Saturday, 19 May 2018

Old Town of Toruń

We will visit today yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Poland - the medieval Old Town of Toruń.

The city plan still looks like it did centuries ago.

The heart of the Old Town is of course around the Town Hall. Next to it you will quickly notice a monument devoted to the most famous inhabitant of the city - the astronomer Mikołaj Kopernik (Nicolaus Copernicus).

It is not the only monument on the square. This fiddler seems to be entertaining frogs. Actually this is a personification of a legend. Centuries ago, frogs have literally invaded Toruń. There was no way to get rid of them. Until a poor lighterman came to the city, playing his woodel violin to make some money. The frogs were enchanted by his music and followed him out of the city walls into a large pond, never to return.

It is possible to climb up the clock tower of the Town Hall. Shall we? The buildings around the Market Square were the pride of the medieval merchants.

One of the sides is populated by churches. The tall tower belongs to the church of the Holy Spirit.

Toruń lies by the Vistula river.The church by the river is the basilica of Saint John the Evangelist and Saint John the Baptist (it seems to me as if there was an agreement that the church should be devoted to a Saint John but they could not reach an agreement which, so they went for both).

There is also one devoted to Saint Jacob and Saint Philip (again two!).

It is of course part of the Way to Santiago de Compostela.

In the Middle Ages the balance of powers was truck between church and the secular rulers, kings or princes. But Toruń belonged, like Malbork, to the Teutonic Knights so to some extent both the church and the secular power.

Unfortunately today the castle is in ruins.

Though one dungeon was renovated. 

Next to the ruins runs a little brook where the castle mill used to produce flour.

All medieval cities were surrounded by high walls. Toruń is not an exception.

To enter the city, visitors had to use one of the city gates.

The walls are encrusted with towers. The most famous is the leaning one. Just like in Pisa.

The day is lovely. Let's sit by the river and enjoy the sunlight before moving back to exploring Toruń.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Rozafa Castle

A few kilometers from Shkodër lies a high rock on which the Venetians have built a castle.

The Albanian legends say that it owes its name to a woman called Rozafa, who was buried alive in the foundations of the wall to ensure that they will not collapse. No matter what you think about the local civil engineering processes, they seem to work.

The castle belonged to the Venetians, the Osman Turks, the Montenegrin and Serbs. But today the proud Albanian eagle welcomes the visitors.

The castle is quite large and is officially an archaeological site.

The Rozafa castle is surrounded by wetland and two rivers. It has been under siege several times but only a few were successful and always long and difficult.

The river flow in the direction of the Shkoder lake which you can see on the horizon.

The castle itself is composed of three courtyards.

But in all honesty, you will mainly see here walls and grass.

And more walls and more grass.

Have I mentioned walls and grass?

Alright, this is not entirely fair. There are also some remainings of the castle buildings. I believe this one used to be the chapel.

And this one was certainly a watchtower.

All the artefacts from the history of the Rozafa castle are exhibited in a small museum.

The history of Rozafa is tied with the life of the national hero Skanderberg. That's why the Albanian  flag and the Albanian pride are particularly strong here.

Saturday, 5 May 2018


We have spent last year a few weeks in Montenegro. Today we will discover yet another country in the Balkans - Albania. We will start with a visit to Shkodër, one of the oldest and most historic places in the Balkan peninsula. It is also the largest city in the North of the country.

This yellow building is the Regional Council of Shkodra.

And this one is the Town Hall.

Next to the Town Hall you will find a nice city park.

The most important point in the park is the fountain. It is simple in shape but brings relief in the sunny and hot Albanian days.

Let's take now a walk through the historical part of the town.

You can see there nice classical buildings ...

...  and some cafes hidden under the trees.

As in any town you can find here monuments devoted to famous people ...

... and to war heroes.

But there are also some more modern monuments, that symbolize something difficult to catch.

Albania is basically a Muslim country, with over 60% of population professing Islam. As a natural consequence, you will find in Shkodër mosques.

The muezzin is calling the faithful for the evening prayer.

Obviously, the 30% of Christians also have their churches in the town, since religious are mingling in the Balkans since forever.

Albania is a member of United Nations, NATO, WTO, it is also a candidate country to join the European Union. But in some aspect, it is still a bit exotic and surprising. Their transport concepts surely are.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

CNN Headquarters

I only had limited time in Atlanta so I had to make tough choices. After discussing it with a friend, I have opted to skip the World of Coca-Cola and visit instead the Headquarters of CNN.

CNN was the first news television in the world. It has a truly global reach and its logo is iconic.

In the inner courtyard of the building you can see lots of flags. Actually, I think these are flags of all the countries in the world, in alphabetic order. Except for the US flag, hanging proudly above all the others.

CNN belongs to the Time Warner Group. You can see in Atlanta also some of its sister companies.

How nice to meet some of those jolly good fellows. Though I must admit that this display is surprisingly close to suggesting that Elmo and the Cookie Monster founded a family together, with small furry offspring of blue and red.

But let us return to serious news. We shall take the escalator and go into the large globe we have just seen. This escalator is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest freestanding (supported only at the ends) escalator in the world at 196 feet long. It was built for the theme park that once occupied the building, and it is part of the building's structure and could not be removed.

And finally, were we come to a newsroom. You can feel as if you were the one to give news to the world. Or to be the Anchor, as they call them here.

Do not worry that you do not know what to say. It is enough that you read from the prompter.

Or maybe you prefer something more green? Any idea what this is about?

Still no clue? Then look into the small TV set. Yes, this is actually a weather forecast! Not easy to point in the right direction.

Why the screen is green? Actually this is becuase it was discovered that none of the skin types has in its pigmentation any shade of green. So there is not risk that the host will be overwritten with the weather map. Unless he wears an invisibility cloak, like Harry Potter. Or any green cloth as a matter of fact.

Unfortunately it is not allowed to take pictures in the parts of the CNN Center where real broadcast is shoot. We have a long flight over the Atlantic ahead of us. So I propose that we return to your hotel now.

It is both comfortable and elegant so I hope that you will like it.