Although you will not need my itinerary to go around this tiny little village, I decided to write about it, just to show you how beautiful it is, and to make sure that you will not miss it, when visiting Alsace.
Situated on The Wines Road, close to Colmar, in northeastern France, between the peaks of the Vosges Mountains and the Plain of Alsace, this magnificent medieval town is officially considered one of the most beautiful villages in France.
With its amazing architecture and its world-famous wines, especially the Riesling, this popular tourist attraction is rightly called “The Gem of the Alsace”.
Riquewihr today looks more or less, as it did in the 16th century, and it was one of the few towns in this area not to be badly damaged during World War II.
It is surrounded by its medieval fortifications, and overlooked by a castle, which is a museum now.
Within its well-preserved walls, there are tight alleys and uneven streets with no cars, and every piece of architecture is miraculously preserved. Charming half-timbered houses, each one of a different color, dating back to the 15th – 18th centuries, are built very close to each other, and admirably decorated with flowers in the spring and in the summer. Their inner courtyards are embellished by old wells and fountains.
Do not miss the opportunity to leave the main street and discover some secluded ones, which offer so many wonderful architectural details…
On the upper part of the main street, there is the famous Dolder medieval tower. The five-story tower of the “Dolder”(meaning “the highest point” in Alsatian dialect), is a remarkable 25 meter-high building, constructed of pink sandstone and timber from the nearby Vosges. This defensive gateway was built in 1291, and strengthened in the 15 and 16 century. It was the house of the caretaker and his family, who were in charge of closing the entry door to the village every night and sounding the alarm in case of attack.
Today, it is the local history museum, offering details about the rural medieval town of Riquewihr and its evolution from the 13th to the 17th, about its fortification, its lords, its means of defense and its occupants.
You should also see The Thieves’ Tower (Tour des voleurs), a former prison of Riquewihr, built in 1550. Its pentagonal shape is 18 meters high, and it houses inside the museum with the torture room and authentic instruments of torture of the time, and the guards’ room used for the cross’ examination of the prisoners.
Although being only a village of 1300 inhabitants, Riquewihr, with its multi-colored flowers and cobblestone streets, is certainly the object of an enchantment, which lasts for centuries.
Our today’s topic is Kaysersberg, an adorable village in Northeastern France, on the Alsace Wine Route.
With a population of less than 3,000 people, this charming little place can easily be seen in an hour, but it so full of amazing little houses, beautifully looked after, whose details will keep your interest for quite a while and occupy a lot of memory on your cameras.
With its 400 years long history of wine growing, (the first sorts came from Hungary) and its specially known pinot gris variety, Kaysersberg is a must both for photography and wine lovers.
It was founded in 1227, when Emperor Frederick II Barbarossa bought a small castle that gave the village its name (Emperor’s Mountain in German), and it was quickly expanded into one of the largest fortresses in the region.
- The Église de l’Invention-de-la-Sainte-Croix
- The Fountain of Emperor Constantine
- Verrerie d’Art
- The Loewert House
- The Musée Historique de Kaysersberg
- La Maison Faller-Brief
- The Hertzer House
- Pont Fortifie
- The Musée Albert Schweitzer
- The Castle of Kaysersberg
We will start this tour in front of the Église de l’Invention-de-la-Sainte-Croix, a beautiful, Romanesque style church from the 13th century, located in the center of the town. There is a beautiful fountain representing Emperor Constantine, next to it, and opposite, a charming shop and studio Verrerie d’Art, where you can see artisans blowing glass and making various objects d’art from it.
Right next to them, we will see The Loewert House, also known as the house of the Virgin, which is one of the most characteristic residences of the town, built in the 18th century, half-timbered, with a beautiful oriel and a mural of Madonna with her Child.
There is the Musée historique de Kaysersberg, a few meters further, a small museum, but quite interesting with a wide variety of exhibited items including furniture, paintings, stonework, etc.
Walking further, we will encounter many other amazing houses:
La maison Faller-Brief (from 1594), with its remarkable facade with carved wood panels and painted corner windows, located in a magnificent square with the old bathhouse (Badhüs, from 1600), the Hertzer House (from 1592), and the old butchery, all united by the fortified bridge (Pont Fortifie, 1514), under which flows the Weiss.
Coming to another museum, the Musée Albert Schweitzer, the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner, we will finish our tour.
Kaysersberg was the birthplace of this great doctor, philosopher, theologian, writer, and musician. The museum shows facts about his work in Gabon, a lot of pictures of the village hospital, the Peace Noble Prize, and some personal, and items brought from Africa.
For those ones who are not afraid of small climb, I also recommend visiting the Castle Of Kaysersberg that will offer lovely views to the village and surrounding countryside.
