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St Martin's Cathedral and the Blue Church

Bratislava


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I had a quiet first day in Bratislava today. After quite a long lie-in, I went round the corner to St Michael's Gate. It was chilly and overcast outside, though not wet.

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My aim was to visit the tiny Arms Museum within the Gate, then the equally small Pharmacy Museum a couple of doors down. I'd forgotten that museums are nearly always closed on Mondays, however - so I decided to go tomorrow morning instead.

From there I slowly made my way to St Martin's Cathedral. As I have done all day, I felt very drained and lacking in energy. I still have my cough, too. On my way to the cathedral I passed lots of lovely architecture and two intriguing sculptures; one of a man coming out of the pavement, manhole cover pushed to one side, and another of a melancholy-looking Hans Christian Andersen with a giant snail at his feet.

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I'd got up so late it was now lunchtime, so I had some potato and cheese dumplings with chopped fresh chives on top from a street stall. My appetite wasn't as big as I thought it was, though, so although I liked the dumplings I wasn't able to finish them.

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St Martin's Cathedral was definitely worth visiting, despite being smaller than most. It's three-nave, Gothic, and dates from the 15th century. It was the seat of coronation for the Hungarian kings from then up until the 19th century. I lit a candle when I first came in, then wandered around for a while. Amongst other things, I admired the Baroque Chapel of St John the Almsgiver (John the Merciful) and a famous equestrian statue of St Martin in typical Hungarian hussar dress, dividing his cloak to give to a beggar.

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Although the tower was closed, by paying to see the tiny Treasury I got to go up to platform at the back where the organ is and the choir sit, so I got a good view internally at least.

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There were some more beautiful street scenes on my way to my next stop (Tesco). A couple of interesting wall paintings on one of the buildings caught my eye.

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I went to Tesco to see how it differs to the British version and to get something to have for dinner later. I thought some extra vitamin C would be a good idea, so I got two tins of mandarins in juice in addition to a filled wrap and a pot of rice pudding.

My last stop was St Elizabeth's Church, more commonly known as the Blue Church. This Art Nouveau wonder is definitely well worth the accolades! It certainly lives up to its name, although it isn't 100% blue, especially on the inside.

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As I entered and sat down to rest, a voice started chanting something over a sound system, and four or five old ladies in other pews replied. This chanting and responding continued the whole time I was there - never a physical sign of the person chanting or of any other person working for the church. I thought it discreet to go to the back before taking photos - luckily I wasn't the only tourist there, so I didn't stand out too much.

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It was dark by the time I left. I admired the Old Town Hall all lit up on my way back to my hostel for dinner and an early night.

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Posted by 3Traveller 19:12 Archived in Slovakia Tagged churches art bratislava cathedral slovakia slovakian_cuisine Comments (1)

Birthday, Museum Tinguely and a return to the Rhine

Basel


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My birthday went well yesterday considering I was in recovery from my illness. I was well enough to teach during the day and help with the running of the Show in the evening - one of my two groups had decided to do a big quiz with audience participation, so my role was to hand out sweets to those who got correct answers. Earlier in the day, I was serenaded with 'Happy Birthday' by the first class I had, and I got a card and some Lindt chocolate from my colleagues. After the Show, a video call home was just the thing to round the day off.

This morning I had a lie-in and a leisurely breakfast of coffee and yoghurt before packing all my stuff and heading downstairs to put it in the luggage room and check out.

I took a bus to Museum Tinguely, which looks out over the Rhine.

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I was able to use my Basel Card to get my ticket half-price; this card was an unexpected bonus we received in our hotel rooms on arrival last Sunday. This had our names and dates of stay written on them and allowed us free public transport within the wider city, half-price museum tickets, public wifi at certain points and one or two things I didn't use.

The museum was playful and interesting, as I expected after remembering the intriguing moving fountain I saw last September, which is one of his works. Jean Tinguely was famous for his kinetic, often noisy, mainly mechanical sculptures, reminiscent of Heath Robinson's inventions - amongst other things, I was impressed with a series of mechanical automatic drawing machines - though he also made some 'still' works.

