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Author Archives: gracie1961

South of France

At the end of october last year, we made a short trip to the south of France, a place we love so much. We were unsure how to drive there, the year before it was so warm that we decide to go with our new Kawasaki…..I’m glad that at the very last minute we opted for the car, because it was a week dominted by the mistral. The mistral is a wind which blows violently from the north or the north-west, especially during winter and spring. A strong wind is felt 100 days per year on average, and a weaker wind 83 days. This leaves about 182 days without wind. There are two types of “mistral”: the white mistral where the sky clears and the natural light increases, and the black mistral which is rarer but accompanied by rain. Luckily for us it was sunny all the time…

We stayed at this hidden hotel, in the village center, in need of a bit of renovation, but clean and quite.

The village of Salon-de-Provence wasn’t new for us, still a beauty to explore….

For the second time we had a good dinner at this italian-style restaurant…..not really true italian, but almost…

We tried also a spanish one, very good….

and a true italian pasta restaurant….

First goal of this trip, the perched village of Les Baux-de-Provence….so many times we crossed our paths with it, but we never stopped before.

Les Baux-de-Provence is located in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, and it has a spectacular position in the Alpilles mountains, set atop a rocky outcrop that is crowned with a ruined castle overlooking the plains to the south. The name bauxite (Aluminium ore) is derived from the village name when it was first discovered there by geologist Pierre Berthier in 1821.It has been named one of the most beautiful villages in France and has over 1.5 million visitors per year although it has only 22 residents in the upper part of the commune and 436 for the whole commune. The name Baux-de-Provence comes from the Occitan Bauc according to the classical norm and in Provençal baus according to the Mistralian norm meaning “upright”, “cliff”, or “rocky escarpment”.

The defensive capabilities of Baux have always made it an attractive location for human habitation. Traces of habitation have been found and dated to 6000 BC. in the Costapéra cave which was discovered in 1928 and which houses a collective burial ground from the early Bronze Age. The site was used by the Celts as a fort or oppidum around the 2nd century BC. Peripheral areas or castrum developed very early. While Protohistory was strongly marked by pastoralism and agriculture in the Alpilles, limestone was also extracted from quarries around Baux where a workshop from the end of the 2nd and early 1st centuries BC has been found. In the second part of the Iron Age, the population was sedentary and began to build durable houses. The castrum was structured like a village with its streets and houses. The process of permanent construction was in parallel with the intensification of economic exchanges with Mediterranean traders. In exchange for luxury goods, the inhabitants of the Alpilles produced grain and achieved a state of autarky with a real trading economy. Over the following centuries the population of the Alpilles consistently decreased: the Greek colony at Arles attracted many people from across the region.

In the Middle Ages the area became the stronghold of a feudal domain covering 79 towns and villages. The fortress was built from the 11th to the 13th century over seven hectares. The princes of Baux controlled Provence for many years and they gained a formidable reputation. They were said to be descended from the Biblical Magi Balthazar and their coat of arms was a silver star with sixteen branches as a reminder that, according to the Gospel, it guided the three wise men to Bethlehem. Their motto was: “Au hasard, Balthazar” (At random, Balthazar). As a medieval stronghold on the borders of Languedoc, Comtat Venaissin, and Provence, the fortress had a turbulent military history and has been the subject of many assaults. The solid dungeon that still dominates the village today reiterates the importance of this castle which was a desirable possession in the Middle Ages.

At the end of the Baussenque Wars in the 12th century the princes of Baux were defeated. The large castle began to be renowned for its highly cultivated court and chivalrous conduct. The estate finally came to an end in the 15th century after the death of the last princess of Baux. The death of Queen Joanna I of Naples led to a crisis of succession to the County of Provence. The cities of the Aix Union supported Charles, Duke of Durazzo, against Louis I, Duke of Anjou. The King of France, Charles VI, intervened and sent the Seneschal of Beaucaire, Enguerrand d’Eudin, who rallied Guillaume III Roger de Beaufort. Les Baux, the possession of the Roger, was thus neutral at the beginning of war and on the Angevin side at the end of the decade.

Les Baux, together with Provence, was then attached to the crown of France. Under the rule of the Manville family, the village became a center of Protestantism and even tried a rebellion against the crown. In 1631, tired of conflict, the people negotiated with the king for the redemption of the castle territory and the right to dismantle the fortifications, “which were a refuge for rebels”. Louis XIII consented on 5 August. In 1642 the town was offered the Grimaldi family as a marquisate in favour of Hercule de Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco (1642-1780). The title Marquis of Baux is still carried by the Prince of Monaco. Administratively, the town is entirely French and the title of Marquis of Baux is traditionally given to the heir to the throne of Monaco. Jacques, the son of the current Prince of Monaco Albert II, carries among his many titles that of Marquis of Baux. In 1822 bauxite was discovered in the area by geologist Pierre Berthier. The ore was intensively mined until its exhaustion at the end of the 20th century.