Freiburg (Freiburg im Breisgau), a city in the south-west of Germany, with about 220,000 inhabitants, is often called the city of forest, wine and Gothic. Thanks to its position on the western slope of Schwarzwald, and in the warmest part of Germany, Freiburg is primarily known for its mild, sunny and pleasant climate.
It is famous for its medieval cathedral and Renaissance university, as well as for its high standard of living. It became a major commercial, intellectual, and ecclesiastical center of the upper Rhine region in the early twelfth century. Situated in the heart of the major Baden wine-growing region, and close to France and Switzerland with excellent traffic connections, it is often the starting point for tourists to enjoy spectacular beauty of the Black Forest and surroundings.
The task to visit its major sights in a few hours is quite feasible, so here is my suggested itinerary that will save you some time and energy.
- The town hall (Rathaus)
- Freiburg Minster (Freiburger Münster) started
- The Historical Merchants’ Hall (Historisches Kaufhaus)
- The Schwabentor (Swabian Gate)
- The Martinstor (Martin’s Gate)
- The Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)
- The University Library Freiburg (Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg)
- Freiburg City Theatre (Stadttheater Freiburg)
- Freiburg Concert Hall (Konzerthaus Freiburg)
- Blue Bridge (Blaue Brücke)
- Sacred Heart Church (The Herz-Jesu-Kirche)
Our tour will start from one of the most beautiful buildings in Freiburg, the New Town Hall, which was created by merging two houses from the 16 century with a central arcaded section. It is also connected to the Old Town Hall, built from 1557/1559 with a prestigious columned doorway as assembly between them. The building is beautifully maintained, decorated with plenty of flowers in summer, and an unavoidable background for your photos. There is a cute little park in front of it, where you can sit and watch people passing by and couples coming for their civil marriage ceremony.
It is located close to the Freiburg Cathedral, so it will be our next checkpoint.
The construction of Freiburg Minster (Freiburger Münster) started around 1200 in Romanesque style, but continued in Gothic style in 1230. Its tower with 16 bells, considered one of the most beautiful towers in the whole of Christianity, is nearly square at the base, dodecagonal star gallery at its center, octagonal, and tapered above.
It is the only Gothic church tower in Germany that was completed in the Middle Ages (1330), and has lasted until the present, surviving miraculously the bombing in 1944, which destroyed many houses around it at the market. Even the windows had been taken out of the spire at the time by church staff, so that they suffered no damage either.
In 1827, long after it was built. Freiburg Minster became the seat of the newly erected Catholic Archdiocese of Freiburg, and thus a cathedral.
In the early 16th century, the Cathedral master builder Lienhart Müller extended the original structure on the south side of the Minster Square, with the construction of the Historical Merchants’ Hall (Historisches Kaufhaus). Thanks to its dominant red facade, and sumptuously decorated turrets and arcades, it stands out as one of the most gorgeous buildings in Freiburg.
Behind the wide entrance, there is a large 300-square-meter inner courtyard, where merchandise storage area used to be, and which is now used for outdoor events.
Following Augustinergasse and then taking Oberlinden Street on the left, we will get to the Schwabentor (“Swabian Gate”), another important landmark of this city. The Schwabentor, is the most recent of the two remaining city gates of the medieval defensive wall of Freiburg.
It is easily confused with the other, the Martinstor, but this one is larger and with a beautiful painting of St George, patron of this city.
The gate was built in the middle of the 13th century from red sandstone, and it has three storeys. The staircase tower and half-timbered extensions were added later, in the 16th century.
We will reach The Martinstor (Martin’s Gate) following Gerberau Street.
The older of the two gates of Freiburg was also known as Norsinger Tor in medieval times, and it dates back to the year 1202. Over the centuries, it has been reconstructed several times. It also served as a prison at a certain point, and its occupants were said to have dressed “The Cloak of Martin“.
In 1901, the Martinstor was heightened from 22 to 60 meters and it got a new roof construction in the architectural style of the 15th century, and an additional gate.
There is a fast-food restaurant (McDonald’s) inside the western part of the arch, which was built in 1901. The city council could not prevent this, but at least they managed to avoid the company’s red and yellow sign, and got a more decent coloring. That is why many people referred to Martinstor as McDonald’s-Tor.
Following the same direction, we will get to the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg). It is a public research university founded in 1457 by the Habsburg dynasty as the second university in Austrian-Habsburg territory, after the University of Vienna. Next to it, there is the University Library Freiburg (Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg, UB), open to students, but also to all interested members of the public.
Right next to the library, we will see Freiburg Theatre, sometimes also referred to as Stadttheater Freiburg (Freiburg City Theatre), the oldest and biggest theatre in the city, and turning left to Bertoldstraße, we will get to another important building, Freiburg Concert Hall (Konzerthaus Freiburg). It was opened to the public in 1996, as one of the most controversial building projects in Freiburg since the end of World War II. With its multifunctional great hall, it serves as a venue for different events, such as concerts, performances, conventions and meetings.
