Saturday, 12 August 2017

Banks of Vistula river

It is a common belief that a river running through a city is one of its greatest assets, both when it comes to transportation and tourism. For years, Warsaw was an exception here. Wisła (Vistula) river was inaccessible to the inhabitants and its shores were a dangerous place, where people would normally not risk wandering. But is has been changing over the last couple of years. And finally, I am happy to take you today for a lazy afternoon by the river to the "Wisła District".


We will start next to the Świętokrzyski bridge.


Here, we need to say 'Hello' to the Warsaw Mermaid, the symbol of the city.


The banks of Wisła are the house for many birds. You can learn a lot about them from the posters located next to the river.


As we move on North, you will surely notice a familiar building in the background.


Yes, the red colour behind the trees belongs to the National Center of Science Kopernik.


Since it was built quite close to the water, on a slope, there is not much place to relax by the river.


But as we move a few hundred meters, the landscape changes completely.


It is maybe not Copacabana but it is the best beach you can get in town. It is large, sandy and well equipped


If the sun shines too bright and it is getting too hot, you can always use one of the beach baskets.


Just beware of sharks! And other large fish.


I hope that you have relaxed a bit. Let's go further North again, towards the Śląsko-Dąbrowski bridge.


On the other side of the street that runs on our left, you will immediately recognise the Old Town of Warsaw, with the Royal Castle.


No more sand in this part of the embankment but we get a nice promenade instead.


Let's climb on the platform to see a bit more.


The place seems surprisingly empty today, it is much more crowded normally.


Maybe all the people are on the boats? Or rather taking the ferry to the other side ...


... and sunbathing on this half-wild beach?


Because Warsaw has a regular "water tramway" service. They even have real tram stops, with a timetable.


Finally, we arrive to the end of our walk for today. This is the Gdański bridge. Called after the city of Gdańsk located on the sea shore, in the North of Poland. It used to be the most Northern bridge in Warsaw, hence the name.


This bridge is quite amazing, because it has two parts, each of which has two levels, to accomodate cars, trams, trains and huge pipes bringing heat to the left side of Warsaw.


But what I like best about the Gdański bridge is this neon sign. "So nice to see you" it says. Welcome to the Wisła District my friends.


Saturday, 5 August 2017

Rigi

When my human family told me that we are going to see the Rigi mountain, I was not excessively happy. After all, we have already been to Mount Pilatus less than two years ago. And Lake Lucerne is not my favourite lake on the planet. But since horse of value always overcome their fears, I decided to spend this lovely summer day with you in the Swiss canton of Schwyz and even get close to what was my most dreadful experience ever. First, we will take a cable car to arrive to Rigi Kaltbad, where people enjoy some mineral water spa with an amazing view.


From here, we will go further up with a cogway train, being the oldest mountain railway in Europe.


As we move up, you can notice this wooden platform. If you thought it is standing here because there will be a dancing party tonight, you definitely know little about the pre-Alpine folklore.



This is a platform prepared for Schwingen, a traditional Swiss wrestling contest. And if you think that Swiss people do not take it seriously because it is "only" folklore, watch that.


Finally, we arrive to the top of the Rigi Kulm.


One of the most amazing things about Rigi is that it is almost entirely surrounded by water. It has three lakes at its feet. The first is Lake Lucerne that we all know too well.


Then come Lake Zug which we have already seen in the city of Zug ...


... and just next to it Lake Lauerz.


Rigi is referred to sometime as the queen of mountains. To improve its status even more, it arranged to become a sister of a goddess. Or more precisely a sacred mountain, Mount Emei.


Let's jump on the train again and move down the Rigi mountain towards the shores of Lake Lucerne.


I love this sign towards sheep and goats.


As we approach the lake, I recalled why I always thought this is one of the nicest areas of Switzerland.


It almost makes me want to get closer. I am not yet ready to be in the lake. But why not trying to be on the lake?


Everyone on board!


