May 04

The Moscow Metro (Metroul din Moscova)

While the subway train is generally perceived as a means of public transportation, you might be surprised to learn that in a particular part of the world, more precisely in Moscow, the metro is also a tourist attraction.

This occurs due to the impressive architecture of the construction and the works of art that decorate the metro stations: such as paintings, sculptures, mosaics, marble domes and even chandeliers. This is definitely not your average subway station where a damp and desolate atmosphere prevails due to the poor lighting, crowdedness, and lack of décor (the design is mainly created having practicality in mind, not for the purpose of pleasing the eye).

http://images.travelpod.com

 

General facts

The Moscow Metro is used on a daily basis by more than 9 million people (tourists or locals). Just to understand the massive agglomeration of the metro, you should know that the New York metro is used at half of the capacity of the one based in Moscow. This later one consists of 12 lines and more than 170 stations, each more beautiful than the next.

The architectural design is specific for the Soviet style, but it is impressive nonetheless. While we are generally reluctant to regard any accomplishments of the former dictator Joseph Stalin as glorious in itself, we do have to bow ourselves to him when it comes to the beautiful construction he developed in his time.

http://www.turistik.ro

 

It is precisely the design that has transformed the Moscow Metro into a cultural emblem of Russia and into a tourist attraction which draws visitors from all over the world to Moscow.

 

History

The metro lines were constructed over an extended period of time, but dedication was definitely not lacking. When it came to this project, Stalin was adamant in his decision to continue the work even if the Soviet Union was traversing a difficult time. Thus, neither World War II, nor the Cold War was an impediment in the construction of the Moscow Metro. In fact, some of the stations were constructed as shelters against nuclear attacks.

According to a popular legend, when the developers of the project presented themselves in front of Stalin to show their plans, the dictator was drinking coffee and spilled a drop on the mug. Displeased with what he saw, the dictator said nothing, but his actions were enough to express his opinion: he placed the mug right in the center of the plans, thus leaving a ring circle.

http://waveavenue.com

 

It seems that it was this circle that gave the planners the idea to incorporate a ring line into the design of the metro lines which would connect all of them. Whether or not this happened in reality, it cannot be said, but it does make an interesting story.

There is another aspect that attracts the attention of visitors: the Metro II line which was initially kept secret as it served communist purposes of transportation for the political leaders. However, there is no actual evidence that this line is or has been part of the Moscow Metro as the authorities have made no declarations in this regard, keeping the whole matter shrouded in mystery.

http://www.globespots.com

 

The impressive architecture is explained in an easy manner: the Soviet leaders envisaged an ideal urban society which would be guided by the communist principles. And it is precisely this ideal that it is represented in the decorative elements encountered all over the Metro: the grand staircases, the frescoes, the murals, the beautiful paintings and sculptures (located both at the interior and at the exterior).

Just to give an example, the Mayakovskaya train stop presents the “happy worker”, thus making propaganda for the good life experienced under the communist government. There is a series of values presented in the paintings illustrated here, but the tour de force of the station is the ceiling which is reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel, the difference lies in the socialist values depicted.

So if you are ever in Moscow, you should definitely check out the Metro because, leaving aside its practical function, it is a true work of art, representative for the socialist era.

May 04

Wilanow Palace (Palatul Wilanow)

The Wilanow Palace is a Polish edifice erected for King Jan Sobieski which comprises 60 rooms, the majority of them being filled with objects connected to the royal family, such as portraits, valuable artifacts and jewelry.

The estate, which contains a beautiful garden and the Wilanow Palace, carries a great importance for the Polish population. The edifice dates from the 17th century and it bear the mark of the architect August Locci. All the decorations are heavy in symbolism, representing various motifs from the ancient Greece and Rome.

http://www.zgodzinski.com

 

The interior decoration is representative for three different epochs: the oldest rooms (the royal suits which have a Baroque architecture) are located in the central part of the palace, the southern wing is decorated in the architectural style specific for the 18th century, whereas the northern wing bears the stamp of the 19th century – when the palace was property of the Potocki family.

