Summer is here. Vacation time has arrived. But are you going anywhere with the uncertainty of a pandemic and so many unknown variables? I decided to enjoy summer at home this year. Of course I would love to explore the many treasures and sights this planet has to offer but not now. And who says you can not find a wonderful adventure at home. Just a few days ago I spent four days in our country home near the Polish boarder. It was my vacation for this year. And I was enjoying all summer had to offer. I want to share a few things and maybe you get inspired to enjoying your summer at home.➢ Keep on Reading
My travel plans can fill many pages of a notebook. I just love seeing everything. However I rarely share my travels here. Not quite sure why. I’ve mentioned that I’ve given Mr. ♡ flight tickets to Venice for his birthday to finally cross of a longtime dream of his. While Venice was somewhere on my travel list it was not very high up. End of September we spent a long weekend in Venice. And let me tell you, I regret not going making it a priority earlier.
When we got off the bus we were granted this view of our first Venice cannel:
I was instantly in love. I’ve heard the water does smell and looks an ugly grey but I can not confirm. All throughout the time we were there the water had a unique shade of turquoise which I was not able to document in the photos.
What to do in Venince
Well you can probably do lots and visit a trillion museums. Honestly, we didn’t do any of it. Instead we just walked around, climbed bridges, sat at plazas and looked at churches and came across interesting nooks and crannies.
We didn’t even go inside St. Marks Basilica. However we quickly planned on coming back. For this trip we were just enjoy walking the city getting a feel for it so next time we could be more intentional on what to look at. I would definitely like to see the Guggenheim museum, also I do want to see the inside of the basilica – I have a thing for churches as you know. Also I’d wanted badly to go to the cemetery but it was already dark and I was scared to be left there over night.
Things I found curious in Venice
You can read all the historical fact and stories in any book or magazine. Today I want to list a few things that came to my attention that I didn’t know or found curious:
- Lot’s of Asians seem to do their wedding – or at least their wedding photos – in Venice.
- The glass of the street lanterns are pale pink and it looks really cool.
- I was not really aware that Venice is a car free city – however very logical. But even more curious I didn’t see a single bike or scooter. Don’t know if they are banned or if it just doesn’t make sense with all the steps and bridges.
- There were not as many pigeons as I had feared even on St. Marks square.
- Some corners have so many bridges that it almost seems ridiculous. I mean do you really need a bridge 2 meters apart…
Travel & Transportation
We took the plane to Venice and started out rather early (for us) on a Sunday morning. That had us arrive in Venice around noon. I wanted to take one of the boat routes to town but unfortunately I couldn’t figure out which one and what station would be nearest to the hotel. And I really didn’t want to go through while dragging a suitcase. We ended up taking the bus which was really easy, cost 8€ each (could have bought a round ticket for 15€/person) and dropped us off right at the hotel. However if I ever go to Venice again I will get into town by boat. And if I have to get a water buses or one of the private boat rides. It will blow you away approaching Venice by water I am convinced.
Also we had a bit of a tough time figuring out the transportation carriers and services. So here is what I picked up so you might get quicker in understanding.
- Vaporetto – it’s what the water buses are called and which are run by ACTV. They mainly operate within the city limits. A single trip costs 7€ but I would not recommend that. Get a day pass or a pass for multiple days. This way it’s easy to hop on and off to your liking.
- Alilaguna – is a boat service connecting the outer islands and going further distances. They do not have as many stops within the city but connecting the airport to the city and Murano.
- Gondola – I believe you know about the famous gondoliers. When you walk up to one of there stations you will be asked to pay 90+€ for a 30 min trip. Honestly that was not worth it for me. However I looked into it and found this app where you can pre-book a trip for 18€. Unfortunatly you need to print out the ticket so I didn’t go through the hassle getting it done in the hotel. But next time I probably would. Also in the app you can see where the gondola actually goes through. So pick you boarding spot wisely.
