Jul 23

Turaida Museum Reserve

Take a tour of the Latvian historical past and familiarize yourself with the ancient monuments and architectural wonders which have lingered on from the 11th century due to projects aimed at preserving the jewels of the past and which now enthrall the contemporary society.

The Museum Reserve has become a part of the Latvian cultural heritage due to the numerous memorials which are sprinkled throughout the 42 hectares that make up the site. It is worth mentioning that the administration of the museum reserve is interested in attracting visitors to the area but these developments do not interfere with the landscape by any means. On the contrary, the management pays great attention to the surroundings and is intent on preserving the area to its original appearance.

http://www.latvia.travel/en/turaida-museum-reserve

http://www.latvia.travel/en/turaida-museum-reserve

The reserve is situated at a 50 km distance away from the Latvian capital city, Riga, and it bears an immense importance in the country’s culture. Its beauty and archeological and architectural richness have been appreciated since the early beginning and are ‘responsible’  for the name attached to the site. Turaida is a word pertaining to the language used by the ancient dwellers of the area, the Livonians, and translates as ‘God’s garden.’ Further explanations concerning the designated term seem purposeless as all the clarifications are encompassed in the name itself.

Amid the monuments of the reservation, the Turaida Castle stands out due to its imposing construction. Seen from above, the majestic look of the casle is underlined. The red brick edifice pierces through the foliege which embrace it on all sides, creating a beautiful intertwining of the red and green colors.

The construction of the castle was initiated in the early years of the 13th century, in 1214 more precisely, on the grounds of a former wooden castle, but it continued in the centuries to come. The developments in terms of defense systems have contributed to the further improvement of the castle. But regardless of the enhancement produced, the medieval elements are still noticeable on the walls of the edifice.

http://www.dayout.lv/node/141

http://www.dayout.lv/node/141

Another element of significance which would definitely entice the visitors is the garden of sculptures which has been put together in order to honor the Latvian folklore. Legends are an important part of the Latvian culture and this specific garden will allow visitors to get a glimpse of the country’s traditions. In the Turaida Museum Reserve, tourists also get the chance to visit one of the oldest churches in the country, the Turaida Church, which has been constructed at the middle of the 18th century (1750).

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g274969-d289077/Sigulda:Latvia:Turaida.Castle.html

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g274969-d289077/Sigulda:Latvia:Turaida.Castle.html

The area is not renowned solely for its historical monuments but also for the specific environment. The setting is sprinkled with rare plants and crystal clear water courses which might be alluring to nature-lovers.

At present, there are exhibitions held within the castle which retrace the history of the monument step by step, starting from its construction year and throughout the development and restoration periods.

Apr 29

Curtea de Arges

We will once again venture on Romanian land and uncover a new tourist attraction which will definitely be to your liking. This article is dedicated to Curtea de Arges, a unique city located amid the sub-Carphathian hills. Why is this specific place the topic of a new article? Probably because it comprises distinctive attractions in which history and myth combine harmoniously.

The city is situated in a mountainous setting, in close vicinity of the Arges River, which can only mean that you are going to enter into a picturesque site which will indulge your senses. Those seeking peace and tranquility are bound to find that Curtea de Arges and its surroundings display such qualities.

http://turism-arges.ro/despre-arges.html

http://turism-arges.ro/despre-arges.html

It is not certain how the city came into being but there are several speculations revolving around its development. Some consider that the archaeological diggings conducted in the area revealed that Dacians were inhabiting the place in the year 500 B.C. Others however, who base their presumptions also on archaeological discoveries, deem that the area has not been inhabited prior to the 11th century. But if we cannot say for sure when the city was formed, then we ought to focus on the architectural jewels it offers to its visitors.