Construction

The architect received order from the king to construct an edifice with only a ground floor which would respect the general plan usually followed by the Polish buildings. But the original plan was changed due to the military successes obtained and due to the fact that the royal family gained more importance. Thus the edifice was expanded so as to do justice both to the royalty and to the Republic of Poland.

http://sb.westfordk12.us

 

Massive transformations to the edifice took place between 1677 and 1696. The final result was a combination of Polish, Italian and French architectural elements. The edifice was inherited by the king’s sons, after Sobieski passed away. Other modifications to the edifice were conducted in 1730, under king August II the Strong, who mainly focused on the interior decoration.

Stanislaw Kostka Potocki, who became the owner of the Wilanow Palace in the 19th century, made a lot of efforts to enhance the value of the palace.  It was because of him that, in 1805, the palace housed one of the first museums located in the entire state.

Museum

The museum is structured in two parts: the downstairs and the first floor. Probably the most relevant area in the museum is the Gallery of Polish Portraits, where tourists can admire the paintings which illustrate the Polish monarchs, important figures in the history of the state (such as people who have played significant roles in national uprisings), or distinguished artists. The authors of these works of art are either of Polish or of foreign origin.

http://www.zacharz.com

 

The next part of the tour consists of visiting the royal suits. These were divided based on the purpose for which they were being used, such as apartments for parties, for receiving guests and friends, for official business, for sleep or for listening to music.

A unique collection of coffin portraits which is found nowhere else on the European continent can be admire at the museum. These are actually realistic portraits taken of the deceased noblemen once they were placed in their coffins and represent a distinctive characteristic of the Baroque style, encountered solely in Poland.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com

 

The practice was that the portrait of the nobleman was painted on metal and the representation was placed on the coffin, facing the mourners, so that the person that passed away could have an overview of the extravagant funeral services held in his/her behalf.

In fact, the majority of these pieces of art were created while the noblemen were still alive. So the detailing is quite impressive, in as much as we are offered a complex image of the nobility that dwelt in Poland during the 17th century.

http://us.123rf.com

 

Another point of attraction within the palace is represented by the statue of King Jan Sobieski, which was initially located near the main entrance. The sculpture, which was created in 1693, was meant as a reminder of how the king defeated the Turks.

But the statue was moved in 1729 as a result of the modifications conducted to the Grand Vestibule and it ended up in close proximity to the southern tower.

The grandeur of the edifice is noticeable upon a first look. Tourists are impressed with the architectural and decorative elements, as well as with the lavishness conveyed on the Wilanow Palace.

May 03

The Danube Delta (Delta Dunarii)

General information

The total surface of the Danube Delta measures 4.152 square kilometers – 3.450 km2 are actually located on the Romanian territory.

The delta is actually the result of the Danube flowing into the Black Sea and it is the newest geographical form in Romania and the largest reservation from the damp territories located on the European continent, being heavily traversed by channels, brooks, swamps and lakes.

http://whc.unesco.org

 

In 1990, the Danube Delta has been listed as part of the UNESCO patrimony and the reason for this is obvious: the delta can be seen as a vast natural laboratory as all sorts of chemical and biochemical processes of water decantation and purification occur in this territory (when the fresh water meets the marine water). The delta is also home to an increased number of beings.

The biological research conducted in the area concluded that upon flowing into the Black Sea, the water of the Danube contains, besides calcium carbonate, a consistent amount of plankton and microscopic fauna. It is in this exact place that the environment is appropriate for mollusk and shell fish proliferation.

http://www.discoverthetrip.com

 

The Danube Delta is still a wild environment, even harsh-looking upon a first gaze, but it is extremely generous in terms of the food and shelter which are at the disposal of the multitude of creatures that dwell in this region.

The diversity and beauty of this wilderness is not banned to human gaze as long as there are no interferences to the fundamental elements of the bio-system.

