendants, he left his fortune to establish a Carthusian monastery in the city. It was not until 1475 that this location near the Guadalete River was chosen, of special significance because in 1368 it has been the site of a victorious battle against invaders; the victory was attributed to intercession by the Virgin Mary, to whom a hermitage had been dedicated on the site.
  3. The Andalusian Centre of Flamenco is an institution in Jerez, founded in 1993 to safeguard and promote the values and standards of the traditional Andalusian art form known as flamenco. It is devoted to the investigation, recovery, and collection of flamenco-related historical documents, whether they are in audio, visual, or journalistic form. It also has a collection of flamenco artifacts, including musical instruments, costumes, promotional posters, sheet music, and postcards. The Centre operates a museum and library to help educate the public and serve as a resource for scholars.
  4. The Museo Arqueológico Municipal de Jerez de la Frontera is an archaeological museum on the Plaza del Mercado. The museum occupies an 18th-century building which was declared Bien de Interés Cultural in 1962. It was established in 1873 as the Municipal Archaeological Collection, merging collections donated by wealthy individuals, and based at the Old City Hall of Jerez. The museum opened to the public in 1935. The collection includes a Corinthian helmet, extremely rare in Spain, found near the city's Charterhouse by the river Guadalete. The collection also includes Roman ceramics and other items.
  5. The Alcazar of Jerez de la Frontera is a former Moorish fortress, now housing a park. It was declared Bien de Interés Cultural in 1931. A first fortress was probably built in the 11th century, when Jerez was part of the petty kingdom of the taifa of Arcos de la Frontera, on a site settled since prehistoric times in the south-eastern corner of the city. In the 12th century, a new structure was erected to be used as both residence and fortress by the Almohad rulers of southern Spain. Later, after the Reconquista of Andalusia, it was the seat of the first Christian mayors. The Alcazar contains a former  mosque, the only remaining of the eighteen once present in the city. After the Christian conquest of the fortress in 1255, it was turned into a church dedicated to Virgin Mary by king Alfonso X of Castile. The minaret was turned into a bell tower.

Saturday, 28 April 2012



Iași is one of the largest cities and a municipality in Romania. Located in the historical Moldavia region, Iași has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life. The city was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1564 to 1859, then of the United Principalities from 1859 to 1862, and the capital of Romania from 1916 to 1918.

Known as The Cultural Capital of Romania, Iași is a symbol in Romanian history. The historian Nicolae Iorga said "There should be no Romanian who does not know of it". Still referred to as The Moldavian Capital, Iași is the seat of Iași County and the main economic centre of the Romanian region of Moldavia. 

Archaeological investigations attest the presence of human communities on the present territory of the city and around it as far back as the prehistoric age. Later settlements included those of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, a late Neolithic archaeological culture. 

The name of the city is first officially mentioned in a document about commercial privilege granted by the Moldavian Prince (Voivode) Alexandru cel Bun to the Polish merchants of Lvov in 1408. However, as buildings older than 1408 existed and still exist (for example the Armenian Church originally believed to be built in 1395), it is believed that the city existed long before its first mentioning.

Iași National Theatre
Around 1564, Prince Alexandru Lăpușneanu moved the Moldavian capital from Suceava to Iași. Between 1561 and 1563, a school and a Lutheran church were founded by the Greek adventurer Prince, Ioan Iacob Heraclid. The city was burned down by the Tatars in 1513, by the Ottomans in 1538, by the Imperial Russian troops in 1686. In 1734, it was hit by the plague.

Deeply rooted in history, Iasi has been the main centre of Moldavian culture since 1408. The city prides itself with publishing the first Romanian newspaper and establishing the first Romanian university. Today, Iasi is home to five universities.

Over the past 500 years, history, culture and religious life have molded the city's unique character. Iasi boasts an impressive number of Orthodox churches, almost 100, most of them located in the so-called Golden Plateau (Platoul de Aur). The oldest, the Princely Saint Nicholas Church, dates from the reign of Stephen the Great (Stefan cel Mare, 1457-1504). The finest, however, are the 17th century St. Paraschiva Metropolitan Cathedral and Trei Ierarhi Church, the last a curious example of Byzantine art, erected in 1635-1639 by Vasile Lupu. Its outer walls and twin towers are intricately carved in what many think of as stone lace.