Venturing on the streets of the city we will come across various constructions which will undoubtedly capture our attention such as the Municipal Museum, the Episcopacy or the Arges Monastery. Remnants of the Old Royal Court are still preserved. The court was constructed in the 14th century, shortly after the victory obtained in the Battle of Posada and while the centuries that had gone by have gravely deteriorated the court, the remaining fragments still allude to the glorious past of the Wallachians. In fact, this is the reason for which the city is known as Curtea de Arges (Court of Arges).

http://www.adielatravel.ro/statiuni-montane/curtea-de-arges-campulung-muscel_s42.html

http://www.adielatravel.ro/statiuni-montane/curtea-de-arges-campulung-muscel_s42.html

The Royal Church was constructed in the same period as the court, but unlike the later, the former has managed to be kept untarnished by the devastating marks inflicted by time. Not only did the building itself managed to survive throughout the years, but so did the mural painting which wonderfully adorned the church. This was possible due to the several renovations the church underwent. The church was constructed in the Byzantine architectural style and consisted of three distinctive rooms: the nave, the narthex and the altar.

The Arges Monastery is another place of interest especially since there is a legend which revolves around its construction. The myth of creation through sacrifice is deeply ingrained into the Romanian culture and the construction of the monastery is the embodiment of this myth.

Legend has it that the ruler of Wallachia, Radu Voda, was determined to build the most beautiful monastery anyone has ever seen as a way to thank God for the victories he had attained in battles. So he chose the mason Manole to accomplish this task. However, the master mason could not fulfill what he was appointed to do because everything he and his team had managed to complete during the day, was shattered by some unknown force during the night. This occurred for several nights and nothing could explain why this happened. Devoid of other ideas which might lead to the monastery actually being constructed, Manole turned to the mythical interpretation that any act of creation is in need of a sacrifice. So he has decided that a living woman should be put into the walls of the monastery so that the construction could stand erect. Since they could not decide which woman to sacrifice, they decided to let fate intervene and appoint the victim.

http://www.trilulilu.ro/imagini-calatorii/manastirea-argesului-1

http://www.trilulilu.ro/imagini-calatorii/manastirea-argesului-1

The plan was to sacrifice the first woman who would arrive at the construction site in the morning. But the masons could not stand by and watch how one of their wives was sacrificed so they warned them to stay at home the following morning. Manole  was the only one who did not inform his wife about the plan because he believed that his fellow workers would respect the agreement and thus fate would decide for them. But Anna, unaware of what was going on, arrived at her husband’s work only to face her doom. Manole had to hold true to his words so he took Anna and sacrificed her in order to allow his creation to come to life.

The truthfulness of this story is questionable but the outcome of it is that a beautiful monastery was erected in Curtea de Arges and that it constantly impresses the passers-by through its craftsmanship.

Oct 10

The Independence Square (Piata Independentei)

The Independence Square, also known as Maidan Nezalezhnosti, is the central square of the Ukrainian capital city, Kiev. The name of this square has changed throughout time due to specific events that took place here, events that influenced the nation to a certain extent. The present name attached to the square derives from the political action of 2004 which led to the freedom of Ukraine.

The importance of the Independence Square cannot be expressed in a few of words. The history of this specific location dates back a couple of centuries and in each of these long gone periods of time the square had played a significant role in the development of the Ukrainian nation.

http://pictures-photos.ukraine-photo.com

In the first decades of the 19th centuries, the first accommodation facilities were built in the area. These were preponderantly made out of wood, but the stone dwellings did not take long to appear (in the 1850s). Probably the most relevant public figure to have dwelt in the area was Taras Shevchenko, the prominent Ukrainian writer.

While the area was not among the most developed regions in the country, this changed dramatically in the middle of the 19th century when due to commercial progress the square became the center of the city. Kiev expanded greatly during the Russian Industrial Revolution, when it occupied the 3rd position among the most important cities in the Russian Empire.

http://en.wikipedia.org

At the beginning of the 20th century (in 1919) the square became known as the Soviet Square, but this name was later transformed into Kalinin Square, after Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin, the leader of the USSR.

The first reconstruction of the square occurred in the years subsequent to the Soviet War, when the area was completely rebuild from the ground up. The architectural design conveyed to the square was neo-classical Stalinist, the same architecture which was noticeable in the buildings located in vicinity of the square, buildings which were erected in the same timeframe.

http://humanandnatural.com

The second reconstruction occurred in 1976. This time, the square was damaged due to the project undertaken by the municipality to construct the metro, a project which affected everything situated above the area of construction. With this occasion, the square was renamed the October Revolution Square. The reconstruction process took place more or less around the time of the year when the October Revolution occurred so the decision to rename the square was obvious. With the occasion of commemorating the 60 years that had gone by since the October Revolution, a colossal cubist monument and a system of fountains were erected.