Wiwilí Bridge (Wiwilíbrücke) or Blue Bridge (Blaue Brücke), will take us to our last destination in this tour, to the Sacred Heart Church (The Herz-Jesu-Kirche), a recent, beautiful Catholic church consecrated in 1897, with a double tower facade, and with an amazing garden around, ideal to spend the rest of our free time there.
Please bear in mind that all my itineraries are made with the intention to allow you to see as many important sights of the city as possible in short time and with the fewest steps.
As always, I will be more than happy to read your comments and suggestions!
Perhaps the most common question I was asked in my life was where I got my energy from, and how I kept smiling all the time. The secret probably lies in the fact that I discovered my passions quite early and that I stuck to them as much as I could. Apart from the journeys that leave my mind full of memories and sights, smells and sounds to stay there and be remembered forever, there is another passion of mine that keeps me going on a daily basis, and that is dancing.
Many years ago, when I was still a teenage girl, I discovered the beauty of Standard and Latin dance. The amazing sensation I have every time I hear a familiar rhythm is something that has been following me ever since. If someone offered me to go to the gym for more than two hours a day, I would have rejected it at no time, but even after four or five hours of dancing nonstop at dancing parties, I always feel sorry when they end.
The two styles are different in technique, rhythm and costumes, but they both exemplify basic elements of ballroom dancing such as control and cohesiveness.
With the appearance of Salsa, Kizomba or Bachata, dancing popularity exploded. In huge cities like mine, if you feel like dancing, you will definitely find a place to do it every single night. Ballroom dance, or Salsa parties, street Tango or a mixture of everything will be waiting for you at every corner.
After so many lectures that I have a day, and despite immense love for my job, I usually feel quite exhausted in the evenings. It happens very often that I come to my Salsa training with zero energy level. However, after just a few minutes of listening to that adorable beat, I feel alive again. By the end of the practice, which is too short for all of us, no matter how long it lasts, my face is radiant and smiling again, and my body is full of bouncing energy.
If you are lucky enough to find your “rechargers“, make the most of them.
Being healthy, and having an adorable son and family, I have already no rights to complain at all. However, with the addition of travelling, dancing and working what I like best, whenever and wherever I want, no wonder I glitter!
That is the answer!
What are your external sources of energy? What can always make you feel better? Leave me your comments; I would love to hear your ideas!
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and its political, cultural and economic center. With a population of about 430,000, it is the largest city in the country, but still one of smaller capitals of Europe.
It has several universities, many museums, theatres and galleries, as well as the headquarters of many Slovakia’s large businesses and financial institutions.
It is a small city, easy and quick to explore on foot, from the historic Old Town to the modern UFO Bridge.
As always, in order to save your time and feet, I will offer you a quick itinerary to visit its top sites, without making any unnecessary steps.
- The Blue Church
- The Slovak National Theater
- Hviezdoslav Square
- The Holy Trinity Column
- St Martin’s Cathedral
- The Cumil Statue
- The Old Town Hall
- The Primate’s Palace
- The Roland Fountain
- The Holy Savior Church
- The Franciscan Church
- Michael’s Gate
- The Trinitarian Church
- The Grassalkovich Palace
- Bratislava Castle
- The UFO Observation Deck
The easiest way to start the tour is from The Blue Church because it offers plenty of space to park if we come by car.
The Church of St. Elizabeth, commonly known as The Blue Church because of the color of its façade, mosaics and blue-glazed roof, was built in the Art Nouveau style at the beginning of the 20th century in the eastern part of the Old Town in Bratislava. It is a Hungarian Secessionist Catholic church, which initially was a part of the neighboring high school where it served as the school chapel. Now it is a popular place for weddings and baptisms.
Grösslingová and then Jesenského Streets will lead us straight to our next destination The Slovak National Theater (Slovenské národné divadlo).
It is undoubtedly one of Bratislava’s most beautiful buildings, constructed in 1886 in the Neo Renaissance style, with the lovely Fountain Ganymed in front, in one of its most famous and picturesque squares, Hviezdoslav Square (Hviezdoslavovo Námestie).
The square has existed in the Kingdom of Hungary for 1000 years. Before the reconstruction at the end of the 20th century, it was just a small city park, but now it is a marvelous city promenade.
The magnificent Holy Trinity Column with the Statue of the Virgin Mary on the top stands at the end of the square, on the spot where the bodies of those who died from the Plague were burnt to prevent the disease from spreading.
St Martin’s Cathedral (Katedrála svätého Martina) is the Roman Catholic Cathedral, situated at the western part of the historical city center, below the Bratislava Castle. It is the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava, and it was the coronation church of the Kingdom of Hungary between 1563 and 1830. A gilded replica of the coronation crown on the top of the cathedral tower at a height of 85 meters reminds of that glorious age.
