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.



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.



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).



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.

Jun 03

Gura Portitei

Now that summer is here and we are awaken each morning with the sunrays gently piercing through our windows, maybe it is time to consider a much deserved vacation in a quiet place where we can enjoy the sun every single day.

Gura Portitei is a village situated in the Danube Delta, in Romania, and has become quite renowned in the latter years due to the tranquility with which it inveils its visitors. This is an alternative to a standard resort near the seaside because unlike the latter, which is most of the time too crowded for many not only in the sense of too many tourists but also because of the multitude of stands which invade the sidewalks, Gura Portitei can be regarded as the epitome of peacefulness. Visitors can reach the village only by boat which means that we are definitely talking about a secluded holiday getaway.


Depending on what it is that you are interested in, you can rent a room at a nice vila or you can opt for an appartment fully equipped with everything you needed. But while comfort is the number one factor for some in determining the quality of their vacations, others depict their perfect holiday in different terms. At Gura Portitei, individuals have the chance to become closer to nature so to speak in the sense that they can camp on the beach, just a couple of meters from the sea. This is how many envisage their vacations: leaving the crowdiness of the city with a backpack on their backs and heading for a quite place where they don’t see anything in sight except sand and water. Lying on the beach all day with the sun warming them is everything they need to detach completely from their day-to-day routine.


There are other attractions in the area so boredom is something you will not experience while staying here. There are motorboats you can rent either to take a trip on the water or to go fishings, there are tennis and voleyball courts at your disposal if you are interested in practicing your skills and you can  choose to go on a boat trip on the Danube. You can even benefit from the services of a local tourist guide who can show you the surroundings. If you decide to visit Gura Portitei, do not miss out on the trips on the Danube because you are going to be taken aback by the picturesque image you are offered in which the flora and fauna combine harmoniously in order to convey a unique portray of nature.

May 31

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Whenever a conflagration of massive proportions occurs, the face of the world is changed completely. So it is no surprise that the two World Wars have devastated nations and have made tens of thousands of victims.

It is relevant to maintain the gruesome image of the war alive in our memories in order to prevent the history from repeating itself due to the ambitions of some. In order to commemorate the extensive loss of human lives and the atrocities which so many had to endure during World War II, the Auschwitz Birkenau State Museum was established in Poland. This museum is constituted of the two concentration camps, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II – Birkenau, where the Jewish population was imprisoned before being exterminated, but also where thousands of war prisons of different nationalities were held captivate.



Besides the fact that the museum is meant to honor those who have lost their lives between 1942 and 1944, the institution is also focusing its attention on investigating the Holocaust. It was brought into being in the middle of the 20th century (1947) when the Polish Parliament decided to maintain the concentration camps as such and allow people to visit them in order to comprehend the impactful effect of WWII on the world. The museum has been visited extensively ever since its inauguration and the number of visitors has increased year after year. Tourists can see the place where the inmates where debarked and can follow in their footsteps trying to imagine the horror they experienced while walking to their imprisonment.



Tourists can enter the barracks where they can envisage the conditions in which the inmates were living. In order to best depict the past and connect with that specific time, tourists are invited to visit the exhibitions which are spread throughout the grounds of the museum. These are organized depending on the items on display. Thus you will have the chance to see the personal items that the inmates had brought with them upon arriving to camp, such as kitchen vessels, suitcases, the majority of which still bear the name of their owner, shoes and garments. Getting in touch with personal belongings is definitely intimidating because what you have only heard on television or have read in books, strikes you as being real. The authenticity of it all makes you realize that those were not just tales but the ghastly reality.



There are also a multitude of works of art presented, such as paintings and drawings in which the severe conditions the prisoners were subjected to were portrayed in detail.

Many modifications were conducted in the 20th century but they did not altered the general design of the camps which still maintain their originality. The changes refer to a memorial museum which was inaugurated in the ’67 and several boards which provide visitors with information regarding the surroundings.

May 29

Gorky Amusement Park

Are you ready for the ride of your life? Or should we say ‘rides’? In many of the articles posted on this website we have emphasized the importance of retreating to a tranquil resort and of finding that inner peace which would make us return to our day-to-day routine with a new energy. But while an escape into nature is always a good idea, there are moments when you simply need to have fun, and a lot of it.



And what can be more appropriate in this department than finding a great amusement park where you can leave everything behind and experience the thrill of the ‘dangerous rides.’ Yes, it might be a bit crowded for some, but this is part of the definition of an amusement park. In fact, you would not find it that interesting if you were to go on a roller coaster ride all by yourself, would you? And even if you have to wait in line for what seems to be forever, the best part is that when you finally reach the top of the line, and the machine starts to move, you know that the wait was worth it.