Flora and fauna

What makes the Danube Delta unique is the impressive flora and fauna it shelters within its boundaries, most of it consisting of rare species. These have adapted to a predominantly aquatic environment and this is what mostly intrigues and fascinates people. But the region does not consist only of water, as there are several crests located every now and then, such as Letea, Caraorman, Stipoc, etc.

http://www.freedomtreks.co.uk

 

The two types of environments are separated by a marshy area which is predisposed to flooding. However, this surface is not devoid of life. On the contrary, there are species which have adapted to each of the environments (water/ land) in as much as the territory is “populated” irrespective of the annual period or of the hydrological conditions.

Some of the species of plants that are found in the Danube Delta are the hornworn (Myrlophyllum), the white water lily (Nymphaea alba), the yellow pond lily (Nuphar luteum), the pond thistle  (Trapa nataus), the water plantain (Alisma plantago), various plants with flouting leafs and roots which can be found on the lakes’ shores, the duckweed (Lemna), the frog bit (Hydrocharis morsisrane) and many more.

http://www.discoverthetrip.com

 

The marshes and the flooded areas form a specific ecosystem which is characterized by bog reed plants and floating reed islet. The vegetation in this area is 80% bog reed. The remaining 20% is constituted of bulrush (Typha latifolia), water fern (Nephrodium thelypteris), pewter grass (Sairpus radicans), “Forget-me-not” flower (Myosotis palustris), yellow common iris (Iris prendocorus), poison hemlock (Cicuta virosa), the grey willow tree (Salix cinerea), etc.

There are also forestry areas, especially in the Letea and Caraorman Crests, where oak trees, as well as other types of trees grow. The most beautiful forestry area is Hasmacul Mare, located on Letea crest, which has been declared a natural monument back in 1938.

http://www.ecomagazin.ro

 

Another thing that attracts tourists to this area is the diversified species of birds which have transformed the Danube Delta into their natural habitat. It is precisely this aspect that has made the delta such a renowned place. There are more than 300 species of birds found here and 70 of them are actually not original from the European continent.

A study has been conducted recently and the discoveries pointed out that 166 of these birds are actually “permanent dwellers” of the delta, whereas the remaining part are only passing by during the hot seasons, when winter installs itself in their original habitat.

The Danube Delta is the place where a multitude of birds from around the world come together. Thus, we will encounter European species such as the sea swallow, the reed nightingale, white eagle, etc.; Siberian species (singing swan, the ember goose, the crane), Chinese (the mute swan, the big cormorant), and species from the Mediterranean area (pelicans, herons).

http://blog.perfect-tour.com

 

There are actually 9 endangered species found here, which are protected by the law. These are divided into two main categories based on the coloration of their feathers (white or multicolored). At present, there are other 3 species on the verge of being declared protected by law.

The Danube Delta has stirred the interest of many environmentalists and activists who have seen the damages inflicted in this natural paradise by man. Thus different projects have been developed so as to transform the Delta, if not totally, then partially, a natural reservation.

http://www.theepochtimes.com

 

What it has not been said yet, although you have probably already deduced it, is that the Danube Delta offers a great imagery of nature. So if you want to enjoy a relaxing vacation, surrounded by natural landscapes, where all the worries are left behind in the city you have departed from, then the delta will definitely be the appropriate choice for you.

What is more, you can see a multitude of species which are located nowhere else on the Romanian territory, and as it has been mentioned previously, some are not even found on the European continent.

May 03

Tseravets Fortress (Fortareata Tseravets)

This fortress is located on Tseravets Hill (which explains the name of the fortress) and it was actually the first citadel under the Second Bulgarian Empire – The Second Bulgarian Empire was the most powerful state in the southeastern part of the European continent for 2 centuries (from the 1185 until 1393).

The citadel, which was erected on the foundations of a former Byzantine construction, held within its walls the royal residence and patriarchal palaces. But the original construction (the Byzantine one) has been constructed between the 5th and the 7th centuries.

http://www.redbubble.com

 

The structure of the keep consisted of walls, which measure 10 feet in thickness, and of 3 gates. The main entrance to the citadel was found on the western part of the edifice, whilst the second one was located at a 60-feet distance from the first one. As it has been mentioned there was a third gate as well but this was demolished after 1889.