The church and the castle, similar in their striking Gothic lines and colors, dominate Old Town’s skyline.
Walking along Panská Street, we will get to one of many famous bronze statues of Bratislava, “Man at Work” (Cumil), a small good man spending his time by watching people and the life of the Korzo. There are many other attractive statues here like “Napoleon’s Army Soldier Statue“, the sculpture of a soldier with a big Napoleon hat, standing on the Main Square near the Roland’s fountain behind a bench.
One of rare statues with a real story behind it is “Schone Naci Statue“, the sculpture of a real man, Ignac Lamar, born in the family of shoemaker who suddenly became a legendary person of streets, cafes and restaurants of Bratislava being one of the most elegant men of that time.
Thus, we get to the heart of Bratislava and to its Main Square with the Old Town Hall (Stará Radnica) as the most eminent building there. Actually, it is a complex of buildings from the 14th century created by connecting three townhouses. It is the oldest city hall in the country with the tower built approximately in 1370. It is easy to recognize by its colorful tiled roof.
It houses the Bratislava City Museum, its oldest museum, founded in 1868, featuring the exhibition of the city history and of torture devices.
Behind it, there is the beautiful Primate’s Palace (Primaciálny palác), a neoclassical palace built from 1778 to 1781. In 1805 this palace and its Hall of Mirrors were the location of the signing of the fourth Peace of Pressburg, after the Battle of Austerlitz, which effectively ended the War of the Third Coalition. Today, it serves as the seat of Mayor of Bratislava.
In the middle of Main Square, as one of the downtown’s favorite meeting points, there is the Roland Fountain or Maximilian Fountain (Rolandova fontána or Maximiliánova fontána), the most famous fountain in Bratislava, ordered by Maximilian II, the king of Royal Hungary, in 1572 to provide a public water supply.
Next to the Old Town Hall, there is the Holy Savior Church or the Jesuit Church (Kostol Najsvätejšieho Spasiteľa, Jezuitský kostol), originally a protestant church from the 17th century, built for the growing number of protestants of German ethnicity in the city.
By the King’s decree it could not resemble a Roman-Catholic churches, so it was built without a spire, presbytery or the entrance from the main street.
Just a little bit further there is the Franciscan Church (Františkánsky kostol or Kostol Zvestovania Pána), the oldest existing religious building in the Old Town of Bratislava, consecrated in 1297.
The building was damaged several times by fire and earthquake and just a small part of its original form is preserved. The adjoining Chapel of Saint John the Evangelist built in the 14th century is considered one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the city.
Zámočnícka Street will take us to Michael’s Gate (Michalská Brána), one of the best-known symbols of the town.
In the medieval times, the town was surrounded by fortified walls, and had four heavily fortified gates. This one was the smallest gate of the four, but the only one that has been preserved. Built around 1300, it is ranked among the oldest town buildings. Its present form is the result of Baroque reconstructions in 1758, when the statue of the Archangel Michael, slaying a dragon was placed on the top. The tower with an elegant copper roof, houses the Exhibition of Weapons nowadays.
Michalská Street will lead us to the Trinitarian Church (Kostol trinitárov), a Baroque-style church, on the Župné námestie square, built on the site of the older Church of St. Michael, which was demolished in 1529, during the Ottoman wars.
The Trinitarian Order started construction of the church in 1717 and it was sanctified in 1727.
The Grassalkovich Palace (Grasalkovičov palác), situated a bit further on Hodžovo námestie, is the residence of the president of Slovakia. The building is a Rococo and late Baroque palace built in 1760 with a French garden, which is now a public park.
Before we leave this beautiful town, I would highly recommend a visit to two sites offering a marvelous view of the city.
One is Bratislava Castle (Bratislavský hrad), the former seat of the rulers of Bratislava, and today the seat of the Museum of History. It is a massive rectangular building with four corner towers, standing on an isolated rocky hill above the Danube River. Due to its size and location, it has been a dominant feature of the city for centuries.
The other is the UFO Observation Deck on the New Bridge (Novy Most), the flying saucer-shaped structure atop the bridge’s 84.6 m (278 ft.) pylon, which is one of the most iconic structures in Bratislava. The top with a restaurant is reached by the lift, and can be crowded, but is definitely a point not to be missed in Bratislava.
As always. please leave me your comments if you find my itinerary helpful or if you have some suggestions!
The third part of our visit to Lisbon belongs to the city’s most northeastern, and the most contemporary part, completely reconstructed for the Expo ’98 World’s Fair.
