Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: czech republic

Beautiful things: Gates and doors

There are many things I like to take photos of: clouds, reflections, and cityscapes at night, to name a few. Gates and doors are not the most popular or common subjects to photograph, but while sifting through the photos I’ve taken over the years, I realized that I’ve encountered a number of them that impressed me or are simply beautiful. I’ve gathered a small collection of these gates and doors here for your enjoyment.

Perhaps my favourite of them all are these aged but colourful gates all aligned outside the imperial palace in Hue, Vietnam. This is certainly not what most people went to the palace to see but it somehow caught my attention. There were at least five arched doorways (maybe not even gates or doors themselves?) that were lined up in a row in such a way that it was very pleasing to the sight. Almost symmetrical, but not quite perfectly, which is where its beauty lies.

The second one is this gate somewhere in Basel, the first city that I visited in Switzerland. You can only see the outline of the gate itself but two things appealed to me: the elegant details of the curves on the gate and the vivid colours on the other side. The contrast between the dark silhouette and the bright exterior further accentuated the features of the gate, making it one of the most unique ones I’ve seen.

Onto one that took on a rather different style – a door covered with graffiti in Prague. The sprayed writings on the door made it look quite messy, and in fact the door couldn’t be any more ordinary. Ironically, that’s what made it special to me because it shows that the ordinary exists, even in a popular and acclaimed tourist destination like Prague.

Let’s stay in Prague for a bit and go to the Prague Castle, where two weapon-wielding giants guard one of its gates. The one on the left chose a bat as his weapon of choice while the one on the right had a sharp object, presumably a knife of some sort. Each giant was in action, arresting what seemed like tresspassers trying to bypass castle security. Don’t mess with the giants or you might end up under their feet like that…

This door-and-window combination, photographed in Saint-Émilion, couldn’t be simpler, but its exquisiteness lies in the details. The three pots of flower, the octagonal hole in which one of them was placed, the aged walls, the intricate but delicate patterns on the curtains inside, the cobblestone street…a perfectly serene picture.

And finally…here’s a creepy gate that leads to a cemetery, I presume. I had actually completely forgotten where I took this photo and had to dig through my harddrive to find out that it was in…Edinburgh! Looking through photos of this particular trip, I believe this was taken at the Greyfriars Kirkyard. Indeed Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities in Europe and I visited it plenty of times when I was living in Glasgow. In addition to the many spectacular spots that most tourists would visit, Edinburgh certainly hides some secrets very well, like this one… 😉

What beautiful thing should I blog about next? Shadows? Clouds? Reflections? Hmm…

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From high places, part 5

Almost a year and a half have passed since the last “From high places” post was published. Since then, I’ve been back in Europe – specifically the UK – and certainly have visited more high places throughout my travels. I think it’s time for a part 5 😉 (List in alphabetical – not chronological – order as usual. Check out the previous posts on the “Series” page.)

Budapest (read about it)

The “Pearl of the Danube” is a place that made me feel something special. Budapest is one of those places that is not only exciting for travel, but one of the few cities I’ve been to where I think I’d actually enjoy living. The view of Budapest from Gellert Hill exposed the grandeur of the Hungarian capital, and the winter chill embellished the beauty hidden within its sad histories.

Český Krumlov (read about it)

Český Krumlov is the stuff that fairytales are made of. Thanks to a suggestion on my travel checklist, the little Czech town has been on my list of destinations to visit for years before I finally got to it in the winter of 2014, just in time for the first snowfall of the winter! The little town glistened in the snow and exposed its beauty flawlessly – how exquisite!

Edinburgh (read about it)

As one of the many cities with the name “City of Seven Hills”, there is no shortage of high points from which to gaze upon Edinburgh, the lovely Scottish capital. So far I’ve only climbed Arthur’s Seat (where the above photo was taken) and strolled around Castle Rock, though Calton Hill is definitely to be visited soon.

Königswinter

I left my group of friends and took a spontaneous detour from Cologne last year and headed to Königswinter. From there I ascended Drachenfels, a hill at a height of ~300 metres. It was a hiking break from a mostly city-oriented trip. From the top of the hill, the town of Königswinter was clearly visible along the Rhine river.

Leipzig

In Leipzig, my friends and I stayed in an apartment on the 4th (or 5th?) floor, high enough to get a good view of the city from the windows (the only location in this list that was indoors).

Lisbon

Another “City of Seven Hills” is Lisbon, a city that has a special place in my heart because one of the most influential teachers in my life came from Lisbon. Third visit to Lisbon recently, and the city was still as charming as ever with vibrant colours dotting its prominent hills. The many “miradouros”, or viewpoints, required a lot of legwork through winding streets and up steep steps to reach, but these views were worthy of the sweat!

