A Travellerspoint blog

BERLIN

A chapter right off a world history textbook

overcast 2 °C

There are many reminders small and large that continue to stand all across Berlin, serving as a silent yet voluble reminder of a once-divided country and city. But Berlin I realised lives the term "Vergangenheitsbewältigung" that literally translates to the "struggle to overcome the [negatives of the] past".

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BRANDENBURG GATE

All roads in Berlin literally lead to the Brandenburg Gate. This historic entrance built to reflect the German nations former glories has lot of space around it so the crowds are well spread.

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A block away from the Brandenburg Gate is the HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL.

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This abstract monument honestly touches a raw nerve with anyone who has any understanding of Germany's "questionable" role in one of the darkest chapters of world history. A walk between the 2711 concrete blocks of varying heights, physically provoked anxiety in me, conveying some of the terror of what happened in Germany in the 1930's and 40's. This memorial is not particularly flashy, but maybe that is the precise point. Each visitor is able to wander through the memorial with their own thoughts and seek an independent interpretation, while remembering how the Holocaust changed our world forever.

SOVIET WAR MEMORIAL

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ALEXANDER PLATZ

Alexanderplatz is a big square in the middle of Berlin with lots of stores, restaurants, cafes. I found to be a really good spot to hang out with friends and grab some lunch. Discovered to my glee that the place has such a young-hip-cool-and-animated vibe and is flanked by modernistic monuments like the TV tower, the World Clock and the Fountain of Friendship. Plus there were a ton of street artists showcasing their art all through the square.

WORLD CLOCK
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FOUNTAIN OF FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN PEOPLES
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EAST SIDE GALLERY :

Seeing the wall in its full scale was an incredible experience and the highlight of my trip to Berlin. There is a fairly long portion of the wall still intact, decorated with art and graffiti.

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Its strange that when I first arrived in Berlin, I hadn’t pay much thought as to the scale of it. Berlin is massive and extremely developed that is quite incredible when you consider that this city was until 25 years ago separated and was the setting for some of the most world changing events from the last century. Standing in front of a portion of the wall that formed the separation between East and West Germany was such a moving experience especially, when you reflect back about the past 80 years of history in this city which has found such a large amount of space in our history texbooks and makes you think of all the people who were affected.

But Berlin has a few lessons to teach the world and I believe especially in the present day, we could all do with some lessons in Vergangenheitsbewältigung.

Until next time,
Sowmya

Posted by Ceej 02:33 Archived in Germany Tagged berlin holocaust_memorial berlin_wall brandenburg_gate east_side_gallery alexander_platz Comments (0)

A QUIET MORNING AT THE VATICAN

MADE FOR A PERFECT POST IN PICTURES

sunny 3 °C

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6:45 AM : Outside the Vatican walls.

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The Vatican Museum entrance.

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First view of the Vatican.

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Tapestry Gallery

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Resurrection of Christ at the tapestry gallery of the Vatican museums

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The Gallery of Maps. The Ceiling of this entire gallery is covered in absolutely marvellous works of art.

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Marble statutes

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A hastily and sneakily taken grainy picture of Michelangelo's ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Photography is not permitted within the confines of the Sistine chapel and there are guards stationed all over who yell (quite loudly) if they see you whipping out a camera to take a picture of the famed ceiling.

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Seeing the exit of the Sistine Chapel when it was completely void of tourists!!!

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Entrance of St. Peters Basilica

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Inside St. Peters Basilica

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The Pieta by Michelangelo - a brilliant sculpture that is a representation of Mary holding Jesus's body once it was brought down from the cross post the crucification.

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The dome above the Pieta.

Vatican Square
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The famed Pontiffical Swiss Guards who have been guarding the Pope for more than five centuries.