In 2001, the square was heavily used as the scene for major protests. In order to prevent such occurrences, the mayor of the city decided to begin another “reconstruction” work for the square. In fact the whole purpose of this plan was to fence the area so as to ban any demonstrators from entering the square.

http://www.123rf.com

But the project did alter the appearance of the square. The elaborate system of fountains, as well as the general look of the Independence Square was changed. The modifications were not necessarily positive. When revealed, the project was not received with appreciation by the viewers. Many did not know how to react when presented with the new square.

But the importance of this specific location goes beyond its look. The square was in fact the center of the public political activity. In the latter decade of the 20th century, the square was used as the center place for various political demonstrations and hunger strikes, events which contributed extensively to the change of the political leaders that were in power. The prime minister at that time, Vitaliy Masol, turned in his resignation when faced with the public’s disdain.

These are but a few of the important events that center around the Independence Square. It is a place filled with history which plays a valuable role in the Ukrainian culture.

If you are in Kiev or you plan on spending your vacation here and you need  to find accommodation for one or several nights, there are different suggestions in terms of apartment rentals at the following link: http://www.accommodation.kiev.ua/pages/apartments.htm

Apr 25

St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Catedrala Sf. Alexandru Nevsky)

St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is high in symbolism as it is commemorative in nature. The cathedral was constructed between 1882 and 1912 and was dedicated to the brave Russian soldiers who participated in the Russo-Turkish War of 1878 and who have sacrificed themselves in order to liberate the Bulgarian population from under Turkish domination.

http://www.hiero.ru

 

It was this particular battle that had put an end to 5 centuries of Ottoman ruling over this land and had given the Bulgarians their freedom.

 

Location and Structure

The cathedral is located in a square which bears the same name and it is found in close proximity of another memorial of high value: the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. The edifice, which is one of the largest Orthodox Cathedral on the planet, consists of five naves and it is beautifully adorned by frescoes, mosaics, stained glass windows, marble and sculptures.

St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral has a surface of 34.100 sq. ft. and it is big enough to house as much as 10,000 people within its walls.

http://www.panoramio.com

 

The cathedral has a neo-byzantine architectural style, the interior being richly and colorfully adorned. The materials used in the décor are Italian marble, alabaster, onyx, gold and the like. The edifice has an impressive dome which measures 45 m in height and a belfry of 53 m. There are 12 bells found in the cathedral which range in terms of their weight, the heaviest one reaching 12 tons.

The original plan of the edifice was developed by Ivan Bogomolov, but this was changed almost in its entirety by the architect Alexander Pomerantsev who supervised the construction of the cathedral. The final result was the merit of a group of artists, engineers and workers from different parts of Europe: Bulgaria, Russia, Austria, Hungary, etc.

http://www.bustler.net/

 

The decorative elements were not manufactured in Bulgaria, but where shipped to this country from different parts of the world: the marble and the lighting equipment was brought from Munich, the gates were made in Vienna but with parts brought in from Berlin, whereas the mosaics were transported from Venice.

The name of the edifice

The cathedral did not bear the same name all the time. There was a brief period when the edifice was known as the St. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral (from 1916 until 1920). This shift in name occurred as a consequence of the fact that Russia and Bulgaria fought on opposite sides of the battlefield during the Second World Conflagration.

But afterwards, the edifice received its former name. It was in 1924, more exactly on the 12th of September, that the edifice was officially recognized as a cultural monument.

http://www.waymarking.com

 

The edifice also has underground catacombs which have been transformed into a museum where various iconographic representations are on display. The officials of the cathedral sustain that this museum is home of one of the largest collections of Orthodox icons on the European continent, although there is no evidence to support this statement.

Other tourist attractions

Tourists that decide to visit St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral will be pleased to learn that there is another church situated in close proximity of the cathedral – St. Sofia Church. There are also other symbols of the Bulgarian culture situated in this vicinity: the Monument of the Unknown Soldier (as it has been mentioned previously), the Parliament Building, the National Gallery of Foreign Art and many more, all being important tourist attractions.

