S: Poland, Czech Republic & Hungary
FC: Traipsing Through Europe: Central Europe | by Manny Tacugue
1: Prague | The Paris of the East | My "Dr Zhivago" dreamscape | The first class train from Krakow, Poland is the only way to go! | Until 1918, the country was officially called the "Lands of the Bohemian Crown"
2: Prague has always been the capital of Central Europe, politically, economically, culturally. It was the seat of 2 Holy Roman emperors and played a role in most of the major events in Europe, from the Reformation to the Communist Era. The city has been a major trading center going back to the 10th century and with the creation of the Austro-Hungarian empire in the early 20th century, Prague became its capital and the castle the seat of government. The city was largely spared from destruction during WW2 thus preserving the numerous historical structures,many dating back to the 10th to 12th centuries. The historic city center has been in the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1992 ensuring its eternal preservation. This also makes the city a prime tourist destination; it is No. 1 among all Eastern European cities and among the Top 20 tourist destinations in the world. The city ranked among the largest economies in Europe as well, placing 5th in per capita GDP in all of Europe in 2007. As the country's capital, Prague is also the country's center for education, cultural events and music. The city consists of 2 main areas with the mighty Vtlava River separating the two. The right Bank is the heart of Prague with both the Old & New Town and Josefov, the Jewish Quarter. The Left Bank is called the Lesser Quarter and dominated by the castle. | within the Prague castle complex
3: Catholic religion plays a major part in the lives of the Czechs. And since the country was largely spared by WW2, many of the magnificent churches date back to the 13th-14th century | I was watching a travel video on Prague recently and there it said that most Prague churches stand empty. It cited the city is presumably the largest atheist city on Europe
4: The 1st bridge in Prague, the Judith Bridge named after the queen, was built in 1170 but was destroyed by a flood. It was replaced by the sturdy stone Charles Bridge, in 1357. Considered one of the most significant ancient Gothic structure in all of Europe, the Charles Bridge truly stood the test of time, providing the only means of crossing the Vtlava River for 500 years until a 2nd bridge was finished in 1841. Both ends of the bridge are "guarded" by towers; the taller one named after the builder, the Parler Tower opens to the Old Town and is still accessible. On the Lesser Quarter end, there are 2 smaller towers: the shorter one was a remnant of the destroyed Judith Bridge and the other was a Romanesque structure completed in 1464. According to legend, St Jan Nepomuck was martyred and tossed over this bridge for concealing the queen's extra-marital affairs! | Karluv Most
5: The Charles Bridge is decorated with 30 statues & statuaries of the Holy Family, saints and other religious & Biblical events. These sculptures were added to the bridge between the 17th and 20th centuries. | The bridge remains an active crossing between the 2 main halves of Prague, although nowadays, traffic is limited to pedestrians.
6: Historical archives indicate that the Prague Castle was initiated around 880 by the royal Bohemian family. The castle eventually evolved through the centuries, adding new structures making it the largest castle complex in the world. Consisting of several buildings in Roman & Neo-Gothic styles, the castle complex not only housed the royal families but also the Archbishop of Prague and the Holy Roman Emperors, as well as the Communist government after WW2. | Prazsky Hrad | Just like the Buckingham Palace & the Budapest Castle, the Prague Castle is an operating complex, now housing the Offices of the Czech president. As a result, the castle is not open to public viewing like the Versailles, for example, with most of the royal stuff distributed among different museums | The Prague castle complex is the largest in the world
7: the Kings' private chapel, large enough for a whole congregation! | the Castle complex has 2 active museums, the Old Royal Palace and the Rosenberg Palace. Both palaces housed remnants of royal life and political activities | the Vladislav Hall once hosted jousting competitions! | emblems & shields of the ruling families
8: Officially called the St Vitus, St Wenceslas and St Adalbert Cathedral, the St Vitus took over 600 years to build. Started in the 14th century, the catheral was completed in 1929. It is the largest church in all of Prague and the 129-feet tower is the highest in the country. | Panorama of the St Wenceslas Chapel
9: Designed by Petr Parler, St Vitus is the largest and highest church in all of Prague. It housed the remains of St Jan Nepomuck (in a silver tomb) and the St Wenceslas' Chapel told the life story of the patron saint of the country in precious stones and paintings. Underground is the Royal Crypt, housing the remains of Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor in the 14th century credited in transforming the city to an imperial capital | Chram sv Vita, sv Vaclava a sv Vojtecha | door-to-altar ceiling with organ pipes high up on the side
