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Showing posts with the label museum

The Art of Spanish Bullfighting at the Famous Maestranza

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A few things come to mind to be as innately and inherently Spanish, as Bullfighting. Also known as corrida de toros (running of the bulls), the blood sport is an icon of Spain. And there's nothing quite like this deadly struggle between man and beast to conjure up the passion and bravado of Spaniards everywhere. 

* At the center of the bullfighting world is this massive stadium of the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Sevilla (whew, what a mouthful), more affectionately referred to as the "Maestranza".

Anastasia and the Grand Burial Place of the Romanovs

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Before St. Petersburg became what it is today, the finest of all Russian cities full of magnificent palaces, grand churches, and impressive monuments, the center of power lay in the citadel that Peter the Great himself founded, the Fortress of Peter and Paul.
It was from here that the Russian Empire exercised its constabulary might; using the island-fortress as a prison for political opponents and execution site for those the empire deemed too dangerous to live. Despite that rather grim reputation; however, the fortress contains what is perhaps the greatest treasure of the former Russian Empire.
For it is here that all the Russian Emperors and Empresses, Princes and Princesses are entombed.

* And for contemporary standards, there is no more famous Russian royal family than that of Tsar Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia.

Vasa Museum: The Most Impressive Ship Which Never Sailed

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What happens when you build a ship so armed to the teeth, that it was meant to be the most powerful vessel of its time; laughing at the face of the scientific theories of buoyancy and weight distribution? 
It sinks, of course! And during its maiden voyage too! This is the story of the Swedish warship, the Vasa. 

* And for over 300 years, the Vasa peacefully rested at the bottom of the sea until being successfully raised, whole and intact, in 1961!

Plaza de Espana: A Tribute to the Spanish Empire

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At the peak of its height, the Spanish Empire ruled supreme over territory that now includes Western and Southern United States, Mexico, half of South America, the Philippine Islands, Naples and Southern Italy, and the Low Countries (Netherlands and Belgium).
To showcase the diversity and cultural richness of its formerly vast and far-reaching empire, Spain held the Ibero-American Exposition in 1929 with the city of Seville playing its host. 

* And at the center of the Exposition, stood the splendid Plaza de España, one of Sevilla's main landmarks and an icon of Spanish tourism.

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.

Belém and the Legacy of Portuguese Exploration

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Enduring for over six centuries, the Portuguese Empire was actually the first colonial empire of Europe, leading the continent's Age of Discovery. With superior cutting-edge maritime technology and having a who's-who of historical explorers and sailors, the Portuguese mapped out whole coasts of the Americas, Africa, and Asia, while its European rivals were still squabbling on the main land. 
And Lisbon's Belem district, contains monuments and landmarks to this proud Portuguese legacy.

* By far, the coolest monument in Belem is that of the Monument of the Discoveries; featuring some of the world's most important explorers and situated right on the port where ships used to depart for Africa, India, and the Orient.

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.

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.

Palazzo Ducale - The Doge's Palace

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The Doge was the highest official in the once Most Serene Republic of Venice; having total control of the city-state and its global empire for over 1,100 years

* And like most European royal families, the Doge lived in style!

Culture Overload at Venice's Piazza San Marco

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At the height of its power, the Republic of Venice was THE major superpower in the world. Insanely wealthy due to its prime position as conduit between Europe, North Africa, and Asia, Venice has been lavishly decorated by its rulers and inhabitants throughout the centuries to showcase its grandeur.
And in this city-state, the social, political, and religious worlds revolved around the Piazza San Marco. 

* From the Lagoon, the Piazza can be accessed via the Piazzetta di San Marco, which contains the famous Lion of Venice (left), symbol of St. Mark the Evangelist, and Statue of St. Theodore (right), a warrior saint venerated by the Greek Orthodox Church.

Tourist Trap Chronicles - Prague's Museum of Alchemy

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While Prague is nowadays full of tourists, there was a time when the city was full of visitors of a more esoteric nature. 

* How can one NOT get intrigued by this shrouded figure by the Museum's entrance!

Medieval Crime and Punishment Musuem

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The scenic town of Rothenburg, apart from being Germany's most charming, medieval village, contains one more star attraction especially for history buffs like yours truly.

* What would have been any regular old building was made so much cooler with the presence of this Ducking Stool, a device used to punish dishonest traders and disorderly women. What could this building be?!

Visiting the Dodo Bird at Vienna's Naturhistorisches Museum

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One of the most memorable stops in our trip was our afternoon visit to Vienna's Naturhistorisches Museum. As a child, I was a HUGE fan of books containing pages full of photos of the different animal species. A particular interest of mine was this book showcasing all the extinct animals with the various reasons for their extinction. I had no idea that I was gonna see all of my childhood favorites that afternoon.

* Opened in 1889, the Naturhistorisches Museum stands on the grounds of the Maria-Theresien-Platz, across its identical twin building, the Kunsthistorisches, Vienna's Museum of Fine Arts.