We followed the advice of some friends who’s been there a couple of years before, and I’m so glad we did! This place is just amazing!

You’re completely surrounded (in the dark) by music and paintings, litterally all around you, on the ground, on the walls and ceiling….. thousands of images floating around you, leaving you breathless. An amazing experience, worth the trip just for itself….

Once again on our own steps, we reached the vilage of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, after 11 years from the first time…The painter Vincent van Gogh was treated here in the psychiatric center at Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole (visitable today as a museum) from 1889 to 1890. Princess Caroline of Monaco and her children lived in Saint-Rémy for several years following the death of her second husband, Stefano Casiraghi. The first time here we were able to see her luxury villa, now well hidden by high walls and guarded by armed guards….

Next stop was Tarascon. Located south of Avignon and north of Arles, on the left (east) bank of the Rhône River. On the other side is the similarly sized town of Beaucaire in the département of Gard, région of Languedoc-Roussillon. Directly opposite each other and connected by several bridges, Beaucaire and Tarascon effectively constitute one town, with about 30,000 inhabitants. Shards dating from the Late Bronze Age have been found in a shelter at a place called the Lèque, confirming the existence of human settlement in the Alpilles since prehistoric times. Settlement spread in the early Iron Age.  Located along the Rhone, at the crossroads between Avignon, the Camargue and the Luberon, Tarascon is still associated with fairy tales and legends dating back to prehistory. According to tradition, Martha of Bethany, who came from Judea, landed at Tarascon where an amphibious dragon, the tarasque, was destroying the river traffic. She tamed the beast only for it to be butchered by the townspeople. Many pilgrims visit the Royal College of Sainte-Marthe, built in her honor near the castle of King René . This sanctuary, the main monument of the city, contains the relics and the tomb of St. Martha in the crypt which was built on the exact location of her house.

Rostagnetus of Tharascone, knight, was provost of Nice, Alderman of Tarascon (1322, 1325) and son of former co-lords of the city in the 12th century. In 1366-67, Guillam de Sault ruled Tarascon. He received an annual salary of 90 florins. The death of Queen Joanna I reopened a succession crisis at the head of the County of Provence, the cities of the Aix Union supporting Charles de Duras against Louis I of Anjou . Tarascon hesitated before joining the Union of Aix, the community deciding in 1383, without committing itself very firmly. When Louis I died, Tarascon was also one of the first cities to receive Jacques Reillanne, Ambassador of his widow Marie de Blois, regent of Louis II of Anjou, in the summer of 1385. He successfully persuaded them to switch sides and join the Angevin Kings of Anjou. The castle is well preserved. The work of construction began in 1400 under Louis II of Anjou and completed in 1449 by his son, King René, led by Guillaume Crespin, captain of the castle, and his lieutenant, Regnault Serocourt, its close relative . With an impressive defensive system, the building also houses a princely residence. It was turned into a military prison in the 17th century, until its acquisition by the state in 1932.

The novel Tartarin de Tarascon (1872) and its two sequels Tartarin sur les Alpes (1885) and Port-Tarascon (1890), by Alphonse Daudet, were set here. Since 1985, there has been a small museum in the town, dedicated to the fictional character Tartarin. A festival is held every year on the last Sunday of June to remember Tartarin and the Tarasque.

On the way towards Marseille, we stopped (despite the strong wind) at the Plage du Jai (Beach Jai), the beach of the village of Marignane, a strip of land over 5km long and 250 m wide on average which marks the separation between two ponds, that of Berre and that of Bolmon. In summer is crowded with people, but for a day we had it all by ourselves…..well, and the horses….

As we did the year before, we took a little ferry (Bac de Barcarin) to cross the pond saving us a long detour…..

to reach the very little village of  Le Salin du Giraud (a village born to house the workers of the salt evaporations ponds) just to have lunch at a terrific restaurant, Les Saladelles…their specialty? bull meat!

Once again, at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer ……a place that seems lost back in time…

The village of Saintes Marie de la Mer, a place of tradition and pilgrimage, is built where the Rhone meets the Mediterranean Sea.
A legendary site, its shore once welcomed at the dawn of the Christianity Marie Jacobi, Marie Salomé and their handmaid Sarah, who were persecuted Christians escaping from Palestine on a boat without a rudder.
In the shade of its Romanesque steeple, visitors can stroll through the narrow paved streets, following the tracks of the pilgrims. From the top of the church, on the lookout for something, with their nose and their hair streaming in the wind, they are greatly moved by the wild plains, places of discoveries and warm meetings with “manadiers” (cowboys) riding through the pastures of bulls bound to a glorious future.
From the village, visitors feel the attraction of the dunes, the sandy beaches and the large marshlands with reeds and manades (herd of black bulls and white horses).