10: TheLesser Quarter and the Malostranska, the areas surrounding the castle, used to house the unsavory citizens of the city but now its cobblestone streets are among the most-prized in Prague. St Nicholas Church is now among the most prominent landmark of the city and its streets have the foreign consulates and embassies. The charming Wallenstein Garden is among the best-kept secrets of the city. And beyond are the hills with the beautiful Petrin Garden topped with the Petrin Lookout Tower, built in 1891 as part of the city's Jubilee exposition. | Mala Strana, literally "Little Side", was established in 1257 when the royal family put together all settlements around the castle into one town, for easy control. Malostranka was the center acting as a marketplace and trading center. | Mala Strana
11: This baroque church is considered the most beautiful of all baroque churches in the country contributing to the development of high Baroque architecture. Mozart often playted here and now is one of more popular venues for evening concerts. | St Nicholas Church situated in the natural center of the Lesser Quarter, was built between 1673 & 1752 on the site of the 13th century church of the same name. Ran by the Jesuits, masses were celebrated as early as 1711. | Chram sv Mikulase na Male Strane
12: The Prague Castle at night, across the Vltava River, with the spire & tower of St Vitus Cathedral piercing the darkness of the evening sky | A panorama of the north end of the Old Town Square with the majestic St Nicholas Church, a baroque church built in 1732-35. At the center of the square is a bronze statue of Jan Hus, the country's most famous martyr. | An expanded view of Prague, from the southern landing of the Castle
13: National Theater, 1st completed in 1881 | Panorama of the inside of St Ignatius Church in the New Town, a baroque Jesuit Church built in 1665-1687 | Panoramic view of Wenceslas Square, taken from the steps of the National Museum. More of a boulevard than a square, it is named after the country's patron saint whose statue took 25 years to complete. | This square was the epicenter of demonstrations, which later became a national uprising known as the "Velvet Revolution", releasing the country from Soviet rule in 1989
14: Unlike most of the big cities of Europe, the lack of tall buildings in Prague was immediately apparent. The 65-meter Jindrisska Tower is already the city's highest bell tower although the 360-degree view was still spectacular. The southern landing of the castle also provided a wondrous view of the city, including the Lesser Quarter. For the best view, most people go to the top of the 60-meter Lookout Tower situated on the top of the hills of Petrin, just outside of Mala Strana.
15: Completed in the Renaissance Revival style in 1891, the National Museum houses every aspect of the country's life, history and culture. With less emphasis on art and more on the country's national heritage, the museum presents Czech Republic at its best & its location made Wenceslas Square the symbolic center of the country. Exhibits ranged from the Iron & Bronze Ages, to pre-historic fauna to the time of the Holy Emperors.The building itself is a work of art. with so many national artists contributing to its design and decoration. | The museum is pockmarked with bullet holes & tank shots, remnants of the 1968 "Prague Spring" when the country revolted & Russian tanks invaded Warsaw Pact countries. | The complete skeleton of a giant whale from the 18th century!
16: The Old Town (Stare Mesto) is Prague's original settlement, dating back from the 9th century. By 1100, the town was fairly established with an active marketplace and walled fortifications to protect it from invaders. | The church was completed around 1415. Next to the St Vitus Cathedral in the castle district, it is the most significant church in Prague. It houses the oldest organ in the city (1673) and the remains of a Danish astronomer who died of overeating! | Our Lady Before Tyn Cathedral | Old Town Hall
17: Staromestske Namesti | St Nicholas Church | Astronomical Clock & Tower | Jan Hus Memorial | Inside St Nicholas Church | this baroque church was erected in 1732-35 | the clock called "Orloj" dates back to 1410. The calendar with Gothic statues was added in 1490 | Erected in 1915 to honor the martyr burned in 1415 for his religious beliefs | The heart of the Old Town is the Old Town Square, one of the largest marketplace in Eastern Europe. The square is defined by 3 significant structures: the St Nicholas Church, the Our Lady Before Tyn Cathedral and the Old Town Hall with the adjacent Astronomical Clock, built in 1338
18: Of course, the only way to see the city of Prague, or any city of note anywhere in the world is to literally beat the pavement, day and night! Experience the amazing history, talk to people, enjoy all the sights, sounds, taste & smell of the city. And just about every corner of this small, wonderful city is a delight to behold and keep in memory in our hearts & mind forever. This is one trip I will always cherish. | Rudolfinum | Municipal House Tower | Palladium | Wenceslas Square | St Ludmila Church | its subway is small but efficient and its tram service is the largest in the world
19: Every part of the city brims with history and excitement from the glorious hill of the castle to the somber Jewish Quarter | On the steps of the National Museum in Wenceslas Square | Interesting pastry making | PRAHA | Jindrisska Street | State Opera House | Pariszka Street | Old-New Synagogue | Moving Image Theater | Old Jewish Cemetery
20: Prague glows at night! | Wenceslas Square | Municipal House | National Theater | OLD TOWN | Republiky Plaza | Tram operating day & night!