Madrid

I went to Madrid this year to see a friend who was studying there. This would be my second visit, but my first time seeing the city from a high place – Cybele Palace, which is also the city hall and my favourite building in Madrid. Looking west (I think it was west), I saw snow-capped mountain ranges in a distance and wondered where that was. Could they be the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain ranges?

Oxford

Oxford used to be my dream university in high school for no valid reason at all, other than the reputation that attracted me when I was still a teenager. Well, I never got to study in Oxford, but at least I finally got to see what it’s all about during a visit two weeks ago. I constantly compared Oxford to Cambridge during my walk around the city mostly because of the well-known rivalry between the two universities and the fact that I had already visited Cambridge. Still, to me both places are just tourist destinations – let their rivalries entertain themselves 😉

Prague (read about it)

I had high expectations for Prague and while it was a lovely destination, it felt a bit underwhelming after the visit to Budapest a few days later. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Prague – I just liked Budapest a lot more 😛 What’s undeniable is that the view of Prague’s old town from the Petrin tower (where this photo was taken, if I remember correctly) was nothing short of spectacular!

Note: This post didn’t include hiking destinations in Scotland, such as Callander Crags, Kinnoull Hill, Conic Hill, and so on. Obviously hills are high places, but most hiking adventures have already had their own dedicated posts, deservingly so 😛

Dreaming of a white Christmas in Český Krumlov

The first time I heard about the city of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic was, incidentally, through my own blog. A reader posted a comment on my Travel checklist three years ago, suggesting that I add it to my list. And so I did, but didn’t get a chance to travel there until December 2014. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Český Krumlov is located a little less than 200 km south of Prague, easily reachable by bus. As part of my trip to Eastern Europe, of courrrrrrrrrrrrse there would be no way that I’d miss the perfect opportunity to see Český Krumlov during the Christmas season!

Christmas had already passed when I visited Český Krumlov (I spent last Christmas in Prague), but it’s never too late to hope for some post-Christmas snow, which was absent in Prague. I arrived in Český Krumlov after the first snow of the year (or so said the guide of my walking tour), and I was glad! What’s winter without a bit of snow and freezing temperature to set the mood?

I arrived in Český Krumlov in the late afternoon, when it was already dark outside. Even though I wasn’t able to see the details very clearly, I could already feel that I was falling in love with the town bit by bit as I strolled from the bus stop to the hostel. The winding river Vltava, the same one that traverses Prague, divides Český Krumlov into sections, but the entire town itself could be explored in about two hours. That, of course, would be during the daytime, but I still took my time admiring the lovely reflections of the night lights in the river.

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Prague and its statues

While exploring Prague, I stumbled upon many statues in the different corners of the city. After my trip, I did some research and found out that Prague has its fair share of, let’s say, “interesting” sculptures. Some had historical significant while others were just…strange. Let’s take a look at the ones that I managed to find.

The statue of men (or just one man) being eaten up from the core and finally losing a part of himself illustrates the destruction of a totalitarian society. Inscribed on a tablet in front of these statues: “The memorial to the victims of communism is dedicated to all victims, not only those who were jailed or executed but also those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism.”

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Prague and its Christmas

Prague is one of those places that was on my “must-go” list of European travel destinations. I don’t know what it is that appealed to me about this city, but the way I discovered the name of the city was through a Mandarin pop song that was released 12 years ago. The literal translation of the song is “Prague Public Square”, and it was sung by Jolin Tsai, a Taiwanese pop artist. When I first heard the song on the radio, I was hooked on its unique style and arrangement, but that doesn’t surprise me now that I know that the melody was written and arranged by Jay Chou. Anyway, we’re not here to talk about music right now. As a 15-year-old kid, the word “Prague” became etched on my mind and when I discovered that it was the capital city of Czech Republic, I was determined to visit it one day. That one day didn’t arrive until almost 12 years later, which brings us to last Christmas.

Ah, yes, Christmas, a magical time. Of course a perfect time for some solo travel too, maybe? As I didn’t manage to find company, I went alone because I wasn’t about to let the lack of a companion stop me from finally going to that place in the song and finding the “Prague Public Square”, if such a place really existed. Prague evaded my plans for two Christmas holidays in a row. I could have gone in 2012, but unexpected circumstances meant that I went to northwestern France instead. Then when my dad visited me in Europe in December 2013, we chose Italy out of several potential options of which Prague was one. So after two tries, nothing was going to stop me from spending my Christmas in Prague in 2014. And one all by myself? Why not?

Perhaps a place with the exact name “Prague Public Square” doesn’t exist in Prague, but there are many public squares in Prague and the Old Town Square is definitely the most well known. The Gothic Týn Church (perhaps the one that Jolin sang about in her song) with a luminous glow while a Christmas tree shone in the centre of the square. The Týn Church was really something, kinda made me think that it was the castle of an evil overlord once upon a time. And the fairy tales begin here…

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