Tseravets Fortress is actually an ensemble of fortified edifices. The royal residence has in its turn a fortified wall through which access is done by means of two gates (on the northern and on the southern parts). The structure of this palace, which measures 4872 square meters, comprises two towers, a throne room and a church.

http://www.bgtravel.com

 

The Patriarchal Palace is impressive through its stature. It is extremely elevated, pointing toward the sky. In 1981, when Bulgaria celebrated 1300 years since the state took form, the edifice was restored. The painting work occurred in 1985 as a way to celebrate the liberation of Vizantia. The paintings were illustrative of different medieval times in the history of Bulgaria.

The archeological discoveries concluded that the hills were originally the site of residential neighborhoods, as the number of edifices found on the site exceeded 420: the number of dwellings calculated surpassed 400, while 18 were churches.

http://www.flickr.com

 

The restoration work for Tseravets Fortress was initiated in 1930 and was carried on for a great number of years. In 1930, the first gate was restored, together with the Baldwin Tower. The fortification located at the top of the ensemble of buildings did not receive any mending until 1981. But the decoration of this edifice was done 4 years later.

But even if the entire project seems to have been quite strenuous, what counts is the result, and that is that the edifice has been preserved more or less to its original look. And this means that tourists can gaze on the medieval fortification. (However, there are actually divergences in terms of the fortification having been remodeled according to the initial plan. Scientists are actually adamant in their conclusion that the ensemble was transformed during restoration).

http://www.visitvelikoturnovo.com

 

Today, visitors can barely recognize what was once a monastery (dating from the 12th century). The remains of this edifice are found next to the fortified walls, but not much can be made of them. In the northern part of the ensemble, visitors can see the remains of another monastery, this one dating from the 13th century. An important attraction is the so-called Execution Rock, named this way due to the purpose for which it had been used. Traitors of the Empire were forced to ascend the rock from whence they were pushed into the river below, the Yantra.

It is truly amazing how you seem to traverse time and enter into a totally different period. Whilst some of the edifices have been badly or completely ruined by the passage of time, as well as by the hand of man, there are sites which still recall of the glorious days of the medieval city.

May 02

Matthias Church (Biserica Matthias)

Matthias Church is one of the most important touristic attractions located in the Hungarian capital city, Budapest.

Initially, on this site another church was founded (between 1255 and 1269) during the reign of King Bela IV. Throughout time, the church underwent several reconstructions. Different sections of the edifice had been extended; these were developed in a polygonal shape at the end of the 14th century.

The entrance door which contains a beautiful bas-relief that illustrates the Death of the Virgin Mary dates from the same period.

http://www.planetware.com

 

Important events occurred within the walls of the church. For example, Charles Robert of Anjou had been crowned king in this church in 1309, thus becoming King Carol I of Hungary.

The name of the church is given after King Matthias, who had made several modifications to the edifice. He added lateral chapels, an oratory for the royal family and a new tower (to the southern wing). It was in this specific tower that the weapons of Matei Corvin were sheltered in 1470. However, at present, the weaponry is located within the church.

http://www.budapestdailyphoto.com

 

1526 was a fatidic year as the edifice was destroyed in a fire. The edifice shifts “religions” as 15 years later, during the Turkish domination, it is transformed into a mosque. But after the Turks are driven away, the Matthias Church undergoes massive renovation work, conducted by the Jesuits, who rename the edifice The Coronation Church. The building followed the Baroque architectural style.

The church is once again chosen as the site of royal coronation in 1867 when Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and his wife Elizabeth (also known as “Sissi”) have been crowned king and queen of Hungary.

http://www.debihazelden.co.nz

 

Another reconstruction occurred between 1874 and 1896, this time in a Gothic style. In fact,  the appearance conveyed to the church at that time is still noticeable today, as the church has been preserved as such.

