“Taking the Waters” in Budapest

Many things in Budapest interest me. I find the history and architecture to be incredibly fascinating and portions of the city along the Danube River banks are gorgeous. The Parliament building is, in my opinion, the most beautiful building in the world.  And Chain Bridge, Matthias Church and the Royal Palace are spectacular sites along (or over) the river. It is no wonder that these banks of the Danube have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

The heritage in this rather small area involves several civilizations, violence, wars, and occupations. These are remembered in wonderful museums, statues in Heroes Square, or dark times at Terror House. The marks of these civilizations are found in many places in Budapest… not only in the art, music, and food but also in what is referred to as “taking the waters” associated with the numerous spas with heated water from thermal springs in the city and across Hungary.

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Architectural Influences in Sevilla, Andalucía, España

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Cathedral Tower in Sevilla

The history of modern Spain is complex. Over periods encompassing many centuries, battles on the Iberian Peninsula for land and power raged between Christians and Muslims. Often conflicts also occurred between Christians as well as among different groups of Muslims.

Food, celebrations, cultural influences, and other facets of life blended or changed. As the powerful changed, so did the architecture of the day. 

The period between 711 AD and 1492 AD is a time of significant upheaval in Spain. The architecture of this period reflects this turbulence in Andalucía in southern Spain. There the new architecture often built onto that of preceding rulers.

This story is about the architectural influences in southern Spain.

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My Roman Wall Exploration in Lugo, Galicia, España

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Segment of the Roman Wall in Lugo, Spain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Having lived in Andalusia in the southern part of Spain, I was aware of history of Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, historical events related to the Reconquest, etc…. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when traveling north to the Galician city of Lugo.

 

Journeying all day by train, olive trees gave way to evergreens and flat land became more extreme with high hills, small snow-capped mountains, and very rocky terrain. My observations, although interesting, were not my motivation to go to Lugo, however.

I had learned about the 1700 year old, completely intact, Roman city wall constructed in Lugo. The wall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it was my principle attraction to the city.

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Bucket List – You Must Explore Dubrovnik!

I have traveled to many places in the world and have been delighted everywhere by the people, beauty, and culture. Croatia, however, has really been spectacular and picturesque! I lived in Zagreb for a month and a half and visited a beautiful country which most Americans have little knowledge of. While I have written about Plitvička National Park, and Zagreb, the Croatian Adriatic Seacoast has several awesome sites that are certain to be added to bucket lists for world explorers.

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A view through a wall window on the Dubrovnik Old City

Croatia declared independence in 1991 during the break-up of Yugoslavia. After that the nation was forced to fight a war with neighbors Serbia and Montenegro which had other ideas to keep the nation together.

Most explorers coming to Croatia arrive from Eastern Europe and Mediterranean countries. They enjoy the beautiful seaside cities with unique, colorful names such as Pula, Dubrovnik and Split. The explorers know great places to visit and  the history and beauty on the Croatian Adriatic coast are very inviting. I recommend that you put this country on your bucket list! This story is about my adventure to Dubrovnik and the nearby town of Korcula. This blog is about the enticing things I saw there as I was in awe of the beauty of these old cities and their stories.

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Discovering Treasures in Plitvička Jezera

My exploration adventures have taken me to many beautiful natural and man-made places on the planet. This week I found a gem in Croatia’s 295 square kilometer Plitvička National Park. This is my short story about my experiences enveloped by the deep forest and seeing beautiful lakes, cascades, waterfalls and wildlife there.

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Moss covered rocks in the cascades next to the slippery wood walkway in Plitvicka National Park

The rain began early in the morning in Zagreb and continued all the way to Plitvička, an hour and a half away to the mountains. Once there, who cared that it was raining slightly as I discovered the grandeur of this magnificent park.

I went with a small group of like-minded adventurers with a Croatian guide. She said that the park had been cleared of land mines from the war between Croatia and next door neighbors Serbia and Montenegro in the early 1990’s.

“Wait a minute” I thought, as I said “Did you say land mines? Were all of them removed?” “Yes,” she replied. But she recommended we stay on the marked trails anyway and then the worst things that could happen would be to encounter a bear or slip and fall. This was an adventure like no other! I felt encouraged to stay on the trails and away from the cliff edges!

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My Cordoba

In the 1970’s actor Ricardo Montalban was not only famous for staring in the TV series “Fantasy Island” but also as Chrysler’s celebrity spokesperson for marketing the Cordoba automobile. Who can ever forget his rich voice saying “soft Corinthian leather” when describing the car’s interior? Cordoba was “my car” although I never owned one. I did have high expectations for my explorations of Cordoba, Spain, linked by name although it is uncertain if Chrysler intended it to be so. Huge by today’s standards, in the ’70’s the Cordoba automobile was actually a “junior size” Chrysler! My excursion, however, was not a junior size at all; it was huge as I experienced another aspect of the culturally rich country of Spain.

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Interior of the Grand Mosque

Through the ages Cordoba has been everything from a small Roman outpost to the seat of power during the periods of Muslim occupation. Evidence has been found of humans in the area between 42,000 and 35,000 BC! An interesting fact is that Cordoba is believed to have been the most populous city in the world in the 10th century! Today, Cordoba is a small modern metropolis of about 300,000 and is protective of its Roman, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian heritage. That heritage loudly screams throughout the city, particularly in the area surrounding its famous UNESCO World Heritage Site mezquita (mosque) landmark as well as the Roman Bridge dating from the first century!

The city has witnessed numerous changes through the centuries which were driven by religious-based conflicts involving Christians and Muslims. In 1236 King Ferdinand III secured the city during the Spanish Reconquista. Since then numerous mosques were converted to churches including the huge one where the sanctuary was created in the middle of the existing mosque. The Christian era also brought about a dark period of the Spanish Inquisition with Cordoba at the epicenter. During this period non-Christians were treated as second class citizens with Jews and Muslims often forced to renounce their faith, leave, or die.

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Peaceful Park in Cordoba

Walking through the narrow ancient streets one can celebrate the heritage where today Christians, Jews and Muslims live together in peace among the past Roman remnants of a beautiful city.

There are numerous parks throughout Cordoba like the one pictured that are quiet where you can pause, reflect and enjoy the simple sounds of water bubbling in the fountain. As in the pictured park, ancient pillars stand reminiscent of Roman times. Other parks are significantly larger and city planners appear to have gone to great lengths to incorporate them among the very wide avenues surrounding the ancient city walls.

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Roman Bridge

Most of my time during my exploration of Cordoba was inside the old city walls and remnants of them. Outdoor cafes are plentiful on the cobblestone streets among ancient buildings created mostly in the last 500 years. I was in awe walking across the preserved Roman Bridge and the cathedral where the bell tower stands among the orange trees and was constructed surrounding the original minaret.

I found the food and drink to be different from other places I have visited in Spain. There was often a blend of creations that reflected the cultures that I mentioned previously. I didn’t care for the local wine and found the famous cold, thick, tomato-based salmocejo soup to not be to my taste either. Regardless, there are plenty of different foods and drinks that more than provided very enjoyable sustenance!

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Cathedral Bell Tower

Just like the Cordoba automobile of my youth, the city of Cordoba in Spain holds a special charm… one which is much longer lasting.

Cordoba is a beautiful modern city surrounding an old city with an outstanding Roman, Christian, Jewish and Muslim heritage. It is easy to see why this ancient place is preserved as a World Heritage Site for us and future generations to enjoy.