Category Archives: Europe

Budapest in water

 

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This was a trip in panic.I work for a company that have some contacts and work in Hungary and last Spring we needed to go and help out with some things in Hungary. And suddenly I was told: “Two more weeks, you need to go!” And I went. I spent two weeks in a little town about 1 hour outside Budapest returning home for the weekend, since it was a holiday. The last day and a half of the second week we had time to go and see some of Budapest. It was really an express visit that made me just want to see more of it. Just a first taste.

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It was in Spring, just after flooding in Hungary and Danube slowly started to sink. Slowly. When it was as highest it was 9 meters above its normal level, so some streets, pavements and some parts of the tram were under water. We don’t have much protection against nature, so when it wants to let us know who is the boss we are very much made aware of it. Wandering around the town we were made very aware of the situation as soon as we got closer to the water. There was lots of water, even if it was not as much as few weeks earlier.Shouls I call it luck? I don’t know.

One evening and one morning go by pretty fast. We checked in to our hotel, in the middle of Budapest, had some quick gin and tonic and went out for a walk, me and a colleague.The other guys set out for drinks and planned a party night. That doesn’t really appeal to me. I prefer nature, culture and sightseeing. Call me boring or snobbish, but that’s the way I am.

 

 

 

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We walked trough some tourist street, looking at cute shops and restaurants. Almost every place was serving gulash and other Hungarian specialties. I like food in this country. I really do. When you go out to a restaurant you get lots of it and it is  very good. You never walk hungry in Hungary. Besides gulash there are all different sausages, pork, beef, lamb. There are all different sorts od pepper, some very spicy, some very mild and everything in between.

We also passed different sculptures, some more modern, some more classical. I guess, like in every city. Walking through a city is always better then taking the bus, since you get closer to it, you can explore better, you can watch people. And of course stop for an ice cream. That day in Budapest was perfect for that, since it was a wonderful and warm spring day.

 

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We crossed one of the bridges to the Buda side, after a while. We saw the Zero kilometers sculpture stone, located just beneath the castle hill. Well, it’s interesting in theory, but in reality it was just some kind of modern stone sculptureand not much.

We, of course took the mountain train up to the castle. We didn’t go in, but we walked around and looked at the view. Beautiful! I have to come back here, for sure!

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After viewing the beautiful surroundings, we walked down, crossed the flood and met our workmates for a drink. Danube felt a little more friendly, compared to other floods. There were some restaurants close to it, maybe still not perfect, but better.

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After the drinks we had some food, pretty good Hungarian food with peppers and Hungarian wine. Happy! The place was nice, staff friendly and we sat outside in the mild evemimg. We talked mostly about our job, but that’s fine.

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The following day we visited the market looking at places selling all different kinds of sausages, spices and other traditional stuff. I bought some salami and spices of course. And it was time to go back home. Did I like this place? Yes!

Link? Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue

Grade? Three, maybe four. Three, for this time.

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//Monika

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Water Flowing through Amsterdam

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Welcome back to this travel blog! It’s been some time. We’ve had bathroom renovation in our place, what a mess! We stayed at my mom’s during the ten messy weeks, while she was in Poland. Otherwise we would have to pee in a bucket in the kitchen, take a shower in a shed in the yard and cook… no, no cooking. So we took the cats, some clothes, cameras and went exile. It was better then the staying at home option, but not sleeping in your own bed for over two months is not nice. And when we got back, the internet was dead. What a joke!

Now we are back, the internet is back and the bathroom and fresh, new and nice. Pretty good. And I’m back on the blog! Have we been travelling, while on exile? Have we seen some world heritage sites? Oh, yes! We went to Amsterdam and visited several sites in Holland and I was to Budapest with my work for a day. So let’s go!

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Water everywhere

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City of cheese

Amsterdam, what a city. We went there quite early this Spring, considering Spring being pretty late this year. I think it was the first weekend with sunshine and you could actually eat outside and just enjoy the warming rays of the sun. With a jacket on, but still. We decided what we wanted to do and see, we bought a flight ticket and friends told us where to stay. And all the nice, cozy and cheap places where crowded, booked, finito. It was some kind of youth event in town and some concert. And all the cheap hotels? Forget it! But after some searching we fond a five-star hotel close to the train station with one cheap room left. It was supposed to be a small room, a shead, but still a room.

