Trastevere


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Trastevere is a part of Rome, on the west bank of the Tiber, south of Vatican City. In Latin it was called trans Tiberim that means ‘beyond the Tiber‘. In the ancient past it was populated by the poorest. Today it is considered the oldest part of Rome and is very popular with Romans and tourists.

During out trip to Rome we just walked around the streets. We stopped only to eat an ice cream. A friend of mine whose mother is living in Rome, told me lately that each time he is visiting her he goes out with friends there to spend an evening and enjoy a good meal. Visiting Trastevere is simply on the must-do list.


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Taking a walk in the City of Westminster


London is a place where you can spent quite much time, and still you will not see all that is worth to see. So you have to compromise. This time we decided to take a slow walk in the City of Westminster, which is the very heart of London. It is the location of the Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Westminster Palace (the seat of the UK Parliament) but also of famous Soho and the China Town.

JMA_Westminster_mapWe started in China Town and Soho, we went through the Piccadilly circus and further along the Regent Street and the Waterloo Place. To get to the governmental area, we had to cross the Mall which is the road leading directly to the Buckingham Palace plastered with red tinted asphalt. The next stop was St. James Park where we enjoyed greenery and very picturesque spots planted with flowers and some exotic trees. To get to the Whitehall (the street with governmental buildings including the famous gate to 10 Downing street) we crossed the buildings of the Horse Guard. Finally walking along the Whitehall we got to the Parliament Square and neighbouring Parliament buildings, and across the street the Westminster Abbey.


Below, some photo impressions.

The City of Westminster. Photo impressions.

One of the symbolic entrances to the London Chinatown (located at the Q-Park). The gate structure is called paifang. Unlike its Indian or Japanese equivalent (>>>) it does not mark a sacred place. In many parts of the world outside China a paifang is just a symbol of a Chinatown.


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The Queens Theater showing the Les Miserables spectacle. At this place we just left the Chinatown. We crossed the street (the Shaftesbury Avenue) to visit Soho. If we went left, we would have reached the Piccadilly circus.


The City of Westminster. Photo impressions.

Soho. The very place in London where people come the spend enjoyable evenings and nights.


The City of Westminster. Photo impressions.

Still of Soho. In London, but also in other parts of UK you may easily recognise a pub looking for flower decorations. On the left, just taking a corner, a London cab. Not necessarily black (>>>).


The City of Westminster. Photo impressions.

The Piccadilly Circus. I did this picture crossing the Shaftesbury Avenue at the circus. The same at which the Queens Theater is located. The Shaftesbury Avenue is the mark line between Soho (to the left) and the Chinatown (to the right).  After getting at the other side I turned around and made the following one showing ‘the very view’ onto the Piccadilly. 


The City of Westminster. Photo impressions.

The illuminated advertisements at the Piccadilly circus. The first ones appeared at this place in the early XXth century.


The City of Westminster. Photo impressions.

The Waterloo Place and the Regent street. In front, at the end of the street, it is the Piccadilly circus. Seen from the other perspective. The Regent street, among others is a sit of some famous (gentlemen’) clubs, the very serious and poshy ones. One of them is the Institute of Directors (the address is however Pall Mall) that among others gathers board members of the most influential companies in the UK. Its website states however, that it is not necessary to be a registered director to be a member.


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The Mall. The royal route. Plastered with red tinted asphalt. Far in front, the Buckingham Palace. If however I took the opposite direction I would have reached the Trafalgar square.


The City of Westminster. Photo impressions.

St. James Park. To get to this place we had to leave the Waterloo Place (taking the stairs down) and cross the Mall. As I did this picture the Mall and the Waterloo Place were exactly behind my back. The towers in front are those of the Westminster Abbey. The famous Downing street is somewhere in between.


The City of Westminster. Photo impressions.

If I did not tell, you would have thought this was some exotic place? No, it is indeed the greenery in St. James Park, in the middle of London.


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The Horse guard. A shot made a couple of hours earlier from a bus in a quite heavy rain. The St. James Park is behind the gate you see in front. To get to the Downing street and further to the Westminster Palace and Abbey we had to pass the horse guard. On the picture it is to the left.