World War II badly damaged the edifice, but Matthias Church was restored, a project that took many years to be completed. The work had to be done attentively and patiently if the former design was to be preserved. On each side of the entrance door, you can notice a statue: the statue of King Stephan I and of King Ladislau I.

http://en.wikipedia.org

 

The interior design comprises a diversified array of geometrical shapes and floral ornaments which are reminiscent of the former mosque that existed here. The frescoes and the strained-glass windows, together with the neo-gothic altar date from the 1890s.

Matthias Church is also the home of the Ecclesiastical Art Museum where a multitude of objects are on display. Among the most valuable ones, tourists can admire a medieval crypt, the Saint Stephan’s Chapel, royal pieces of jewelry dating from the medieval time, sacred relics, as well as replicas of the Hungarian Royal Crown.

 

Visiting Hours:

Daily from 9:00 to 18:00

Price:

400 Hungarian Forints

May 02

Vienna’s Museum of Natural History (Muzeul de Istorie Naturala)

The Museum of Natural History, which has been constructed by King Franz I as a “Cabinet of Natural Sciences” for the Vienna Imperial Court, is a place where tourists can get insight into the history of the earth and the diversity of nature.

http://www.wn.com

 

The museum occupies the third position among the top largest museum in the world, being surpassed only by the New York and London Museums. The architects behind the project were Gottfried Semper and Carl Hasenauer who have designed the museum in 1748 as an annex to the Museum of Art History. The official inauguration occurred back in 1889.

The construction is the epicenter of Vienna and attracts millions of tourists every year. The edifice has a surface of almost 8.700 square meters and has more than 22 million pieces on exhibition. The array ranges from insects to precious stones and minerals, from extinct animals to animals threatened by extinction.

http://www.flickr.com

 

The museum is definitely worth your time as you will have the opportunity to visit the Gem Hall where precious stones are on display, among which you can also admire a gigantic topaz which weights 117 kg, and the exquisite statue “Venus of Willendorf,” an ancient sculpture which has almost 25.000 “years of age.”

It is this small statue, but highly renowned that stands as a reminder of a forgone time – of the incipient stages of civilization. Another item reminiscent of the planet’s evolution is the skeleton of a Diplodocus (a large vegetarian dinosaur with an extremely long neck).

http://www.tripadvisor.com

 

If you are interested in evolution, then this is definitely the place to visit. The Dinosaur Hall is a specially arranged section of the museum where all sorts of skeletons of primitive animals are found. The hall also holds an accurate replica of an Allosaurus (a therapod dinosaur that lived in the late Jurassic Period).

The reproduction is actually developed based on scientific discoveries so there is no doubt that it presents the original to the core.  In order to make the model as realistic as possible, the developers have made it move and roar so as to capture the essence of the dinosaur.

http://www.checkpointmedia.com

Tours are organized only accompanied by a guide but this is actually to your advantage as you will get valuable information about the objects on display. A highly appreciated moment in the tour is the visit to the museum’s roof which offers a beautiful image of Vienna.

So if you are ever in Vienna, you should make it one of your priorities to visit the Museum of Natural History as it is one of the most valuable museums in the world. It is impressive through the multitude of objects (located in 39 exhibition halls) which offer clear evidence of the evolution of the planet: of humanity, of the plant and animal life.

http://www.psrd.hawaii.edu

 

The museum was meant as the “the land of nature and its exploration” – this being the scope for which it had been developed by Franz I. Today, the people who conduct scientific research in behalf of the museum have the same objective in mind: they want to continue the legacy of the monarch.

May 02

Vidraru Dam and Vidraru Accumulation Lake (Barajul si Lacul de acumulare Vidraru)

Vidraru Accumulation Lake is an artificial lake situated on Arges River. The lake was developed back in March 1966, when the Vidraru Dam was created. It is located in between two mountains, Fruntii and Ghitu, and extends over 393 ha (10,3 km in length and 2,2 km at its widest part, in the Wolf-Nun Valley area). The dam measures 166 m in height while the depth of the lake reaches 155 m – where it meets the dam.

http://www.turism-arges.ro

Vidraru Dam took five and a half years to be completed. In order to make the project come alive, 42 km of underground galleries have been constructed, 1.768.000 square meters of rock have been excavated, close to 1 million cubic meters of concrete have been poured and 6.300 tons of electromechanical equipment have been used.