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I managed to get a couple of videos, though not unfortunately of one of the crowning glories - an entire wall-sized musical contraption with wheels, piano, bell, horns and other things (the video I thought I was taking didn't come out).

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That big one set off automatically every hour, but lots of the others could be set into motion by pressing a button with your foot, though they would only work if a certain minimum number of minutes had passed since the last time (usually between 5-10).

Unfortunately, while walking round I started feeling really lightheaded and drained. I still liked the rest of what I saw there, but decided not to go on to the other museum I'd had my eye on, but rather stick to the rest of my walking route.

This took me along part of the route along the side of the river which I took last September. Only saw one person floating down it this time... The emptiness of the stony river banks/beaches from humans benefitted the seagulls, however, who took advantage by taking baths. Just as I got to the first bridge a boy punted his unsteady way along the edge in a very bare wooden boat. The seagulls ignored him, as did the ducks and swans who were feeding in the shallows.

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After buying a late lunch from a supermarket I crossed the historic bridge I remembered from September and wandered up an invitingly cobbled and twisted path which followed the other side of the river.

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I came out at Minster Square, which appeared very handsome, with the red sandstone Minster on one side and then round the edge of the square, white buildings with green shutters.

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Although I was keen to go in and have at least a quick look, my plans were foiled by the service just about to begin; no tourists allowed. I could have gone to the service, I suppose, but I didn't have time, as I needed to get back to the hotel before 5:30 to collect my stuff before the receptionist went home and I lost access to the luggage room.

I took a bus a couple of stops to the station to help speed the process along. At the station I bought some supplies for the long journey to Bratislava and found the Flixbus stop for later, then walked down the road to the hotel.

To help while away the time In my long wait in the hotel lobby I started a fascinating book called 'Travels with a Tangerine'.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:46 Archived in Switzerland Tagged art hotel museum cathedral buses switzerland basel english_teaching birthday_celebration river_rhine Comments (0)

German Historical Museum and the DDR Museum

Berlin


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I had two main destinations planned for today - the German Historical Museum and the DDR Museum, which lie on each side of Museum Island - but on my way there I stopped at the St Marienkirche, a redbrick Gothic church which dates back to the 13th century but was heavily damaged by Allied bombing in WWII and was therefore restored in the 1950s by East Germany.

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Then I crossed the Spree and Museum Island, passing the Dom and the Lustgarten.

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The German Historical Museum was absolutely excellent; I highly recommend it. It spans a total of 1500 years of German history up until soon after German reunification. My favourite artifacts were:

A full suit of medieval plate armour, brandishing a sword while seated on a horse wearing a full suit of horse armour.

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Medieval painted shields made of wood, leather and metal (there was a full row of cases of them; my photo is of only one section.)

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An oliphant, an ivory hunting horn used by the high nobility during a hunt. The ornamentation suggests that it was manufactured in an Islamic country and imported to the West. Dates from 1000 AD.

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A medieval abacus from Northern Italy.

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The 'Grüninger Hand', a 15th century prosthetic arm probably made for a high-ranking knight who had lost his right lower arm in battle. Its age and relative sophistication makes it very rare; it allowed the wearer to bring his artificial elbow into six different positions and move his fingers together by pressing a button.

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Woodcuts from a book of traditional women's costumes published in Nuremberg in 1586, meant to complement a book on craftsmen's trades.

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A birdlike plague-doctor's mask and gown. Although this is the famous image most people have in mind when they think of the plague in early modern Europe, there are apparently only three or four surviving examples of what the plague-doctors wore.

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A 1740 map of North and South America with 30 scenes of the discovery of the Americas.

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Paintings of a court dwarf and the composer Georg Friedrich Handel, from 1680 and 1733 respectively.

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An 18th century gaming table with three games: billiards, Japanese billiards (a precursor of modern pinball) and cannons.

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Napoleon Buonaparte's bicorne hat and sword from the Battle of Waterloo.