When we arrived at the hotel we were told: “We’re really sorry, your room was taken we have to upgrade you to our luxury site. No extra cgarge”. To bad breakfast was not in the price. But minibar was with free refills. And Nespresso machine with as much coffe as we could drink. Pretty good deal.

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Pretty city

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City of bikes

We started out with visiting the tulip fields. I’ll write another post about it. In Amsterdam we strolled around a biit. We had some beer, coffee and food. Mostly meat, nothing special and the most wonderful pancakes. And more beer. One night we found an African restaurant and had kudu and springbock and Savanah Dry. Oh, how I long for Africa! We passed several shops with cgeese and had to try some. Great cheese!

In Amsterdam there were bikes everywhere. The city is pretty flat, so it was easy to ride a bike, but we didn’t. We walked. And walked, and walked. It was a very cute city with old buildings and smiling people. The building were often leaning and were not straight at all. I wonder why?

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City of channels

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City of weed

We took a boat tour, of course. We saw the city from the water, going through the channels, exploring the city. We looked at the leaning houses, beautiful places and seeworthy museums. Places to visit on foot and places that could be good. The tour was very nice and we met an American couple, that was travelling around Europe. Some people say that Americans are stupid that go to several European countries in a few weeks, but I think that’s a perfect thing to do. If you don’t have much time, you should still make the best of it. Take all the best gems, the rest is for later if more time and money would show up. All my respect to these eople!

More walking in Amsterdam took us to the red light district that was more sad then happy, coffee shops and shops with weed. Maybe I’m too old but I was not impressed. I was not really impressed by people that was stoned and gone. And the smell of weed was not so nice either.  Some things are magnets for wrong kind of people and that’s nothing to be proud of. That’s my opinoin.

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Gay city

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Amsterdam by night

We visited also a cat gallery. It was a wonderful place with paitingsof cats, sculptures of cats and three living, attention demanding cats. So cool! We didn’t visit any more museums. It was just a lazy weekend. We walked across the town day and night. We walked across the channels, streets and squares. The city made us feel good and embraced us, made us feel welcome. We found gay streets with rainbow flags in every shop, pub and hanging from every house, showing that everyone was welcome here, no matter who he or she liked.

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Another night view

Amsterdam is a pleasant city. You can walk or hire a bike and public transportation is cgeap and every where. I liked it!

Link: Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht.

Grade for the Amsterdam channel system:

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Making Swords for the Army at Wira

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Some time ago I wrote a post about Engelsberg iron works, that is a world heritage site in the middle of Sweden. I mentioned another place in that post, namely Wira iron works, which I find as nice as the former one. So why is the former a world heritage site, but no the second one, nor the other places just like these two, that must also exist.

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Green surroundings

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Museum

Wira bruk or Wira iron works is a village and an historic iron works in Österåker, near Stockholm in Sweden. Wira bruk was founded around 1630. On the basis on a monopoly granted by a royal privilege it manufactured most of the rapiers and swords for the Swedish army into the mid 19th Century.

The royal privilege lasted until 1775, but the forge continued to supply weapons to the Swedish armed forces into the 19th Century and later manufactured civilian products, such as axes and scythes, into the mid-20th Century. Wira bruk is now a museum.

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Inside the smithy

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Inside the smithy

Sounds pretty much like Engelsberg, maybe even better, so why is only Engelsberg mentioned like special and unique? Is it because Wira is too close to Stockholm and someone wanted to spread the special places? I agree that today Engelsberg is better preserved, maybe due to the place being a wUNESCO World Heritage site. But back in the days life and work here were pretty similar.

The village looks pretty similar, they both have dark red houses where worker lived, both have a small museum, although the one at Wira is as interesting, both have an old smithy. The one at Wira is older and more destroyed by time, but you can visit it. Engelsberg have a mansion that is private and not possible to visit and Wira has iron workshop, where you can buy real iron stuf. From small hooks and can openers to larfe grills.

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Mysterious grave inside the smithy

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The water wheel

The both places are located by water and both places have water wheel. The mosquitos where larger at Engelsberg and we saw more frogs there, at least when we went there and Wira had more ducklings in the lake.  Wira have also Wira games at the end of each summer with dance, song and old music.