The Golden Plateau represents the nucleus of the city, around which the entire settlement developed over the centuries. With the Palace of Culture at one end and the Union Square (Piata Unirii) at the other, the Golden Plateau features churches and princely palaces on both sides of Stefan cel Mare si Sfant Boulevard, which runs right through its centre. Many other important sites can be found on nearby streets.

The Great Synagogue
Modern Iasi is among Romania’s most vibrant cities, teeming with beautiful people, increasingly respectable restaurants, bars and hot night spots. If you go towards the University you will find a lot of students wondering around or having a beer. There are a lot of bars, coffee shops and pubs where you cand chill, have a drink, or watch a game. Try to catch Iasi Days during the second week in October; originally a week-long religious event devoted to Saint Parascheva that has mushroomed into a street party, fuelled by a river of must, a sweet and tasty almost-wine brew that’s only available for a few weeks each year after the grape harvest.

Most popular discos and clubs are full until morning during during University periods. You can find a lot of bars in front of the "Copou Park", as there are a lot of student housing there and is only natural there are a lot of leisure places. These bars usually are mainstream with popular music you can hear on the radio. Sometimes they have karaoke nights during the week.

There are bars almost every where, however, if you just need to get a quick drink, you can always go into one of the many pizza restaurants as the prices are the same.

Golia Monastery

                                                        Iasi’s Top 5:
  1. The Metropolitan Cathedral. located at 16 Ştefan cel Mare şi Sfânt Boulevard, is the seat of the Romanian Orthodox Archbishop of Iaşi and Metropolitan of Moldavia and Bukovina, and the largest Orthodox church in Romania. It is dedicated to Saint Paraschiva, to the Presentation of Jesus and to Saint George. Two churches previously stood on the site: the White Church (15th century) and the Presentation Church (17th century). On 8 August 1826, prince Ioan Sturdza signed a decree ordering construction of the cathedral; Metropolitan Veniamin Costachi laid the cornerstone on 3 July 1833 and guided construction in its early years. Work began in 1833, using a neo-classical design by Viennese architects Johann and Gustav Freiwald, and continued at a rapid pace until 1841, in the latter years under the Russian architect Sungurov. Construction stopped in 1842 when Veniamin had to retire. In 1839, serious cracks had appeared on the large central arch, which collapsed on 23 May 1857, taking the interior columns with it. Various solutions were attempted (in 1840 Sungurov replaced the brick ceiling with wood, for example), but the building remained unfinished for almost four decades.  The cathedral was finally consecrated on 23 April 1887, in the presence of King Carol I and Queen Elisabeth, who had donated large sums for the project.
  2. The Golia Monastery  Located in the middle of the old Moldavian capital and raised on the foundation of the church erected, in the 16th century, by the boyar Ioan Golia, the monastery was rebuilt on a greater scale by Prince Vasile Lupu, between 1650 and 1653, and completed by his son Ştefăniţă. The monastery is surrounded by tall walls, with corner turrets and a 30 m (98.43 ft) height tower with 120 steps, one of city’s symbols, and houses the Ion Creangă Museum (the writer was curate of the church) and Doxologia Cultural Missionary Centre of the Metropolis of Moldavia and Bukovina.   The monastery is listed in the National Register of Historic Monuments.
  3. The Iaşi National Theatre  is the oldest national theatre and one of the most prestigious theatrical institutions in Romania. In 1956, it was given the name of the renowned Romanian playwright and poet Vasile Alecsandri. The National Theatre was founded on 15 May 1840, as the Great Theatre of Moldavia, when the Romanian language troupe, led by Costache Caragiali, was united with the French troupe, under a single direction of Vasile Alecsandri and the management of Costache Caragiali. With a Neoclassic exterior and a richly decorated interior in Rococo and Baroque styles, the building is considered one of the most elegant in Romania.
  4. The Great Synagogue of Iaşi  was built in 1671 and is the oldest surviving synagogue in Romania. The building has round-arched windows, and two wings. One wing is two-stories high and capped by a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The other is a tall, single-story hall with and a 32'diameter dome capped with a lantern. The dome was added to the building in the early 20th-century. Of the more than 110 synagogues in Iaşi before World War II, only the Great Synagogue remains. It is a free standing building in a small garden off Cucu Street (once called Sinagogilor Street for the many synagogues located on it) just north of the city center in the old Jewish neighbourhood of Targu Cucului. The synagogue underwent major renovations in 1761, 1822 and 1864. It was partly restored in the 1970's and a major restoration was begun in 2010. The Women's gallery houses a small museum of the Jewish community of Iaşi. The synagogue is one of only two which continues to serve the dwindling Jewish community of Iaşi.
  5. The Palace of Culture  The building served as Administrative Palace and then Palace of Justice until 1955, when its destination was changed again, being assigned to the four museums nowadays united under the name of Moldova National Museum Complex. Also, the building houses the Cultural Heritage Conservation-Restoration Centre, the main branch of the Gheorghe Asachi Iaşi County Library and hosts various exhibitions and other events. The Palace of Culture is listed in the National Register of Historic Monuments. The construction, started in 1906, was partly built on the old ruins of the mediaeval Royal Court of Moldavia (1434), and partly on top of the foundations of the former neoclassical style palace, dated to the time of Prince Alexandru Moruzi (1806), rebuilt by Prince Mihail Sturdza and dismantled in 1904. It was from this latter building that the Palace inherited the legend of the 365 rooms, as many as the days within one year.