Safety first so let's check the lifeboats.


The engines seem to work fine as well.


I am now reassured, we can sit on one of those nice benches.


The nice building in the back is a luxury hotel.


Have you noticed something special on the mountain? Yes! This is a huge Swiss flag over there!


Time to get off the ship and move towards new adventures. I hope that you have enjoyed the time we spent by the Regina montium. If you would like to see more, I truly recommend you to watch the panoramic views available under the link.




Saturday, 29 July 2017

Montreux

Just half an hour from Lausanne lies a small and peaceful town called Montreux.


It does not have any amazing building and the landscapes do not differ from those we have seen in Lausanne. Yet, my human secretary has fiercely insisted on visiting it, be it for a moment. And to be honest she was not the only one to wish to come here. Poets, novelists, musicians, they all came here to benefit from the purest air and the amazingly appeasing view on the Alps.


Some of them loved this place so much that they decided to move here until death do them apart. Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, a famous Russian writer was one of them. But my human secretary was brought by the memory of another famous person. To find out who it was, we need to walk down the lake side.


We need to arrive to this round-shape pier in the back.

 
On its edge, you will notice a telephone booth. A real London telephone booth. Well, almost. It is a kinetic sculpture dedicated to Claude Nobs, the founder of the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival. It was made by a kinetic sculptor Pascal Bettex.


But the most important monument is on the other side of the sidewalk. Here he comes. The one and only. The immortal. His Supreme Royal Highness, Freddie Mercury, who lived and died here in 1991.


The view from his hospital window inspired him to write his last song - A Winter's Tale.


So quiet and peaceful
Tranquil and blissful
There's a kind of magic in the air
What a truly magnificent view 
A breathtaking scene 
With the dreams of the world in the palm of your hand



* * *

As I was writing this post, I have found out that actually there is another song that gave to Montreux an ever-lasting place in the history of the music. In 1971, Deep Purple were recording their album "Machine Head" in Montreux. One night, Frank Zappa was performing in the Montreux casino and one of his fans fired a flare into the building's roof. The casino burned down. Giving birth to "Smoke on the Water". 


Saturday, 22 July 2017

Olympic museum

As I was wandering through Lausanne, I have noticed this structure. When I came closer, I realised it is a clock. A very special clock. It shows how much time is left to the next Olympic Games.


Why are people in Lausanne so much interested in Olympic Games? Well, because Lausanne is the seat of the International Olympic Committee. This is also where the Olympic Museum, a major landmark of the city, is located.


To visit the museum we need to climb up the hill. We can take the stairs or a nicely winding road.


In the park that leads to the museum building we can admire numerous statues showing Olympic sports. We have a runner, or more precisely Emil Zátopek, a four times Olympic champion, considered to be one of the best athletes in history.


Later on you can admire the cyclists racing at full speed.


Then come the wrestlers. The interesting thing is that this particular statue was made in 1996 but it is only an enlarged copy of a statue made in 1936 and which won the second prize at a contest during the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.


Finally, we reach the main gate. Those of you who are skilled jumpers, like we horses, can try to enter over the bar.


On the right hand side of the gate you can spot the Olympic fire ...


... burning proudly next to the monument of Pierre de Coubertin, the father of modern Olympic Games.


Let's get inside. The first thing that you will notice is surely the wall made of huge pieces of stone, with golden names engraved. These are the official sponsors of the museum. There still some stones left. Just remember that each of those commemorated has donated to the museum at least one million Swiss francs.


The history of Olympic Games does not of course start in Lausanne. It starts in Greece, back in antiquity. And so starts the exhibition on the Olympic Museum. You can see there a reconstruction of the city of Olympia, where the Games used to take place, with its stadiums and temples.


Because the Games in Olympia were a religious event, dedicated to the highest Greek god - Zeus. His thirteen meters high statue in Olympia was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.