In this department of amusement parks, Gorky is renowned. Gorky Park, or Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leasure, as it is officially known, is situated in Moscow and has opened its gates to the public in the early 20th century (1928). The beauty of this park is that it comprises several gardens which extend over an area of 300 acres and it neighbours the Moskva River. And among this natural landscape you discover fun fairs and great rides which fill you with adrenaline.



Gorky was designed by the famous architect Konstantin Melnikov so it is no wonder that the avant-garde influences are noticible within the architectural style of the park. It comes as no surprise that the park had became popular immediatelly after opening. The novelty of this particular type of entertainment attracted masses of people who were impressed not only with the architecture of the park but also with its rollercoasters, space shuttle, big ferris wheel and so on.

But the park was changed almost completely in 2011 when the new administrator of the park decided to take Gorky to the next level and transform it into a ‘green’ recreational facility. This meant removing the majority of the food stands and some of the fun rides and replacing them with different types of leisure activities such as yoga or aerobics. The idea was to get people interested in sport and thus boost their energy level throught healthy activities. Other attractions include various fairs which revolve around art, thus emphasizing the importance of culture and promoting it as much as possible, an open-air cinema and several coffee shops.

In winter, there are specially arranged areas where people can engage in skating or hockey and the best part is that the area dedicated to these activities extends over 18.000 square meters so there is room for everyone to enjoy themselves on the ice.

May 28

Balaton Lake (Lacul Balaton)

Escaping the mundane world and retreating into nature or simply going abroad and visiting new places have always been great ways of relaxation. In a world which moves faster than ever and when time seems to no longer suffice, we have to find ways in which to recharge our batteries and keep up with the constant changes and demanding world around us.

While some aspire to travel the world in search of new adventures and detach themselves completely from their ordinary life, others are more ‘humble’ in their expectations and simply choose a resort far from their home city where they can leave aside their day-to-day troubles.



The citizens of Hungary and foreigners as well find their peace and quiet while going on a small vacation near Lake Balaton, the largest fresh water lake on the European continent. The conditions are not equivalent of those offered by a 5-stars hotel, but the fact remains that tourists have a great time here as there is an immense aqua park where they can enjoy themselves to the fullest.

Due to the fact that Hungary does not have a coastline, this particular lake is considered as being the country’s sea and many retreat here in order to escape the high temperatures recorded during the summertime.



Depending on what it is that you are looking for, you can opt between the northern or southern shore. While to the south you will encounter an amalgamation which consists of tall hotels, clubs, tasteless stands at every corner, and sandy beaches crowded with people, to the north, you will be presented with a more sophisticated image. The towns are quite appealing due to their architectural design and the quietness surrounding the area attracts a classier crowd.

There are definitely some points of high interests which will appeal to you. Among this, we will allude to the Tihany peninsula which runs almost through the middle of the lake. It is here where tourists can visit the small town which bears the same name and which is in itself a historical district. Just to give you a small insight into the historical importance of the area, you should know that Charles I, the last Habsburg Emperor of Austria, was imprisoned here after trying to take hold of the Hungarian throne for the second time.



The region surrounding Lake Balaton abounds in wineries and castles and tourists are presented with a beautiful image in which sandy beaches merge with woodland.

Even so, there are many individuals who upon reaching the lake are not taken aback by the view, mainly because the water of the lake is shallow. But there is one thing which most of the times changes their minds almost instantly: when the sunrays touch the calm surface of the lake, tourists are offered a unique image as a multitude of colors dance on its surface.

Apr 29

Djerdap Gorge (Defileul Dunarii)

If you are interested in being surrounded by nature on all four sides then Derdap National Park is the place to visit. This tourist attraction is located in Serbia and it is encompased by the Danube, on the left, its most eastern point being the Golubac Fortress, and the dam built in Sip, to the right.

Besides the fact that you are given the opportunity to witness nature in its rawest state, and I refer here to the fact that the human hand has failed to interfere into the landscape, you are also presented with a unique image, one which you are bound to never encounter in your travels. The Djerdap Gorge is of immense beauty and you will unavoidably fell stricken by its grandeur. It is here that the well renowned Iron Gate is situated.



What you are to discover here is the masterful carving that the river had managed to achieve in the mountainous rocks in its tumultous flow down the stream. It is in this precise point, the Derdap gorge that you are to encounter the lengthiest and the largest river accumulation in Serbia.

The setting is mesmerizing. In fact the gorge is compound, being formed of four other gorges which are differentiated by the means of valleys. The canyons have dissimilar shapes and sizes, an aspect which contributes extensively to the general image offered by the web of ravines that characterize the area.



Due to the geographical features of this park, an abundant array of plant life and wildlife is distinguishable in the area – to which are added various historical and cultural monument, sprinkled with breathtaking sceneries. The result can be only one: tourists are presented with a beautiful landscape which incorporates all the elements that nature has to offer. If you are to take into account the man-made constructions, such as the huge hydroelectric powerplant built there, you are definitely in for a trip of great discoveries in which you will enjoy a beautiful day around the natural park but you will also get to see the forth largest hydroelectric plant in the world.