    Palace of Culture

Friday, 27 April 2012



Innsbruck is the capital city of the federal state of Tyrol in western Austria. It is located in the Inn Valley at the junction with the Wipptal (Sill River), which provides access to the Brenner Pass, some 30 km (18.6 mi) south of Innsbruck. Located in the broad valley between high mountains, the Nordkette (Hafelekar, 2,334 metres or 7,657 feet in the north, Patscherkofel (2,246 m or 7,369 ft) and Serles (2,718 m or 8,917 ft) in the south.  The word bruck comes from the German word Brücke meaning "bridge" which leads to "the bridge over the Inn".

The Hofkirche
The first mention of Innsbruck dates back to the name Oeni Pontum or Oeni Pons which is Latin for bridge (pons) over the Inn (Oenus), which was an important crossing point over the river Inn. The city's seal and coat of arms show a bird's-eye view of the Inn bridge, a design used since 1267. The route over the Brenner Pass was then a major transport and communications link between the north and the south, and the easiest route across the Alps. The revenues generated by serving as a transit station enabled the city to flourish.

Innsbruck became the capital of all Tyrol in 1429 and in the fifteenth century the city became a centre of European politics and culture as emperor Maximilian I also resided in Innsbruck in the 1490s. The city benefited from the emperor's presence as can be seen for example in the so called Hofkirche. Here a funeral monument for Maximilian was planned and erected partly by his successors. The ensemble with a cenotaph and the bronze statues of real and mythical ancestors of the Habsburgian emperor are one of the main artistic monuments of Innsbruck.

Due to its location between high mountains, Innsbruck serves as an ideal place for skiing in winter, and mountaineering in summer. There are several ski resorts around Innsbruck, with the Nordkette served by a cable car and additional chair lifts further up. The Winter Olympic Games were held in Innsbruck twice, first in 1964, then again in 1976, when Colorado voters rejected a bond referendum in 1972 to finance the Denver games, originally awarded in 1970. The 1976 Winter Olympics were the last games held in the German-speaking Alps (Austria, Germany, or Switzerland).

Enjoy an unforgettable shopping experience in the centre of Innsbruck in the Rathausgalerien or Kaufhaus Tyrol shopping centres. Or browse for souvenirs and exquisite gifts in the plethora of little shops in the Old Town. Discover the beauty of traditional Tyrolean handicrafts or treat yourself to a culinary keepsake.

Sometimes souvenirs just have to taste good, and in this respect, you'll quickly find what you want in Innsbruck. If you're looking for something to give to someone with a sweet tooth, then you should head for Konditorei Munding, the most traditional confectioner’s in town, for some ‘Golden Roof shingles’. Just as delicious are ‘golden tiles’ from Zimt & Zucker, while Rajsigl stocks ‘Tiroler Edle’ bars as well as Konditorei Pichler’s high-quality chocolate products. You don’t have to go all the way to Vienna to treat your friends and acquaintances to an original Sachertorte, either:Café Sacher offers this Austrian speciality in three sizes, packed in attractive wooden boxes carrying the Sacher logo. 

