Sep 19

KIEV, BETWEEN THE GLORY OF THE PAST AND THE PROMISE OF THE FUTURE (КИ́ЕВ)

The former spiritual center of Russian Orthodoxy and the current capital city of Ukraine is a complex and contradictory metropolis.

Founded around 832 A.D., Kiev was originally an outpost of the Khazar Empire (writer Milorad Pavic had celebrated its memory in his famous Dictionary of the Khazars), an assimilation of Turkic nomadic tribes that created an empire between the Northern part of Caucasus and Pontic steppe. In 882, the city is taken into possession by Prince Oleg’s successor, Riurik, from a Scandinavian dynasty. Oleg unifies under the name of Orthodoxy all the Russian-speaking state formations state, founding the Kievan Russia. And so begins the great glory of the pious city, which focuses and strengthens for three and a half centuries, under the direct political, administrative and religious factor maneuvered by Russia.

Here, for example, during the first half of the eleventh century, the basis of Pecearska Lavra are beginning to raise up – the oldest monastery in Russian space. But the year 1240 brings the most terrible era of in the history of the place: the Mongol invasion of Batu Khan, which had destroyed Kiev literally, by fire. Rebuilt on the old foundations, it will be conquered again in 1321 by Gediminas, who will hand Kiev over to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1569, throughout a century, Kiev goes under Polish administration, as the residence of a semi-autonomous principality. Then it joins the Tsarist Russia, undergoing through a period of prosperity, especially in the nineteenth century, when, under the stimulus of the Industrial Revolution, it become the third city of the empire after St. Petersburg and Moscow. Between 1918 and 1920 the city has changes the ruling regime for about twenty times, its suzerainty being given, one by one, to White Russia, Red Russia, Poland and even transience first Ukrainian state. Finally, in 1921 it became the administrative center of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, one of the most oppressive entities of the USSR.

World War II triggered massive damage, but the postwar period brought Kiev back on the podium of the most important Soviet cities, and in 1991, the city gained the status of the capital of an independent state. Very recently, the tents of the Orange Revolution in Kiev dominated the Independence Square from November 2004 to January 2005, bringing it to power the right-wing candidate Victor Yushchenko who was later defeated in the electoral competition.

The fifteen centuries of political turmoil have not damaged the spirit of Kiev, though, and the city began its development and rebirth, despite periodic historical tragedy which it has been forced to face. Pecearska Lavra – the Monastery of the Grote (1015), the current headquarters of the Metropolitan Ukraine and Saint Sophia Cathedral, a genuine national sanctuary, whose construction began in 1037, are two sites on the list of monuments protected by UNESCO, and represent some of the most prestigious touristic sites. The entry into the old town is made through a Golden Gate, a replica of the one in Constantinople, partially destroyed by the Mongols in 1240.

Next to former Imperial Palace, there rises a Neoclassical building that houses the parliament – Rada. On the right bank of the Dnieper River, the impressive Museum of the Great Patriotic War dominates the panorama, guarded by giant Mother Country allegorical statue of 102 meters height and 530 tons. Other impressive statues evoke the personality of famous heroes of the nation, among who, Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky and King Vladimir the Great, canonized for his contribution in Orthodoxy among Ukrainians, Byelorussians and Russians.

The traditional protector spirit of the city is a pagan Slavic deity, Berehynia, a kind of Rusalka endowed with magical powers, while the modern spirit is embodied by … the legendary football coach Valeriy Lobanovskyi, creator of the great team Dinamo Kiev (winner of the Winners’ Cup in 1986 and defeated the following year in the European Super Cup Stars final), whose statue was erected at the entrance of the stadium that now bears his name.

Kiev was not only a metropolis dedicated to Eastern Orthodoxy, but also a renowned cultural center, whose fame is continued in modern times by institutions like the famous State Opera (with a ballet troupe often compared to that of the Opera in Saint Petersburg), several museums dedicated to traditional art but also parts of western art, a prestigious drama theater named “Ivan Franko” after the national poet who lived between 1856 and 1916, and also a famous puppet theater and a circus. On one of the many islands on the Dnieper there is built a water park with a Venetian theme, and in the southern part of Pirogovo city, there is an impressive museum of folk architecture of the Ukrainian village, dominated by a group of traditional windmills.