21: Powder Gate | Patr Tower | Palladium | Walking along the Vltava River | 1st night in Prague | the Prague castle in the distant | last dinner in this fancy restaurant called Hotel U Prince n Old Town
22: Located next to St Vitus Cathedral, the Basilica of St George is the oldest surviving church within the castle complex, and in all of Prague. Founded in 920, it was expanded in 973 with a convent of Benedictine nuns and rebuilt in 1142 after a fire. in a Romanesque style. The facade was refashioned to a Baroque style in the 17th century. | The church holds the remains of St Ludmila in a Gothic chapel inside the church. Near the main altar are a series of steps leading down below to a crypt housing the remains of the princes of the medieval royal families | Bazilika sv Jiri | The basement crypt housing remains of royal families
23: The Jewish Quarter, is the oldest Jewish settlement in Central Europe, dating back to the 10th century. In 1180, the city's citizens built a wall surrounding the district thus creating the 1st Jewish ghetto. From over 18,000 at the turn of the 20th century, population was almost completely decimated during WW2 | Except for a few synagogues like the 700-year old Old-New, Malselova and Pinkas, most of the ghetto was razed at the turn of 20th century to remodel after Paris. The Nazis interestingly preserved a small area to represent an "extinct race". Now it is well-known for its affluent residents, high-end boutiques and intricate edifices. | Behind this long wall is the Old Jewish Cemetery established in early 15th century. It is refuted to have over 12,000 graves | seat of the Czech Philharmonic & Dvorak Concert Hall | Josefov | Rudolfinum | the neo-Renaissance music hall opened in 1885 | Brahms, Schubert & Grieg in the Dvorak Hall | Staronova Synagogue
24: The New Town, was founded in 1348 by Charles IV just on the edge of Old Town, thus expanding the perimeter of the city, intending to make it an economic and commercial center. The first university in Central Europe, the Charles University, was founded in 1348 and unlike the Old Town, no walled fortification was built to create instant access to trading and commerce from the river. The active horse market in the center of the area became the Wenceslas Square now anchored by the National Museum. True to its plans, New Town today is the commercial center of Prague. | Novo Mesto | It was commissioned in 1377 and the 70-meter hall tower was erected in 1452-56. | The Franciscan Garden is well-known for its serene rose garden | Nove Mesto | National Museum | State Opera House | St Ignatius Church | New Town Hall
25: arugula salad & pate for late breakfast is OK with me! in my hotel in Budapest | Russian-style roulade stuffed with ham & cucumber, on a roadside restaurant on the way to Janas Gora | Beef goulash & parsleyed potatoes in Budapest | Whenever I travel, I make it a point to eat what and where the locals eat without of course ignoring pastries & ice cream! I am generally adventurous and ready to eat native food and delicacies and prepared to beat the pavement to go to where they may be. One time, I walked 30 minutes away from city center to partake of local foie gras in Bordeaux. This trip was no different. | Buckwheat pancake in Poland | street food in Prague - sauerkraut, potatoes & chicken | my last dinner in Prague could easily be a real last meal! Pork sausage, smoked pork belly, pork neck & grilled pork steak with dry white bread pudding called "Peasant Grill"aka"Heart Attack Express" | remnant of the Communist regime, heavily-discounted food istill served n few cities in Poland called Milk Bar | dinner of chicken stew, tomato-rice soup & selection of sauerkraut in a Milk Bar in Warsaw | surprising selection in a self-service, ready-to-eat diner in Krakow's castle district | very tasty dumpling soup with chicken consomme in a Krakow diner | Mixed Grill with sauerkraut in a Warsaw restaurant | fancy cafe with fancy pastries & cakes line the upscale Nowy Swiat in Warsaw | fried rice & sausages for breakfast in my Prague hotel | Pork medallions in mushroom sauce & dumplings in Krakow | yummy pastries in Budapest; 4 for about $5.25 | Humongous, plate-sized donuts in Krakow | Polish pizza; with ketchup!