Maybe a ‘Tyrolean single malt’ – a full, smooth whisky – or schnaps from red Williams pears, distilled in the Eastern part of the Tyrol, is the perfect souvenir for a special someone? Although you may prefer ‘Goldenes Dachl’ champagne – a truly precious drop that contains not only champagne bubbles, but gold leaf, too!

All kinds of other things that come in bottles are available at vom Fass, in Anichstrasse. Here wines, liqueurs, fine distillates, sherry and aromatic oil and vinegar varieties stored in large glass demijohns and earthenware jars that can be sampled, taken home in decorative glass bottles - and make a perfect gift.

Tyrolean farm produce such as cheese, honey, fruit juices, bread, fruit and vegetables are sold at the weekly farmers' markets – as well as every Saturday morning in the ‘Markthalle’.

                                                        Innsbruck’s Top 5:
  1. The Golden Roof.  The Golden Roof was built by Archduke Friedrich IV in the early 15th century as the residence of the Tirolean sovereigns. The Golden Roof actually is the three-story balcony on the central plaza at the heart of the Old Town. It was constructed for Emperor Maximilian I to serve as a royal box where he could sit in state and enjoy tournaments in the square below. Completed at the dawn of the 16th century, the Golden Roof was built in honor of Maximilian's second marriage, to Bianca Maria Sforza of Milan. Not wishing to alienate the allies gained by his first marriage, to Maria of Burgundy, he had an image of himself between the two women painted on his balcony. Jacob Hutter, founder of the Hutterites was burned at the stake at this site on 25 February 1536 for his Anabaptist beliefs and activities.
  2. Imperial Palace.  At the end of the 15th century,  Emperor Maximilian I. held court at Innsbruck in the Imperial Palace. Empress Maria Theresia renovated the existing palace in the monumental baroque style.  After extensive renovations, the state rooms and sacred area of the Imperial Palace are open to the public. The Giants’ Hall, the most prestigious ballroom in the Alps (with all portraits of Maria Theresa’s imperial family), the Guard Hall and the Lorraine room gleam in new splendour. The same applies to the court chapel and sacristy, the chambers and the refurbished Imperial Apartments
  3. The Hofkirche  is a Gothic church built 1553–1563 by Ferdinand I as a memorial to his grandfather Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor (1459–1519), whose cenotaph within boasts a remarkable collection of German Renaissance sculpture. It also contains the tomb of Andreas Hofer, Tirol's national hero. Although Maximilian's will had directed that he be buried in the castle chapel in Wiener Neustadt, it proved impractical to construct there the large memorial whose plans he had supervised in detail, and Ferdinand I as executor planned construction of a new church and monastery in Innsbruck for a suitable memorial. In the end, however, Maximilian's simple tomb remained in Wiener Neustadt and the Hofkirche serves as a cenotaph.
  4. St Jacobs Cathedral.  The heavily baroque style cathedral was built between 1717 and 1724 in the place of older churches on the same site. The famous picture of Virgin Mary, named "Mariahilf" (Mary help us) is situated at the altar and was painted by Lukas Cranach the older. The frescos and stucco work date from the brothers Asam.
    Every day at 12.12 noon the Innsbruck peace bells ring from the north tower of the cathedral. The tomb of Archduke Maximilian II was already erected in 1629 and was originally placed in the church predecessing this cathedral. During renovation works between 1990 and 1993 a modern subchurch was built to give pilgrims and other visitors the possibility for a quiet prayer.
  5. Ambras Castle (Schloss Ambras)  Situated in the hills above Innsbruck, the Castle of Ambras is one of the most important sights of the city. Its cultural and historical importance is closely connected with Archduke Ferdinand II and was a residence of his from 1563 to 1595. In the lower part of the castle there are two rooms containing arms and armor, on the first floor a valuable art collection and in the upper part of the castle, the bathroom of Ferdinand's wife Philippine Welser. The Spanish hall between the lower and upper part of the castles is a notable example of German Renaissance architecture and is adorned with frescoes on the walls. A fort existed on the site of the modern-day castle as early as the 10th century and was the seat of the House of Andechs. This fort was destroyed in 1133 and no traces of it remain, although some of the material from the original fort was used in the modern building. The modern Ambras was built by Archduke Ferdinand II, the second son of Emperor Ferdinand I.  The castle was used as the official residence of Philippine as well as a place for Ferdinand to house his collections of weapons, armour, portraits, and curiosities.