While being in Wira smithy we discovered an old, mysterious grave. Why is it here? Who was he? Why was he burried here and not, as others, by the church? Did he do anything wrong? It’s interesting, disturbing and I’ve been trying to find answers. Maybe one day I will find out.

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Beautiful red smithy

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In the village

I have no idea why the one is a world heritage, but not the other. I mean there is another site that contains over hundred old houses in another part of Sweden, several miles apart, so why not these?

I’ve been to Wira several times at least. It’s cute, picturesque and beautiful place. It’s perfect for a summer excursion with or without picnic and the museum is really interesting. Last time we were here we saw a family of duckling with mother duck and the previuos time we saw cows in the field behind Wira. So near city and in the nature.

//Monika

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History of Ages Hidden in Westminster Abbey

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The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, most commonly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large church, taht is mostly Gothic. It was built in 1042 by Edward the Confessor and the current church’s construction was strted in 1245 by Henry III. The Abbey is located in the City of Westminster, London, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronations, Royal weddings and burial site for English, later British monarchs. The abbey is a Royal Peculiar and briefly held the status of a cathedral from 1540 to 1550.

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Moving back in time?

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October was still pretty green in England

While in London, in October last year, we just had to visit the Westminster Abbey.But before getting there we passed a beautiful park, where birds were flying around, ducks and geese swiming in the water and fat squirrels were chasing each other and food from happy tourists. It was a beautiful Autumn day with sunshine and blue sky. So far. We walked passed theBuckngham Palace and to the Westminster Abbey.

We decided to take an audioguide tour of the church, since the last tour with a real guide had left 10 minutes earlier. The Abbey was closing early that day, bad timing. We walked and walked and walked with the audioguides. We listned to a story about the Abbey, the old kings and queens, war and peace, blood and friendship. We listned about old heros and great scientists. The place is huge, but the history hidden here is even greater.

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Waving flag

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Timeless time at the Big Ben

We walked among memorial places, graves with well recognized names from the history books and in the poets corner.

The place it huge. All the parts started to get mixed up. The Kings, Queens, heroes. The great history of the people here, the country and the church. I think it is fair to visit this place several times, in order to be able to remember just some of the information given here.

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Part of the Abbey

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Entrance to the Westminster Abbey

Burials and old graves

  • Henry III rebuilt the Abbey in honour of the Royal Saint Edward the Confessor whose relics were placed in a shrine in the sanctuary.
  • Henry III himself was interred nearby, as were many of the Plantagenet kings of England, their wives and other relatives.
    Until the death of George II in 1760, most Kings and Queens were buried in the Abbey, some notable exceptions being Edward IV, Henry VIII and Charles I .
  • From the Middle Ages, aristocrats were buried inside chapels.
  • Monks and other people associated with the Abbey were buried in the Cloisters and other areas. One of these was Geoffrey Chaucer.
  • Other poets, writers and musicians were buried or memorialised around Chaucer in what became known as Poets’ Corner.
    Abbey musicians such as Henry Purcell were also buried in their place of work.
  • Other national figures burried in the Abbey started with Admiral Robert Blake in 1657.
  • The practice spread to include generals, admirals, politicians, doctors and scientists such as Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
  • Another was William Wilberforce, the man who abolished slavery in the United Kingdom and the Plantations.
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Another part of the church, the place is huge.

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Yard inside

Very special Place

Having passed so much history, so many famous names that have changed to course of the history and science, in many cases, is quite special. I liked the tour, I enjoyed the place and its dignity. And yet the seriousness, the dignity and the history weights quite heavy. You are not allowed to take pictures inside. Is it because of the dignity of the place? Is it because of the security? Or maybe it’s because of its age and the facts that many tourists would use flash? I have no idea, but I gon’t have any pictures from the inside.

There were very many tourists here. The place was litterarly crowded and it was low season. I wonder how it looks in June? We walked through the whole Abbey, peeking into the monastery and its gardens and listening to birds there.

On the day we visited Abbey there was supposed to be ceremony of some kind with military veterans. The place closed early, the tourists left and the soldiers arrived. The tourist site made place for seriousness, ceremony and quiet, just as it is supposed to be.

