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Showing posts with the label churches

The Two Lives of St. Isaac Cathedral

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Due to decades of Soviet Communist rule, something startling happened to cathedrals and churches across the Russian Federation. With its chief creed of having no religion except the ideology of socialism, all churches within the vast Soviet empire were secularized; meaning they were stripped of their religious significance and turned into museums.

* And what's truly amazing about all of this is that these churches are not just simple places of worship; a lot of them are among the largest, grandest, and most majestic churches on earth!

Sights and Sounds of New York City - Part 1

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There is undoubtedly no other city as iconic as New York City, whose five boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island are rich in history, character, and culture; forever immortalized in numerous movies, TV shows, stories, and songs.
Originally a Dutch colony settled in 1624 named New Amsterdam, New York City has grown to become what is is now: the most populous and visited city in the US, home to the United Nations and the Statue of Liberty, the fashion, media, and financial capital of the world, the very symbol itself of the great United States of America.
And it is said that in New York City, even buildings, squares, and streets are world famous. Here are some of NYC's most famous tourist locations: Part One Times Square
* At the center of New York is the pedestrianized intersection of lights, sound, and spectacle known as Times Square.

A Night Walk Around Old Town Sevilla

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Definitely one of the advantages of staying in a hotel right in the middle of the city center is the ability to wander around and experience the city after the sun has gone down.
A Spanish city changes at night. Somehow it becomes even more vibrant and authentic as locals, offered a temporary respite from the hustle and bustle of the daily barrage of tourists, are now free to come out, dine, and socialize; the Spanish way of rewarding one's self for a hard day's work.

* And in Old Town Sevilla, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is wonderfully lit and conducive for romance.

The Shocking Origin of Russia's Church on Spilled Blood

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As far as Russian landmarks go, few rival the spectacular Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, located at the heart of St. Petersburg. 
In fact, this structure along with St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow are top-of-mind for when one thinks of icons that are "authentically Russian".

* However, this awe-inspiring building holds a very dark and shocking origin story.

Downtown Helsinki and Other Highlights

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Helsinki, capital of Finland, is your quintessential ideal European city: heavily pedestrianized, fantastic public transportation, full of green open spaces and mid-rise buildings, and a general feeling of safety especially for foreigners.
It is also known as the credit card capital of Europe; and indeed one can buy anything (even street food) with a Visa or Mastercard on hand! 

* A fact which came in handy in the city's Market Square!

Nara: City of Sacred Deer

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No trip to Osaka would be complete without a stopover at the enchanting city of Nara.
While history and culture buffs will love the collection of temples, shrines, and ruins that altogether make up the UNESCO World Heritage "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara" list, most travelers come for a different activity all together: the feeding and photo opportunity with wild Japanese deer. Tōdai-ji Temple
* And the most popular location for this activity can be found on the grounds of Todai-ji Temple.

Sevilla Cathedral: The Largest Cathedral in the World

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In the medieval competition for recognition of the title of "Champion of Christianity", Spain certainly talked the talk and walked the walk. 
Not content with colonizing the Americas and the Philippine Islands in the name of Christ and waging a crusade to reconquer the Iberian peninsula from the Muslim Moors, Spain also built herself several iconic and unrivaled churches; among which is the Cathedral of Seville.
Also known as the largest cathedral in the world!

* And burial place of famed explorer, Christopher Columbus.

Helsinki: One of the World's Most Livable Cities

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Finland is a country of extremely positive circumstances. Despite being the most sparsely populated country in the European Union, it has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world with very high marks in levels of education, economic competitiveness, quality of life, and human development.
Finland is also consistently on the list of "happiest people in the world", has been awarded "most stable country" continuously for six years (2011-2016), and is at the top of the Global Gender Gap ranking, meaning men and women are treated almost equally in terms of pay, opportunities, and benefits.

* And this utopia of a country is ruled from its capital Helsinki, which certainly lives up to its country's accolades by being named "world's most livable city" a bunch of times in the past two decades.

Fushimi Inari and the Shrines of Kyoto

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Along with the futuristic megacity of Tokyo and the foodie heaven of Osaka, no trip to Japan would be complete without visiting its cultural capital, Kyoto.
Home to the Japanese imperial court for over a thousand years, Kyoto is full of palaces, temples, shrines, and gardens; which thanks to not being targeted by Allied bombing during World War II, has been preserved in all its authenticity. This is Part 3 of our Kyoto Series: Shrines.
Fushimi Inari-Taisha

* And hands-down, the most requested photo spot in all of Kyoto, is this pathway leading to Fushimi Inari-Taisha. Prepare to battle with dozens of tourists over what is essentially the same shot (lol!).

The Golden Pavilion and Other Temples of Kyoto

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Along with the futuristic megacity of Tokyo and the foodie heaven of Osaka, no trip to Japan would be complete without visiting its cultural capital, Kyoto.
Home to the Japanese imperial court for over a thousand years, Kyoto is full of palaces, temples, shrines, and gardens; which thanks to not being targeted by Allied bombing during World War II, has been preserved in all its authenticity. This is Part 2 of our Kyoto Series: Temples.
Kinkaku-ji Temple: The Golden Pavilion

* The most famous of all of Kyoto's Temples, the Golden Pavilion is made of, you guessed it, gold; with the top two floors of the building covered in pure gold leaf.

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.

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.

Riddarholm: Burial Place of the Swedish Kings

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Continuing on my personal fascination with medieval European monarchs (their stories, homes, and final resting places) I had the pleasure to spend some time at the burial church of the Kings and Queens of Sweden, Riddarholm Church.

* And what a fantastic-looking church it is! Located on the island of Riddarholmen, one of Stockholm's fourteen islands, the structure is a nice walk from the Royal Palace and the old medieval area of Stockholm, Gamla Stan.

Novgorod: The Birthplace of Russia

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While the general public is very much aware of Moscow, as the capital of the Russian Federation and the former Soviet Union, and of St. Petersburg, the most European and Imperial of all Russian cities, few know the history, vastness, and grandeur of the early Russian people.
Russia in all its greatness started as a small city in the patch of land directly between Moscow and St. Petersburg; the city known as Novgorod.

* It was my great pleasure and honor to be able to visit and explore the Cradle of Russian Civilization.

Trinity Lavra: Russia's Most Important Monastery

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An integral part of WHY I travel is my personal desire to visit and pray in as many spiritual centers as I can. Christian, Buddhist, Shinto, Muslim, Hebrew, I personally believe that each faith offers wisdom, guidance, and philosophies to help us be what we were meant to be: good human beings and dependable people. 
In Moscow, I had the privilege of visiting the Russian people's most important monastery and spiritual center, the Russian Orthodox Church of Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius.

* Located almost two hours from downtown Moscow, the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius can be found  in the town of Sergiyev Posad.

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.