    Castle Ambras

Thursday, 26 April 2012



Izmir is a large metropolis in the western extremity of Anatolia in Turkey. Izmir metropolitan area extends along the outlying waters of the Gulf of İzmir and inland to the north across Gediz River's delta, to the east along an alluvial plain created by several small streams and to a slightly more rugged terrain in the south. The ancient city was known as Smyrna, and the city was generally referred to as Smyrna in English, until the Turkish Postal Services Law of 1930 made "Izmir" the internationally recognized name.

The city is one of the oldest settlements of the Mediterranean basin. The 2004 discovery of Yeşilova Höyük and the neighboring Yassıtepe, situated in the small delta of Meles River, now the plain of Bornova, reset the starting date of the city's past further back than was previously thought. The findings of the two seasons of excavations carried out in the Yeşilova Höyük indicate three levels, two of which are prehistoric. Level 2 bears traces of early to mid-Chalcolithic, and Level 3 of Neolithic settlements. These two levels would have been inhabited by the indigenous peoples of İzmir, very roughly, between 7th millennium BC to 4th millennium BC. With the seashore drawing away in time, the site was later used as a cemetery. Several graves containing artifacts dating, roughly, from 3000 BC, contemporary with the first city of Troy, were found. 

İzmir's remarkable growth began in the late 16th century when cotton and other products of the region attracted French, English, Dutch and Venetian traders here. With the privileged trading conditions accorded to foreigners in 1620, İzmir set out on its way to become one of the foremost trade centers of the Empire. Foreign consulates moved in from Sakız (Chios) and were present in the city by the early 17th century (1619 for the French Consulate, 1621 for the British), serving as trade centers for their nations. Each consulate had its own quay and the ships under their flag would anchor there. The long campaign for the conquest of Crete (22 years between 1648–1669) also considerably enhanced İzmir's position within the Ottoman realm since the city served as a port of dispatch and supply for the troops.

The city faced a plague in 1676, an earthquake in 1688 and a great fire in 1743, but continued to grow. By the end of the 17th century, its population was estimated at around ninety thousand, the Turks forming the majority (about 60,000), while there were also 15,000 Greeks, 8,000 Armenians and 6 to 7,000 Jews, as well as a considerable segment composed of French, English, Dutch and Italian merchants. In the meantime, the Ottomans had allowed İzmir's inner bay dominated by the port castle to silt up progressively (the location of the present-day Kemeraltı bazaar zone) and the port castle ceased to be of use.

Modern day Izmir is an interesting mixture of modern High rise buildings with wide tree lined boulevards. There are still many traditional houses and chateaus hidden away to discover though. Izmir enjoys a temperate climate with mild winters and warm summers, which is probably why the street life is so lively. 

A walk on the Kordon reveals an endless line of bistros, bars, restaurants, coffee shops and tea houses all spilling onto the street. In many cases so close together it is often difficult to know exactly which place you are actually relaxing in.

Turkish cuisine which has inherited the Ottoman heritage could be described as a fusion and refinement of Turkic, Arabic, Greek, Armenian and Persian cuisines. Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm with influences from Middle Eastern cuisines, along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia such as yogurt. The Ottoman Empire indeed created a vast array of technical specialities. It can be observed that various regions of the Ottoman Empire contain bits and pieces of the vast Ottoman dishes.

İzmir's cuisine has largely been affected by its multicultural history, hence the large variety of food originating from the Aegean, Mediterranean and Anatolian regions. Another factor is the large area of land surrounding the region which grows a rich selection of vegetables. Some of the common dishes found here are tarhana soup (made from dried yoghurt and tomatoes), İzmir köfte, keşkek (boiled wheat with meat), zerde (sweetened rice with saffron) and mücver (made from zucchini and eggs). Historically, as a result of the influx of Greek refugees from İzmir (as well as from other parts of Asia Minor and Istanbul) to mainland Greece after 1922, the cuisine of İzmir has had an enormous impact on Greek cuisine, exporting many sophisticated spices and foods.