26: The Black Madonna of Czestochowa is a holy icon of the Virgin Mary and the holiest relic of Poland. Legend has it that the painting was made by St Luke from the cypress table of the Holy Family. The oldest documents showed it traveled from Jerusalem to Constantinople & Belz finally arriving in Czestochowa in August 1382, where it stayed ever since. Legend also has it that the icon was darkened by the soot of a fire but its presence prevented the destruction of the church. The Madonna is also credited with saving the monastery from a 17th century Swedish invasion which actually changed the course of the war prodding then king to declare the Madonna as the Queen and Protector of Poland in April 1656. Since then, the Madonna has performed numerous miracles as evidenced by the numerous crutches, canes and personal mementos that completely covered the walls of its chapel. | The icon has 2 scars on her cheek. Legend is that the Hussites plundered the sanctuary in 1430 & took the icon. But the horses refused to go so one of them threw it on the ground & stabbed it with a sword twice . When he was about to make a 3rd strike, he fell to ground and died! | Jasnogórski Cudowny obraz Najwitszej Maryi Panny Niepokalanie Pocztej | JASNA
27: The Black Madonna is shrined in the Paulist monastery of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa. The sanctuary was founded by Ladislav in 1382 who received the icon right after. Ever since, the sanctuary entertained countless pilgrims particularly after the Hussites invasion. | The magnificent basilica of Jasna Gora housed the chapel of the Black Madonna. The sanctuary became even more well-known when then Pope John Paul II, a native of Poland, visited the shrine right after being elected as pope. He went twice more, ensuring the shrine's place in holy pilgrimages. | Gora
28: Czestochowa is a thriving city in south Poland dating back to 1220, mostly well-known because of the Black Madonna The city went through numerous upheavals mostly because the shrine was a known magnet for invasion & plunderers. At one time, the city became a steel town, particularly after its linkage with the Warsaw-Vienna railway in mid-1800s but its inefficient operation eventually ended its industrial age. | The size of the basilica is magnified by the "Stations of the Cross". While most churches have images around the inside of the church, in Janas Gora, the stations are 3-story structures circling the basilica! | Czestochowa
29: W A R S A W | Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Warsaw, the capital of Poland, saw massive rebuilding after WW2 and during the Soviet occupation after. With 2/3 of its population killed and 83% of the city destroyed by the Nazis, Warsaw resurrected itself as the center of business, politics & culture. Dating back to the 9th century, the city became Poland's capital in 1413 becoming the center of business & politics since. As a result, it also became the target of numerous invasions, wars & political upheavals. yet each time, the Warsovians survived. Even at the height of WW2, the city rose against the Nazis in what is now called the "Warsaw Uprising", for which the city paid dearly: the Nazis essentially flattened the city.
30: Nowy Swiat | Palac Radzlwillow, one of the few survivor of WW2, dates back to 1643. The Warsaw Pact was signed here | Copernicus Science Hall | University of Warsaw | One of the numerous high-end cafe/pastry shops in Warsaw. This is Warsaw's version of Starbucks, a fancy coffee /pastry shop in every corner! | The "New World" Street dates back to the royal history of the city itself. The street forms part of the "Royal Route" and connects the Royal Castle & Old Town with the main thoroughfare of the city. Until it was razed in WW2, it was lined with mansions and palaces and housed the main businesses of the city.It is now the most fashionable street in Warsaw with high-end shops and boutiques. It is also where the Presidential Palace, the University of Warsaw and the main churches are situated.