We stayed in the AC hotel Venice a outlet of Marriot hotels. It was perfectly located at the travel hub of the city which made transfer to the airport a bliss. Also we managed to get a room with view to the canal. Service was very attentive and helpful. Nice features were the 10€ tapas & snack spread Sunday night including one beverage (usually wine but we were able to substitute to beer and coke). Coffee beverages were complimentary until 4pm. While the room was small it was still enough space. However it was not a room to spent lots of time in but since the common areas were cozy and we were out and about most times it didn’t bother us too much. Would I recommend it: definitely. Would I stay there again: yes.
Have you ever visited Venice or are you planning on doing so? What’s your favorite spot?
Disclaimer: This post contains links to businesses we used. There was compensation involved. I just link for your convenience.
Every once in a while I mentioned that I love looking at architecture. Precisely at sacred architecture aka old churches – and not only since I read Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earths”.
I am in awe of what mankind was capable of so many years ago when building techniques were less evolved. So much dedication, so much craftsmanship in masonry, carpentry and arts in general. Imagine you are a humble human being in the Middle Ages wandering for days to reach the big city and being greeted by a gigantic structure like that. Of course you can argue it was intimidating and forbidding but I believe it would have been amazing.
I have seen quite a few churches on my travels. Just recently I have discovered that I unconsciously created a shortlist in my mind. So for all my fellow architectural admirers here is my list of favorite sacred buildings.
City/Country: Prague, Czech Republic
Built in: 1344-1929 taking 585 years
Measurements: 124 nave, 60 m transept, 33 inner heights, tower heights
Architectural Style: triple-naved basilica, High Gothic
Historical importance: The church is part of the castle complex and sits on top of a hill overlooking the city. The master builder who started the construction – Matthias from Arras was a geometer and influenced the footprint of the building – a triple-naved basilica – and laid groundwork for the structure. After his passing the 23-year old master builder Peter Parler took over who was a trained sculptor and woodcarver. And this you can see in the entire church. He saw architecture as sculpture. He invented the so called Parler-vaults – double groined vaults which enabled wider ceiling width and at the same time created a net-like ornamentation. State of the art tracery and no identical window throughout the church are another pioneering feature. The St. Veits Cathedral had a high influence in the Late Gothic Architecture in all over Europe.
Fun fact 1: Due to a legal dispute over ownership only 7 people have a key to the regalia of royalty that are stored here.
Fan fact 2: The church has 7 bells – the biggest being 13,500kg – which are still being rang manually by 4 people until today.
Why I love it: This is the church where it all started. I have first seen it when I was in my early teenage years and have come back two more times to see St. Veits Cathedral. The outside with its flying buttresses is just breathtaking. And the vaulted ceilings in the inside are in no way inferior. I also like that it is located on a hill and you can actually make out the gigantic and impressive architecture from afar which is not always possible with churches that are within cities.
Unfortunately all my photos are still analoge but there are many on the web.
City/Country: Helsinki, Finland
Built in: 1888-1891 taking 3 years
Measurements: 59m length, inner heights, 74m tower heights
Architectural Style: cross-shaped cathedral, Gothic Revival
Historical importance: It is the largest stone church in Finland by seating capacity and has very good acoustics. Located on a hilltop were there used to be the midsummer festivals. The church is – compared to others on the list – not that old. The outside is red brick and sits on a massive granite footing. The interior used to be a greenish-grey color but was changed in later renovations to a light-cream color. It was build by Adolf Emil Melander who also designed the seats, pulpit, altarpiece and font. It all has a ornamental feel to it.
Why I love it: We actually stumbled into this one and I had no idea about it beforehand. I liked it from the outside, it was already dark and snowing and it just gave off an interesting vibe. A sermon just ended and people left so we were able to have a peek inside and I was just stunned. It was a serendipitous find. Only later I learnt of its importance.