A Walk Around Imperial Vienna - Legacy of the Habsburgs

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Vienna was the crown jewel and capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Much more than that though, Vienna was the home of the House of Habsburg, one of Europe's most important royal houses.
How important were they? Well the Holy Roman Emperor (ruler of all the Germanic States) from 1438 to 1740 was a member of the Habsburg Dynasty, and the Family ruled pretty much the whole of Continental Europe at one point, save for the territory of the Kingdom of France.
Because of this, Vienna is a city of great cultural, architectural, and historical significance as evidenced by how beautifully well planned everything is.

* Most of Vienna's imperial sights can be found along the Ringstrasse, a circular road which was built to replace the city walls, using money paid by the English for the safe release of King Richard the Lionheart (from the Crusades), who was held hostage by the Austrians.

Corregidor Island and the Bravery of the Filipino-American Forces During WWII

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When Deal Grocer announced an all-inclusive tour of Corregidor (including boat ride, island tour and lunch buffet) for just $25 a person, I knew that this was too good a deal to miss!

Not only had I never been to this famous key WWII battleground, but this was also to be an excitingly different weekend excursion with my fiancee, Monicca, and our friends, Aaron and Cole.



* The tour is operated by Sun Cruises Philippines, whose terminal is located near theCultural Center of the Philippines. To get to the island, we took an hour long, comfortable, catamaran ride.

San Agustin Church and the Beauty of Old Manila

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While Metro Manila may be world class when it comes to shopping malls, entertainment facilities, restaurants, bars, clubs and bargain shopping, its choices of cultural attractions is, unfortunately, very limited. Partly its because of the national government's limited support for our historical sites or maybe its because our people themselves do not really value our cultural and historical heritage, preferring instead Western influences.

Nonetheless, I am extremely proud that we more or less have the ancient walled city of Intramuros to get our nationalistic fix in, as well as to showcase to our balikbayans and foreign guests who want to catch a glimpse of our history. And at the center of this walled city is my favorite church in the country, the San Agustin Church.



* Built in 1571 by members of the Order of St. Augustine, the San Agustin Church was the first religious structurebuilt by the Spaniards in the island of Luzon.


The British Museum - Of Mummies and Rosetta Stones

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Pretty much every great city in the world has an equally great museum. And in all my travels, I have been fortunate enough to have seen a few REALLY awesome ones; Paris, New York, Chicago, Jerusalem and Rome come to mind.

So when I realized that I had a few hours to kill, I knew that I HAD to check out the British Museum, one of the largest and most comprehensive museums in the world!

I am happy to rank this as my UNDISPUTED FAVORITE museum ever; with collections originating from practically every continent.

Best of all, admission is FREE; with the rationale being that all objects found therein belong to all of humanity. God bless them Brits!


* Accessed via the Holborn or Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, the British Museum was established in 1753 and has a neo-classical exterior. Originally, the collections found therein were all originally owned and thereafter donated by the physician and scientistSir Hans Sloane.

Laying Siege to the Tower of London

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Of all the sights in London, only one place can claim to be as historically significant as it is significantly haunted. Built in 1078 by the Norman King, William the Conqueror, the Tower of London has served as a royal palace, armory, treasury, zoo and most famously, a prison where some of the most famous characters in English history have been imprisoned, tortured and executed. Today, the fortress is one of London's most famous tourists spots, as it also houses the Crown Jewels of the UK.


* After getting of the Tower Hill Tube Station, expect to take a 15 minute pleasant stroll towards the main entrance of the Tower.

Westminster Abbey - Burial Place of Legends

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One cannot go to London and NOT SEE Westminster Abbey! To do so would be a grand disservice to your trip. I mean how can you not experience the most important (and heck, oldest) church in London: site of coronations, burials, memorials, and lookalike to every Citadel in our dreams?! Yeah, I'm a big fan of this place. So big that I purposely and happily went here thrice in the two times that I've visited London!


* Taking the tube to Westminster and getting off Westminster Station, short and sweet!! While I greatly appreciated the presence of English all around (compared to everywhere else in Europe), I must say that I found the Paris Metro to be more navigable compared to the London Tube. Must be because the Metro uses a numbering system (Get off the 6, Hop on the 9) compared to the system of the Tube which uses named lines (Jubilee Line... Jubilee Line.. Wait, what I am doing on the Metropolitan Line?!)

A Day with the Oracle and Leonidas

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After spending much time admiring the hustle and bustle of Athens, and before flying off to enjoy the enchanting beauty of the Cyclades(Greek islands in the Aegean), we set off to tour the Greek countryside to gain a further understanding and appreciation for the link between Greek history and the mythological and legendary stories found within her culture.

On Day 1 of our tour, we visited the renowned Oracle of Delphi and the Battlefield of Thermopylae.



* What’s a tour without tourist traps? Fortunately here in Greece, they come with excellent Greek coffeegelato and Paprika-flavored Pringles. Add the very fresh Greek countryside air to the mix and you have a hell of a great time!