Tuesday, February 24, 2015

" Winter break : Travel Highlights: Germany ; Czech Republic and Italy "

I can't believe January ended without a single post.
I'm literally months be-hind!
I mean, where was I during that period ?
Apparently, this is how I look these days... tired, weary and anxious.
2015 is just starting but I think I've matured 10 years already.

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courtesy of : telegraph.co.uk


1- I'm still sorting out photos from our last trip. Can't seem to get it done with.
I miss tinkering my camera.
I miss travelling more than ever.

2- Still in Vacay-mode. * ^0^ * yes, i know, i know, it's been 2 months already...

Apparently, 2 weeks isn't enough for a real-reel break. * sorry, I'm babbling... *
Most of the time, I lack 8 hours of sleep and felt sleepier than ever.
Like presently here but mentally somewhere ...

3- and on a personal note:

My Dad's leg is not in its best shape.
It has been for years actually, but just weeks ago,
His left leg has gotten worse and weaker.
Before, he could climb the stairs with his cane,
But lately, his legs felt so frail he could no longer do it...
These are just some of the many things that I think about and could not help but worry.
How I wish Life were simpler than ABC.

Here are the highlights on what we did last Winter.


This historical city called Nürnberg was our first port of entry.
I have come to love the Bavarian side of Germany, thanks to our Munich visit last year,
so, it was only natural that it was next on our list.

I like meandering the alleyways and just gape at its architectures.
When in Germany, I feel safe.
Things are mostly in order and with discipline.
German people though are not the friendliest in town,
but they are nice and could understand English better.

I've always like to visit cities that feels so different from the place I'm in.
Quick comparison: Philippines = always Hot and Humid vs Germany = well, you have 4 seasons, so that's a plus!
~*When you live in Manila, You'll know what I mean... ^-^

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fachwerkhaus : details from Kaiserburg Castle

Despite the cold breeze , the weather was neither clear nor sunny.
It rained intermittently, damped with fog and was mostly cloudy all throughout.
The good thing though,
We stayed right at the heart of Hauptmarkt, the old town, where the famous Christkindlmarkt and the Pegnitz river is located.

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St. Lorenz Kirche

Everything in Nürnberg is just picturesque and lovely.



We took a day trip to Bamberg the following day.
Finally, the sun was up and shining...
well, at least for a few hours...

Bamberg for me?!
the first two adjective words I could think of: Beautiful and Charming...

The city doesn't have a Metro, either you take the Bus or a local Taxi.
We did neither, instead we walked 15-20 minutes thereabout till we reached the main plaza = called MaxPlatz.
Bamberg is definitely smaller than Nürnberg, but still, quite as interesting.
It's a quaint little town, laid back and things are cheaper as well.

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Postcards for sale in some random souvenir shop outside the train station

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one of the many works of Igor Mitoraj called : Centurione-I

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read as: VHS IM ALTEN E-WERK DER STADT BAMBERG = Community College here in Bamberg



The day after,
we took the IC BUS From Nuremberg To Prague.

♫♫ "{Ah! the magical and dreamy Prague,
Let me count the ways }... "♫♫♫

I fell in love with this city some 10 years ago,
too bad, it was all but vague,
the only substantial thing I could think of were the Vltava River and the Charles Bridge.
So the first thing I did was to check out accommodations that were near the area.
To sum up this city in a word or a sentence... it's just not enough.

Winter is magical in this city, but be prepare to be bombarded by fellow tourists.
they're puh-len-ty! ^0^
Souvenir and Money Exchange shops are battling ear to ear, so that part, you don't have to worry though.

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the narrow and crooked, cul-de-sac alleyways.

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Sunset with a breathtaking view, overlooking the Vltava River

We couldn't ask for anything more when we saw this view!!
attic room from our Hotel.
Well, it's kind of tilting towards the right, because of the rooftop shingles.
I chose one that's literally a stone's throw away from the Charles Bridge and near Kampa Island.
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A room with a view

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random sketches and paintings for sale.

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Inside the courtyards of Prague Castle

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A random bookshop in Prague that caught my eye. what a reflection!



After wandering around Prague for 5 days, (without any day trip included, that's how we love this city.)
we headed to Milan on board the Easyjet.