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The obligatory shot at the gate to 10 Downing street, the seat of the British Prime Minister. My second time. The first was more than a decade ago. The basic difference is the security precautions. On a photo made that time I was standing next to the policeman inside the gate. This time the gate was closed. The notion of safety changed in the meantime … One thing did not change however. The patience of the policemen (nicely called ‘Bobbies’) dealing with tourists keen to make a photo.


The City of Westminster. Photo impressions.

The Whitehall, the street that is a location of many UK (or only English) governmental buildings. Behind my back, as I did this picture, was the 10 Downing street. In front, behind the double-decker on the right the Parliament Square (surrounded by the House of Parliament and the Westminster Abbey.) The locations are so close, that it is quite easy to believe that a secret tunnel is connecting them. Is the Buckingham Palace connected, too?


The City of Westminster. Photo impressions.

The Westminster station of the famous London tube. Just at the end of the Whitehall. In front the Parliament building. On the right, what you cannot see at this picture the Westminster Abbey.


The next two shots were done from exactly across the street:

The City of Westminster. Photo impressions.

The Parliament square. In front the Westminster Abbey and to the right flags of the Commonwealth countries. Behind my back:

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The Big Ben and the House of Parliament. The building is officially called Palace of Westminster. It is the seat of the two houses of the UK Parliament – the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Many years ago I wondered why the MPs in such a noble place sit so close to each other. Till somebody explained to me that the poor conditions make them solve issues quicker. If you have a chance, watch a debate on TV. The style is one of a kind.


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Cracow


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Cracow, one of the largest cities in Poland, formerly the royal capital city of Poland (see map). Through its history Poland had three capital cities, Gniezno, Cracow and from the mid XVI century it has been Warsaw. The Cracow old town is listed at the UNESCO World Heritage List. It combines Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Unlike the old city of Warsaw that was almost fully destroyed during World War II and needed full reconstruction (>>>), the historical city of Cracow is large and well-preserved.

To get to Cracow, we took a high-speed train from Warsaw, and spend the afternoon in the Cracow old town, enjoying architecture and good Polish food. We did not have much time, but we managed to make also a two-hour tour in the royal castle cathedral inclusive of climbing up the stairs to the bell tower to see the city panorama and at close Sigismund considered the most prominent bell in the country.

The royal castle, in medieval ages the seat of Polish kings, is located on a hill a bit separate from the old town centre, so you have to take an additional half an hour to reach it. We approached the castle hill to the left side, then entered the castle boundaries, went to the castle internal yard, and went back to visit the cathedral.


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Below the castle hill. To reach the castle boundaries we turned left.

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Inside the castle boundaries. The building to the left is the castle cathedral. To enter the castle internal yard we had to go alongside the cathedral to a gate (like  most of  the people on the photo) and then turn right. 

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Inside the castle internal yard.

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On our way back to the city. Turning around to see the castle cathedral tower. To reach the place where we started our approach of the castle hill we had to go to the left side of the photo.


The Castle Cathedral is a place were Polish kings had been crowned. It was also the main burial site for kings and prominent Poles like national heroes and poets. One of the kings buried here is Jan III Sobieski, the one who led the Battle of Vienna, decisive for stopping the Ottoman Empire to conquer Europe in the Middle Ages (>>>). The Cathedral itself is located within the Castle boundaries (compare photo above). It means to extend it (like to construct an additional chapel as a tribute to another king) one had to keep it small. The cathedral was originally Gothic, but through years it was extended with other architectural styles. So you can see Renaissance and Baroque architecture, too. The Cathedral is therefore different from those we can visit in other places in Europe. If you are in Cracow do not confuse it with the Basilica located in the main square of the old town. That one does not look very impressive from the outside, but its interiors are worthwhile. They are also different from that you can see elsewhere (unfortunately you cannot do photos inside).

Inside the cathedral tower there is a bell called Sigismund – the most prominent in Poland. Its ringing marks the most important events in the country. At present these are national days (3rd of May and the 11th of November), religious holidays (Poland is traditionally Catholic) as well as important events for the country like anniversaries or funerals of prominent Poles.


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The bell is called Sigismund after the king who commissioned it. It was cast in 1520, weighs almost 13 tonnes and requires 12 bell-ringers to swing it. To see Sigismund that close, one has to climb a couple of hundred steep steps.

Many tourist come to Cracow on weekends taking trains or flying in. There are many restaurants offering Polish traditional food as well as many discos and night clubs.



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