If you want to buy a souvenir to remind you of the visit you made to Bulgaria, you should definitely visit the nearby bazaar where you can acquire icons, antiques or textiles beautifully made by hand.

Apr 24

Brest Fortress (Fortareata Brest)

The Brest Fortress is officially known as Brest-Litovsk Fortress and it is strategically situated near the Polish border, at the site where the rivers Bug and Mukavet meet. In its early days the fortress was one of the most remarkable military citadels in all of Russia but today it has been transformed into a commemorative monument which stands for the Soviet resistance in front of the German invasion – a battle which took place on the 22nd of June, 1941.

Construction

The fortress was built between 1836 and 1842 by three military engineers Opermann, Maletzky and Feldmann, but the plan of the edifice was developed by Delovan, another military engineer, in 1836. History has it that the entire project was in effect a colossal undertaking as it meant moving a great part of the Brest town further to the east (with a couple of kilometers).

http://www.belarus.by

 

The plan was extremely bold and none considered that would ever see the light of day. The focal point of the fortification was the citadel, a construction consisting of two stories and which was designed to hold 12.000 soldiers within its walls.

The Brest Fortress underwent two consolidation works: one occurred between 1878 and 1888, and the second between 1911 and 1914. The reason for which the fortress is seen as a memorial monument is because of the will with which the people have defended their city. They have resisted in front of the German army for many weeks even if they were outnumbered and even if they had fewer weapons.

http://www.dreamstime.com

 

After the German invasion, nothing remained from the Brest Fortress except ruins. In 1960, the Soviet authorities have decided to erect a monument on the ruins of the fortress in order to commemorate the courageousness of the people that have fought against the Germans in that fatidic day. The construction received the title of “Hero Fortress” in 1965 and the same year the construction work for a memorial was initiated – which was completed in 1971.

http://www.wikimedia.org

 

Tourists who visit the fortress will also have the chance to see several monumental sculptures, which have been specially ordered for the adornment of the site. One of the most impressive ones is a massive silhouette called “Thirst” which is representative for “the thirst for life, battle and victory.”

Structure

The Brest Fortress has a stellar shape. The citadel, the epicenter of the fortification, is built out of red bricks and consists of 500 rooms. The original structure of the edifice counted 4 gates and 4 turrets, but nowadays only two gates stand their ground: the Kholm and the Terespol Gates; everything else lies in ruin.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com

 

Three fortifications enclosed the citadel. These were named after three towns: Kobrin, Terespol, and Volyn. The first one, which was shaped as a horseshoe, was the largest one and was situated to the north-east. The Terespol Fortification controlled the western part whereas the Volyn looked over the south eastern area.

The Best Fortress offers a glimpse of Europe’s historical past so if you ever get the occasion to visit this part of the world, do not miss your chance.

Apr 24

Peles Castle (Castelul Peles)

Peles Castle is situated in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains, at a 44 km distance from Brasov, in Sinaia locality. This is one of the most well renowned castles in all of Europe, and one of the most beautiful ones as well.

Construction

Carol I of Hohenzollern chose the site for the castle and the architect appointed to design it  was Wilhem Doderer, of Viennese origin. But from 1876, the project was supervised by Doderer’s assistant Johann Schultz of Lemberg. The construction work began in 1873 but reached a halt between 1877 and 1879 because of the Romanian Independence War. Peles was constructed in its entirety by 1883 and was inaugurated on the 7th of October.

http://www.castelul-peles.com

 

In the years that followed, other edifices were added to Peles Castle. These were the Economat (a building used for supplies), the Guard Headquarter, the Hunting House, the Stables, the Electric Power Plant, the Sipot Villa and Pelisor Castle. Pelisor was designed by the architect Karel Liman and was erected between 1889 and 1903. This castle would later on become the royal residence of King Ferdinand and Queen Mary of Romania.

Structure

The materials used in the construction of the Peles Castle were bricks, stones, marble and wood. The edifice was made out of 160 rooms. During the communist era, Peles, whose rooms were furnished so as to reflect the architectural design and decorations specific for particular European countries, was transformed into a retreat for leaders from all over the globe.

http://www.romanianmonasteries.org

 

The dominant architectural style encountered at Peles is specific for the German Renaissance, but there are also marks of the Gothic period, the German Baroque and French Rococo architectural designs and of the Italian Renaissance era.