Now Milan is totally different from the earlier cities we've been.
The moment we step out of the train platform, the whole atmosphere changed.
It was nothing but busy, busy, busy.
Everyone was either dressed in sombre black or dark blue bubble jacket outfits, still touristy and very disorganized.
Most of the trains esp. the ones passing to and from the main Centrale station was very dirty,
a bit smelly and lots of cigarette butts.
The sad thing was, no one seemed to care.
We've only been a few days, but the vagrants we saw were like our travelling buddies. ^0^

Despite all the negatives I've said though,
I loved this city. Period.
It's vibrant and noisy, chaotic and polluted in a way, which reminds me of errr... Manila.
If i'm not listening to a couple of Italian talking, it's either in Chinese or in Indian dialect,
or my very native language - in Filipino. ^0^
The weird thing is, sometimes, it doesn't feel like I'm a thousand miles away, because everything sounds familiar. ^0^
Get into any Fast food outlet and you'll sure to bump into one.

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no need for an introduction : The majestic Duomo

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outside Porta Garibaldi station : Bike sharing

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very ornate stained glass details outside The Duomo - Milan

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Porta Romana station was our frequent Metro stop, it's literally 5 minutes away from our hotel.

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We visited the Sforzesco Castle or Sforza for short.
We had a nice and sunny walk away from the crowds.



The last bit we did was a day trip to from Milan to Turin via Frecciarossa.
I know, I know, why not choose Venice or Lake Como instead.
Well, I wanted to see Venice for more than a day and maybe I've been keeping the best for last. ^0^
I've been meaning to tick this city off my list but still can't. Oh well...
and Lake Como in December is a hit and miss, some of the shops are closed, not to mention the cold weather.

Turin is an old city but not dated, it is in the Piedmont region.
On a clear day, you can almost see the dreamy Alps.
If you're a film buff, you have to see the Mole Antonelliana.
If you're religious, you might want to see the Shroud of Turin.
If you like Art, then it's Palazzo Madama.
But because it was a Monday,
where, for the love of me, I forgot to check when we booked our train tickets, almost all of the vital must-see's are closed.
So, yes, we missed all that !
well, we just decided to walked around the area.
It was a nice, relaxing walk and wished I could spend more than a day or two.

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the colonnaded arches

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The Porta Palazzo Market - my favorite shopping haven.!

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random street shot

* so there you have it, just a quick re-cap of what we did last year.
I promise to blog more in the days to come. *


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Monday, December 22, 2014

Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg

Last day in Nuremberg today.
Thank you for the yummy bratwurst, the beautiful scenery and the warm welcome. *-*
Despite the drizzles and pitter patter. This city is definitely a must -see on your list.

Monday, October 13, 2014

" Chiesa hopping in Florence : Must-see Churches in Florence " { Day 2 : A visit to Santa Maria Novella Church , What to see inside Chiesa di Ognissanti and The Highlights of Brancacci Chapel }

September has been a busy month for me,
Apart from the usual work dilemmas and deadlines.
We recently discovered that a side of my bedroom ceiling has been infested by termites. *Yikes! *
Needless to say, We had to do a mandatory general cleaning while the whole place is a mess.
I can't believe 10 months has passed since our last Euro trip but still my blogging pace is moving s-l-o-w.
My back posts are still so behind. ^0^
I mean, how others manage their time in between is something I am always in awe of.


Anyways, back to Florence...
Day 2 of our trip was all about Churches.
It was clear from the start that we would skip the Uffizi Gallery and some sights that are off limits to picture taking.
Most travelers would have said, you're missing the important bit, the highlight of this city.
But for us it's the contrary,
we'd rather walk the side streets and check out local shops, feel the city's culture,
where we can aimlessly take photos and cherish these moments,
than queue and wait for an hour or so, pay the entrance fee and admire a few art pieces that you can't even take home with you.
For us, it's not worth it.

( Italy, has a strict no-photo taking inside Museums, unlike Germany, where you can freely take all the shots you want
as long as it's not in flash mode. )

So, what's your next option if you want lots of photos + history ? = you go see Churches.
Not only will you marvel at its architectural details, sometimes the greatest works of art are hidden here.


: I would suggest to visit only 2 or 3 churches a day or else, you'd be overwhelmed by it.
( we did that in Rome and went church overload ! )

: Take note of the time schedule - most churches are only open from 10-12noon 4-6pm.

: Wear appropriate clothing.

: Not all churches are free - while most of them are,
some asks for your kind generosity, a small amount of appreciation.
others, have a certain entrance fee. *

: Not all of them are Picture friendly -
Most churches allow us to take photos, even the side chapels and its niches,
as long as you do not use Flash.
Check out Trip advisor's forum and traveler's photos, that will give you an idea.