We bought the typical salt of Camargue (white and grey) some rice (wild red, long white and black) , bull sausages and some white wines….how can you resist, come on?

below….social network….playing bowls on the sand, protectedby the church…

Back to the beautiful Aigues-Mortes……..

Much enjoyable now, away from the hot july sun….to know more about it, read my previous post

We had really a great time, both discovering new places and finding comfort in old ones….

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Posted by on April 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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October…..sweet memories

At the beginning of the month we spent an entire weekend with the family of my daughter boyfriend, in town for a few days. On saturday we had lunch in a very good restaurant, in the hills near the city, where we tasted the real parmeasan cuisine….

After lunch, enjoying the very good weather, we had a walk towards the near Castle of Felino.

Built by Marquis Luppone in 890, this square shaped castle encircled by a deep moat and stately bastions rises on a steep ground in the valley between the torrents Parma and Baganza. Through the centuries the manor became, among intrigues and wars of succession, the only unchallenged fortress of the area and powerful families such as Rossi, Sforza, Pallavicino, Farnese, Lampugnani left their marks on it.
The building was enlarged and modified up to 1483, when Ludovico the Moor trickily won the manor to the powerful Pier Maria Rossi, the lord of over 40 strongholds all over Parma territory. The Rossi had been ruling Felino since the 14th century, giving the castle its greatest splendour. Since the end of their reign, transformations took place especially inside, as the role of the manor turned from a defensive into an aristocratic and entertainment residence. The castle has however kept its quadrangular layout, the four corner donjons and a watchtower characterized by a double row of crenels and deep grooves on the facade.

Nowadays, after two centuries of negligence and following restoration works, the castle has returned to its ancient beauty and has become the suggestive scenery to celebrate parties, cerimonies, exhibitions, conventions and gala dinners. Facilities include a bar and a restaurant, halls available for meetings, banquets and gala dinners.

The courtyard of honour is accessed via a bridge over a large moat. The bridge is now fixed; however, until the 19th century, it was used as drawbridge, as the castle‘s last line of defence in an attack. The great dark bronze door opens up to reveal a white, light filled courtyard surmounted by the porticoes and walkways which have replaced the ancient openings to the castle battlements.

A large foyer featuring a ramp section which once served to drag canons to the top of the battlemented tower gives access to the two Vescovi rooms. Both rooms look out onto the forest on one side and the magnificent courtyard on the other.

The Sforza room is called after the family who shaped the destiny of this manor house for fifty years. In 1448 Alessandro Sforza stayed in the castle and set off from it to take on il Piccinino, Parma army captain, in the battle of Collecchio. Its large windows open out onto the natural world of the chestnut forests encircling the castle and flood the room with natural light.

In the basement the kitchens of the castle were lodged. Now these spaces house the “Saleme of Felino Museum”

(below: mom checking the oven….)

Dedicated to the most famous salame in Italy, this is one of the three food museums in the province of Parma.
Divided into two sections, it displays the tools of pork butchers, showing how this delicious uncooked meat is preserved by curing, airdried and seasoned.

Salame Felino: According to the tradition, the salami must be cut in a diagonal way of 60°, to emphasize the grain. The slice has an irregular shape, red or pink-coloured and a round and delicate taste.
Qualitiesthis salami owes its name to the village on the Parmesan hills where it has been produced for over two centuries. The Felino salami is made only with pig meats, whose cuts come from the lean trimmings of the “coppa”, hams and “spalla”. The perfect mixture of fat meat (75%) and lean (25%), white and pink, is grinded in big pieces, then salt, pepper and nitrate are added.
At the moment of the casing in pork intestines, you put pepper and garlic pounded in a mortar and diluted in dry white wine. At this point the salami is seasoned for at least one month or two in specific places.
During this period it does take its characteristic cylindrical form slightly swollen at one end, and the typical white-grey color. To protect the Felino Salami it has been required the IGP brand, the European acknowledgement of Geographic Indication Protect.

(Below, we all sit down to watch a video explaining how this delicious excellence is made….)

On sunday we met behind the Cathedral, in the city center…..

Near the Monastery with the same name, stands the Church dedicated to St. John the Apostle.