When it was inaugurated, the dam occupied the fifth place on the European continent and the ninth in the world in terms of size. It is a double curved structure made out of concrete and it is composed of 22 vertical electrical pieces meant to hold the concrete walls together.

http://www.flickr.com

 

The length of the dam, on the upper side is of 307 m and it is traversed by 9 horizontal interior galleries. The immense construction was built with human sacrifices, as almost 80 individuals lost their lives during the building process. The hydro-electric power plant which is located underground (in the Citadel Mountain) produces around 400 GWh of energy on an annual basis with the help of its turbines and the electrical generators.
The dam is illuminated at night, in as much as you can actually spot it from a plane. Access to the dam is done through the eastern shore of the lake, by the road that leads to Balea.  In order to fully grasp the splendor of nature, tourists should ascend on the Belvedere Platform which provides a panoramic image of the surroundings.

http://www.tase.ro

 

Several hundred meters from Vidradu Dam, tourists can visit “Arges House” and the dock where recreational cruises by boat are organized. If you are an adventurer seeking to try out extreme sports, you will be pleased to learn that the dam has the highest bungee jumping in this area.

You need to understand that the dam carries high economic significance as it is an important provider of electricity. But, the construction in itself is an important touristic attraction gathering visitors from all over the world. The immensity of the dam makes the most confident person feel humble, and the beauty of the scenery is definitely worth the trip to Vidraru.

Apr 27

Daugavpils Fortress (Cetatea Daugavpils)

Daugavpils Fortress, which also goes under the name of Dinaburg Fortress, is located in Latvia. The edifice dates from the 19th century, but the plan for the structure was developed in the 18th century.

In 1772, the Russian Tsar Alexander I passed a decree which attested that the fortification had to be constructed. But it was not until 1810, when Napoleon Bonaparte attacked the Russian Empire, that the actual construction work was initiated.

http://www.latvia.travel

 

But the project took a long time to be completed, more exactly since 1878, due to a multitude of factors such as several delays in construction and the slow pace with which the progress of the building took place, not to mention that the construction site was inundated several times.

But irrespective of the obstacles encountered in its path, the fortress was finished and even more, it endured the inflictions of time on its walls with “dignity”, as it is the only citadel of its kind on the European continent to have remained almost unaltered to this day.

The Daugavpils Fortress is reminiscent of the glorious historical past of Imperial Russia. But the citadel should not be associated only to the wars it has been a part of.  For exampple, the Arsenal Building within the fortress shelters a valuable collection of Mark Rothko’s works of art (Impressionist paintings).

Tsar Alexander I was intent in constructing a fortified edifice which could hold 4.500 soldiers within its walls. More so, the structure had to be equipped with 595 cannons. The new edifice was inaugurated on the 21st of May 1833 when an official ceremony was organized. But the fortress was far from being completed.

http://www.latvia.travel

 

The fortification work for the outer walls went on even after the official inauguration. In order to impede the floods to take hold of the city, a dam was erected. This had 7 km in length and was finished in 1841.

Daugavpils Fortress had witnessed quite a few events, all related to wartime. Just to name a few, people considered “enemies of the state” were incarcerated in this fortress – after the Decembrists Revolt in 1825. Likewise, during WWII, the Nazis conquered the citadel and transformed part of it into a concentration camp where Russian hostages were incarcerated – the camp was named “Stalag 340”.

http://www.seligman.org.il

 

After the war, from 1948 until 1993, the citadel was transformed into a School of Military Aircraft Engineering.

A decisive step was taken back in 2004 when the Latvia’s Ministers decided that the fortress had to be sold – either to be sectioned and sold fragment by fragment or to be traded in its entirety. So the future of the citadel is shrouded in uncertainty.