The national park has undergo several projects of revival in the sense that the administration has sought to preserve the elements which depicted the historical past of the area, such as the aforementioned Golubac Fortress, or the bridge constructed under Traian, the Roman Emperor.

Elements of Byzantine and Roman culture are still present in the gorge. Traian has spend quite an extended amount of time in the area during his battles with the Dacians and thus influences from these cultures are depicted even to this day.

Due to all the aspects which have been pinpointed throughout this article, Derdap national Park has become the number one tourist attraction in Serbia, especially since the inauguration of the dam.

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.



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).



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.



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.

Mar 12

Azov Fortress (Cetatea Azov)

There are many touristic attractions throughout Eastern Europe worth mentioning, but all will be tackled in due time. For the time being we will focus our attention towards Russia, and more precisely, towards a town situated 16 kilometers off the coast of the Azov Sea. The name of the town is actually Azov, due to its close proximity to the mentioned sea.

What is it that makes this town enter our list of ‘places you ought to visit’? Probably it has something to do with its historical background. Many peoples have settled on this land and each had had its influence on the way in which the landscape changed throughout the years.

Azov Fortress

But the ones who we are going to mention in this particular article are the Ottomans, due to the fact that their control over the area in the latter years of the 15th century (1471) had led to the appearance of an imposing fortress, the Azov Fortress. This is actually the touristic attraction on which this article revolves.

The construction was erected with the purpose of hindering the Don Cossacks from invading the Ottoman Empire and from gaining control over the Black Sea, which represented an important trading instrument.

Of course, this particular aspect did not impede the former from attempting to attain their goal and that is to crush the Turks and gain control over the area. Thus, the fortress was the main target due to the fact that it was a well fortified construction in which the rivals could resist for time on end against their attackers. Azov Fortress witnessed a great number of battles and if you are interested in finding out more about the turnout of each of the mentioned clashes, you should definitely look into the subject. But for the time being, we will turn to the reasons for which you should definitely visit this less known part of Russia.


There is no doubt that Russia has many tourist attractions and that most of them are located in Moscow and Sankt Petersburg, but a tourist interested in comprehending the entire history of a given country and in visiting even the most secluded places in order to gain insight into the development of a specific place, will not think twice before embarking in a ‘quest of discovery’.

To put it in simpler words, the fortress had changed many hands throughout time, only to be ceded to the Russian government at the end of the 18th century when the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji was signed (the peace treaty signed at the end of the first Russo-Turkish Wars in 1774).

The Old Fortress of Azov

But enough about historical facts. Tourists will be pleased to hear that the climate of the region is characterized by mild precipitations and that the weather is relatively good. Even if the time of the year in which they decide to travel to Azov is relevant, the temperature is not the same as in other parts of Russia. The summers are very warm and while winters are cold, they are by no means comparable to the other areas where extremely low temperatures recorded.

Many legends revolve around the fortress and more particularly around the cellar, where it is said that the Ottoman Empire used to preserve its outstanding riches.

In the 20th century, the fortress was declared a cultural monument and the City Council took all the measures to preserve the remnants of the glorious past, especially since the construction was such an artful depiction of military engineering development. Thus, the fortress, with the cellar, gates, walls and ditches that had survived the passage of time, was declared a monument and restoration was initiated. The goal was to preserve the ancient structure for the posterity.

The Entrance Gate- Azov

The cellar was reconditioned and passed on into the patrimony of the historical museum. When Azov celebrated its 900th birthday, the City Council organized a special event in which all the important battles of Azov were reenacted with the help of an exhibition organized by the Russian artist Arseny Chernyshov.

The authenticity of the exhibition was remarkable and the fact that the fortress was preserved so well until this day it can only mean one thing: that tourists are given the possibility to indulge themselves with a piece of historical recollection. So do not hesitate to visit this unique monument.

Feb 28

Slowinski National Park (Parcul National Slowinski)

Slowinski National Park is located in the northern part of Poland and it is one of the touristic attractions that this country has to offer. The park situates itself between Leba and Rowy and the reason for which the park occupies such an important position among the Polish must-see sights is that it offers a unique combination of lanscapes which is not available extensively in other national parks. And I refer here to the moving sand dunes which are actually located in close vicinity of the Baltic Sea.

Slowinski National Park

This interesting picturesque scenery is what draws people to this specific location. The park came into being in the second half of the 20th century, more precisely in 1967, even if the idea to transform Slowinski into a protected area had emerged more than twenty years earlier (in 1946).