Works for the abbey and church were started in the 10th century over a pre-existing oratory associated with St. Colombanus. In 1477 the whole complex was damaged by a fire. The abbey basilica was rebuilt from around 1490, with the present design by Bernardino Zaccagni dating from 1510. The construction ended around 1519. The design included since the beginning a thoroughly painting decoration of the interior, and a contract had been signed with the young Correggio, who a had already worked in another Benedictine monastery, in the Camera della Badessa of San Paolo. Correggio executed five frescoes groups. The first includes the lunette with St. John and the Eagle (c. 1520), followed by the dome, with the Ascension of Christ and the drum and the four pendentives decoration. The third work was the decoration of the vault and the apse ceiling of the Cappella Maggiore, partially destroyed in 1586 when the choir was prolonged: today the central fragment with the Coronation of the Virgin (now at the Galleria nazionale di Parma) has survived. The fourth intervention was in the choir’s walls, which were totally destroyed during its reconstruction. Finally, Correggio added a painted frieze which runs for the whole internal perimeter. Preparatory drawings show that also the parts executed by his pupils were designed by Correggio, such as the candelabra in the presbytery’s vault and the puttos on the cross-vaults. Around 1524, Correggio also painted two canvasses in the Del Bono Chapel, now at the Galleria nazionale di Parma: the Lamentation for Dead Christ and the Martyrdom of Four Saints. The marble façade of the church was designed by Simone Moschino in Baroque style in 1604, and completed in 1607. The bell tower on the right side, perhaps designed by Giovanni Battista Magnani, was completed in 1613. With a height of 75 meters, it is the tallest in Parma.

The interior is on the Latin cross plan, with a nave and two aisles covered with cross vaults, and a dome at the crossing. The grooved piers are Renaissance elements of classical inspiration. In the nave is a frieze by Correggio and his workshop (c. 1522-1524). Is a long strip with monochrome paintings (with few red details) on a dark blue background, including also some tondoes with portraits of Benedictine popes, cardinals and monks. The main feature is a series of puttos in actions symbolizing the importance of the Christian mess and sacrifice. The grotesque decorations on the semi-piers and the vault decoration (with candelabra, puttos and symbols of St. John the Evangelist) were also from Correggio’s pupils, in particular Michelangelo Anselmi (c. 1520).

Outside, the day was still warm enough to enjoy a walk…..with our noses up….

Mid-october….time for the annual bikers’s lunch, to have a good time all together and to dream about (and to plan) next season trips and meetings……

I invited a couple of collegues/friends and their partners for dinner one saturday night….goat cheese and speck filled zucchini, wrapped with bacon….

ricotta and mushrooms pie…………

mini pizzas and “bocconcini” filled with feta cheese and parma ham….

giant rigatoni with ragù and bèchamel sauce, covered with pecorino…..

a plate of cheeses………….

served with honey, jams…………

and fruits…….

The next day was hubby birthday, we had daughter and her bf for lunch……………..

They gave hubby one bottle of “grappa” because they knew he would have appreciated….

A busy month, full of family, love, joy and good food! What’s more to ask?

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Bye-bye

I’ll be away for a few days with hubby….a bit of relax in south France…..

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – September

Another busy one….it started the first day of the month with mom’s birthday…..my daughter boyfriend contributed to the celebration dinner with this sooooo good appetizer, canapes with cannellini beans and bacon

my daughter with her famous zucchini and speck pie

I baked some mini pizzas….

a lasagna pan….

and some tasty asparagus

My mom baked her favourite cake, with pineapple and rhum.

One of my collegue, after years of partnership, decided to marry, so one day we had lunch all together to celebrate her…..for once, no problems, no resentment, no hierarchy, just happy faces….

The second-last day of this so very beautiful, unusual and interesting exhibition, my daughter and I hurried to visit, and I’m so glad we did! “A tea with Queen Elizabeth II” at the Glauco Lombardi Museum in Parma, is an idea of Marina Minelli, journalist and historian, with a true passion for crowned heads around the world. In the two ground floor halls of the Riserva Palace, more than three hundred pieces of ceramics (created by companies such as Wedgwood, Spode, Burleigh, Royal Albert, Mason’s, Churchill, Royal Doulton, Aynsley) tell the story of the royal family starting with Queen Victoria, Elizabeth II’s great-grandmother, whose long reign not only coincides with the exponential growth of manufactories in the famous Staffordshire district, but it also paves the way for the great celebrations both political and familiar of an ever-popular and beloved dynasty.
Memorials, or as they call it overseas, ceramic commemoratives are one of the key elements of this relationship. Mugs, cups and teapots decorated with symbols of the monarchy or with the faces of real royal characters favor the popular sharing of events related to the dynasty because through these objects the subjects can symbolically take part in a celebration and do it through the English rite for excellence: the afternoon tea.

