Saturday, 14 July 2018

Grodno

Welcome to Grodno, “The Pearl of the Neman Region”. The city is located on Neman river, whose basin covers huge part of Belarus, Lithuania and Kaliningrad oblast of Russia. It used to be the central river of Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the city used to be one of the crucial municipalities of the Duchy.


Let's start with oldest tourist attraction: the old Grodno Castle. The first stone fortifications were erected on the site of the castle in the twelfth century. After that, the castle was repeatedly destroyed, rebuilt and reconstructed. Recent significant changes in his appearance were made in the nineteenth century.


Until the second half of seventeenth century there used to be a wooden bridge here, leading to the castle gate.


Apart from the main gate, only ruins remain of the mediaval walls until our days.


If the city has an Old Castle, you must have guessed that there exists also a New Castle. It is also an important landmark of Grodno. It was built directly next to the Old Castle in 1742. Although it is called a castle, it has never fulfilled the defensive functions, but used to be a royal palace.


Just in front of the New Castle you can find two monuments. The first one presents David of Hrodna, the castellan of Hrodna and one of the most famous military commanders of Gediminas, Grand Duke of Lithuania in the first half of the fourteenth century.


The second one commemorates another famous hero, the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas. He was the prince of Grodno from 1376 to 1392, and he stayed there during his preparations for the Battle of Grunwald.


In sixteenth century, the Grand Duchy united with Kingdom of Poland to create The Commonwealth of Two Nations. The most beautiful sacral building in Grodno was built soon after it under huge influence of the Polish culture. Ladies, gentlemen & horses, please admire the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.


It has survived World War II with no serious damage, but in 1960 it was officially closed for public religious services for 27 years. The communist authorities tried to convert the building into a museum or a concert hall. Despite this, people attended the church every Sunday for a common player, songs and rosary. The religious services were restored in 1987 and in 1991 the church became a cathedral for a newly created diocese of Grodno.



It is very similar to Holy Cross Church in Warsaw, including the Statue of Christ Bearing His Cross before the church.


But the main altair is more impressive in Grodno.


Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the city became a part of the Russian Empire. From this period originates another landmark of Grodno, a fire station with a tower built in the early twentieth century. This fire station is still operational and fulfils its main function.


Then after World War I, Grodna found itself in the boundaries of the Second Polish Republic. But only twenty years later came the World War II. Although I am proud of all the horses that won the battles, I am also happy that we horses can now live peaceful life, since there is a new cavalry. Like the one below, on the monument to commemorate the liberators.


After 6 years of war the city became part of Soviet Union. This spectacular building is Grodno Region Drama Theater. It is the contemporary symbol of the city. Have you noticed the muses on the horses ?


Much more impressive than the contemporary Town Hall.


In 1990 Belarus declared itself sovereign. The city is very green, with many artificial water reservoirs.


Quite often one can find also beautiful sets of flowers, like here in front of Basilian Nuns Monastery.


And this obelisk is the starting point all from which the distance from Grodno to other cities is provided. So you can say we are just in the city center. Do you see the tents behind ? I will show you their content next week.



Saturday, 7 July 2018

Drottingholm Palace

The Drottingholm Palace is the private residence of the Swedish Royal family. It is located within the confines of Stockholm,conveniently close to the city center. It was built on a small island for one of the former queens of Sweden to which it owns its name - Drottingholm means "queen's island".


The palace and its grounds have seen many renovations, changes and additions over the past 400 years. But you can still have a feeling of what it looked like when it was a vibrant place of power. This hall is the Hall od State, palaces assembly and ceremonial hall. It is decorated with portraits of the most important European heads of state from the nineteenth century.


In the library, you can find thousands of books. It was created in late eighteen century, with the help of the famous Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus.


Let's take the official staircase. Quite impressive (as it was meant to be).


Amoung the very many chambers, we can admire the Chinese drawing room with magnificent tapestries.


Chinese motives were very popular in Europe an Sweden was no exception. You can find Chinese vases in many parts of the Drottingholm palace.


The Green Cabinet looks a bit like an ancient version of Instagram, all covered with pictures, both small ...


... and large.


This room is the State Bedchamber of queen Hedvig Eleonora. And yes, in eighteenth century a queen would receive her guests in a bedchamber.


On one side of the Drottingholm palace you will find a small lake.


And this is the backyard.


Shall we take a closer look?


The Drottingholm garden includes large alleys ...


... and narrow lanes.


This fountain, shaped like a series of waterfalls, is dedicated to king Gustav VI Adolf.


Though of course the garden is filled with numerous fountains, usually shaped into classical monuments.


Look at this path, it looks like carved in trees!


At its top you will find the Chinese pavilion.


It was a surprise gift for queen Louisa Ulrika on her 33 birthday. When a king thinks of a surprise gift, he thinks big. I only wonder how realistic it was that the woman did not get any hint of a such construction happening in her backyard (no matter how large the backyard is).


Though I guess a wise wife can be surprised whenever needed and by a gift of any size, should it be a pavilion ...


... or a bouquet.


I guess that you will not be surprised to find out that the Drottingholm Palace was inscribed by UNESCO on its World Heritage List.


It is indeed a wonderful and unique place.


Saturday, 30 June 2018

Royal Canal Tour

Today we will spend another day visiting Stockholm. But unlike last time, we will visit it not on foot but on a boat. 


We will take a tour on the Royal Canal. Djurgården Canal has been royal land since the 15th century.


As we start, we can admire the Parliament Hall.


And the National Museum.


Then we move on to the canal itself.


On the shores we see churches ...


... and old huts.


When you look back, you will notice a large marina. Every tenth Swede owns a boat.


Actually, the whole Scandinavia is very close to water. They use it for travels - short and long. Just like the Vikings.


But they also live on water. at least from time to time. This ship is a youth hostel!


And of course they have fun on water as well.


I hope that you had fun as well today. We are not yet living Stockholm - tomorrow we will visit one more special place that got its place on a very special List.