31: Frederic Chopin Museum | Great Theater | Royal Castle Museum | Warsaw's favorite son, the city celebrated the 2nd centennial of Frederic Chopin in 2010. Although raised and educated in Warsaw, Chopin made his musical mark outside of Poland, mainly in Vienna and Paris. But when he died, on his insistence, his body was cut open, his heart was placed on an urn and now rest in a special place in Warsaw's Holy Cross Church. | Bronze cast of Chopin's left hand | Chopin's face was cast upon his death
32: The Great Assembly Hall | The King's private chapel, now housing the heart of a Polish hero in an urn | The King's private chamber (the bed looks too small for a man!) | The Throne | Stare Miasto | Literally the heart of Warsaw, the Old Town was completely destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising; even Gen Eisenhower commented that he has never seen such level of destruction. Nonetheless, working on ancient plans & pictures, the city rebuilt the Old Town brick by brick often at the expense of other cities. | The Column of Zygmunt, erected in 1644; it is the oldest monument in Warsaw, surviving even WW2 & the Nazis
33: Room | Dating back to the 14th century, the Royal Castle housed kings, emperors, presidents and then the Parliament until it was completely destroyed by the Nazis. Rebuilt at tremendous expense between 1971 & 1984, it stands as the pride of the rebuilt city and country. Against the Nazi war tanks, it is said that many Varsovians risked their lives protecting and hiding many of its contents and artifacts. Now the castle gleams as it was seven centuries ago | Zamek Krolewski | Before & After picture of the Royal Castle: after WW2 and today | The Reception Hall | THRONE | The Throne Room
34: Tomb of Unknown Soldier | The Presidential Palace | Hotel Bristol, Warsaw's premier hotel | Centralna, main train station | Copernicus Science Center | University of Warsaw | Warsaw shines at night!
35: Poland is 95% Catholic and as such, the Catholic churches dominate the city's landscape. This was further bolstered by the ascension of a Polish native to become Pope John Paul II, who was the Archbishop of Krakow before his assignment to the Vatican | Church of the Visitation Nuns | Holy Cross Church | St Anne's Church | St John's Cathedral | Dominican Church of St Jacob | Jesuit Chapel
36: Exploring the city of Warsaw on foot | Polish Presidential Complex | View of Old Town from Barbakan/New Town | Saxon Gardens | View of Wisla River from behind the castle | Warsaw Mermaid | Varsava
37: View of New Town across from the Dominican Church | Rynek Starego Miasta (Old Town Square) | Nowe Miasto | Looking towards Old Town from Nowy Swiat
38: Palac Cultury i Nauki | The tallest building in Poland at 231 meters, it is the best place to see all of Warsaw. Built in the early 1950s per Stalin's directive, it was meant to be Soviet's gift to Poland, yet it was designed with the Empire State Bldg in New York in mind. | With 3,288 rooms, the Palace of Culture & Science was meant to be both the Communist party headquarters & a place for the Polish people to gather. Instead, it became a object of Polish hatred as a symbol of Russian hegemony. | No matter the history, the view from the 30th floor was awesome, even on a hazy winter day!
39: sedlec | Die Klosterkirche Maria Himmelfahrt | A suburb of Kutna Hora, Sedlec is a UNESCO World Heritage site with their magnificent churches and buildings, many dating back to the 13th & 14th century. The majestic tower of the Conventual Church of the Assumption of the Virgin, built between 1280 & 1320, dominates the scene of this little town
40: Hrbitovni Kostel Vsech svatych sv kostnici
41: Das Beinhaus in Sedlec | What put Sedlec in the map is the Ossuary in the All Saints Cemetery Church. The Gothic Church was built in 1400 with the lower chapel to serve as an ossuary for mass graves dug up during construction. Most of the graves dated back to the 13th century Black Plague when over 30,000 people were buried. In early 16th century, the bones were exhumed and a half-blind monk was put in charge of stacking the bones and eventually started this endeavor. He barely finished it; most of the "creative work" was done by a woodcarver in 1870.With bones from over 40,000 people, it is the largest of its kind in the world.