The edifice is enclosed by 7 terraces decorated with pieces of art made by the sculptor Romanelli, of Italian descent. Other ornamental items encountered are the beautiful wells made out of stone and the decorative vases. Carrara marble and wood are the main materials used to decorate the castle, both inside and out, and the architects did a great job choosing them as they give a certain allure to the edifice.

http://www.castelul-peles.com

 

Peles is impressive in its entirety, but there are certain rooms which stand out more than the rest. These are the Grand Armor Room, the Small Armor Room, the Florentine Room, the Reception Room, The French Room, the Turkish Room and the Imperial Suit, just to name a few. Inside the Reception Room, tourists can admire paintings and sculptures made out of wood  – all representing the 16 castles owned by the Hohenzollern family.

The Grand Armor Room holds 1.600 weapons and armors. It is here that one of the most impressive collections of hunting equipment and weaponry in Europe is found – these date from the 14th up to the 19th century. The weapons on display are pistols, muskets, swords, sabers, hunting spears and many more.

http:// www.webshots.com

 

According to the general belief, the Imperial Suite has been built in honor of Franz Joseph I. The Austrian emperor has come to Peles on one of his visits to the Romanian royal family and because of this the person in charge of the decoration (Auguste Bembe) has decided to get inspiration from the Austrian Baroque style – so as to please the Austrian ruler. One wall of the room has been transformed into a “tool holder” made out of Cordoba leather and it has maintained itself in a perfect condition for five hundred years.

The Small Armor Room mainly features silver and gold Oriental weapons (Ottoman, Arab, Indo-Persian) which are adorned with precious stones. Tourists can gaze upon the armors and weapons used in the past, such as helmets, axes, spears, daggers or matchlocks.

http://www.draculasland.co.uk

 

Inside the walls of the Peles Castle, lays one of the most valuable collections of paintings in all of Europe. Almost 2.000 pieces of art make up this impressive collection. Other items which are highly appreciated are the ceramic objects of decoration, the plates made out of silver and gold, the Meissen and Sevres porcelains, the stained-glass windows (of German inspiration), the weapon collection, the exquisite sculptures made out of ivory and ebony and the artistically crafted Murano crystal chandeliers.

Pelisor (the “Little Peles”) was constructed by the order of King Ferdinand. It is said that the king did not feel comfortable in the Peles Castle due to the immenseness of the edifice. Thus Pelisor Castle came into being. This edifice has 70 rooms, follows the art-nouveau architecture, and it is furnished in the Viennese style (from the turn of the century). At Pelisor, tourists can also find one of the most exquisite collections of glassware: the artistically crafted glasses and vases bearing the names Lalique and Tiffany.

http://www.wonderfulromania.ro

 

Further information

Tourists should know that they cannot visit the entire castle. Only 35 rooms are opened for visitation – these include the basement and the chambers located at the 1st floor. There is an entrance fee that has to be covered, to which a photography fee is added (if this is the case).

Peles can be visited in the following interval:

Wednesday to Sunday: 9:00 – 17:00;

Tuesday: 11:00 – 17:00:

Monday – closed.

The castle can be visited throughout the year, except in November, when maintenance work is  scheduled.

 

Apr 23

Sucevita Monastery (Manastirea Sucevita)

Sucevita Monastery, whose dedication day is the Resurrection of our Lord, has been erected in Suceava County (Romania) in the last decades of the 16th century by a family of boyars called the Movila.  The monastery is located in the village with the same name, on the bank of Sucevita River.  

Structure

Sucevita Monastery has a trefoil structure and a closed church porch. There are however two small open church porches on the southern and northern sides which are formed out of pillars connected by braced arches.

http://manastiribucovina.romaniaexplorer.com

 

The monastic construction has a quadrilateral shape with 6 m walls in height and 3 m in thickness. The walls have forts, guard posts, a sentinel path, 4 towers in each corner of the fortification and a chapel located above the entrance gallery which bears the Moldavian emblem. There are still preserved old chambers belonging to the Movila family and cellars where, according to the chronicles of Ion Neculce, a magnificent treasure was hidden.