- Lisbon in a Few Hours! (Part 3)
- Estação do Oriente
- Centro Comercial Vasco da Gama
- Parque das Nações
- Oceanário de Lisboa
- Jardins de Água
- Telecabina do Parque das Nações
- Torre Vasco da Gama
- Ponte Vasco da Gama
- Altice Arena
- Parque Eduardo VII
- Estádio da Luz
We will start our tour from the Estação do Oriente (the Lisbon Oriente Station), inaugurated on 19 May 1998, as a part of the opening celebration of the fair.
This is Santiago Calatrava’s masterpiece melding Gothic-style and Modernism, with the impressive modern design exterior, and a fabulous front canopy supported by the glass and metal lattices, resembling a dense forest. It is a busy and clean station, which includes a Metro station, a high-speed commuter and regional train hub, a local, national and international bus station, a shopping center and a police station.
There is the Centro Comercial Vasco da Gama (Vasco da Gama Commercial Centre) opposite the station and it is within walking distance from the waterfront as well as from several other attractions including the MEO Arena, Casino Lisboa, the Oceanarium, gardens, etc.
Located in a prime area of Lisbon’s Parque das Nações, the Vasco da Gama Shopping Centre has 170 shops, a six-screen cinema and a health club. Since the opening in 2009, it has become a favorite spot for everyone who values the option of combining shopping with free-time activities.
Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations) is a beautiful park, by the river, and next to the Oceanarium, dedicated to the different nations of the world, and ideal for a riverside walk.
It has a brand new marina, Marina Parque das Nações with 600 berths, a river pier for cruises or historical vessels, but also a spot for bird watching as it is situated in the Tagus Estuary, one of the largest estuaries of Europe.
The Oceanário de Lisboa (The Lisbon Oceanarium) in the Parque das Nações, was also constructed as one of central features for Expo ‘98 Built on a pier in an artificial lagoon, it resembles an aircraft carrier. It is the world’s largest salt water Oceanarium and is a fantastic tourist attraction especially for families. It has a large collection of over 450 different marine species, and about 16,000 individuals.
Right next to it, there are beautiful Jardins de Água (Water Gardens)
They are free, full of powerful waterfalls and misty geysers, dedicated to entertainment and leisure activities. They are a marvelous spot to cool off in summer.
Telecabina do Parque das Nações (The Nations Park Gondola Lift) and its south terminal is located next to the Oceanarium, so you should not miss the opportunity to enjoy this magnificent and unique experience… It was inaugurated on March of 1998, also for the International Exposition of Lisbon (EXPO’98), and it was one of its biggest attractions.
It has 40 closed cabins with automatic doors and the capacity of eight passengers. Its South terminal is located on Passeio de Neptuno, next to the Oceanarium and the North terminal is located on Passeio das Tágides, next to the old Vasco da Gama Tower, now the Myriad hotel. Its white and blue color stands as a beautiful contrast between the blue sky and the river.
The trip lasts from 8 to 12 minutes on a course of 1230 meters, 30 meters above the Tagus River, providing a breathtaking view.
It will take us to the Torre Vasco da Gama (The Vasco da Gama Tower), a 145 meter (476 ft.) lattice tower with skyscraper, built in 1998 for the Expo ’98, with a three-story building at its base that served as the European Union Pavilion during the Expo.
The base should have been leased for office space after the closing of the Expo, but never found tenants. Having been used only occasionally, both the observation deck and the restaurant were closed in October 2004.
The base of the tower was demolished in 2007 and the Parque Expo received the permission to construct a 20-floor, 178-room luxury hotel (The Myriad Hotel).
The architects were inspired by the form of a sail. The base enters the river like the bow of the boat. The tower has a vertical “mast”, a metallic, tubular “sail”, and a “nest”, a platform with the rotating restaurant and viewing area 120 meters above the ground. The view of the Vasco da Gama Bridge from here is truly amazing.
Ponte Vasco da Gama (The Vasco da Gama Bridge) is the longest bridge in Europe after the Crimean Bridge with a total length of 12.3 kilometers (7.6 mi) and it has six road lanes. It was built to alleviate the congestion on Lisbon’s 25 de Abril Bridge, and eliminate the need for traffic to pass through the capital city.
Its construction began on February 1995 and it was opened to traffic just in time for Expo 98, the World’s Fair that celebrated the 500th anniversary of the discovery by Vasco da Gama of the sea route from Europe to India.
We can walk back to the Altice Arena (formerly MEO Arena), a multi-purpose indoor arena that is also one of the largest indoor arenas in the European Union with a capacity of 20,000 people, and mostly used for big concerts of national and international stars.
Using the benefits of the perfectly functioning Lisbon Metro, I would end up our tour either at the Benfica Stadium for football fans, or at one of the most beautiful panoramic views of Lisbon, at Parque Eduardo VII.