: The Best day to go church hopping is during day time.
It always has a serene feel to it, you could never go wrong with morning shots.
The lights permeating the stained glass windows or the opulent organ at the back are always dramatic
and tourists aren't elbowing each other yet.
You can discreetly sit among the church pews and say a little prayer.


One of the 3 churches we've visited during our Florence trip:


Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, 18, 50123 Firenze, Italy
Open everyday.
Weekdays 9am - 5:30pm
Fridays 11am - 5:30pm
Saturdays 9am - 5pm

* Photos or video recordings are now allowed.*

ENTRANCE FEE - 5 euros

the fresh roses were a good welcome

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Probably one of the most picturesque façades I've seen.
Around 1456, A businessman name Giovanni Rucellai commissioned architect Leone Battista Alberti
to redesign the façade of this Dominican church.
From afar, the exterior is just picture perfect, marble inlaid and shaped like a triangular pediment,
the four vertical columns emphasizes the height of this majestic structure.

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even these dogs were basking in the sun , so cute! ◕‿◕

The entrance is located on the side , i think it's along the cloisters where you buy the tickets.

above: Nativity scene was on display ; below: i think they were students doing the church tour.

the other side of this church in monochrome tone

detailed designs

saw a few vagrants hanging about, but they're harmless.

just beautiful ♥ , must admit that I was tempted to pluck a few, keep them as souvenirs.

in every cornered street are these framed fresco painted niches

and then some more . . .


These repetitive green marbled arches for some reason reminded me of Mezquita de Cordoba.
* in my opinion anyway. ^-^ *

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The brownish Bell tower on the left was inspired by late Romanesque Gothic architecture.

The two obelisks infront of the church represents the Plaza or Piazza de Santa Maria Novella.
Unfortunately we didn't get to take a peek inside
because of the no-photography issue which at first wasn't allowed, until recently where they allow cameras sans flash.

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If you do like art though, then you definitely have to visit the church's interior.
This is where you'll find the works of 3 important Italian artists :

- Masacchio - Fresco painting of * The trinity*
- Domenico Ghirlandaio - Fresco Paintings of * Birth of John the Baptist and The Expulsion of Joachim. *
- Paolo Uccello - Fresco painting of * The Deluge * ( along the cloister area )

click here for more info:

According to my handy Cadogan guide book,
the back alleys and streets surrounding this Piazza tends to be a bit seedy at night, so be extra careful...


[2] CHIESA DI OGNISSANTI Ognissanti Church

Chiesa di Ognissanti,
Firenze, Borgo Ognissanti, 42
Opening times: 7.45-12.00 / 16.45-18.30 (Mon – Sat) ;
7.45-12.00 / 16.45-19.30 (Sun)


Second on our list was this spectacular church aka { The church of All Saints ).
This is, by far, one of the nicest and interesting churches I've seen.
Every piece inside is a well-kept treasure and the best part of it is that
there is No Entrance Fee.

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It is on the other bank of the river Arno.
Looking back at my fotos,
the best way to actually locate this is it's strategically placed between two 5 stars hotel. < The Westin Excelsior and The Regis >
Surprisingly, the Librairie Française is around the corner too.



The exterior looks less extravagant and rather ordinary,
but again, look closely at its details and you'll appreciate its Baroque inspired façade.
In 1561, the Franciscans took the church into care.


Florence is a such a small scale compared to Rome or Milan, and I think the best way to explore this city is to walk.
Sometimes though, too much walking can be distracting that you lose track of time.
In our case, We almost didn't made it to this church,
we were practically dragging our feet, hoping to make it before noon.
Thanks to winter and the cool breeze, we manage to made it sweat free and just in the nick of time ! ^0^


As soon as we stepped inside this well-lighted church, the feeling was inviting and attractive.
Looking down just right at the entryway is the coat of arms of the Medicis.


The gilded Nave of Ognissanti church .

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What to see inside this church :

- This is where the famous [ Amerigo Vespucci ] tomb is located.


- It is also where you'll find the earlier works of [ Sandro Botticelli ] - * Saint Augustine * - Fresco

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If you're like me, who skipped Uffizi Galllery, where the original Birth of Venus is,
but still craves for a bit of Botticelli, then this church is a must-see.

- The master of Renaissance [ Domenico Ghirlandaio ] - his work for * Saint Jerome * - Fresco

Between the two, I'm leaning towards Ghirlandaio's piece just because the colors looked more vivid.

- Another great work by [ Domenico Ghirlandaio ] - Virgin of Mercy and Lamentation of Dead Christ.


- This came as an added bonus when I recently found out that it is also where [ Giotto ] -The Crucifix is located.
It has been recently restored.