On display there are objects dedicated to Edoardo VII, Prince of Wales for all his life, but king only for nine years, and then to his son Giorgio V, celebrated in potteries along with his very royal wife Mary, at the coronation in 1911 and later for the Silver Jubilee in 1935. By the end of 1936 his heir Edward VIII decided to abdicate to marry the woman who has been dating for years and abdication not only deeply marks British history but also risks sending the ceramic factories to bankruptcy. The production of coronation items has already begun and hundreds of manufactures must suddenly head back, store mugs and cups with the face of the former king and create new ones with the reassuring image of George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

(below, Marina, exceptionally present for the day, explaining to us what we were admiring)

Young Elizabeth II continues the heritage of the royal family after his father’s death on February 6, 1952, and his coronation on June 2, 1953 represents not only the beginning of a new kingdom, but the rebirth of a country that bravely endured Hitler’s bombs but still carries the heavy signs of a devastating war. The amount of memorabilia produced for the occasion is directly proportional to the popular enthusiasm for the new kingdom and it attests not only to the importance of the Westminster ceremony, whose ritual is unchanged from the Middle Ages, but also to the economic and social recovery of England and its industries after the nightmare of the conflict and the restrictions on rationing. Other items will be produced in the years to come for the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981, for the birth of their children and grandchildren, for the jubilees of the queen and for her nineteenth birthday celebrated in 2016.

There are also postcards, newspapers and magazines in English, French and Italian from the 1950s to the present, which help to rebuild the events of the period. In addition, some special services for the Coronation of 1953 and the Silver Jubilee of 1977 have been used to set up vintage tea tables and dining tables.
For this event – notes Francesca Sandrini, the museum curator – there is also some contribution coming from the collections of the Museo Lombardi, that made available two of its pieces, never exposed to the public and yet consistent with the exhibition proposed, such as a beautiful desk service decorated with jasperware medallions and a great print of Queen Victoria’s crowning in 1838.

(below, Marina explaining how to set up a true english tea table)

After the visit, all the presents were invited to have a real english tea, equipped with all the options….cakes, muffins, scones, biscuits and two classics, battenberg cake and clotted cream….

It really was an amazing experience, loving all that’s english as we do!

And then it was my birthday…..I celebrated it first having lunch with two of my collegues/friends at our favourite vegan restaurant…..

That night I had dinner with my family….and I got some gifts…..

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Austria

We crossed the border to Austria and drove till the Millstatter See (lake Millstatter) where we found a nice B&B in Seeboden, Haus Hatrieb, with a nice view from our balcony….

We felt immediately at home, being in Austria is just like home, and the beauty of the place helped a lot

And the lake in itself was a real pleasure to enjoy

One day we drove through a beautiful valley till the Ossiacher See……last time we were there was in 1995….

Ossiach Abbey is a former Benedictine monastery now one of the venues of an annual music festival called “Carinthian Summer” and it houses also a very good hotel…..the attached church…is still a church…

In 878 the East Frankish king Carloman of Bavaria dedicated the Treffen estates around Lake Ossiach to the Benedictine monastery of Ötting. In the late 10th century the lands passed to the Bishops of Passau and later to Emperor Henry II, who conferred them to a certain Count Ozi, affiliated with the Styrian Otakar dynasty and father of Patriarch Poppo of Aquileia. A church probably already existed at Ossiach, when Count Ozi about 1024 established the Benedictine abbey, the first in the medieval Duchy of Carinthia. The first monks probably descended from Niederaltaich Abbey in Bavaria. Ozi’s son Poppo succeeded in removing the proprietary monastery from the influence of the Salzburg archbishops and to affiliate it with the Patriarchate of Aquileia, confirmed by Emperor Conrad II in 1028. Upon the extinction of the Styrian Otakars in 1192, the Vogtei of Ossiach according to the Georgenberg Pact passed to the Austrian House of Babenberg. In 1282 it finally fell to the Habsburgs.

Ossiach Abbey was dissolved by order of Emperor Joseph II in 1783, after which the buildings were used as a barracks. In 1816 the premises were largely demolished. Between 1872 and 1915 the few remaining buildings were again used as a barracks and as stabling. Since 1995 the premises have been owned by the administration of Carinthia.

According to legend, King Bolesław II the Bold of Poland, after he was banished in 1079 for the murder of Saint Stanislaus of Szczepanów and had fled to Hungary,  wandered through Europe and found peace at last when he arrived at Ossiach in 1081. There the king is said to have lived in the remote monastery as a mute penitent for eight years humbly doing the meanest and lowliest jobs, until on his death bed he told his father confessor who he was and what he had been doing penance for. The legend is documented since the 15th century; whether Bolesław actually ever lived at Ossiach could not be conclusively clarified. Bolesław’s alleged tomb is embedded in the northern side of the church wall, a Roman marble relief depicting a horse with the Latin inscription: REX BOLESLAVS OCCISOR SANCTI STANISLAI EPISCOPI CRACOVIENSIS (“Boleslav, King of Poland, Murderer of Saint Stanislav, Bishop of Cracow”).