The Culture Park in the Alsancak district hosts the annual Izmir International fair, held every year in September. The rest of the year many other fairs and expos take place also. In addition to serving the commercial needs of the city the Culture Park provides a relaxing green area in the middle of the city for the residents to lay back, drink tea play backgammon and smoke a "hubbly bubbly pipe" (Nargile) or even exercise on the running track.


                                                        Izmir’s Top 5:
  1. İzmir Clock Tower  is located at the Konak Square in Konak district of İzmir. The clock tower was designed by the Levantine French architect Raymond Charles Père and built in 1901 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Abdülhamid II's (reigned 1876–1909) accession to the throne. The clock itself was a gift of German Emperor Wilhelm II (reigned 1888–1918). It is decorated in an elaborate Ottoman architecture. The tower, at a height of 25 m (82 ft), features four fountains, which are placed around the base in a circular pattern, and the columns are inspired by North African themes. The clock tower was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 500 lira banknotes of 1983-1989
  2. Kemeralti.  A visit to Izmir can not be complete without spending a few hours wandering round the Market Area of Kemeralti. This is a bustling bazaar where literally anything can be purchased. It is a confusing warren of small allies, dead ends, connecting squares, shopping centers, offices, workshops, cinemas, Mosques and just about anything else you can think of, there is even a renovated Karavan Sarai hidden in there. You are pretty much guaranteed to lose your way, but don't panic you will find your way out eventually.
  3. Kadifekale (literally "the velvet castle" in Turkish) is the name of the hill located within the urban zone of İzmir, as well as being the name of the ancient castle on top of the same hill. Both the hill and the castle were named Pagos (Pagus under the Roman Empire) in pre-Turkish times. The summit where the castle is found is located at a distance of about 2 km from the shoreline and commands a general view of a large part of the city of İzmir, as well as of the Gulf of İzmir. Administratively, the hill area covers six quarters constituted by slums in their large part, one named Kadifekale like the hill, and others Alireis, Altay, İmariye, Kosova and Yenimahalle. In 2007, the metropolitan municipality of İzmir started renovation and restoration works in Kadifekale.
  4. Agora Open Air Museum (Old Smyrna) The ancient city is located at two sites within modern İzmir. The first site, probably founded indigenously, rose to prominence during the Archaic Period as one of the principal ancient Greek settlements in western Anatolia. The second, whose foundation is associated with Alexander the Great, reached metropolitan proportions during the period of the Roman Empire. Most of the present-day remains date from the Roman era, the majority from after a 2nd century AD earthquake. In practical terms, a distinction is often made between Old Smyrna, the initial settlement founded around the 11th century BC, first as an Aeolian settlement, and later taken over and developed during the Archaic Period by the Ionians, and Smyrna proper, the new city moved into from the older one as of the 4th century BC and whose foundation was inspired, and perhaps also initiated, by Alexander the Great.
  5. The İnciraltı Sea Museum is a naval museum in the İnciraltı neighborhood of Izmir's Balçova district. Located near the İnciraltı Ozdilek Shopping Center, it was opened on July 1, 2007. Main attractions of the museum are two decommissioned naval vessels of the Turkish Navy, the submarine TCG Pirireis (S 343) (the former USS Tang (SS-563)) and the frigate TCG Ege (F 256)(the former USS Ainsworth (FF-1090)). There are also other exhibits at the museum.



Wednesday, 25 April 2012



Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany, the thirteenth largest German state, and the sixth-largest city in the European Union. Situated on the river Elbe, the port of Hamburg is the second largest port in Europe (after the Port of Rotterdam) and 11th-largest worldwide.  With the harbour, interconnecting waterways, and hundreds of canals, Hamburg has more bridges than Amsterdam and Venice combined, all adding up a to a great city with lots of maritime charm. Hamburg's official name, Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg reflects Hamburg's history as a member of the medieval Hanseatic League, as a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire, and that Hamburg is a city-state and one of the sixteen States of Germany.

The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva. But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808. The castle was built on rocky terrain in a marsh between the River Alster and the River Elbe as a defence against Slavic incursion. The castle was named Hammaburg, burg meaning castle or fort. The origin of theHamma term remains uncertain, as does the exact location of the castle.