Parque Eduardo VII (The Eduardo VII Park) is a public park with a nice landscape architectural style, and the largest park in the central city. Within the area of the Park are the Carlos Lopes Pavilion, and the Estufa Fria (a greenhouse garden)
On the northern top of the park, there is a flagpole with the present largest Flag of Portugal, offering a magnificent view of the city all the way to the Tagus.
The Estádio da Luz, officially named Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica, is a multi-purpose stadium in Lisbon, owned by Portuguese club S.L. Benfica. It is one of the biggest stadiums by capacity in Europe and the biggest in Portugal. It was also elected as the most beautiful stadium of Europe in an online poll by L’Équipe.
Opened in 2003, it replaced the original Estádio da Luz, which had 120,000 seats. The seating capacity was decreased to 64,642.
The translation “Stadium of Light” is not accurate because Luz refers not to “light” but to the original address of the stadium: Estrada da Luz. It is often referred to also as a Catedral (the Cathedral) or as o Inferno da Luz.
It was designed to focus on light and transparency. Its polycarbonate roof allows the sunlight to penetrate the stadium and illuminate it. The roof, supported by four steel arches, seems to float above the tribunes.
Lisbon is a city of endless possibilities. The route I have offered you is just a plan that you can use to get the most out of a short visit. However, whatever you do in Lisbon, you will surely get the most beautiful memories.
Feel free to leave me a comment if you do not agree with something or if my advice has been helpful to you. I am here to share my experiences, and to help yours get richer.
Is there a greater pleasure for teachers than a triumph of their own students? It could only be a double triumph, accomplished in two different, equally hard disciplines. However, the pleasure I am feeling at this moment has no comparison, because this time my student is also my own child.
I got him when I had already achieved all of my competitive ambitions. I had never wanted to put the burden of my own expectations and desires on his shoulders. Having recognized his inherited talent for learning languages, I channeled my teaching only to the extent that he was interested and curious to follow.
By coincidence, the first foreign language for my child was Italian, not English. I used to travel very often to Italy when he was two and he started collecting words and expressions without my influence.
I was amazed to see how the child of three or four absorbed with ease such complex grammar issues.
When he started going to school, we had to stop travelling that often, but I chose the school offering Italian and English as the second and the third language. It was also when I started teaching him, using my particular techniques. The internet and the constant communication in English with friends from all over the world have completed the job.
As a result, when he finally got a chance to compete (The first official competition in my country for languages is at the age of 14), he won the first prizes, both in English end Italian.
Can you imagine how proud I feel at this moment? There is no greater reward for all the effort and patience that I have given him, nor better publicity and proof of quality for my teaching methods.
I know that in a very short time I will be able to teach him also the secrets of digital marketing, which, with all the knowledge he already possesses, will enable him to enjoy his work and to live the way he loves most.
The second part of this tour will take us through the very center of Lisbon.
- The Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square)
- The Rua Augusta Arch
- Rua Augusta (Augusta Street)
- Rossio Square – Praça de D. Pedro IV (Pedro IV Square)
- The Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II (The Queen Maria II National Theatre)
- The Estação de Caminhos de Ferro do Rossio (The Rossio Train Station)
- The Castelo de São Jorge (Saint George Castle)
- The Church or Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (St. Vincent Outside the Walls)
- The Alfama
- The National Pantheon – the Igreja de Santa Engrácia (The Church of Santa Engrácia)
- The Museu do Fado (The Fado Museum)
- Sé de Lisboa (The Lisbon Cathedral)
- The Elevador de Santa Justa (The Santa Justa elevator)
- The Bairro Alto
- The Chiado
We will start it from the Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square), still commonly known as the Terreiro do Paço (Palace Yard), because it was the location of the Paços da Ribeira (Royal Ribeira Palace), until it was destroyed by the great earthquake in 1755. After the earthquake, the square was completely remodeled.
Situated near the Tagus River, the square was very important place in the history of Lisbon. There is a huge archway to the city center (The Rua Augusta Arch) and a beautiful equestrian Statue of King José I in the middle of it.
The Rua Augusta Arch is a stone, triumphal arch and one of the most recognizable attractions of Lisbon. It was built to commemorate the city’s reconstruction after the earthquake. It has six columns and with statues of various historical figures and with the coat of arms of Portugal. The group of statues at the top represents Glory rewarding Valor and Ingenuity.
The building was originally designed as a bell tower, but later, after more than a century, it was transformed into an elaborate arch.
It takes us to Augusta Street, which links the Praça do Comércio with the other traditional Lisbon square, the Rossio.
Rossio Square, officially the Praça de D. Pedro IV (Pedro IV Square) paying homage to Pedro IV, King of Portugal, has been the place of many revolts and celebrations, executions and bullfights, and is still a favorite meeting place in Lisbon.
In the 19th century, it was paved with typical Portuguese mosaic and was decorated with bronze fountains. The Column of Pedro IV was erected in 1874 and the square got its current official name that has never been accepted by the people.