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While I was in the museum the clouds had cleared up and it was nice and sunny as I walked back past the Lustgarten and Dom to the DDR Museum. I had a great view of the famous Berlin television tower.

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The DDR Museum took me in an entertaining and fascinating journey through daily life within socialist East Germany during the Cold War. I learned about what kindergarten, school and university was like, common jobs and how much you could earn for each one, and what kind of holidays people took (nudist ones appear to have been especially popular.) I got to look at an original, iconic Trabant P601 car (children can go on simulated drives) and walk round a reconstructed, fully furnished tower block flat. In the latter's living room I saw the TV programme for this day in 1984.

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Something still fascinating, but sobering and sinister rather than entertaining, was the information and exhibits relating to the surveillance citizens were placed under by the Stasi (secret police).

After leaving the museum I stopped at a supermarket to pick up a couple of savoury bakery items and a tub of creme caramel to have for dinner later, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing at the hostel.

Posted by 3Traveller 03:40 Archived in Germany Tagged churches germany museum berlin cathedral Comments (0)

Back in Graz

Deutschlandsberg and Graz


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It was another beautiful sunny day as I said goodbye to Deutschlandsberg and took the train back to Graz.

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I'm at A&O Hostel Graz Hauptbahnhof, where I stayed last Saturday. Since I got back here I've had another lovely walk around the historic centre, taking in the sunshine, beautiful architecture and the view from the Murinsel, a tiny manmade island on the river Mur.

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I also went to the Dom, admired the Gothic and Baroque interior and lit a candle.

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I also admired a fresco on one of the exterior walls which is kept behind glass because of its historical importance; although religious in theme, it contains the earliest depiction of the city of Graz. Unfortunately my photos of it didn't turn out well due to the reflections on the glass.

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Tomorrow I spend the night in Klagenfurt before I fly to Hamburg and take the train from there to Lübeck on Sunday.

Posted by 3Traveller 02:28 Archived in Austria Tagged bridges art trains austria cathedral hostel graz unesco_world_heritage_site deutschlandsberg Comments (2)

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Historic Centre of Vienna

The start of a six-week trip through Austria and northern Germany with a side trip to Slovenia and ending in Prague.


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In Vienna for a group induction/ training weekend before moving on to my teaching destination for the next week.

The view from my hotel room:

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Due to the nature of the weekend there wasn't much time to see the city, but very early this morning, after breakfast, I managed a walk into the historic centre. The sun was rising and the sky was clear; one of those fresh and crisp winter mornings I really love. A thrill of excitement ran through me as I walked the almost-empty streets and admired the architecture.

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Once in the inner town I came across a covered pathway with windows showing a yard with white horses looking out of stalls. I realised that they were some of the famous white Lipizzaner horses of the Spanish Riding School. While I was watching a girl came round with a wheelbarrow to muck them out.

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When I got to the Stephansdom I went inside, though as a tourist most of it was closed off to me as Mass was just starting.

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I stayed for a bit anyway, looking at the bit I was allowed into and lighting a candle, before exiting and walking round the outside. I'm not too keen on the green, red and black patterned tiled roof, but I like the rest of it. The view from the tower was amazing - definitely worth the climb, which was probably one of the highest sets of spiral steps I've been up!

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There was no time over the weekend to go to any museums, but yesterday evening I went to the historic Seven Stars brewery/pub - definitely a place I'll be returning to when in Vienna in the future! It was very atmospheric inside and the cheese & bacon gnocchi I tried was lovely. There was a list of all the different kinds of schnapps on offer - decided to give them a miss on this occasion but will definitely be giving them a try over the next few weeks!

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Speaking of food, on Friday evening at a different place I had a tasty clear beef broth with a semolina dumpling plus a side of Swabian pasta - I thought it might come with vegetables, but it didn't. Both that and the broth were still really nice, though the broth was smaller than I expected.

When I got back from the historic centre it was time to pack up, check out and head off to the station to my first teaching destination...

Posted by 3Traveller 10:34 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna hotel austria cathedral brewery explorations unesco_world_heritage_site austrian_cuisine Comments (0)

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