City/Country: Lübeck, Germany
Built in: 1250-1350 taking 100 years
Measurements: 103m length, 38,5m inner heights, approx. 125m tower heights
Architectural Style: triple-naved basilica, Brick Gothic native to the baltic region
Historical importance: It is the highest brick building with the tallest brick vault ceiling in the world and the first of it’s kind. St. Marien was pathbreaking for 70 further churches in the baltic region. While on the outside its red brick shines bright the inside of the building is very calm. All was painted white and detailed floral frescos have been painted throughout the church. The church was destroyed in 1942 during a bomb raid and many of it’s artefacts and paintings burnt down. The fallen down bells have been preserved and it is humbling how they lay shattered on the floor. Immediately the church received an improvised roof that prevented further damaging and the re-building started 1947. The reconstruction has made it possible to cater to modern needs such as floor heating and more minimalist interior design. However it also removed some art historically pieces and is still controversially discussed.
Fun Fact 1: There was a scandal regarding the reconstruction of the fresco in the 1950s as one of the restaurateurs Lothar Malskat “invented” missing pieces of the frescos. After self-indictment the paintings were washed off. Günter Grass refers to this incident in his book “The Rat”.
Why I love it: The brick building style of the baltic architecture is just so unique and different. And also so impressive. I mean it is just bricks and then the ceiling is almost 40 meters high. It has a modern feel to it when entering while still holding the impressive architecture maybe even caters to it. The whitewashed walls and simple window decoration focus on the structure instead.
City/Country: Santo Domingo de Guzman, Dominican Republic
Built in: 1514-1541 taking 27 years
Measurements: 53m length, 3x23m wide, 16m inner heights,
Architectural Style: triple-naved hall church, Gothic (& Baroque)
Historical importance: It is the oldest church in the “New World” and (since 1990) part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site which expands around the old town of Santo Domingo. The three doored entrance is rather unique as two doors are gothic and one baroque. The cross vaulted ceiling and limestone walls are really impressive and give of a golden coloured look.
Fan Fact 1: It is said that the church was the resting place of Christopher Columbus (before moved to a site a few miles away) however there is a dispute going on with Spain who claim they have the remains.
Fun Fact 2: The 500 year old doors are opened by the same key every since.
Why I love it: When I first saw this church it really hit me were I was standing. The sky was bright blue and the limestone was contrasting against it. The building style was just so different from churches in “The Old World” and it felt somewhat surreal. As often the outside impressed me much more than the inside. However for a Catholic church it was not as overly decorated and pompous but still rather gloomy. However it was fascinating and I would visit again when being in Santo Domingo.
City/Country: Berlin, Germany
Measurements: 29m wide (on curb view), 97 m length with 15 angle, 50m inner heights
Built in: 1859-1866 taking 6 years
Architectural Style: Moorish Revival
Historical importance: For this building renowned architect Eduard Knoblauch and Friedrich August Stüler were contracted. The oriental style with it’s gilded dome and terracotta front was unseen in Prussia. During the Pogroms Night 1938 arsonists set the synagogue on fire. Contrary to orders policeman Otto Bellgardt and superior Wilhelm Krützfeld intervened and called fire brigades argumenting it is a heritage-protected building and saved the building from burning down. Unfortunately the main synagogue was still destroyed in 1943 during British air raids. Remains have been savaged for building material and the dome had to be blown up due to safety reasons. Only in 1988 it was decided to rebuilt the facade and a few rooms behind. It now hosts a museum about Jewish life in Berlin.
“Fun Fact”: Due to the bright color of the cupola it was camouflaged during WWII to avoid falling victim to air raids.
Why I love it: For me this place feels like home and I walked by it daily. Being part of the Jewish volleyball team Makkabi allowed me access to the parts of the building which now inhabit a gym from which we could see the dome while practicing. This also had me attend service once here (and once in a Prague synagogue). Seeing the golden dome always makes me happy. It is were I went to pay me respects on November 9.
There are couple of sacred places I would have loved to see from the inside (or closer up) however I was not able to enter for not being part of the congregation or the religious faith. So if you ever made it to the following places please let me know how to get in: Dome of the Rocks, Jerusalem and Upensiki Cathedral, Helsinki. And of course there are many more I want to see.
Now please share your favorite building I need to see and put on my list.