Most buildings around the Rossio were reconstructed after the earthquake in the second half of the 18th century, like the magnificent All-Saints Hospital. Only the Palace of the Independence survived it.
The Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II (The Queen Maria II National Theatre) built in the 1840s, is one of the most prestigious Portuguese venues. It was designed in neoclassical style. The main feature of the façade is a portico with six Ionic columns and a triangular pediment decorated with a sculpted relief of Apollo and the Muses. On its top, there is a statue of the Renaissance Portuguese playwright Gil Vicente, considered the founder of Portuguese theatre, whose plays, ironically, had sometimes been censured by the Portuguese Inquisition in the 16th century.
In 1887 another important landmark and an important addition to the infrastructure of the city was built in the square: the Estação de Caminhos de Ferro do Rossio (the Rossio Train Station) whose beautiful neo-manueline façade dominates the northwest side of the square.
Going towards the eastern part of Lisbon now, we will first visit the Castelo de São Jorge (Saint George Castle), a Moorish castle on the top of the hill overlooking the historic center of Lisbon and Tagus River. This well-preserved citadel offers a magnificent view of the city and it is easy to reach either taking the famous 28 tram or a tuk tuk, which is already a unique experience.
The Church or Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. It also contains the impressive royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.
It was originally built in Romanesque style in 1147 outside the city walls, dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought there in the 12th century.
Its magnificent façade follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism and has several niches with statues of saints and two towers.
The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent Baroque portal, located beside the church façade. The monastery houses a museum containing the largest collection of Baroque Portuguese tiles.
Climbing the steps up to the bell tower, we will get one of the most beautiful views of the city.
On the slope between the São Jorge Castle and the Tejo river, lies the Alfama, the oldest district of Lisbon.
Its steep and narrow cobblestone streets are filled with historical attractions, but also restaurants and Fado bars. Seeing one of the fado dinner shows is a must.
The Arab influence here is remarkable, both in the architectural style and in the whole layout of the area.
One of the Alfama’s hidden gems is the National Pantheon, located in what was formerly the Igreja de Santa Engrácia (The Church of Santa Engrácia).The church was converted into the National Pantheon in 1916 and it contains the tombs of many important Portuguese rulers and historical figures. It is worth climbing to the broad terrace that provides panoramic, breathtaking views over the Alfama neighborhood.
There is a beautiful baroque portal at the entrance to the church with the coat-of-arms of Portugal held by two angels. A high central dome was completed only in the 20th century, and its magnificent baroque organ from the18th-century was brought from Lisbon Cathedral.
On our way to the Lisbon Cathedral, we will pass by the Museu Militar (The Military Museum) and The Museu do Fado (The Fado Museum), both worth visiting if the time allows it.
Sé de Lisboa (The Lisbon Cathedral) is a Roman Catholic Church and the oldest church in Lisbon. Since the beginning of its construction in 1147, the building has been modified several times and survived many earthquakes. Nowadays it represents a mixture of different architectural styles. The facade is relatively plain, but the interior is quite stunning.
Coming back to Augusta Street, we will walk to the Elevador de Santa Justa, which will take us to our final destinations, this time on the western part of Lisbon, the Bairro Alto and the Chiado.
The Elevador de Santa Justa (The Santa Justa elevator), one of the eccentric sights of the Baixa district, was designed by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel, Raul Mesnier de Ponsard in 1902.
It is 45 meters tall, made of iron and decorated with filigree. Up to 20 passengers at a time can travel up and down.
At the top, there is a walkway that links the elevator with Largo do Carmo in the Bairro Alto.
The Bairro Alto (Upper District or “neighbourhood”) resulted from urban expansion in the 16th century, outside the walls of the historical city.
This cobbled area is a bohemian part of the city with numerous tiny shops and boutiques spread along the narrow streets, and many crowded, fun, and lively bars that are bursting with people hanging out.
Between the Bairro Alto and Baixa Pombalina, there is the Chiado, a square with its surrounding area, a traditional shopping area that mixes old and modern commercial establishments, but it is also an important cultural area, with several museums and theatres.
After a huge fire in 1988, the Chiado area has recovered, and nowadays features the highest real estate property prices in Portugal.
To be continued …
Mission impossible! Three times in a couple of hours is already feasible.
Many of you have been asking me to write a map of the visit to Lisbon for a long time, but many of you also resented my blogs being too long. Therefore, I came up with the idea to introduce this marvelous city to you in three parts. Depending on your available time, you can choose the parts you definitely do not want to miss, according to your own affinities.
Lisbon (Portuguese: Lisboa), the capital and the largest city of Portugal, is an energetic and amazing city, which has so much to offer to its visitors, of history, heritage, fascinating architecture, delicious food, wonderful cork products and a surprisingly vibrant nightlife.