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It wasn't initially on my list, I wasn't even aware of this crucifix until this post.
I was instantly drawn by the rich color of Blue and Gold that was in stark contrast from the rest of the church.
Here are some informative sites: about Giotto
and here

There is I think a chapel dedicated to the Botticelli.
I saw a handful of letters and notes by fellow travelers.



This also marks the resting place of Botticelli and Simonetta Vespucci.
Apart from a handful of tombstones and niches.



more inspired Renaissance art works and details inside the church

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- The pièce de resistance of this church is [ Domenico Ghirlandaio ] 's version of * The Last Supper * - Fresco
This art piece took us awhile to locate, we couldn't find it,
we finally gave up and asked the kind lady who directed us on the other side of the church, which is the refectory.
It is free to enter, but we did sign on a guest book, indicating your name and country.
I guess to account for the people coming in and out of the refectory.
They do appreciate a small donation.



Please note that it has strict opening hours from Monday, Tuesday and Saturday only.
( 9 am - 12 noon )
Along the cloister are frescoed walls that are still intact. ↔ ↔



- And this is his masterpiece, a subtle version and equally placed perspective,
the one that got Leonardo da Vinci inspired to create his version of The Last Supper in Milan.

- These photos takes us a closer look at the painting.
My Canon with super-zoom lens unfortunately has bad, bad low lighting features.
So, I had my Nikon* point and shoot instead which surprisingly, looks better.

See how they differ :

The freakishly orang-ish color was at it again.


This was what it should have looked like. #nofilter





Piazza del Carmine - Florence

Opening Hours: < Chapel >
open: Monday to Saturday: 10 am to 5 pm * Except Tuesday (closed) *
Sunday: 1 pm to 5 pm



By the time we got to Santa Maria del Carmine, it was already past lunch.
Still located on the other side of the River. ( * The Oltrarno district * )
We were not sure if they would welcome tourists at this hour or not.


First, we attempted to get inside the main door of the church... but It was locked.
Then we saw a group of young students coming out at the side entrance and saw this sign.
Thank you for their flexible time. ^0^

We paid 6 euros for the Entrance fee.
The ticket lady behind the counter told us to wait for 20 minutes.
* quite a long wait considering you're only there to visit a part of the chapel *.
We patiently waited till we were ushered in.


Like the usual churches, There was the 19th century cloister and as for the main façade of the church,
it looks unappealing, what looks bare and unfinished.


The cloister area [ Sala della Colonna ]



We went inside one of the rooms to see - The Last Supper [ Sala del Cenacolo ] by Alessandro Allori in 1582.
It was dark and a bit cold inside and
There wasn't really a lasting impression truth be told,
I think it would have been different if I was majoring in Art history or a local guide was there.
So in less than a minute, we were done.



But where was the highlight of this chapel ?
Apparently, it was on the other side of the corridor.
Where you need to passed by the souvenir store.
Hmm... this is what I call "marketing strategy." ^-^



I was eager to see the famous frescos of Capella Brancacci.
It's at the far end of the wall, the east side, almost right opposite to Corsini Chapel.
It was renovated again in 17th century with a baroque inspired interior.

My book guide said that the painting of the chapel begun by Masolino de Panicale for a certain Felice Brancacci.
Today, the paintings was usually associated by Masaccio.
Mysteriously though, he died at the young age of 26 and soon the rest of the works were done by Filippino Lippi.

The frescoes were intricately restored to bring back its radiance.
At first glance, all of the paintings are pretty much in symmetry.
as if the same artist has done all the work.
But if you do have time to understand each of these panels.
Masolino's work looked more subtle and less intense than that of Masaccio's.
Here's what I mean:

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I was actually blown away at these paintings,
For someone who doesn't have an inkling when it comes to art.
I've come to appreciate the dedication these artists have put into and
Also, how a team of experts has painstakingly restored at least bring the paintings back into its original brilliance.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to see more of Santa Maria del Carmine, the church itself.
It would have been nice to take a look around.
Dating back 1268, what used to be a Carmelite convent.

the very bright light on the left is the Corsini Chapel (1675) dedicated to the Holy Family of St. Andrew Corsini.
The dome was frescoed by Luca Giordano in 1682 and decorated with stucco by Foggini Giovan Battista.





I have to give credit for this particular book called Art and Architecture Florence.
Bought it ages ago, I couldn't imagine in a million years that I would used it as a reference for my Florence trip.
This book is clearly more detailed when it comes to history and architecture.
But it can't be use like a travel book, more like an added reference to understand the city better.

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