I love traveling. A lot! This part of me as not been reflected accordingly on this blog.
I have been fortunate enough to have seen a lot of countries in Europe and just one weekend in September I was able to check off another one. Ukraine. Probably a country I wouldn’t have gone to on my own but I’m happy I did. A weekend in Lviv – thanks to family shenanigans.
First off Lviv is a lovely little town close to the Polish border with a stunning city center which is not without reason UNESCO world heritage.
My first view of Lviv was like a time travel. The Uber took us through some grey socialistic part of town (unfortunately no real images). I was in awe by its ugliness and somehow familiarity. It reminded me of my hometown in very early ages. And I felt like I wanna jump out and just go photo exploring. Unfortunately no time.
When coming closer to the city center everything changed and it became a mid evil town with old cute buildings.
Lviv has a stunning market place. Right in the middle is the city hall located. A certain Eastern Europe architecture style as I have learned. The old town contains architecture from Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism and Jugendstil – the reason why it is under UNESCO world heritage.
Also lots of churches, chapels and cathedral. We came by some cloisters with wooden walkways.
We also went to The Lychakiv Cemetery that I quite liked. It was really crowded with graves and at the entrance area they where majestic.
On our first day we came by a cookie shop. But it wasn’t any kind of cookie shop. The icing decorations were amazing. I’ve once read or saw a documentation about how the icing in some country was in inspired by handmade lace and embroidery.
While walking around during our guided sightseeing we ended up at a cloister. While it was nice it wasn’t outstanding. Then we went to their little gift shop and they talked about one of the nuns doing a lot of pysanski I immediately was on alert. Because that is the name for the Sorbian Easter eggs I shared and did. And I knew in Eastern Europe the technique was a bit different. However I could not figure out how the did it. Well I do know now and I was able to purchase the tools. Also a book about the craft. So I am more than happy.
It broke my heart seeing the “babuschkas” sitting on the street selling their meager harvest to people. There was one old lady who sat on her crate all day with a plastic cup of berries and a bag of potatoes and when we walked home at midnight she still sat there – half asleep and sunken. I just felt all the emotions… I didn’t take pictures as it felt too intimate. Unfortunately we couldn’t buy anything since we couldn’t use the products. But if you travel the country go buy from them.
There are also regular market places where produce is sold. The people selling there have bigger harvests and also have to pay a few to secure their spot at the market. Most Ukrainians shop their fresh produce on those farmers markets.
Also, I haven’t really seen a supermarket by western standards. There are more little corner shops where you get your things.
What I didn’t know was that Lviv has a flourishing coffee culture. You could probably spend the entire weekend on a coffee tasting tour. We where at one shop where they served it like when it first came to Europe.
Also the region is known for pelmini. It’s filled noodles basically but the fillings are very tasty. With mushrooms and pumpkin and meats. The best red beet soups ever was also discovered during this weekend in Lviv.
And my cousin found this cute Strudel shop (Rynok pl. 13, Lviv 79008, Ukraine). Everything strudel in there: sweet and savory and soso yummy.
We stayed in the Ibis Style Hotel (no sponsoring ;-). It was only 10 min walking distance from the old town and a perfect spot for us. What I personally liked a lot is that you could grab free drinks (coffee, tea, water) in the lobby. Breakfast was pretty good to and offered a variety of western european food and local hearty choices. Bu be aware: everything is spiced with garlic – even fro breakfast!
As for the price range it can be compared to Western Europe standards. One could probably find cheaper ones.
One thing I fell in love with are those cute little yellow busses. I will spare my collection of picture and just share one.
I was really surprised by Lviv. It is a beautiful little town and perfect for a weekend trip. It is not too touristy. And i found mainly locals where visiting over the weekend. Of course you do have some international tourist but they seem more like the individual travelers. And I was surprised how cheap everything was if you exclude flights and accommodation.
Now let me know, would you travel to Lviv? What place had you totally surprised?