At present, the national park stretches over 186 square kilometers, the majority of which (more than 100 square kilometers) consists of waters, whereas the remaining area is made up of forests. The way in which the area has evolved in the course of time is easily explained if we are to take a look at the geographical changes which had occurred. Initially, what now we call the Slowinski National Park was in fact the bay formed at the Baltic Sea. But due to the constant movement of the sea, the bay was pushed inland further and further, and sand dunes were created in between.

Slowinsky Park – Sand Dunes

This process has evolved steadily, the sand taking possession of more land on a yearly basis due to the activity of the winds and waves. In fact, it is precisely due to this natural phenomenon that the area has become renowned. The so-called “moving dunes” are seen as some sort of natural oddity as this occurrence is not something which one can see every so often. The speed with which the sand is carried varies between 3 and 10 meters on an annual basis and the constant wind leads to these dunes growing higher and higher. At present, the maximum height is of 30 meters.

In order to get a general image of the park and especially of the picture offered by the sand dunes, it is advisable to find a high peak, preferably Rowokol (which is the highest) and use it in order to admire the national park in all its glory. What is worth mentioning here is that the constant shift of the sand uncovers the remnants of the past forests that used to spread on the bay. Thus, every now and then, one can see petrified tree trunks emerging from underneath the sand.

Moving Sand Dunes

Even if the sand dunes represent the point of interest in Slowinski National Park, you ought to pay attention to the other natural elements present here. For example, the park is abundant in lakes and rivers. Two of the lakes, Lebsko and Gardno, are known for the families of aquatic birds that seek shelter on their waters. The number of bird species which are located here reaches 257, which clearly pinpoints the fact that the national park is a natural biosphere which deserves to be protected and thus preserve its fauna and flora diversity.

Visiting the area does not resemble ‘going into the wild’ as there are specially arranged tracks for tourists which take those who venture on such a trip through the park to the most important locations in Slowinski. The trails stretch over 140 kilometers and even more so, they are ‘equipped’ with benches so that tourists can catch their breath when necessary.

Dec 21

The Brukenthal Palace (Palatul Brukenthal)

In Avrig, right beneath the Carpathian Mountains, lies an architectural treasure which undoubtedly deserves the attention of the passers-by. This is the Brukenthal Palace, a unique castle which is the singular one in Romania to be surrounded by a park wonderfully created in the Baroque style.

The palace was constructed as the summer residence of the Governor Samuel von Bruckenthal. It was erected on the highest point in Avrig and it faces the River Olt. The craftsmanship with which it was designed has led to it being renowned throughout the country as the “Eden from Transylvania.”

Brukenthal Palace- http://commons.wikimedia.org

The artistry of the architectural design is mainly the result of the fine tastes of von Brukenthal, the influential political figure who had been the governor of Transylvania for 13 years. The castle contains a wonderful collection of paintings, books and ancient manuscripts, as well as elements of numismatics.

The palace, which has been constructed in the 18th century, together with the garden by which it is enclosed, extends over a surface of 16 hectars.  The construction was in fact initiated in the second half of the 18th century by the then governor Adolf Nicolaus von Bucow, but the one to stand by it in the later stages of the construction and the one to leave his mark on it was von Brukenthal – who had fashioned it to its particular taste. Due to the fact that the Governor of Transylvania had travel around the world it was impossible for him not to draw inspiration from some of the well renowned buildings in Europe. So it is basically no surprise that the constructions after which the Brukenthal Palace was fashioned are the Luxembourg Palace in Paris and the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna.


In terms of structure, we are talking about a U shaped building which consists of a central body and two lateral wings. In order to comprehend the fondness that Brukenthal had towards art you should know that the palace contained 212 paintings and 129 engravings displayed on its walls. The passage of time had not destroyed these works of art, in fact those who want to have a look at a beautiful collection should know that these works are preserved in the Brukenthal Museum (which is located in Brasov). The same thing cannot be said by the palace itself as this has not been preserved adequately. In time, the building had passed through several hands and the numerous owners did not look after it as they should have. The degradation of the edifice was further enhanced in the Second World War when it had been used as a military hospital.

U-shape structure – http://www.flickr.com

But with all the tumultous moments it had seen in its lifetime, the building had survived and it can still be admired by people interesed in fine architectural designs and in historical monuments. At present, the palace is protected under the law.

The park posed quite an interest due to the fact that it follows a Baroque design, being organized in terraces. The gardens were not characteristic to a singular architectural pattern, these being arranged after the French, English and Dutch models. This variaty was definitely enticing in the sense that, depending on your location in the park, you had a different perspective over the entire arrangement. Due to the fact that, like the building itself, the park had not been tended to properly, the original design got lost.

Intensive restoration is required in order to regain the former look. But in spite of it all, the Brukenthal Palace, as well as the park, still maintain a glimpse of their original self, their historical character still “beaming.”