The church since the dissolution has served the local parish. Two stained glass windows were donated by Karl May in 1905, though according to recent research the popular writer had probably never visited Ossiach. The Romanesque church itself was first mentioned in 1215, built on the groundplan of a basilica, with the tower above the crossing. Restored in a Late Gothic style after a fire in 1484, the abbey, a member of the Benedictine Salzburg Congregation from 1641, was extensively altered in the Baroque period, including stucco decoration of the Wessobrunner School.

We had lunch at the same restaurant of 22 years ago (now completely renovated), and in the afternoon we just relaxed enjoying the view….

Another short drive was through another beatiful landscape towards Osstirol region and the village of Matrei……

…..just to have lunch at a place we already love and appreciated over the years….

We spent our last day in Austria driving along the Drava valley…..

so to reach the village of Spittal…..

We’ve been there already recently, in 2015, so I just wandered around taking more pictures, enjoying the sights….for more about the castle, read here….

And with that our vacation was over….sadly enough…but we came back home with a lot to fill our photos’ album and our souls….

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Around Slovenia

Slovenia is really a beautiful country to discover on a motorbike, roads well maintained, good rest areas, and so very green! We enjoyed so very much driving along the Isonzo valley….

Can you see me below?….

We visited the village of Kranjska Gora, in the north of Slovenia.

Every year, the Kranjska Gora resort hosts several major sporting events, including the World Cup ski jumping and ski flying competitions in Planica and the Vitranc Cup alpine skiing competition. Kranjska Gora also plays host to various entertainment, cultural and folklore events. What is special about Kranjska Gora’s ski offerings is the diversity of its ski runs, which provide excellent skiing opportunities for anyone from beginners to top-class skiers and are accessible practically from the doorstep of the resort town’s hotels. Kranjska Gora’s surrounding areas offer over 40 kilometres of well groomed cross-country ski trails, and the slopes of the surrounding mountains excellent opportunities for off-piste skiing, ice climbing and tobogganing.

During the summer months, the most popular activities are hiking and trekking. Kranjska Gora has a wide diversity of routes, from the easiest recreational ones to serious trekking routes suitable only for experienced and appropriately equipped mountaineers accompanied by a mountain guide. One of the routes particularly worth mentioning leads to the two Martuljek waterfalls. Another interesting route, known as the Triglavska Bistrica River Path, runs through the Vrata valley, past a string of natural attractions of the Triglav National Park. A number of scenic high mountain routes start from Vršič, Slovenia’s best known mountain pass. Kranjska Gora also provides numerous opportunities for mountain biking. The lovers of adrenaline-fuelled experiences can go on an attractive downhill ride in the area’s mountain bike park or visit the Besna Pehta summer toboggan run.  For golf lovers there is a practice field at the confluence of the Pišnica and Sava rivers.

The beginnings of tourism in Kranjska Gora go back to the year 1902, when the Razor Hotel was opened as the first hotel in the area, followed by the establishment of the Kranjska Gora Resort Society two years later, whose purpose was “to promote the circulation of foreigners in Kranjska Gora”. At the beginning, the hotel mainly hosted tourists, who came to Kranjska Gora for its healing climate, hiking and mountaineering. After the Slovenian Mountain Society was established, the number of visitors to the mountains increased. Again, the Razor Hotel was the place where the Mountain Rescue Service of Slovenia was founded in 1912.

If you are a lover of Late Gothic art, you should definitely see the Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary. Originally it was named the Church of Our Lady of the White Gravel, but only a brick belfry in the Romanesque style was preserved.

In 1510, today’s church was designed by master Jernej Firtaler from Villach. The Corinthian influence is particularly visible in the nave arch, which is decorated with intertwined ribs and is the most interesting arch of this type not only in the Upper Sava Valley, but also in Slovenia. In front of the church stand the busts of men, important to the Upper Sava Valley – Josip Lavtižar, Simon Robič and Lovrenc Lavtižar.

We could only imagine the atmosphere of the village in winter, all covered with snow….

We had a nice day on the banks of Lake Bled…..

The lake is of mixed glacial and tectonic origin. It is 2,120 m (6,960 ft) long and 1,380 m (4,530 ft) wide, with a maximum depth of 29.5 m (97 ft), and it has a small island. The lake lies in a picturesque environment, surrounded by mountains and forests. Medieval Bled Castle stands above the lake on the north shore. The Zaka Valley lies at the west end of the lake. The World Rowing Championships in 1966, 1979, 1989, and 2011 were held at Lake Bled.