History

The oldest construction erected on this place was a little church whose dedication day was the Transfiguration of Jesus. On the eastern side of the enclosure, an abbacy was constructed later on. This had a large hall room with a dome which has been transformed into the museum we can see nowadays.

http://worldalldetails.com

 

The next step was to construct the walls encompassing the edifices. These consisted of 3 octagonal towers located to the north-east, south-east, and south-west, and the grand belfry situated to the north-west. It is in this last tower, that two bells which bear the emblem of Moldova and the coat of arms of the Movila family are still preserved. There is another steeple located within the fortification: the Gate Tower.

Between 1595 and 1606, the monastery is completed with two church porches at the entrance – one on the southern side and one on the northern. Within this timeframe the towers are added and the interior and exterior paintings are done. These additions and renovation work are performed under the ruler Ieremie Movila.

Two Moldavian painters undertook the task of illustrating various religious scenes on the walls of the church: Ioan the Painter and his brother Sofronie, and the original painting is still preserved – this bears an important artistic, cultural, historical and clerical value. The towers and the fortified walls convey an appearance of medieval fortress to the monastery.

http://www.crestinortodox.ro

 

The monastery has a burial room, where the rulers Ieremie and Simion Movila rest in peace. The tombstones are made out of Ruschita marble and are considered valuable representations of the medieval Romanian art.

As the Movila family members are considered the founders of the church, there is a votive painting in the left side of the nave where the family of Ieremie Movila is represented. In the opposite part, tourists can admire a second votive painting in which Gheorghe Movila, the one who initiated the building of the monastery, and Ioan Movila, Ieremie and Simion’s father, are illustrated.

Architecture

Sucevita Monastery is a clear representation of the Moldavian architecture. The design consists of a mixture of Byzantine and Gothic elements, to which features characteristic to the old wooden churches of Moldavia are added. And the structure of the monastery stands as example for this: it has a trefoil plan and follows the pattern used during the reign of Stephan the Great – with the closed church porch.

http://felixromania.com

http://www.felixromania.com

 

The other two smaller church porches which are opened are inspired from the Wallachian architectural style. Not to mention the style of the apses, the gothic cornice made out of rock and niches found in the belfry, together with the stellar foundation of this tower –  all are of Wallachian inspiration.

Sucevita Monastery is a true statement of the ancient Moldavian art. Traditional and innovative elements blend in a unique manner, the result being a multicolored church where green is predominant – emphasizing the perennial aspect of the construction, but most importantly, of what the monastery stands for: spirituality, faith.

Paintings 

The iconographic representation is in accordance to tradition, as it has been established during the reign of Petru Rares (at the beginning of the 16th century). But we can also notice new themes of theological- dogmatic character, such as the scenes painted in the nave – which are representations of the Holy Trinity.

http://www.romanianmonasteries.org

 

One characteristic of the iconographic representations is that they are narrative. The painters have illustrated entire scenes with specific saints, thus marking their holy life. These types of paintings were preferred due to the painters’ belief that the scenes could educate the beholders.

It is noteworthy that the pictures, even though religious in nature (as it is normal taking into account that this is a monastery), are also depicting particular landscapes and architectures which are specific for the post-Byzantine era.

The museum

Inside the museum located within the Sucevita Monastery, tourists can gain knowledge of the medieval art of the 15th and 16th centuries: they can gain insight into the architecture, sculpture, paintings, manuscripts and silverware of that time.

http://www.raoulpop.com

 

It is here that one of the most valuable collection of medieval pieces of art in Moldavia is found: laic portraits, tombstones, needlework. Among these items, tourists can admire the silver casket which holds Lady Elisabeth’s hair (Ieremia’s wife) and exquisite embroidery works which date back since the reign of Stephan the Great and which have been stitched with gold and silver threads, pearls and silk.

Access

If you are coming from Radauti town, you can drive along National Route 17 A and then turn to the south-west and drive for 11 km until you reach Marginea locality. Another 5 km in the same direction will get you to Sucevita Monastery.