The beautiful secular chestnuts planted along the central boulevards are living emblems of a special relationship with nature, transforming the area into a fishing and water sports paradise, regardless of the season (if summer temperature reaches 30-34 degrees Celsius, during winter time, the river is covered by a layer of ice several meters thick – hence the ice fishing and skating performed as leisure time activities).

There are plenty of things to do and discover on a trip to Kiev. And nevertheless, you will fall in love with this wonderful city and its amazing everlasting spirit.

Photo source:

Picture 1: thousandwonders.net; Picture 2: commons.wikimedia.org; Picture 3: cqmsjt.com; Picture 4: bogdankijanica.com; Picture 5: ; Picture 6: commons.wikimedia.org; Picture 7: primetour.ua
Sep 19

THIS YEAR’S TOP FIVE POPULAR ATTRACTIONS IN SANTORINI (ΔΉΜΟΣ ΘΉΡΑΣ)

The views from the top of the rocks that will leave you breathless, whitewashed churches with blue domes and glittering treasures left by the extinct civilizations are just some of the reasons that make Santorini always present in the most prestigious touristic charts. Officially called Thira, sunny Santorini is undoubtedly the most beloved island of the Cyclades Archipelago, located in south-eastern Greece in the waters of the Aegean Sea.

Santorini is the place where the largest volcanic eruption in human history (from what we know so far) has taken place. If there was anything positive that came out from that terrible explosion is that it made possible the creation of several islands – a whole archipelago – out of one big island. At the same time it was also created the biggest attraction of the location: the island’s caldera. In addition, tourists who are fascinated by ancient history can visit the Minoan artifacts and ancient ruins buried by the eruption.

Known for dry white wines, picturesque beaches and nightlife, Santorini is a popular destination for visitors who want to relax, or have fun. Here’s a top five suggestion list of what to do and what to see in Santorini if you want to discover the archeologist within yourself:

1. Ancient Thera

Situated on high cliffs that face the sea between the beaches of Kamari and PerissaAncient Thera exposes ruins discovered in 1900. Ancient tombs, monuments, remains of houses, churches and fortifications represent a wide and representative post-Minoan display of artifacts. The Roman Baths, the Greek structures of the fourth century and the altar erected in the honor of Apollo, which is adorned with drawings of the eighth century, are absolutely remarkable and preserved in great state. In order to reach the ruins, visitors can climb by foot, straight from the beach or take the bus, taxi or their private car.

2. Therasia (Thirassia)

the island of Therasia is the perfect destination for tourists who want to enjoy the sunny atmosphere of Santorini. The largest of the five villages on this adjacent little isle, also called Therasia, has only around 150 inhabitants. It is accessible straight from the caldera via a rocky walkway. The little island has the same architecture as the picturesque Santorini and the population shares the same customs and traditions. Whether you visit it in a one day trip or that you decide to organize your entire stay there, Therasia offers visitors an authentic Greek experience on the island.

3. Pyrgos

It was once the capital of Santorini. The inner city is situated on a hill offering stunning views across the surrounding area. There are still remnants of a Venetian castle on top of this hill. Inside the castle walls there is a church which is believed to have been built in the tenth century. Relatively unchanged by the presence of tourists, Pyrgos site still has a good deal of medieval architecture. The village is surrounded by wineries that offer tours and free sessions of wine tasting. The wine reserved for dessert is called Vinsanto and is one of the best Greek products.

4. The Museum of Prehistoric Thera

Located in Fira, the capital of Santorini, the museum is the most important cultural attraction on the island. Opened in 2000, it holds treasures discovered on the Akrotiri site, including colorful frescoes. A representation of women picking saffron gives an insight into the life of that era. Blue monkeys are immortalized on other frescoes. Over time, in-depth researches have denied the existence of monkeys Santorini, which makes the existence of these frescoes a truly unusual purpose.

5. Kamari Beach

The biggest and most popular beach in Santorini is located near the village of the same name. The village and beach received its name from a small arch placed in between the rocks on the southern end of the beach, which represents a monument built in honor of the god Poseidon. This black sand beach is the most sought after on the island. It is crowded with hotels, bars and nightclubs. Besides sunbathing, scuba diving is also a popular activity.

But Santorini has a lot more to offer. It is a fascinating world-within-the-world and only a slice of Greece that, nevertheless, has its own identity. We shall help you discover other aspects of Santorini in future articles.

