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Showing posts with the label churches

Tales from the Grand Churches of Portugal: Fatima, Alcobaça, Batalha

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As a historically Roman Catholic country set in an area once dominated by Islam, Portugal is home to colossal structures dedicated to Christianity.  One only has to drive out of the capital, Lisbon, to see these impressive religious monuments.
Fatima

* The most popular of these monuments is undoubtedly the Sanctuary of Fatima, located around an hour and thirty minutes from downtown Lisbon.

Buddhist Enlightenment at Tokyo's Sensoji Temple

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When you need a break from the futuristic skyscrapers, neon lights, eye-catching characters and crazy shopping, you'll find that Tokyo is also home to numerous spots dedicated to spiritual centering and enlightenment.

* Senso-ji Temple, located at the heart of Asakusa, is Tokyo's oldest and most important temple.

Cabo Da Roca: The End of the World and Other Portuguese Towns

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Aside form being home to imperial monuments and maritime wonders, Lisbon is also the entry point to several charming towns and sights. And like the rest of Western Europe, roads are organized and well-maintained, transportation is easy to find, and the spirit of adventure is high.

* Cabo da Roca, apart from being one of the most dramatic looking coastlines I have ever seen, is more famously known as the westernmost point of Europe.

Monastery of Jeronimos: Burial Place of Portuguese Kings

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For Centuries, the Portuguese were the bravest explorers in all of Europe. Reaching the coasts of Africa, South America, South Asia, and even Japan, these explorers were fearless, to the point of being audacious!
And being a nation of devout Catholics, Portugal would unsurprisingly have an Order whose sole task it was to pray and offer spiritual guidance for these brave souls.

* At the center of this task of significant importance was the Monastery of Jeronimos.

The Kremlin: Home of Vladimir Putin

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At the very heart of the beast that was the Soviet Union stands the fortified complex known as the Kremlin. Separated from Moscow's iconic Red Square by thick impenetrable walls, the Kremlin was for Centuries the official residence of the Russian Tsars.

* And this fine tradition continues to this day, as the Kremlin is the home of Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. He lives in the Kremlin Senate building, which is obviously the most secure part of the fortress.

Moscow: Heart of the Soviet Union

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Every hero has its main rival; and for the better part of the 20th Century the two great rival powers were the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It is a story of dualism: West vs. East, NATO vs. the Warsaw Pact, Democracy vs. Communism; and at the heart of the two beasts, Washington DC and Moscow. I was privileged to have had the opportunity to visit Moscow, and these were some of the amazing photos from that journey.

* Nothing symbolizes Russia quite like the iconic Saint Basil's Cathedral.

Copenhagen: From Viking Village to Royal Capital

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Copenhagen.
What started as a small Viking fishing village eventually grew to become the seat of the Dano-Norwegian Empire, and current capital of Denmark.
Now while Denmark is well-known for being one of the world leaders in design, clean energy, and sustainability, as well as liberalism, human rights, and modernism (free education, healthcare, and social security for all), its capital contains multiple treasures to its glorious royal past!

* Like most people from Scandinavia (the people formerly known as the Vikings), the Danes LOVE the water. One of Copenhagen's most picturesque spots is the waterfront area known as the Nyhavn.

Imperial Lisbon In All Its Old World Glory

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At its height, the Portuguese Empire was one of the largest and most powerful empires in the world. Armed with superior seafaring technology and a lot of bravado, Portuguese explorers helped to establish the very first European colonies in South America, Africa, and Asia - directly starting the Age of Discovery and Colonialism.
And at the heart of the Empire was the city of Lisbon.

* Imagine yourself standing at the center of the world's most important city 600 years ago, think today's New York City. You would find yourself standing at the Praca do Comercio.

Macau: The Final European Colony in Asia

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Apart from being Asia's gambling and entertainment capital, Macau also has the special distinction of being the last colony in Asia to be granted independence from a European power.

* And nothing perfectly shows the coexistence of East and West than Macau's Historic Center, featuring the famous Ruins of St. Paul.

When All The Tourists Have Gone Away

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...Venice becomes eerily beautiful!

* People like to joke that Venice is one giant tourist trap!

How To Skillfully Navigate Venice

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Short answer: Don't! 
To anyone but local Venetians themselves, Venice might as well be a labyrinth. Built over an archipelago of 118 islands linked by bridges, the city is a real challenge to accurately navigate that one might as well purposely wander around and trust in the gods to find the way back home. 


* A few random turns and we find the infamous Bridge of Sighs (in the far background). Local legend has it that it was called so as this was the bridge leading to the prison from the Doge's Palace, and convicts were known to "sigh" as they got one more glimpse of the beauty of Venice before being incarcerated.