42: Fischerbastei | Named after the fishermen that defended the city in the Middle Ages, the bastion was erected in 1895-1902. Its 7 towers represent the 7 Magyar tribes that settled in the basin. | buDA | Statue of St Stephen I, the 1st king of Hungary. His feast day is a state holiday commemorating the foundation of Hungary | Buda, on the east bank of the Danube River | The Castle Hill Funicular is the 2nd oldest funicular in the world | Dreifaltigkeits - the Trinity Plaza | Steps to Gellert Hill | The capital of Hungary, Budapest dates back to the 9th century. It is cited as one of the most beautiful cities of Europe and has numerous World Heritage sites. Forbes ranked it as the 7th most idyllic place to live in the continent
43: Occupying about a third of the city of Budapest, Buda is dominated by the castle district and Gellert Hill. The residential area beyond housed the affluent citizen of the city. Pest in turn, which covers the rest of the city, runs the city (and country) housing the commercial, financial and government centers. | Pest, on the west bank of the Danube River | PEST | Statue of Imre Nagy, prime minister during the 1956 Revolution, leads the park | Just south of the Parliament and almost at the heart of the city center, the Szabadsag Square is lined with beautiful old buildings many dating back to the 18th & 19th centuries, housing government offices and secondary museums. Popular with city residents, offices of many foreign companies are also headquartered here | Szabadsag Ter
44: Inaugurated during the 1000th anniversary of Hungary in 1896, the Parliament was patterned after the British down to the riverbank location. The neo-Gothic building is one of the 2 tallest building in the city and now also houses the crown jewels. After the fall of the USSR, the Hungarian Republic was declared here in October 1989. | Orszaghaz | Kossuth Lajos Ter | The Hungarian Parliament, as viewed from the Castle Hill | The Lajos Square, named after who is considered the purest patriot of Hungary, | Ethnographic Museum | The facade of the Parliament, facing the Danube River (under renovation)
45: Budapest's skyline is defined by 4 structures: the castle,Parliament & 2 magnificent churches: St Stephen's Basilica in Pest and Matthias Church in Buda.reflecting the strong influence of religion in the country | Szent Istvan Bazilika | Matyas Templom | Completed in 1905, the neo-Renaissance St Stephen's Basilica is one of the 2 tallest building in Budapest | Built in the 2nd half of the 14th century, the Gothic Matthias Church is officially called the Church of Our Lady. The Moorish roof reflects its turbulent history: it was the main mosque during the Turkish occupation in 1541-1686 | The Bela Chapel, with the remains of the 12th century King Bela
46: Budavan Palota | Changing of the Guards ceremony in the Presidential Palace | Main entrance to the castle grounds | Large mural of the cavalry, occupying about half-width of the castle hill | part of the National gallery
47: Built in 1899, the Matthias Fountain is one of the very few survivors of the WW2 destruction. It is often referred to as the Trevi Fountain of Budapest | Dating back to the 14th century, the Buda Castle had a very turbulent history, destroyed then rebuilt many times due to wars, invasions, etc. It was razed last during WW2 & rebuilt right after but the Communist regime found the castle contrary to its principle so it was gutted and most contents destroyed. With its former glory gone, the standing buildings became national museums anchored by the National Gallery which occupies 4 of the 6 buildings | History Museum | Matthias Fountain
48: Deak Ferenc Ter - where the subway lines meet | Budapest glitters at night! | Vorosmarty Ter | Vacl Street is Budapest's 5th Avenue | Erzsabet Ter - a popular youth weekend hangout | almost like the heart of the city center near the river, Vorosmarty Square is a popular landmark and meeting place
49: awesome pipes! | Founded in 1802 & housed in this neo-classical edifice built in 1837-1847. the Hungarian National Museum presents the entire history of Hungary from the Middle Ages to the present. While it maybe 2nd only to the more popular National Gallery and the History Museum in the castle, it plays a major role in the 1848 Revolution and now hosts the annual National Commemoration Day of 1848 | Magyar Nemzeti Muzeum | the long Communist regime plays a major role in its history
50: Budapest is a vibrant city with 2 very distinct parts. Walking around the city and moving back & forth between Buda & Pest were a revelation! | Shopping in the Big Market Hall was a delight! It has everything! at amazing low prices | Muzeum Road | Subway station/ system | Kiraly Street | Oktober 6 Street | Vigado Concert Hall | Budepest
51: Don't forget to take a thermal bath; it's an amazing experience! | Vigado Ter | Rudas | Vorosmarty Ter | Erzsebet Ter | Szent Istvan Ter | Pesti Also Rakpart | Budapest has 80 geothermal springs and the world's largest thermal water cave system | Exploring the beautiful city of Budapest on foot
52: Cruising the Danube River at night
53: the pictures may not be perfect but the experience was exhilarating! Cruising the river in the evening while sipping champagne was marvelous!