One of the peculiarities of the ancient games was that the athletes could only be man. Naked man to be more precise - the beauty of the body sculpture was appreciated almost as much as the results. As a result, women were not allowed to watch the Games. How do we know about all of this? Well, there was no Instagram at that time. So we largely source our knowledge from ancient pottery, lots of which survived until our times.


The Ancient Olympic Games were held every four years for a thousand years. Finally, the emperor Theodosius I suppressed them in 393 AD as part of the campaign to impose Christianity as the State religion of the Roman Empire (who has conquered Greece by then). It was only in late nineteenth century that Pierre de Coubertin decided to revive this wonderful idea. The museum hold a separate exhibition dedicated to the father of modern Olympic Games. It includes a reconstruction of his private office.


After founding the International Olympic Committee, Coubertin was for many years its chairman. The current chairman is for the first time in history a former Olympic Champion in foil (fencing) - Thomas Bach.


Coubertin was very eager on linking the modern Games with the Ancient ones. Therefore the first modern Games took place in Greece. They also still include some of the symbolic heritage. The Olympic Flame is always lit in Olympia itself, by a properly dressed priestess (alright, an actress but still properly dressed).


The priestess lights up the torch by use of Sun's energy. The torch is inspired by the columns in a template of Hera, the wife of Zeus.


The flame is then transported by the torch relay to the city in which the Olympic Games take place. This can mean thousands of kilometers and thousands of torch bearers. Each game uses a special torch for the relay. In the museum you can see all of them, below comes just a sample.


Finally, the Olympic Flame arrives in the city where the Games take place. It burns throughout the entire Games on a huge structure built just for this purpose, called a cauldron. This is a replica of the one from Nagano Games.


The lighting up of the cauldron takes place during the opening ceremony which is usually an amazing show, watched on television by up to a billion people.


Obviously cauldrons are not the only buildings built for the Olympic Games. First of all, each host has to have ready lots of stadiums. Do you remember where we have seen this one?


To finance such huge investments, cities often borrow money that they have to pay back over decades. They try to finance part of their spending with merchandise, including the mascots.


Of course also the televisions broadcasting the Games need to pay.


Still, the costs are high. And not only those that can be counted in dollars. The environmental impact of millions of tourists and fans cannot be neglected. Sustainability of the Games is a major concern. Some of the hosting cities make it a top priority, with recyclable places or even furniture.


But the part of the Museum that I liked the best is the one dedicated to the Games themselves and to their heroes. On the lower floor you can see lots of artefacts and read hundreds of stories related to athletes competing in all the modern Olympic Games. You can read stories from the beginning of the twentieth century, when fencing was generally a sport for soldiers who competed in uniforms.


You can also see something that looks like very old sledge. But it is actually not a sledge, this is what bobsleighs looked like in 1920s.


The more recent events are also represented. These are the costumes of Chinese ice skaters Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, the silver medallists in figure skating from Torino.



By touching the screens, you can read stories from various periods.


A separate section of the exhibition is dedicated to the Paralympic Games.


Finally, the last exhibition, down in the basement, is dedicated to the life in the Olympic village. It discusses the nutrition, the accomodation and the preparation of the athletes. Did you know that in order to strengthten their fingers, judokas knead putty when they are relaxing? Some of them can do it for up to ninety minutes every day!


But the life in the Olympic village is not only about hard work and celebrations of victories. This is also about fair play and justice. Which includes a whole system of anti-doping.


The very last exhibition came as a lovely surprise. All my Postcrossing friends surely have in their collections some of the Olympic-themed stamps. This collection used to belong to Juan Antonio Samaranch, a former president of the International Olympic Committee.


As we leave the building, I noticed those two metals balls. These are the official shots used in the shot put competition. The one for women weighs four kilograms, the one for men weighs 7,26 kilogram. Way too much for me.


I would probably be more successful in a team sport. Assuming that I find a team my size.


If you are not too skilled with sport either, I propose that we return to the garden in front of the museum and turn our back to the front door. And then simply inhale the clear Swiss air and admire the view.