Today I have been married for three years. We are not doing anything fancy today but go for dinner Friday night. Last year we’ve celebrated our anniversary with a trip to Helsinki.
When we went to our honeymoon we had a lay-over in Helsinki and agreed to come back after seeing the city from the plane. So we did. It was fun.
Most people are probably scared to fly north during winter but than we love winter. Why don’t I tell you a bit more.
Ok, first I have to be honest. We had tough weather. It was around freezing and it was so humid. Something between fog, sleek and snow-slush-rain… Being outside was sometimes tough so we didn’t wander that far out of the downtown area and had quite a few coffee stops. BUT what we liked what we saw.
We walked and wandered around a lot. It’s our way of discovering a city and we easily get the lay of the land. More than once we ended up at the South Harbor and were mesmerized with the frozen Baltic Sea. I’ve just never seen anything like it. We came back almost every day…
Close by is the Old Market hall – Vanha kauppahalli. A cozy warm roofed market. We had the feeling that locals and tourist were at balance among the visitors. Lots of people had lunch. Unfortunately we weren’t hungry. Still it was interesting seeing local food and warm up.
Also around the corner you can find Uspenskin cathedral. A russian orthodox church.
Unfortunately the building is not open for public but we walked around there and the neighborhood and found it was quite different. The heavy fog might have had something to do with it…
Sunday afternoon we were frozen so we went to the design museum. We really liked it a lot. If you are interested in interior design this is for you. If you are into design history go there too. We learned a lot about how strategic the Finnish people planned their design supremacy. Also there are so many objects we knew by sight but had no idea they were made in Finland.
Just across the street from the museum is the Johanneksenkirkku – a church (ok, I do have a thing for sacred architecture…). I believe it is one of the nicest I have seen in all my travels. While there is pompous decor it is not dark, stuffy and gold but rather light and withdrawn. You can hardly find any pictures from the inside, I think it’s so worth seeing.
On our last day before heading to the airport we went to Suomolinna. An island with a huge sea fortress or better an island fortress. Going by boat through the ice floes was maybe my best experience. It is much louder than I expected and you feel every impact. We journeyed through the skerry landscape and I discovered quite a few cute remote houses. I could easily spent a few weeks there…
The island was somewhat deserted as we went there off season. However it was still nice to walk around and get a feel of what it must have been living there in rough weather. Being at Suomolinna was the only time I really felt cold during our trip to Finland. The wind is crazy, it was snowing a bit and we were outside walking for a long time. We didn’t go to the museum as we didn’t have much time and rather walked to the far end of the island to have a look at the open waters. The history of the sea fortress is quite interesting and it is under UNESCO World Heritage. You could easily spent a whole day there specially in summer with picnics and nice views.
During our honeymoon we had a tough time with the food. It was just so very different and than we were even further north and not in a city. Being in Helsinki the food scene was much better. While I started to like it and ate my way through fish and crabs and karjalanpirakka Mr. ♥ had a tougher time. Assuming it’s due to the conditions and location of Finland – they just don’t have veggies and if there are they are really horrible… Just be aware. It all looks old and frozen and tasteless – even in the supermarkets. Maybe that is just a momentarily picture in February but that is what we got after two trips to Finland. On another note, Helsinki has a broad selection of craft beer. I had quite a few and I liked them all. So if you like that Helsinki might be for you.
We found a nice and affordable hotel within the city – Hotel Indigo Boulevard. The hotel is located in Helsinki’s Design District. Al lot of small little shops are in the surrounding neighborhood. We liked the hotel as it was clean, modern and had a separated bathroom – something hard to find nowadays.
We took a flight from Berlin with airberlin and were surprised it’s only about 2 hours. From the Helsinki airport we took a bus to the central station where we switched to the tram that took us directly to the hotel. We found public transport very easy and comfortable to use.
It was a nice trip to Helsinki we had last year. I would go there again. Maybe in summer. We heard and read the summers in Helsinki are legendary with lots of outside activities and festivals … and the sun never goes down…
Have you been to Helsinki? Would you take a trip to Helsinki? What would you check out?