- The Belém Tower
- The Monument to the Overseas Combatants
- The Tagus River
- The Belem Lighthouse
- The Monument of the Discoveries
- Empire Square
- The Jerónimos Monastery
- Pasteis de Belém
- The National Palace of Belém
- 25th of April Bridge
- The Sanctuary of Christ the King
- Time Out Market
My unquestionably most favorite part of Lisbon and its most iconic feature, is the Belém Tower (Portuguese: Torre de Belém), where we will start our tour.
The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus River and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. It was built in the early 16th century and is an outstanding example of the Portuguese Manueline style with hints of other architectural styles from the Gothic to the Romanesque.
It was built from Lioz limestone and it consists of a bastion and a four-storey tower. If you decide to enter, count on climbing 93 steps up to the top!
Right next to it there is the Monument to the Overseas Combatants, an attraction more recently added to Lisbon’s waterfront, commemorating all the people that lost their lives in the wars that Portugal was involved.
Its simple design and the cold geometry focus our attention to what the monument represents, and towards the center where the flame of the nation is placed. The lake symbolizes the distance and separation of the combatants from home and family, and there are no names of individuals or wars.
Two soldiers stand guard at the Monument all the time.
Following the River Tagus (Tejo), the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula (1,007 km), which empties into the Atlantic Ocean, forming a large estuary near the port city of Lisbon, in the direction of the city center, we will get to the Belem Lighthouse and to the Popular Art Museum (Museu de Arte Popular).
Just after them, there is the Monument of the Discoveries (Padrao dos Descobrimentos), a contemporary monument celebrating the Portuguese discoveries during the 15th and 16th centuries.
The view from the top is awesome, and you can also admire the breathtaking, large compass rose made of different color stone, laid into the square in front of the monument.
The area surrounding it is always full of tourists and locals, usually there is a band playing, and the atmosphere is simply fantastic.
We will leave the Tagus now, and cross Av. Brasilia to get to The Praça do Império (Empire Square), a city square and park situated adjacent to principal monuments and tourist attractions of Lisbon. The park is situated to the south of the Monastery of Santa Maria de Belém and west of the Centro Cultural de Belém.
It has the central illuminated fountain on a square platform, covering an area of 3,300 square meters (36,000 sq. ft.), and the sculptures of the seahorses on the extreme edges of the southern part of the square.
The Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos), is a former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome, and one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon. In 1983 it was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby Tower of Belém.
The Jerónimos Monastery replaced the church formerly existing in the same place, which was dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém and where the monks assisted the sailors in transit.
It is impressive inside, with some lovely stained glass windows and the Tomb of Vasco da Gama, who spent the night in prayer there with his men before departing on their expedition to the Orient in 1497. It is well worth a visit.
At the very beginning of Belém Street, you will find an old pastry shop, where you can taste their famous Pasteis de Belém (called Pasteis de Nata when not made in Belém itself). Be prepared to join a long queue, but the service is great and it moves very quickly.
These delicious Portuguese custard tarts come warm and they are some of the best in Lisbon.
The shop’s interior is beautiful and it is worth visiting for a few minutes. You can have a look into the bakery through the glass panes. The building is very old and there are some fabulous hand-painted tiles on the walls.
Following the street towards the city center, you will see Afonso de Albuquerque Garden on your right and the Palace of Belém on your left side, with the Tropical Botanical Garden behind.
The Belém Palace, or the National Palace of Belém, (Palácio Nacional de Belém) has been the official residence of Portuguese monarchs and later, the Presidents of the Portuguese Republic. The five buildings that make up the main façade date back to the second half of the 17th century.
To finish the first part of our visit to Lisbon, we can either take the train over (actually under) the 25 de Abril Bridge to visit the statue of Jesus Christ, which takes 4-5 minutes, or we can proceed towards the center and go to the Time Out Market. On the other hand, we can do both! 🙂
25th of April Bridge is a suspension bridge connecting the city of Lisbon to the left (south) bank of the Tagus. It was inaugurated in 1966, and a train platform was added in 1999. It is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, US, because they are both suspension bridges of similar color. It is a wonderful construction of 2,277 meters (7,470 ft.), whose upper deck carries six car lanes, and the lower deck carries a double track railway.
The Sanctuary of Christ the King (Santuário de Cristo Rei) is a giant statue in cement, erected to express gratitude because the Portuguese were spared the effects of World War II. It is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ overlooking the city of Lisbon.
Time Out Market in Lisbon is a brilliant place for any food lover, although it can take you ages to decide what you want to eat because there is so much to choose from! There is something for every palate, such a diversity of restaurants where the food is very well prepared and prices are moderate, along with littles stores where shopping is very pleasant. It is a place full of high-spirited energy from all around the world.
To be continued …