Apr 27

Peterhof Palace (Palatul Peterhof)

Peterhof Palace is actually an ensemble of palaces and gardens, located in Sankt Petersburg, built by the order of Peter the Great. Peterhof is considered the Russian equivalent of the Versailles Palace, but once you gaze on the majestic edifice you might find yourself among the group of people who consider the comparison to be detrimental to the magnificence of the Peterhof.

http://goeasteurope.about.com

 

Peter the Great did draw inspiration from the Versailles upon designing the estate, but the result exceeds the original by long. Empress Elizabeth, the Tsar’s daughter was extremely fond of the palace, in as much that she extended the entire domain.

The first step was to enhance the Grand Palace and then the gardens. The exterior underwent massive transformations as they were adorned with an impressive number of fountains, to which a cascade was added: the Grand Cascade.

Peterhof was no longer the official royal residence under Catherine the Great, who chose Pushkin instead. But Tsar Nicholas I changed this and Peterhof become once again the imperial dwelling. It was during the reign of Nicholas I that the Cottage Palace was constructed – back in 1826.

http://www.guide-guru.com

 

WWII left its imprint on this estate. The German armies pillaged the palace, together with other residences found in the area. But Peterhof was not left to chance. The ensemble of parks and palaces was the first to be reconstructed. The restoration work, conducted by the military engineers and by the impressive number of volunteers who signed up to help with the revival of Peterhof (more than 1.000 people), was completed in 1947.

 

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is the focal point of the ensemble and was the first one to be erected. The construction work was initiated in 1714 by the architect Jean Baptiste Le Blonde, but the palace was finalized 7 years later (in 1721).

Tsar Peter the Great was extremely passionate about the imperial estate in as much that he urged the constructors to undertake a massive work load in a short period of time. Thus, the Lower Park was arranged, the Sea Canal was built, as well as the Marly and Monplaisir Palaces, and the Hermitage (but this was partially constructed in this timeframe).

http://misfitandmom.wordpress.com

 

When the Grand Palace was finished, this seemed unfit for the overall presentation (especially since the landscaping was so exquisitely performed), so the Tsar ordered the architects to make it worthy for the imperial residence by enlarging it.

But the death of Peter the Great in 1725 represented a turning point for the palace as this was practically abandoned. It was not until the Tsar’s daughter, Elizabeth, became empress that the construction work was continued at Peterhof. Bartolomeo Rastrelli was appointed by the empress to erect a unique edifice, worthy of the imperial family.

The architect did not want to replace the initial building, but to incorporate it in his design. As surprising as this might be, the new palace is the epitome of elegancy, without being too overbearing. The architect knew exactly what architectural style and decorative elements to use for the palace.

http://www.cruises.about.com

 

The edifice is reflexive of the neoclassical and minimalist styles. The interior is extremely extravagant and even though this had to be redesigned after the Second World War, when so many damages were inflicted on the palace, the unity of the elements is preserved. Thus the edifice maintains its magnificence in its entirety.

The first thing that tourists cast their eyes on while entering the Grand Palace is the grand staircase. The décor abounds in frescoes, golden statues and exquisite pieces of furniture. The lavishness of the edifice is obvious from the bejeweled elements of decoration, porcelains and fine silks which adorn the rooms. The imperial private chambers, which are extremely luxurious, are decorated in the 19th century style.

Visiting hours for the Grand Palace:

Tuesday – Sunday: from 10:30 until 17:00;

Monday: closed (as well as in the last Tuesday of each month).

 

Fountains

When Peter the Great first envisaged the Peterhof Palace, fountains were an intrinsic part of its design. In fact, it was precisely his determination to incorporate fountains in the ensemble that led to the decision to change the site for the construction from Strelna to Peterhof.

http://www.flickr.com

 

The reason was that the land in Strelna did not benefit from enough water so as to make the complex system of fountains come to life.  His desire was met to the fullest. Not only did he get the fountains he so badly desired, but his followers completed his work by adding inventive elements to the waterpark.

One such outstanding system is the Grand Cascade which is made out of 64 fountains, more than 200 bronze sculptures, bas-reliefs and other impressive elements of décor. The entire system draws the water by means of the pipes located in the Grotto. This is situated behind the Grand Cascade and it was originally used as the site for small parties.