Photo source:

Picture 1: thetravelerschant.files.wordpress.com; Picture 2: santoriniholidaycars.com; Picture 3: santorinimytour.com; Picture 4: mygreecetravelblog.com; Picture 5: thetravelerschant.wordpress.com; Picture 6: weddings-in-santorini.com; Picture 7: roadfortwo.com

Sep 19

TOP 4 OF THE MOST FASCINATING LAKES IN EASTERN EUROPE

Europe has an extremely varied relief and some of the most popular natural sites have always been the lakes; partly because they usually provide an important source of food, but also because they are beautiful places that boost your mood and make you want to enjoy your time in the middle of nature.

Today we are going to visit four of some of the most fascinating, beautiful and popular lakes in Eastern Europe.

Lake Balaton in Hungary

Lake Balaton is the largest lake in Europe, covering an area of 600 square kilometers, with 78 kilometers long. Lake Balaton is a kind of substitute for the sea, since Hungary has no sea coast, and it is often called the “Hungarian Sea”.

And even if Hungarians have only a lake, topography and climate has helped so that the northern and southern half of the lake offers completely different attractions for tourists who want different things for their holiday.

Why visit?

In the southern half, between Siófok and Fonyód, you will meet a lot of resorts, sandy beaches, nightclubs, bars – no different from any other real summer resorts. This is fun for young people, but it is also preferred for families with children, and not only because of the resort’s sites, but also due to the characteristics of the lake, whose depth does not exceed three meters in this area. Furthermore, the beach season is fairly extensive, considering that the average temperature is 26 degrees Celsius from May to October.

The northern part of Lake Balaton is more “urban” with chic towns such as Keszthely, Badacsony and Balatonfüred with tourists who prefer walking by the lake, and enjoy the peace and relaxation of the vineyards, castles and hiking areas.

Tihany Peninsula is a very interesting spot, which almost splits the lake in two, an area where the lake’s depth reaches around 11.5 meters.

While in the area, do not miss a visit to the thermal lake of Hévíz, the largest of its kind in Europe; its water temperature does not exceed 24 to 26 degrees Celsius. Here, as well, you can also enjoy some time in Zalakaros, which is another spa resort sought by tourists.

Hungarians have always been able to explore to the maximum even the simplest location and transform it into a touristic attraction, and it is the same with Balaton, which is not just a destination, but a real beach or promenade spot that is among the most popular. During the season, more than 200 smaller or larger boats transit the lake and organize small cruises or other similar opportunities. Furthermore, both on the lake and in the adjacent area, tourists are offered a range of outdoor activities, from cycling (routes totaling 200 kilometers), windsurfing, sailing and water skiing.

For those active people who are addicted to adrenaline, places like Siofok and Balatonfüred feature several bungee jumping platforms and the most “quiet” tourists can opt for a tour of the vineyards and wineries in the area.

Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia

Baikal  is the largest and deepest lake in the world, and it reaches 1,642 meters deep and is a great attraction when it freezes. Photos taken during cold periods capture amazing ice carvings.

Why visit it?

This region has not been transformed by people and it attracts adventurers who are willing to endure even the most unfavorable conditions of the Russian frosty winters.

Morskie Oko The Eye of the Sea, Poland

One of the largest and deepest lakes in the Tatra Mountains, is surrounded by lush landscapes. Is the most popular tourist destination in this mountain range, attracting thousands of visitors each year.

Why visit?

There is a center for tourists and a cabin which offers visitors all touristic amenities at the highest levels.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

This natural reservation is one of the main attractions of the country. Mountainous landscapes and lakes with clear blue water have made the place one of the most famous and easily recognizable attractions in Europe. Throughout time water eroded the limestone structures which lead to karst formations. As a result, they formed numerous waterfalls, caves and lakes. Wildlife is also very varied: thanks to very low pollution and animal conservation, the unspoiled nature is home to many species.

Why visit?

There are several hiking trails: the main crosses the entire park and it takes 4-5 hours to go through. Boating clear water allows you to explore and see what is hiding in it.

Photo source:

Picture 1: lifefoc.com; Picture 2: lifefoc.com; Picture 3: allaboardbalaton.wordpress.com; Picture 4: natureandwinetravel.com; Picture 5: thisbluemarble.me; Picture 6: pinterest.com; Picture 7: ravelmoodz.com