54: A law in Budapest forbids man-made structure to go beyond 96 meters (315 feet) which is the height of the Parliament and St Stephen's Church so to see the city from above, one has to scale either of these structures. The church has a better view given its central location. The other high point is the top of the Castle Hill in Buda which provides a more panoramic view | the spiral staircase to the dome of St Stephen's | the dome of St Stephen's from inside the dome! | 198 steps to the Fishermen's Bastion in Castle Hill
55: Established in 1957, the National Gallery is dedicated to art that is all Hungarian & all works of Hungarian artists, including those outside the country. It covers the entire range, type & scope of art from the Medieval & Renaissance period to Gothic altars to contemporary art. The museum is the largest public collection for the rise & development of Hungarian art and therefore reflects national pride. | Magyar Nemzeti Galeria
58: After the fall of Poland in 1939, the Nazis started laying plans to build camps to initially house the Poles. Eventually, other prisoners from all over Europe were brought here and additional camps were built. | Oswiecim | "Work Brings Freedom" | Beautiful Polish wintry countryside on the way to a horrible place. I am sure many of those who died in the gas chambers peered through the cracks in the trains and saw this scenery too | Poles mostly were hang & displayed here | Auschwitz 1 | A compound called "Cyclon B" was used to exterminate the prisoners
59: Death Wall | A graphic presentation of what occurred in the yard of the Death Wall | the Death Block | A prison within the prison, this block consisted of 2 buildings with a yard in between. One building was devoted to medical experiments, the other to torture & to punish the weak & those with minor infractions. The yard in-between is the Death wall where prisoners were either hang on poles for torture or shot before the wall | A "drawing" of what occurred in the yard of the Death Wall
60: Various European countries have special exhibits in Auschwitz I to commemorate the thousands of their people killed in the camps | The long, numerous tentacles of hate: between 1940-1945, the Nazis deported 1.3 million people from all over Europe to Auschwitz, 1.1 million of which were murdered | Walls after walls filled with names & pictures of people murdered in Auschwitz | These "dark walls' are actually filled with names of Dutch people
61: Up to 2,000 people at a time were led to this room where Cyclon B was dropped and within 15-20 minutes, all will be dead. After the gold fillings & jewelries were removed, the bodies were then brought to the adjoining room for cremation | Gas Chamber & Crematorium | After the war, the 1st commandant, Rudolf Hoss ,was hanged here | This is the hardest part of the camp for me and perhaps for most other people.. Every time, I see this room, I only feel dread and a heavy heart, even while working on this page
62: Auschwitz 2-Birkenau | SS Himmler called Birkenau the "final solution to the Jewish question in Europe" | the Death Gate | Birkenau was the largest concentration camp covering about 425 acres with over 300 buildings. Prisoners arrived in trains through the Death Gate & then separated between fit & unfit in the unloading platform. At the end of the rail tracks were 4 gas chambers-crematoria. | Interior of a wooden barrack | brzezinka | the only source of heat during the bitter Polish winter - a stone fireplace in the middle of the huge wooden barrack
63: International Monument to the Victims of Fascism | I walked the Walk - about 1-1/2 miles from the Death Gate to the Gas Chamber | the end of the Line, literally | the unloading platform | the Death Block | ruins of the underground changing room & gas chamber
64: k r a k o w
65: Krakow is the 2nd largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. It was the capital of Poland until 1596 when it was moved to Warsaw. However, even then, most royal coronations continued to be held in Krakow and most royalties were buried in the Wawel Cathedral. History showed settlements dating back to the Stone Age and recorded history started in 965. Its prominence in Central Europe was strengthened when the University of Krakow, the 2nd oldest in Central Europe was founded. During WW2, Krakow became the seat of the General Government of the Nazi regime, its administrative authority. The city has one of the largest Jewish community in Europe before the war but was almost completely decimated by the Nazis. Krakow was largely undamaged by the war, thus preserving many of its centuries-old structures. After the war, the Stalinist regime took over and built Lenin Steelworks, Poland's largest, contributing to its rapid population growth & economic development | Krakow is called the "City of Churches" with 120 churches in such a small city, half of which are over 100 years old. In 1978, the Archbishop of Krakow, later named John Paul II, became the 1st non-Italian Pope in 455 years
66: The 1st known settlements of Krakow was in Wawel Hill and, naturally, the development and growth blossomed here. The Royal Wawel Castle was 1st built at the end of 10th century. It was repeatedly destroyed & rebuilt due to various wars & invasions but finally held its own by the 14th century. The castle is the seat of government whoever was in power from the Swedish, Prussians, Austrians and finally the Nazis. After WW2, it became a national museum. | Wawel Castle | courtyard of the Royal Wawel Castle | Dragon's Den | Sigismund III Tower
67: Officially called the Cathedral Basilica of St Stanislaw & St Vaclav, the Wawel Cathedral was built in the 14th century. | Wawel Cathedral | Tomb of Polish president killed in a plane crash | Archeological diggings on castle grounds | The Lost Wawel - relics from the early castle history from the 10th century | Although Warsaw is the capital, coronations were still held in Wawel Cathedral. It also became the final resting place of most kings, national heroes & 2 saints-Hedwig & Stanislaus.
