Saturday, 29 September 2018

Grand Place

Brussels is the seat of the central institutions of the European Union, so you could almost say that it is Europe's capital city. Inside this interesting city, as in many others, there is a central place. But this one is very unique. Ladies, gentlemen, horses - welcome to Grand Place! Although it is called Grand, it is not due to the size. The square measures just 68 by 110 metres (223 by 361ft) so it is 5 imes smaller from Krakow Market Square, but I have never seen such so many beautifully ornamented buidlings in one place.

As you can see it looks amazing in any weather.

The square was originally set up as Lower Market in the end of the 11th century, on a dried-up marsh near the fort that was surrounded by sandbanks.

On 13 August 1695, a 70,000-strong French army under Marshal François de Neufville, duc de Villeroy, began a bombardment of Brussels in an effort to draw the League of Augsburg's forces away from their siege on French-held Namur in what is now southern Belgium. The French launched a massive bombardment of the mostly defenseless city centre with cannons and mortars, setting it on fire and flattening the majority of the Grand Place and the surrounding city. Only the stone shell of the town hall and a few fragments of other buildings remained standing. That the town hall survived at all is ironic, as it was the principal target of the artillery fire.

The square was rebuilt in the following four years by the city's guilds. Their efforts were regulated by the city councillors and the Governor of Brussels, who required that their plans be submitted to the authorities for their approval. This helped to deliver a remarkably harmonious layout for the rebuilt Grand Place, despite the ostensibly clashing combination of Gothic, Baroque and Louis XIV styles.

In the late 18th century, Brabant Revolutionaries sacked the Grand Place, destroying statues of nobility and symbols of Christianity. The buildings were neglected and left in poor condition, with their facades painted, stuccoed and damaged by pollution. By the late 19th century, a sensitivity arose about the heritage value of the buildings – the turning point was the demolition of L'Étoile guild house in 1852. Under the impulse of mayor Charles Buls, the Brussels' authorities had the Grand Place returned to its former splendour, with buildings being reconstructed or restored.

Let's go around the square. Each of the houses has its name. Let's meet, from left to right: Le Mont Thabor, La Rose, L'Arbre d'or, Le Cygne and L'Étoile, where you can find the passage for a horse-drawn tramway. Good to know something was done here especially for us, horses.

The Town Hall is the central edifice on the Grand Place. It was built between 1402 and 1455 and it is the square's only remaining medieval building. The Gothic tower is 96 m (315 ft) heigh. At its summit stands a 5 m (16 ft) tall statue of Saint Michael, the patron saint of Brussels, slaying a demon.

Going further clockwise we have Le Renard, Le Cornet, La Louve, Le Sac, La Brouette and at the end Le Roy d'Espagne, decorated with bust of Charles II of Spain, last Habsburg ruler of Spanish Empire. Please remember that from 1506 to 1713 Brussels and whole Southern (Catholic) Netherlands were part of the Spanish Empire.

Below we have the north-eastern fasade, with very impressive house that used to have the different names: Bread House (by 15th century), Duke's House (when it was the seat of Duke of Brabant) and King's House later.

Here you can admire it in its full beauty.

Let me introduce you to: Le Marchand d'or, Le Pigeon, La Chaloupe d'or, L'Ange, Joseph et Anne, Le Cerf. The last one houses fantastic shop of Godiva. You should try it!

And the last one: House of the Dukes of Brabant, in fact joining seven houses into one common facade.

The Grand Place was named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998.

Let's see what is behind the facades.

It is also beautiful and impressive.

Next week I will show you other interesting parts of the capital of the EU.

Saturday, 22 September 2018


All over the world the seas create islandic or peninsular forms. People tended to settle in such places for thousands of years, because they were easy to defend, great for fishing, trade and travels and very picturesque. 

Today we will visit a place like this that lies on the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea. Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Nesebar.

It is a city that is inhabited for more than 3 thousands years. Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Bulgars and Ottoman Turks have lived here. Please take a look on the three dimensional plan of the city. We will enter through the man-made isthmus on the right.

This is how the Nesebar's Old Town looks from the main coast. Do you see the wooden building on the left of the road leading there ?

Yes, you are correct. It is a wooden windmill

And here are the ruins of the city walls and the main entrance to the city. Have you noticed the table on the right ? 

There are various reasons why Nesebar is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. One of them is that it has highest number of churches per capita. There are 40 churches in the old town and there were moments in the city history when less than 2000 people used to live here. 

The oldest church in the city is Church of St Sophia or the Old Bishopric (Stara Mitropoliya) bulit in fifth and sixth centuries.

If you look for a church with a roof, let's find something more modern. The one below is called Church of St Stephen or the New Bishopric (Nova Mitropoliya) and comes from the tenth century.

Although to be precise, the mural paintings come from sixteenth century.

The paintings outside are quite impressive.

Let's go inside.

The paintings inside make huge impression.

Have you noticed similarity to the King's Chappel in Lublin? And Nesebar is over a thousand kilometers away from Lublin!

Please also admire the medieval pulpit.

The church below is the best preserved medieval church in whole Bulgaria - Church of Christ Pantocrator, from thirteenth and fourteenth century. The facade walls are decorated with various geometrical patterns from bricks and stone cubes, which is called ceramic plastic style and it is typical for most late medieval churches in Nesebar.

The building in front of us is Church of St. John's Aliturgetos. Aliturgetos means "not consecrated". The legend says that one of the builders fell down and was killed. The church canon did not allow a place where a man had been killed to be used for worship. In my opinion it is the most beautiful church in the city, at least from this side.

Because from the other side it does not look that impressive. Please look at the top of the stairs.

But Nesebar is not only about sacral buildings. There are also civil ones, like the Ancient Theatre.

Medieval Battle Tower.

Picturesque small streat giving shadow during sunny days.

Or modern oficial buildings like this city hall.

But let's not forget that the warm and calm Black Sea is everywhere around the island.

There you can spend whole day lying in the sun under umbrella.

Talk to the seagulls.

Or eat a lunch in a family restaurant where you can be sure the hosts speak your language, whatever it is, English, German, Italian, Bulgarian, Russian, Polish, etc. At least a few words.

But since the sunset is coming let's go to the next fantastic Bulgarian locations.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Life in a bunker

Travelling through the Bulgarian coast you can find interesting buildings from different historical times. Some of them are over 1000 years old, and some just 70 years, like the coastal defence bunker below. It was built to protect the seaside from the Soviet marine attack from the Black sea.

The entrance is from the land side. It is not straight to protect the soldiers inside from the fire of the potential attackers that could surprise them from the rear. Let's go inside, obviously holding our fire.

There is pretty much space inside and 2 meter wide walls ensure nice temperature even without air conditioning. Please note the metal curtains over the shoting windows. Closing them would ensure protection even during sleep.

On the walls you can see the original equipment from the Second World War: rifles (just with eliminated shooting mechanism), helmets, canteens & bags.

And a gas mask of course.

Unfortunatelly they are not my size. 

So I've asked my human friend to show you how Darth Vader looked in Second World War times.

We divided our duties. My friend was monitoring the beach through the binoculars.

And I was ready to fire from my light machine gun DP-27.

So beware and behave on the beach!