The Basilica of St. Mark and the Treasures of Constantinople

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Nothing quite prepares you for the spectacle of seeing the interior of the Basilica of St. Mark for the first time. A symbol of Venetian majesty, wealth, and power, the Basilica has also been referred to as the Church of Gold.

* And for good reason! This was probably how the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (then Constantinople) looked like before it was defaced and converted into a mosque.

Church of St. Nicholas - A Baroque Masterpiece

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In a city full of spires, the Church of Saint Nicholas sure found a way to stand out. Dominating the skyline of Mala Strana, Prague's New Town, the Church is breathtaking both inside and out.

* From a distance, St. Nicholas looks very formidable!

Prague the Mighty - Castle Complex and St. Vitus Cathedral

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Apart from being the home to the Kings of Bohemia, several Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, and Presidents of Czechoslovakia, Prague Castle also has the distinction of being the largest ancient castle in the world.

* Nothing screams WELCOME than two giant sculptures of legendary characters beating their foes to a bloody pulp.

Hallo Deutschland! Munich and the Marienplatz

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Having had the pleasure of exploring three kingdoms so far (Polish, Magyar-Hungarian, and Austrian), we decided to take a detour to Western Europe and explore an old kingdom in one of Europe's most historically fragmented states, Germania. At its peak, the German Confederation was a loose association of 39 Germanic states including the Kingdoms of Prussia (Berlin), Saxony (Dresden), Hanover (Hanover), Wurttemberg (Stuttgart), and Bavaria (Munich). 
Since we could only choose one Germanic city, we went for the area with the most castles, traditional villages, sausages, and beer, the home of the Oktoberfest, Munich!

* Arriving at the Marienplatz which has been Bavaria's main square since 1158!

Vienna Coffee Culture and Night Walks

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Because of the sheer efficiency of the Viennese Subway, the U-Bahn, getting around and exploring Vienna was a very pleasurable experience. And while we may have only spent 3 days in the former imperial capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I felt that we really got to cover a whole lot of ground!

* St. Stephen's Cathedral, known in Austria as the Stephansdom, is Vienna's most important religious building and seat of the Roman Catholic Archiocese.

Habsburg Imperial Crypt - And The Viennese Death Culture

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I am a HUGE fan of Cathedrals, Burial Places, and Cathedral-Crypts!
See Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem See Catacombs of Paris See Notre Dame, Paris See Westminster Abbey See Wawel Cathedral and Crypt See San Agustin Church, Manila
So when I read in several guide books that there was an Imperial Crypt full of Monarchs from the Holy Roman Empire, as well as members of the House of Habsburg, I just knew that we had to check it out!

* The unassuming entrance to the Crypt below. You wouldn't be able to tell at all that 12 Holy Roman Emperors and 18 Empresses are actually entombed here!

* Built in 1633, the Imperial Crypt has been the burial place for family members of the House of Habsburg for Centuries.

* The sarcophagi are placed and marked along a series of ten interconnected subterranean vaulted rooms.

* All in all, 145 members of the House of Habsburg are buried here, including the aforementioned 12 Emperors and 18 Empresses. A quarter of those entombed here were under 5 years old whe…

Buda Hill and the Best View of Budapest

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Modern-day Budapest is actually a combination of two rival medieval cities: Buda and Pest. While flat Pest is located on the eastern bank of the fabled Danube River and has traditionally been Hungarian, Buda, located on the western bank, is hilly, full of trees, and was historically inhabited by Germans, Ottomans, and Serbians before finally being assimilated by the Hungarians. 

* Buda was the former capital of the Kingdom of Hungary and thus contains Buda CastleMatthias Church, and the Fisherman's Bastion.

St. Mary's Basilica - An Altarpiece So Beautiful, The Nazis Had To Steal It

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Returning from a whole day of remembrance in Auschwitz, we purposely went straight to a church in order to say a prayer for the millions who were brutally murdered. That church was the majestic St. Mary's Basilica, located right on the Main Market Square of Krakow.

* Originally built in the 13th Century, the Basilica's more formal name is the Church of Our Lady Assumed Into Heaven.

Wawel Hill - Castle, Cathedral, and Crypt of the Polish Kings

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Following our morning in the Underground Salt Cathedral of Wieliczka, we decided to go the other direction in the afternoon by going uphill to learn more about the Kings and Queens of the Polish people.
Wawel Hill, situated on the banks of the fabled Vistula River, is a castle complex built in the 8th Century serving as the political center of the Polish people for over a millennium. The complex includes the Royal Castle and Wawel Cathedral, which contains the mausoleum of the Polish Monarchs.

* The astounding view of the Wawel Cathedral grounds! The castle complex has often been described by observers as one of the most fascinating of all European castles.