68: Exploring the beautiful city of Krakow on foot | the Barbican | Krakow train station & plaza | Slowacki Theater & Opera House | Florianska Gate, the start of the Royal Route | to Old Town, from Wawel castle | Karmelicka Street | Florinaska Street | Krakuf | Ducha Square
69: Krakow city hall & plaza | Wisla River | Matejko Square | St Florian's Gate | 14th century medieval walls | Polish bagel on street carts
70: Krakow shimmers in the evening
71: Unlike other European cities, Krakow is surprisingly mellow at night but it still is a wonderful, glittering place to be
72: Pauline Church | St Catherine Church | Wawel Cathedral | Skalka Monastery | Wawel Cathedral | Dating back to the 10th century, this church is traditionally believed to be where St Stanislaus was murdered | founded in 1425 by King Casimir, this Augustinian church is considered the best Gothic church in Krakow. | Begun in the 14th century, this basilica held most coronation and the remains of most Polish kings as well as those of St Stanislaus and St Hedwig | Although the gilded altars were often the focal points of most churches, the frescoed ceilings were often as magnificent, like that of St Mary's
73: Saints Peter & Paul Church | Benedictine Church | Remains of Rev Piotr Skarga, founder of the church | Corpus Christi Church | Founded in 1405 by King Casimir, this Gothic church holds the remains of St Stanislaw | Built in late 16th century, it was patterned after the Roman church Il Gusi,
74: Piarist Church | St Andrew's Church | Franciscan Church | Dominican Church | this neo-Gothic church dates back to the 17th century | this baroque church dates back to the 18th century. The heart of the Piarist sits in the altar | this 13th century Gothic church is well-known for its stained glass windows | this 12th century Romanesque church is one of the oldest church in Poland. It houses some of the oldest religious relics
75: the VEIT STOSS Altar, made in 1477-1489, is the largest altar of its kind in the world | St Mary's Basilica | St Barbara's Church | St Adalbert's Church | Built in the 14th century, it was once a funeral chapel | Founded in early 13th century, it is considered the finest Gothic church in Poland | Dating back to the 10th century, it is one of the oldest building in Poland
76: St Florian's Church | Church of the Holy Cross | St Anne's Church | this 15th century Gothic church is known for its palm vaulting supported by just one pillar. The church is covered with 15th & 16th century paintings | Dating back to the late 17th century, it is the largest baroque church in Krakow. The side altar houses the relics of St John Cantius | Dating back from late 12th century, it houses the relics of St Florian. the coronation route starts here
77: Named after King Casimir who founded it in the 15th century, an autonomous Jewish settlement was created here. From as much as 30% of total city population, the district now has about 600, the population almost totally wiped by the Nazis during WW2. The district is now seeing a renaissance of sort, as a bohemian destination with great food and music | the Kazimierz
78: The Main Market Square is the center of Krakow's Old Town. Dating back to the 13th century, it is the largest medieval town square in Europe. Originally created as the central place for business and commerce, its central location between the Florian Gate & Wawel Castle also made it as a prime political site like the Solidarity demonstrations and historical events like the Pan-European convention in the 14th century. In 1978, UNESCO included Krakow's Historic Center (Old Town, Kazimierz & Wawel Castle) for its very first listing of 13 World Heritage sites, a list that also included the pyramids & China's Great Wall. | Rynek Glowny
79: Originally built in 1257 as a Gothic structure, the Cloth Hall was renovated in 1555 to its current Renaissance features. From its golden age in the 15th century, the hall served as a central place for trading like exotic imports from the East (silk, spices) and exports of lead, textile & salt from its salt mines. It also served as place for the city's royal balls in the past and entertained foreign dignitaries. Today, the hall is a marketplace for more mundane stuff, mainly souvenirs for tourists. Although there are other similar buildings in Europe, Krakow's is considered the best-preserved | Sukiennice