Posts from the “Europe” Category

Newgrange: A Passageway to Ancient Ireland

Posted on September 9, 2015

Cosy is not the word that would normally spring to mind when discussing a prehistoric mound — especially one that contained ancient human remains . . . and some (regrettably) newer ones. But the Neolithic burial site known as Newgrange in the midst of the bucolic Irish countryside feels safe . . . comforting even.   Set on a grassy hilltop near a bend in the River Boyne, the oval-shaped structure softly rises above the rolling farmland dotted with sheep, cows and yellow fields of canola. Access to the site is controlled by the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre and the cost of a vistor’s pass starts at €2.   As the Irish will proudly tell you, this structure is older than the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge.…

Florence: Hercules and Cacus

Posted on August 9, 2012

The light in Florence is unlike any I’ve seen anywhere else. It is so warm this city always seems to have a golden glow.   I was too late to get into the Uffizi Gallery on my first day so I bought a ticket for the next day. Back outside, I whiled away my time gazing up at the statues dotting the Piazza della Signoria outside the museum. It was a perfect, cloudless day and the sun cast some interesting shadows.   This is one of my favourite shots from my time backpacking in Europe. I love how when I “dutched” the photo, it created a sense that the statue of Hercules and Cacus clad in shadows seems to loom over the innocent beauty…

A Roman in Vienna

Posted on August 7, 2012

Vienna . . . personally, I didn’t like the Austrian capital when I visited in the spring of 2010 and I usually fall in love with everywhere I travel. It was too perfect with its oversized baroque buildings and wide boulevards celebrating a vanished empire that never really accomplished much.   One has to wonder really about the size issue in Vienna — even the statues of Archduke Charles, the Duke of Teschen, in Heldenplatz and Empress Marie-Theresa in her namesake square near the city’s Museum Quarter are gigantic. Bigger than most statues of important persons in other, more impressive European cities. Now granted, the archduke was considered a great general and a thorn in Napoleon’s side and the empress is one of the…

Bohemian Rhapsody: Český Krumlov

Posted on July 12, 2012

The journey to the medieval town of Český Krumlov did not start off well. Our guide failed to show in Prague after a night spent chasing the green fairy leading to a revolt among the new additions to our tiny tour who were threatening to go rogue and take off to Vienna on their own. In the midst of all the drama and hand wringing, all I knew was that I was going to make it to this magical little spot in the heart of the Czech Republic’s South Bohemia region. I had to see its delicate fairy tale castle that looked like it had leaped to life from the pages of  a Brothers Grimm children’s book. Luckily, an Aussie travelling with us decided…

Versailles: Wandering in the Sun King’s Private Gardens

Posted on June 23, 2012

Versailles. Few names conjure up images of total decadence, beautiful art and aristocratic ego run amok as the Château de Versailles. Located on the outskirts of Paris, France’s kings ruled their country and overseas empire from the sprawling palace from 1682, when Louis XIV (the Sun King) shifted his court here, until the French Revolution in 1789. Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were the last monarchs to reside at the chateau. Instead of the usual palace tour, which you’ll quickly get tired of if you’re travelling across Europe for an extended period of time, Versailles offers a musical fountains show from April to October when the gardens designed by André Le Nôtre are at their glory. Tickets cost just €8.5 for the…

Giants of Hungary’s Communist Past

Posted on April 23, 2012

Whenever dictatorships fall, their monuments fall, too. It’s part of the heady celebration of liberation — the need to literally pull down these hated symbols that have for too long cast shadows across city squares and loomed over a country’s citizens. But for history buffs, the destruction of these relics paying tribute to a dead political past is a true loss. More than 20 years after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed it is becoming increasingly difficult for travellers to find remnants of this recent history. In many cases what remains has been stripped of meaning. The vestiges of communism have lost their ability to evoke terror. Communism has become kitsch. For example, in post-reunification Germany only a tiny portion of…