Apr 20

The Parliament Building in Hungary (Palatul Parlamentului – Ungaria)

The Parliament Building (also known as Országház) took 7 years to be constructed. It followed the design developed by Imre Steindl, a professor at the Technical University in Budapest, and it ended up measuring 118 m in width and 268 m in length.

The construction is enormous, having 691 chambers, 10 courtyards, 27 gates and staircases which combined measure more than 20 km. The constructors used 40 million bricks, half a million of gemstones and 40 kg of gold in building the edifice.

http://felstedmission.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/senior-missionary-training/

http://felstedmission.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/senior-missionary-training/

 

The Parliament Building is actually the second largest edifice in Europe after the House of Parliament in London. The impressive stature of 96 m makes it one of the highest edifices in Budapest – the other one being St. Stephen’s Basilica.

The architectural style belongs to the Gothic Revival period but there are Renaissance elements incorporated every here and there. More so, the foundation of the edifice is constructed after the Baroque style while the interior design is representative for the Byzantine style.

http://blog.kenkaminesky.com

 

The structure is symmetrical, the Parliament having two identical halls – one is used for governmental purpose and the other is used for touristic purpose. The walls of the edifice are adorned with 242 sculptures, both inside and out (90 at the exterior and 152 in the interior).

The ones located on the front of the edifice are representations of the most valuable public figures in the history of Hungary: Hungarian and Transylvanian leaders, as well as important military personalities. The main entrance to the Parliament consists of a staircase limited by two lions made out of rock.

http://upload.wikimedia.org

 

The interior decoration is art in the true sense of the word. There are murals on the ceiling, the staircase is beautifully adorned and the central hall (which has sixteen sides) is impressive. Another point of reference is the glass mosaic work performed by Miksa Róth.

The immense structure and the craftsmanship of the architectural design require constant maintenance work (especially since the rock used in the construction tends to corrode easily), that is why the Parliament Building is in a continuous state of renovation.

At present, the Parliament Building is the place where the National Assembly.

Groups of tourists can visit the Parliament Building only if they have reservation. The reservation can be made during the working hours of the tourist department. Individuals cannot make reservations in advance. The tickets can be bought from Gate X in the Kossuth Square. The ticket booth is opened as follows:

1st of October – 30th of April:

Monday to Saturday: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

 

1st of May – 30th of September:

Monday to Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

 

http://blog.kenkaminesky.com

 

UE citizens can visit the Parliament Building free of charge as long as they bring proof of their nationality. Non-UE citizens have to buy tickets as follows:

Adults:  2640 Hungarian forints;

Students: 1320 Hungarian forints.

You should know that the Parliament is closed to the public during governmental meetings and official receptions. If these periods coincide with the reservation date, then the tours are postponed. During the tour, you will receive a guide that will present the history behind the edifice. (This is available in several foreign languages: English, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Italian, Yiddish).

 

Apr 18

Trascau Fortress (Cetatea Trascau)

Those interested in historical facts would definitely want to visit Trascau Fortress. This is a medieval fortification, built somewhere around 1296 by the sub-voivode Thoroczkay. The construction also goes by the name Coltesti Fortress, especially since it is located in Coltesti Village, from Alba County. This was built for defense purposes, as well as a refuge in times of turmoil when the region was pillaged by Tatar armies.

http://www.panoramio.com

The fortress had been devastated by enemies once before, so the people of Trascau decided to rebuilt the citadel on a hilltop – the location being chosen in purpose on a steep calcareous rock so as to make it harder for invaders to take control of it.

History

The fortress had been confiscated by Matei Corvin in 1470 and left in the care of the Transylvania Voivodeship, but after 40 years it returns to the Thoroczkay (Trascau) family. The fortress suffered immense damage in 1514 when the peasants led by Gheorghe Doja pillaged the citadel. But the Austrian Imperial Army, led by General Tiege, was the one to devastate the fortress almost in its entirety in 1713. The armed confrontation was a consequence of the fact that the Thoroczkay noblemen refused to join Transylvania and the Habsburg Empire.

http://cartitaplimbareata.ro

At present, only two towers and a significant part of the lateral walls are preserved. However, on the northern tower (which exceeds 20 meters in height) visitors can still read the inscription which attributes the construction of the fort to the Thoroczkay family.