Until next time,
CJ

Posted by Ceej 08:51 Archived in Vatican City Comments (0)

A QUIET MORNING AT THE VATICAN

makes for a perfect post in pictures

sunny 4 °C

large_59.jpg
6:45 AM : Outside the Vatican walls.

large_60.jpg
The Vatican Museum entrance.

large_190F3F859017D683BD65F1797CBF6323.jpg
First view of the Vatican.

large_270_191E5A71B4A6021809A3E703A64AB15F.jpg
Tapestry Gallery

large_63.jpg
Resurrection of Christ at the tapestry gallery of the Vatican museums

large_270_64.jpg
The Gallery of Maps. The Ceiling of this entire gallery is covered in absolutely marvellous works of art.

large_65.jpg
Marble statutes

66.jpg
A hastily and sneakily taken grainy picture of Michelangelo's ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Photography is not permitted within the confines of the Sistine chapel and there are guards stationed all over who yell (quite loudly) if they see you whipping out a camera to take a picture of the famed ceiling.

large_194216BDE3D73ECE93689F5705EFFDC7.jpg
Seeing the exit of the Sistine Chapel when it was completely void of tourists!!!

large_1943DB88B29018E71E41AECC6237B5B7.jpg
Entrance of St. Peters Basilica

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large_IMG_5358.jpg
Inside St. Peters Basilica

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The Pieta by Michelangelo - a brilliant sculpture that is a representation of Mary holding Jesus's body once it was brought down from the cross post the crucification.

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The dome above the Pieta.

Vatican Square

73.jpg Posted by Ceej 08:51 Archived in Vatican City Comments (0)

THE GRANDEUR THAT WAS ROME

A weekend exploring remnants of a glorious empire on the city's 2770th birthday

sunny 5 °C

A mound on top of a hill close to the Roman Forum is said to be place where the small non-descript village on the banks of the Tiber once stood and the brothers Romulus and Remus, twin brothers abandoned after birth and raised by a she-wolf grew up. It is said that when a fierce argument erupted between them, Romulus killed Remus and gave his own name to the tiny settlement that would grow into a great empire on the 21st of April in the year 753 BC.

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COLOSSEUM

A must see attraction in Rome is the Colosseum. You can visit the Colosseum, the Forum, and Palatine Hill in one tour panning 4-5 hours. Which includes quite a bit of walking along uneven surfaces and steep stairs. The front area is usually packed with ticket sellers, tour guides and hawkers, and since the lines for tickets to the Colosseum are long and people end up waiting an average of 90 minutes, the entire space resembles running a gauntlet.

Just being inside this architectural wonder with its amphitheatrical structure and understanding the reserved seating system which corresponded with on of the 76 gates was such a fascinating experience. Just the sheer scale of the Colosseum and the realisation of how much of Rome's history is packed into this space and that more than 2000 years later, it still stands is enough to make it a surreal place to visit.

TIP: Buy tickets online for the skip the line tours with a good company. The tour takes approximately 4 hours and concludes on the summit of the Palantine Hill. It includes 10-20 people and a knowledgeable and patient guide.

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ROMAN FORUM

Apart from the Trevi fountain, the Roman Forum qualifies as my favourite place in Rome. This is the heart of Ancient Rome and in my opinion should be where the Ancient Rome tour should start - at the Palantine Hill. Since Rome was founded here, and grew through the era of Ceasar's and the Colosseum was the highest point. But since getting into the Colosseum is a feat in itself, most tours are conducted in the reverse order.

Entering the forum through the ceremonial arch and strolling along the Via Sacra brings back to mind images of chariots being driven through those stone pathways. The Via Sacra was a very important road during the Roman Empire since it was along this road that armies returned to Rome, and Emperors travelled to their coronations. The sheer number of sights to visit in this space is mind numbing. The fascinating temple of the vestal virgins, the funeral pyre of Julius Cesar, the little gardens, the ruins of Saturn's temple and even a gateway to hell!

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FOUNTAINS AND SQUARES

Rome is estimated to have more than 2000 fountains and almost every square in Rome is adorned with a beautiful fountain at its center. Like so many other elements of Rome, these fountains are pure works of art. Some are small, large, famous, hidden, built by great artists, some with origins unknown in every possible shape and size. I happened upon most of the fountains in Rome after traipsing through narrow twisting streets and housed in a picturesque square. Each square that hosts these fountains are great places to just sit and people watch over a coffee/wine and soak up the ambiance. Plus the fountains themselves are exquisite examples of baroque carving.