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The Westminster Abbey on the outside

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House of the Parliament next to the Westminster Abbey

Links and Globes

The Westminster Abbey have benn a World Heritage site since 1987. Link: Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margret’s Church.

The site contains of Palace, Abbey and Saint Margret’s Church. We visited only the Abbey. I was thinking about grade two globes, because of so many tourists amd a five, because of the history hidden  here. I finally decided for four globes:

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//Monika

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Is copper better than silver?

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Sometimes I don’t get it. Two mines, two different points of view. Two different guided tours. One is a World Heritage Site, the other is not. I liked the both mines, I visited them with few weeks apart and it seems as the Copper mine in Falun is satisfied with the fact that they have a World Heritage site and don’t need to do more than exist. The Silver mine in Sala makes the visit there much more special. And both had almost the same information, but the guide in Sala made it very more special and interesting. I expected more of Falun, I got more in Sala.

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An old building in the mine village.

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A wagon used in the mine in the old days.

We went to Sala silver mine a rainy day at the end of September 2012. We drove all the way from Stockholm, nice and easy. We arrived a little bit before the pre-booked tour, so we had time for coffee and a visit to a very nice second-hand shop. The rain was pouring down, so the photos of the village are very few, quite dull, grey and wet. The village was very pretty. though with the Autumn colours and stillness of the great times , long passed.

When we went to Falun few weeks later there had already been some snow, the weather was quite chilly, but sunny and nice, so the experience had a chance to be nicer. You can read about visit there in Jany’s post here.

 

 

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A building over one of the shafts.

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Another shaft, the one we used to get into the mine.

And then there was the tour. An enthusiastic young man met us and showed us a map of the mine, we were about to enter. Everyone got to hold a big piece of stone, that conyained some little percentage of silver. Stones just like that one were collected by the miners and sent up to the surface in a little wagons. Not an easy work.

He told us about the mine using colourfull and powerfull words. He mixed facts with stories. When he told us about how the only light was from fires and how hot it was in the mine at that time, we could almost feel the heat, even if it was near 5 C now. At the beginning of the tour he talked about superstitions among miners: when you entered the mine you had to knock three times on the wall, you were not allowed to spit nor swear. If you didn’t obey you would see the mine lady, a ghost of the mine, and you would not get out of there alive. He had us to obey these rules too.

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Map of the mine.

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Our guide in old clothes, especially for the tour.

The mine in our days is cold. Water was dripping everywhere and the wind was blowing from the shafts. We were happy to have rain gear, helmrts to protect our heads and warm clothes. Helmets were given to all the participants of the tour as protection. Sometimes the corridors are low, sometimes a rock can fall down and sometimes the ghosts of the mine can hit you in the head. The protection is a good thing.

We visited Victoria’s chamber. She is Swedish crown princess and there is her signature in the mine. In Falun, in the Copper mine, there is her father’s, the Swedish king’s signature. It’s misspelled, this one is not. You can rent the chamber for a private party, or a wedding, since there also is a chappel down there.

We also visited the honeymoon suite, a cozy room, with absolutely no view what so ever. There is no mobile net here and the only communication with the world outside is an alarm phone that guests can use in case of emergency. Hopefully there is someone on the other side of the line and he is not taking the night off.

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Telling an exciting story of the old days.

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A room with no view.

In the copper mine in Falun our guide was just a guide. It was an older lady, maybe a teacher who have already given up on the kids. She told us facts and more or less only facts. She said that tgey believed that you have to knock on entering the mine, but not why. She said that they used fire as light, that’s it. The most interesting part was about a miner who died, fat Mats, and was found several years and was put on display at town square.  And that they had a misspelled signature of the Swedish king and a christmas tree that lost it’s colour, but not pins. But she said it before all the group was together listening. Not good at all. Pretty boring.

In the both mines we got the same facts, but so differently presented. But Falu copper mine is a world heritage, maybe that’s enough? A mine that don’t think that’s enough is Wieliczka salt mine. The tour is both interesting and engaging and it is a world heritage too. I think Falu mine could do better.

Check also out Jany’s description of the Falun copper mine.

//Monika

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