The lake surrounds Bled Island. The island has several buildings, the main one being the pilgrimage church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, built in its current form near the end of the 17th century, and decorated with remains of Gothic frescos from around 1470 in the presbyterium and rich Baroque equipment. The church has a 52 m (171 ft) tower and there is a Baroque stairway from 1655 with 99 stone steps leading up to the building. The church is frequently visited and weddings are held there regularly. Traditionally it is considered good luck for the groom to carry his bride up the steps on the day of their wedding before ringing the bell and making a wish inside the church.

After the mountains and the lake, it was time for the sea….

Koper is a city in southwestern Slovenia, with the other Slovenian coastal towns Ankaran, Izola, Piran, and Portorož, situated along the country’s 47-kilometre (29-mile) coastline, in the Istrian Region, approximately five kilometres (3.1 miles) from its border with Italy. Having a unique ecology and biodiversity, it is considered an important national natural resource. The city’s Port of Koper is the major contributor to the economy of the eponymous city municipality. With only one percent of Slovenia having a coastline, the influence that the Port of Koper also has on tourism was a factor in Ankaran deciding to leave the municipality in a referendum in 2011 to establish its own. The city is a destination on a number of Mediterranean cruising lines, with the season spanning from March to December.

The city of Koper is officially bilingual, with both Slovene and Italian as official languages. Sights in Koper include the 15th-century Praetorian Palace and Loggia in Venetian Gothic style, the 12th-century Carmine Rotunda church, and the Cathedral of St Nazarius, with its 14th-century tower.

Sadly this was also our last day in Slovenia…..we came back with so many amazing memories of this new (for us) country that left us the feelings that’s so much more to explore…..

But our vacation wasn’t over…..we were then ready for Austria!

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Ljubljana #3

The central square in Ljubljana is Prešeren Square (Prešernov trg).

It’s no exaggeration to say that Prešeren Sqaure is not only the centre of Ljubljana, but truly the spiritual centre of the Slovene nation – and more practically the defacto meeting point in the city. It is part of the old town’s pedestrian zone and a major meeting point, where festivals, Ljubljana carnival, concerts, sports, political, and protest events take place. It was renovated in 2007. To the south, across the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje), it is connected to Stritar Street (Stritarjeva ulica), which leads through a symbolic town gate formed by the Kresija Palace and Philip Mansion towards the city’s town hall at the foothills of the Castle Hill. At the eastern side of the square, a bronze statue of the Slovene national poet France Prešeren with a muse was placed in front of the Central Pharmacy. One of his poem, “A Toast”/ “Zdravljica” became the national anthem. The poet’s statue is symbolically faced by the statue of Julija Primic, his great love, mounted on the facade of a building located across the square, in the Wolfova ulica.

The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation is a Franciscan church; Its red colour is symbolic of the Franciscan monastic order. Since 2008, the church has been protected as a cultural monument of national significance of Slovenia. Built between 1646 and 1660 (the bell towers following later), it replaced an older church on the same site. The early-Baroque layout takes the form of a basilica with one nave and two rows of side-chapels. The Baroque main altar was executed by the sculptor Francesco Robba. Many of the original frescoes were ruined by the cracks in the ceiling caused by the Ljubljana earthquake in 1895. The new frescoes were painted in 1936 by the Slovene impressionist painter Matej Sternen.

 

The front facade of the church was built in the Baroque style in 1703–1706 and redesigned in the 19th century. It has two parts, featuring pilasters with the Ionic capitals in the lower part and pilasters with Corinthian capitals in the upper part. The sides of the upper part are decorated with volutes and at the top of the front facade stands the statue of Our Lady of Loretto, i.e. Madonna with Child. It has been made of beaten copper by Matej Schreiner upon a plan drawn by Franz Kurz and Thurn und Goldenstein. The faces and the hands were modelled by Franc Ksaver Zajec. The statue replaced an older wooden statue of a Black Madonna in 1858. The facade also has three niches with sculptures of God the Father above the main stone portal, and an angel and the Virgin Mary in the side niches, work by the Baroque sculptor Paolo Callalo. There is a stone entrance staircase in front of the church. The wooden door with reliefs of women’s heads dates to the 19th century.

Ljubljana Cathedral or St. Nicholas’s Cathedral (stolnica sv. Nikolaja), serves the Archdiocese of Ljubljana. Easily identifiable due to its green dome and twin towers, it is located at Cyril and Methodius Square named for Saints Cyril and Methodius by the nearby Ljubljana Central Market and Town Hall.