Hamburg was destroyed and occupied several times. In 845, a fleet of 600 Viking ships sailed up the River Elbe and destroyed Hamburg which, at that time, was a town of around 500 inhabitants. In 1030, the city was burned down by King Mieszko II Lambert of Poland. Valdemar II of Denmark raided and occupied Hamburg in 1201 and in 1214. The Black Death killed at least 60% of Hamburg's population in 1350. Hamburg had several great fires, the most notable ones in 1284 and 1842. In 1842, about a quarter of the inner city was destroyed in the "Great Fire". This conflagration started on the night of the 4 May 1842 and was extinguished on 8 May. It destroyed three churches, the town hall, and many other buildings, killing 51 people and leaving an estimated 20,000 homeless. Reconstruction took more than 40 years. 

During World War II Hamburg suffered a series of Allied air raids, which devastated much of the inhabited city as well as harbour areas. On 23 July 1943 a firestorm developed as a result of Allied firebombing and, spreading from the Hauptbahnhof (central station) and quickly moving south-east, completely destroyed entire boroughs, such as Hammerbrook, Billbrook or Hamm-south. These densely populated working-class boroughs underwent a dramatic demographic change as a result as thousands of people perished in the flames. While some of the destroyed boroughs have been rebuilt as residential areas after the war, others such as Hammerbrook are nowadays purely commercial areas with almost no residential population. The raids, codenamed Operation Gomorrah by the RAF, killed at least 42,600 civilians; the precise number is not known. About 1 million civilians were evacuated in the aftermath of the raids.  

Modern Hamburg boasts 31 theatres, 6 music halls, 10 cabarets and 50 state and private museums. Of the 4,000 restaurants in Hamburg, 2,400 offer foreign cuisine. 
Original Hamburg dishes are Birnen, Bohnen und Speck , green beans cooked with pears and bacon), There is Bratkartoffeln (pan-fried potato slices), Finkenwerder Scholle (pan-fried plaice), Pannfisch (pan-fried fish), Rote Grütze (a type of summer pudding made mostly from berries and usually served with cream and Labskaus (a mixture of corned beef, mashed potatoes and beetroot. 
Hamburg is famous for seafood: The fresh catches from the North Sea arrive daily at the harbour. For fine dining, head to Restaurant Rive, which offers excellent seafood and commanding views of the harbor. For a cheaper snack on the go, walk down the main pier called "Landungsbruecken", where you can get fresh and inexpensive fish sandwiches called Fischbroetchen.

The American hamburger seems to have developed from Hamburg's Frikadelle: a pan-fried patty (usually larger and thicker than its American counterpart) made from a mixture of ground beef, soaked stale bread, egg, chopped onion, salt and pepper, usually served with potatoes and vegetables like any other piece of meat, not usually on a bun. The Oxford Dictionary defined a Hamburger steak in 1802: a sometimes smoked and salted piece of meat, that, according to some sources, came from Hamburg to America.

Right in the heart of the city, there is a large lake: the Alster. A boat tour on the Alster ends in the city centre, where one can shop or simply relax in a street café. Hamburg's modern busses and underground trains (S-Bahn) will take you anywhere fast and for a small fare.

The Port of Hamburg is one of Hamburg's largest attractions, both as a living, industrial and logistic center but also as a backdrop for modern culture and the ports history. Among these are various museum ships, musical theaters, bars, restaurants and hotels - and even a floating boat church. Tour guides on boat tours in the harbor are called he lüchts (Low German for he is lying) after an often used call of dock workers when they overheard the stories told to tourists. The 800-year-old harbour was the starting point for many life-changing journeys: Between 1850 and 1939, more than 5 million people from all over Europe emigrated from Hamburg to the New World.

No visit to Hamburg is complete without hitting the Reeperbahn, Hamburg's legendary nightlife mile, which is also home to one of Europe's biggest red light districts. Here you'll find many great bars, restaurants, theatres, and clubs, along with sex shops, sex museums, erotic theaters, and strip clubs. This eclectic mix makes the Reeperbahn an interesting and fascinating place to visit for travelers and locals alike; the district is the second most popular Hamburg attraction after the harbor and attracts all kinds of visitors, from night owls and students, to theatergoers and tourists.