TREVI FOUNTAIN - an aquatic dream and my favourite place to visit in the Eternal City.
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PIAZZA NAVONA
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FONTANA DEL PANTHEON
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PANTHEON

Situated in its own little square surrounded by narrow lanes is the only fully standing monument of the Ancient Rome. Originally commissioned by Julius Agrippa and built in the honour of all the Roman Gods 2000 years ago, this ancient temple is today a Christian church. Entry is free and I hear that it gets very crowded through the day as most tourist attractions in Rome do. I visited at 8:30 in the morning and had the entire place all to myself which turned out to be a glorious experience. The occulus in the ceiling is extraordinary and made me want to return to see the pillar of light at noon and when it is rains, especially after I saw the system to drain the water on the floor.

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FOOD!! GLORIOUS FOOD!!!

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IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER WHILE PLANNING A TRIP TO ROME:
• You don’t need to buy a Rome Pass. The public transportation is quite extensive and services most of the places to visit. A bus/metro ticket is
valid for 100 minutes and costs 1.50 euros. There are also 24-hour and 3-day tickets which are not expensive.
• Everyone who visits Rome seems to have a scary story about aggressive pickpockets or con artists. So I would advice a good degree of
awareness of your surroundings and some quick thinking.
• Italians linger a long time over a meal. Unless you call for their attention, the waiters let you be to enjoy your wine. The tip is generally included
in the price of the meal. You can choose to round the bill up and leave a bit extra.
• The famous touristy squares are stunning backdrops for a drink and to linger in the evenings, but the food in the restaurants is often is
disappointing and expensive.

Rome is so much more than what lies in ruins today. But I guess I will have to visit again to explore that side.

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Arrivederci Roma!!
Sowmya

Posted by Ceej 23:53 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

A SUNNY DAY IN LUXEMBOURG

sunny 5 °C

A 2 hour train ride aboard the Eurorail from Paris brings you to the small but incredibly picturesque country called Luxembourg City. Luxembourg City shares the title of 'Capital of Europe' with Brussels and Strasbourg. The population is incredible diverse with the foreigner population making up 70%.

A must visit part of this small city/country is the Grund. A 15 minute walk from the Centrale and a swift 65 meters elevator ride down, brings you to an area that is quieter, beautiful and much more charming than the city. The Grund offers breathtaking views of picturesque stone cottages, a small church, a peaceful little river bordered by the outer fortifications of the castle and loads of eye-catching patches of green. A local in fact told me "Dont worry dearie, you're never going to get lost here. Just follow the Azlette".

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The best way to explore the OLD TOWN was by the Wenzel Walk, which leads you around a walking trail through the oldest foundations of Luxembourg-City and encompassing almost all the best sights in the Old Town. The tour covers approximately 5 kilometers weaving up and down through different levels of the city. The Old Town exhibits the perfect example of military architecture and there are layers of walls built for defense of the city. Each level according to the guide was built by a different empire and at different times in Luxembourg’s history. As a result, the levels of fortification are not an even level but it makes for brilliant views from different vantage points. The casemates which are passageways carved into the mountainside are quite eerie to walk through especially if you are alone. I even saw part of the old aqueduct.

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The City Centre of Luxembourg is a shoppers delight considering it is in fact, it is the richest country in Europe! With shopping streets filled with upscale designers, charming boutiques and street side cafes.

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Once you're done seeing the sights, a nice place to spend time is the PLACE d’ARMES. A pretty tree-lined and music-filled square at the edge of the Old Town bordered with open air restaurants and space for exhibitions and concerts. During my visit on the eve of Easter, the place was filled with Easter markets and chocolatiers.
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The Luxembourg Centrale which is the central train station is an architectural treat by itself. You can for a price of 4 Euros buy a day ticket that allows you to navigate through the length and breadth of this small charming country making use of its extensive public transport system comprising of metro trains, trams and buses.

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Until next time

Posted by Ceej 08:45 Archived in Luxembourg Tagged spring luxembourg easter Comments (1)

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