Some of the most renowned fountains from the array are the Chess Cascade, the Pyramid Fountain and Joke Fountains. In this latter collection, there is one fountain which sprinkles water on those that pass by, if they happen to walk on a certain paving stone. (You can now understand why these are called the Joke Fountains).

http://www.bestrussiantour.com

 

Naturally, the fountains are not functional throughout the year. These are usually turned on at the end of May and the moment does not go unnoticed. There is a festival held in that specific day which involves all sorts of performances, fireworks and classical music. The fountains are not turned on all at once, but each sector in its own due time. It is truly an amazing “event”.

Marly Palace

The Marly Palace was built by the orders of Peter the Great and served as his retreat place. The edifice is constructed in the Baroque style and it is a reflection of a Parisian edifice, the Marly Le Roi royal hunting house.

The construction of this palace consisted first of digging two ponds (a quadrilateral one and a semicircular one) which were meant to enclose Marly Palace. Johann Brounstein, the architect behind the structure, constructed a one-floor edifice, but the result did not satisfied the Tsar who wanted a grandeur palace.

http://www.saint-petersburg.com/

 

As a consequence, an additional story was constructed in 1723. But even if the two floors were constructed separately, these combine harmoniously, forming a unity. The image conveyed is wonderful. The palace, with its serene appearance, is mirrored in the clear water of the ponds.

After the death of the Tsar, no one used the Marly as dwelling any more. In turn, the edifice was transformed into a storehouse for the Tsar’s personal belongings, such as clothes, pieces of art, furniture, or objects of décor. In fact, many of these are still preserved at Marly, and thus being available for tourists.

Visiting hours for Marly Palace:

May – September: Tuesday – Sunday: 10:30 – 17:00;

Monday closed;

October – April: Saturday- Sunday: 10:30 – 17:00.

Apr 26

Nis Fortress (Fortareata Nis)

Nis Fortress is located in Serbia, on the bank of the river Nisava. The citadel was built on top of the remains of a byzantine fortification and a Roman military base. It took five years to complete the edifice (from 1719 until 1723), which at present is one of the best kept monuments in the middle Balkan area.

http://serbiantiger.blogspot.com

 

Among the edifices preserved intact are the armor room, the Turkish steam bath (built in the 15th century), the Bali mosque (dating from the 16th century), the lady’s room, and the prison.

Structure

Nis Fortress has an irregular polygonal structure which measures 22 hectares. The length of the walls reaches 2.100 m, with a height of 8 m and a thickness of 3 m. The fortification has 8 terraces and 4 massive gates: the Stambol Gate, located in the southern part of the citadel, the Belgrade Gate to the west, the Vidin Gate to the north and the Jagodina Gate in the south eastern part.

http://www.panoramio.com

 

The stone used to erect the edifice was brought from a nearby quarry called the Hum, but there were additional materials used in the construction of the monuments or mausoleums. The fortress has a trench dug around it for defense purposes. While in times of peace the trench was left empty, in wartime, it was filled with water taken from the Nisava River.

http://www.tripadvisor.com

 

The fortification contained various barracks and military structures, as well as several shops and a house of worship. But not all of these have survived the passage of time. The remaining edifices are several gunpowder deposits, the Bali-beg mosque and an arched structure.

Taking into account the fact that the Turks were the ones to erect the fortress, it is no wonder that Nis features characteristics of the Arab architectural style.

A wooden system and an additional structure were developed so as to fortify the wall of the citadel at the interior.

http://www.localyte.com

 

If the fortress undergoes an ample restoration work, it will once again become an enclosed fortification, mirroring the original plan of the edifice. But even if this construction work is not initiated by the government, there are still many things to see at the site. Nis Fortress has been declared a national monument, a place where history and culture blend.

Since 1966, the city of Nis organizes on an annual basis a Film Festival at the fortress so if you intend to visit the place, you ought to schedule your trip so as to be able to participate at the event.