Trascau Fortress has been recorded among the Historical Monuments of Alba County, a list issued by the Romanian Ministry of Culture and Cults in 2004.

http://goia-bogdan.blogspot.com

Even if the keep has not maintained its original structure, tourists can still make out the towering edifice. The ruins of Trascau Fortress and the overall scenery will transpose any visitor to those historical times. One cannot help but feel respect and admiration for the historical past written in the walls of the fortification.

Apr 18

Voronet Monastery (Manastirea Voronet)

Location

Voronet Monastery is located in Voronet Town, at a 36 km distance from Suceava County and at a 4 km distance from the center of Gura Humorului Town. This is one of the most valuable monasteries in Romania. The construction work began in 1488 and it took only four and a half months to complete the edifice – which is quite the record, especially for that time.

http://www.basilica.ro

 

Stephan the Great, the founder of the monastery, decided to erect the church on the place of an ancient wooden hermitage and choose Saint George as the patron of the church.

Structure

Voronet Monastery does not have a vast surface. It only measures 25,5 meters in length (without taking into account the church porch). The length of the nave and the narthex is of 7,7 meters and the lateral apses measure 10,5 meters.

The nave and the altar still maintain the iconographic ensemble painted during the reign of Stephan the Great. The representations on the walls of the monastery refer to specific episodes in the life of Jesus (the Passion of Christ – scenes which are uncommon in the nave of a church). The scenes are artistically painted and the characters are magnificently represented.

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These stand out due to the seriousness of the protagonists, the vigor of their gestures and of the shapes – in this respect, the scenes representing the Entrance in Jerusalem and the Prayer on the Olive Mountain stand out. The images are so vivid, so realistically done, that it feels as if you are taking part at the actual scenes.

Paintings

The images found in the narthex have been painted ulterior and they consist of decorations and figures which seem to create a link with the exterior paintings. In the church porch, there are different types of paintings (the Church Calendar and the Saint Elijah) which have a humourous touch to them – in a sense announcing the future Transylvanian iconographic representations painted on glass (in the 18th and 19th centuries).

Both the interior and the exterior painting is the merit of Gregory Rosca, the erudite theologian, who has personally supervised the anonymous monk-painters who have represented the specific scenes on the walls of Voronet Monastery. Just to make an idea of the impressive paintings illustrated on the church, you should know that the Last Judgment scene occupies the entire western wall and it is made up of an immense composition in five acts – being the only one of its kind in the entire Christian world.

http://www.gurahumorului.info

 

Due to its amplitude, specialists regard it as representative for the decorative polychromic art and label it as superior to the compositions encountered at Athos and Camposanto (Pisa). The last Judgment Scene is considered worthy of being placed next to the Sixteen Chapel (in Rome), to the mosaics found at Kahrie Mosque in Istambul, or next to the scenes painted at San Marco (in Venice).  This goes to show the exquisiteness of its paintings.

What makes the paintings original? The artist had the courage to blend into the religious representations, traditional motifs (specific for the Moldavian region). These consist of musical instruments such as alphorns and kobsas, of local landscapes, or popular attire.

http://www.rog.ro

 

Near the entrance, you can admire the portraits of the founders of the church: Saint Daniil the Anchorite and the hieromonk Gregory Rosca. The initial shape of the monastery can be seen in the votive painting. The church was set on a rock pedestal and the belfry was set on a square base so as to emphasize its slenderness, its impetus towards the sky. The exonarthex was added back in 1547 at the request of Gregory Rosca who was thus considered the second founder of the monastery.

Voronet Monastery, as it is today, is one of the first Moldavian monuments created in a unique and personal style. The monastery is very original in its design which blends Byzantine elements (the trefoil form of the nave with the belfry), Gothic elements (the “lauching” aspect of the edifice, the arches of the doors and windows, the presence of the abutments) and specific autochthonous motifs (the belfry with four arches and a stellar base, the space underneath the cornice, blind arches at the apses, etc.).

http://www.invizita.ro

 

The arm chairs and some of the lecterns belong to the 16th century, whereas two bells artistically crafted have been a gift from Stephan the Great.

Voronet Monastery stands out due to its architecture and design which are a symbol of refinement. It is no wonder that people all over the world come to this house of worship.