The site of the Cathedral was originally occupied by a three-nave Romanic church whose earliest mention dates back to 1262. After the fire of 1361 it was re-vaulted in the Gothic style. When the Ljubljana Diocese was established in 1461, the church underwent several alterations and additions. In 1469 it was burnt down, presumably by the Turks. Between 1701 and 1706, a new Baroque hall church with side chapels shaped in the form of the Latin cross was built to a design by the Jesuit architect Andrea Pozzo. As the church’s dome was only built in 1841, originally a fake dome was painted on the arch above the centre of the cross. The surviving Baroque interior decoration notably includes frescoes by Giulio Quaglio (painted in the periods 1703-1706 and 1721-1723), Angelo Putti’s statues of four bishops of Emona situated beneath the beams of the dome (1712-1713), Putti’s painting of Dean Janez Anton Dolničar (1715), who initiated the rebuilding of the church in 1701, Francesco Robba’s altar angels in the left part of the nave (1745-1750) and brothers Paolo and Giuseppe Groppelli’s altar angels in the right part of the nave (1711). A host of other works of art were added later. One of the more interesting is the dome fresco painted by Matevž Langus in 1844. The most outstanding 20th century additions include Tone Demšar’s main entrance door relief depicting the history of Slovenia, commissioned to mark the 1250th anniversary of Christianity in Slovenia, and Mirsad Begić’s side doors with portraits of bishops.

Only a tourist train leaves Prešeren Square every day, transporting tourists to Ljubljana Castle.

The castle of Ljubljana is just one of the castles in the city but certainly the biggest one and also the most visited. Built in the middle of the 15th century, today it is a popular tourist destination for locals and foreigners also. No wonder. It offers an outstanding view over the city, a romantic athmosphere and a place of numerous cultural events. Guided tours of the castle are conducted every day. The castle is depicted on the city’s coat of arms, along with a dragon on top.

When in 1335 the Habsburgs took over the area of today`s Slovenia, they demolished the fortress of the Spanheim family, which stood on the hill, and in the second half of the 15th century started building a new one that still stands today. At first it consisted of only walls, towers and wooden barracks but through centuries the castle got the shape that it has today. Its main purpose was to defend against Turkish invasions, which were the most frequent in the 15th and 16th century. Besides, peasant rebellions were not rare as well. In the 17th and 18th century the castle had the function of a military hospital and an arsenal. When in 1809 Napoleon brought freedom and cultural and national enlightment to the citizens of Ljubljana, the war with the Habsburgs broke out. During this war the Pipers tower was demolished and a new wooden one erected on the place of today`s stone one. After the French had left, the Habsburgs used the castle for jails.  Several famous people were jailed in the castle, including the Italian revolutionary Silvio Pellico, the Hungarian Prime Minister Lajos Batthyany and the Slovene author Ivan Cankar. The jail period lasted until the end of the Second World War, when first Italians and after their capitulation Germans took over the management of the castle. Until 1963 ostracized citizens of Ljubljana lived on the castle in terrible conditions. In the 70s the renovation began and today the castle is a popular tourist destination for home and foreign visitors.

The castle Chapel of St. George, on the basis of a document of the year 1489 emitted by the emperor, was consecrated to St. George, St. Pancracio and the Empress Helena. The original entrance to the chapel was in the north; it was reached along thirteen steps and is in use to this day. The original Gothic chapel had openings in the ceiling, counted four gothic windows and a balcony from which the nobles listened to the Holy Mass. This construction was restored in Baroque style and in the year 1747 they added images of the shields of the governors.

Above the Chapel stands the panoramic tower….

….if you’re brave enough to climb the many, many steps inside, you’re awarded with a beautiful view over the castle courtyard, and the amazing view of the city…

Can you recognize some of the places I told you about…..from ground level?

We walked one morning through the east part of town, past more stunning buildings…

…..to have lunch in a very special place, enjoying some beautiful music…

…..before reaching the nice Tivoli Park, where we spent a lazy afternoon….

Tivoli City Park is the largest park in Ljubljana. It was designed in 1813 by the French engineer Jean Blanchard and now covers approximately 5 km2The park was laid out during the French imperial administration of Ljubljana in 1813 and named after the ParisianJardins de Tivoli. Between 1921 and 1939, it was renovated by the Slovene architect Jože Plečnik. Within the park, there are different types of trees, flower gardens, several statues, and fountains. Several notable buildings stand in the park, among them Tivoli Castle, the National Museum of Contemporary History and the Tivoli Sports Hall.

 

We had a great time in Ljubljana, and we highly recommend a visit there, history, magic places, good food and beers, and so very nice people….

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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