In the early 1960s, the Beatles wooed their German audiences in Hamburg and started their career in various music clubs along the street “Große Freiheit” (literally “Great Freedom”). Some of these clubs still exist, and if you are a fan of the Fab Four, get up and get down in the Indra Club and the Kaiserkeller, and visit the newly built Beatles Square at the street corner of Reeperbahn/ Große Freiheit.

Miniatur Wunderland

                                                        Hamburg’s Top 5:
  1. The Hamburg Rathaus is the seat of the government of Hamburg, located in the Altstadt quarter in the city centre, near the lake Binnenalster and the central station. Constructed from 1886 to 1897, the city hall still houses its original governmental functions with the office of the First Mayor of Hamburg and the meeting rooms for Hamburg's parliament and senate. After the old city hall was destroyed in the great fire of 1842, it took almost 44 years to build a new one. The present building was designed by a group of seven architects, led by Martin Haller. Construction started in 1886 and the new city hall was inaugurated in 1897. Its cost was 11 million German gold marks, about €80 million. On October 26, 1897 at the official opening ceremony the First Mayor Dr. Johannes Versmann received the key of the city hall.
  2. St. Mary's Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Sankt Georg and the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hamburg (as of 1995). The cathedral stands in Danziger Straße and was built between 1890 and 1893 to the designs of Arnold Güldenpfennig. The church was erected in Romanesque revival style at the instigation of Bishop Bernhard Höting of Osnabrück, then simultaneously officiating as Vicar Apostolic of the Vicariate Apostolic of the Nordic Missions of Germany, then competent for Hamburg's Catholics. It was the first new Roman Catholic church built in Hamburg since the Reformation.
  3. The Hamburger Kunsthalle  The art museum focuses on painting in Hamburg in the 14th century, paintings by Dutch and Flemish artists of the 16th and 17th centuries, French and German paintings of the 19th century, modern, and contemporary art. It consists of three connected buildings located in the city center, near the Central Station and the Binnenalster lake. The first museum was built from 1863 to 1869 by architects Georg Theodor Schirrmacher and Hermann von der Hude. Architect Fritz Schumacher designed the second building, erected in 1919. Planned and constructed from 1976 until 1997, the Galerie der Gegenwart was built by O. M. Ungers. The museum houses an important collection of painting from the 19th century with works from Max Liebermann, Lovis Corinth, Philipp Otto Runge, Caspar David Friedrich, Adolf Menzel. The Gallerie der Gegenwart is devoted to modern arts from the early 20th century, e.g. Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and Max Beckmann, and art after 1945.
  4. Miniatur Wunderland  is a model railway attraction in Hamburg, and the largest of its kind in the world, built by the twins Gerrit and Frederik Braun. As of January 2011, the railway consists of 12,000 metres (39,370 ft) of track in HO scale, divided into seven sections: Harz, the fictitious city of Knuffingen, the Alps and Austria, Hamburg, America, Scandinavia, and Switzerland. Of the 6,400 square metres (68,889 sq ft) of floorspace, the model takes 1,150 m2 (12,378 sq ft). By 2020, the exhibit is expected to have reached its final construction phase, including at least a total of ten new sections in a model area of over 2,300 m2 (24,757 sq ft). The next section covering an airport opened in May 2011. The exhibit includes 890 trains made up of over 11,000 carriages, 300,000 lights, 215,000 trees, and 200,000 human figurines.
  5. St Nicholas' Church.  The Gothic Revival Church of St. Nicholas was formerly one of the five Lutheran Hauptkirchen (main churches) in the city of Hamburg. It is now in ruins, serving as a memorial and an important architectural landmark. When Hamburg residents mention the Nikolaikirche, it is generally to this church that they are referring, and not the new Hauptkircheof St. Nicholas, which is located in the Harvestehude district. The church was the tallest building in the world from 1874 to 1876 and is still the second-tallest building in Hamburg.  The current condition of the Church of St. Nicholas is the result of air raids during World War II, continuing demolition in 1951 and restoration work in the 1990s. The Rettet die Nikolaikirche e.V. (Rescue the Church of St. Nicholas) foundation is responsible for the restoration of the church. The foundation is supported in its work by the city of Hamburg, the congregation of the Church of St. Nicholas and various corporate sponsors and private contributors. The organization is charged with maintaining the building's existing structure, restoration, arranging events and displays in the church, and operating an information center housed in the church's crypt.