Tag Archives: heritage

A visit to Echternach, Luxembourg

Just over an hour by bus from Luxembourg City lies Echternach, the oldest town in Luxembourg.

I picked it over Vianden Castle (another popular destination for short trips from Luxembourg City) for no particular reason. Except that I was curious about crossing the border into Germany – just a walk across the bridge over the river Sauer – and back…

Yet the main attractions here are the Abbey of Echternach, which was founded in the 7th century, and the Roman Basilica, rebuilt after World War II. The museum of the Abbey is only open during the summer, though, so I couldn’t visit.

The town itself retains a medieval feel, with its narrow streets, old churches, town walls, towers and a marketplace with a Gothic townhouse. This makes a stroll around very enjoyable.

Echternach has also been recognised at European level for its cultural value: in 2008 it was rewarded by the European Commission as “European destination of excellence”. In 2010, the famous Dancing Procession that always takes place on Whit Tuesday became part of UNESCO’s Intangible World Cultural Heritage.

For the summer, there is also a lake and lots of opportunities for outdoor activities. Unfortunately a cold day wasn’t too suitable for that.

A lot going on for such a small place – really worth adding it to your to-do list for Luxembourg!

A photo from my archives: The boats of Xochimilco

Xochimilco, Mexico, 2007.

Located 28 Km south of the historic centre of Mexico City, Xochimilco is a borough mostly famous for its 170 Km network of canals. These canals, together with a series of artificial islands, have made Xochimilco a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Colourful gondola-like boats called trajineras are very popular with tourists and the canals can get very busy on Sundays, when also the locals enjoy spending some relaxing time here.

 

A photo from my archives: Agra Fort monkey

Agra Fort, India, 2007.

A monkey is trying to shelter from the bright sunlight on a hot afternoon at the Agra Fort.

Less than 2 miles away from the more famous Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site in itself. Characterised by red-coloured walls, this amazing walled city features a mix of Hindu and Islamic elements. Four gates positioned around the sides of the fort offer an additional display of beautiful 16th century architecture, with the Delhi Gate the masterpiece of this.

A visit is highly recommended! But beware of the monkeys…

A photo from my archives: Sagrada Familia

Inside the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain, 2012.

Most of you will have certainly heard of the Sagrada Familia, or you may have even visited it already.
This masterpiece cathedral – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – was designed by Antoni Gaudi’ and its construction began in 1882. Yet the building is still incomplete.

Its unique neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau style makes it a not-to-miss landmark when visiting Barcelona.
The monumental façades are decorated with hundreds of statues and symbolic figures.  A walk around the cathedral can entertain you for hours.
But the best part is definitely the interior, with its striking vaults (the highest reaching 45m) and columns with various geometric forms. And there is almost a magical feeling thanks to the glow created by the stained glass windows!

An afternoon between Killarney and Kenmare, Ireland

I didn’t expect to find the sun in Ireland. Ireland is green for a reason: the (very) frequent rain. I found the sun instead.

Based in southwestern Ireland for a few days, on a lovely Saturday afternoon I was taken for a drive around County Kerry to discover some of its towns and beautiful scenery. Main focus: the area around Killarney and Kenmare.

Killarney (or Cill Airne in Irish – all road signs and town names are in both English and Irish Gaelic) is a popular tourist destination in County Kerry. The Killarney National Park, with its  beautiful scenery and opportunities for cycling and hiking, together with the region’s history, is the main attractions for tourists here.

Panorama from Ladies View, Killarney
Irish scenery

Kenmare (or An Neidín), a lovely heritage town, is also very popular with tourists and is located about 32Km from Killarney.

House in Kenmare
House in Kenmare
Street in Kenmare, Ireland
One of the main streets in Kenmare
Pub in Kenmare, Ireland
Enjoying the sun
Pub sign in Kenmare, Ireland
Pub sign

Road N71 connects Killarney and Kenmare, is part of the Ring of Kerry, and is a very scenic drive through mountains and forests and past beautiful lakes. There is hardly any public transport here so the best way to visit the area – and the one that gives you the most freedom – is driving a car or a motorbike. I would not recommend cycling as the road is quite narrow and drivers speed up a lot. Said that, there were several cyclists when I visited…

View along the Ring of Kerry
View along the Ring of Kerry
Sheep and lakes in countryside Ireland
The Irish landscape is not complete without sheep…

There are several viewpoints along the N71, one of the best ones being the Ladies View: stop here for a coffee and enjoy a stroll with view over the Lakes of Killarney down in the valley!

Lakes of Killarney from Ladies View
Lakes of Killarney from Ladies View

Muckross House&Gardens is another nice stop along the route. Located 6Km from Killarney, this mansion was built in 1843 and is surrounded by beautiful gardens leading to a lake. It also has traditional farms, craft shops, and cafes. On a beautiful sunny day, there is no better place where to enjoy the weather!

Muckross House Gardens, Killarney, Ireland
Muckross House Gardens
Muckross House, Killarkey, Ireland
Muckross House

A photo from my archives: A painter’s workshop

Turku, Finland, 2013.

The Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum in Turku is an outdoor museum that will take you about 200 years back in time. Over 30 workshops from different fields of craftmanship display Turku’s handicrafts history and craftsmen’s dwellings (all from 18th and 19th century).
I especially loved the painter’s workshop: the tins of bright colours on the table and the light coming from the window made it a beautiful sight.

Dubai: not only glitz’n’glam

Dubai is not my thing (click here for my previous post).
But I am here now so I might as well try and see what’s out there beyond the overwhelming glitz’n’glam, I thought.

In Dubai town
In Dubai town

“Madam, you cannot walk to the Heritage Village from here. You must catch a taxi”. This is what the hotel receptionist told me in the morning. We’ll see, I thought. My well-known aversion for taxis had already kicked in. I always walk everywhere or catch public transport. I can be found on taxis only when no other options are available.

So I started walking around Deira, the old part of town, starting from a main road then turning into any interesting side streets I spotted. There were not many people around and I was the only white woman walking on her own. Did it bother me? Slightly, but not enough to stop me wandering. But I used care :-).

And soon there was the fish market. It was a large fish and groceries market, quite lively and busy.

The fish market building in Bur Deira
The fish market building in Bur Deira
At the Dubai fish market
At the Dubai fish market

After leaving the market, the sign for the “Underpass for Bur Dubai” appeared in front of me. Bur Dubai is on the western side of the Dubai creek, opposite Bur Deira, which is where I was.
I followed the sign and entered the underpass, a pedestrian underwater crossing that connects the two sides of the creek.
And at the other end I found what I was looking for: no more glitz’n’glam, but renovated historic buildings and museums, a step back in time into some of Dubai’s culture and heritage!

The area is called Al Shindagha and features a Heritage Village and a Diving Village, which are built to familiarise tourists with the region’s traditional arts, customs and architecture. In addition there are several museums (Camel Museum, Horse Museum, Traditional Architecture Museum, etc) and some historic buildings. Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House is a beautiful traditional building and former residential quarters of Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, former ruler of Dubai.

Along the Al Shindagha waterfront
Along the Al Shindagha waterfront

The whole area was very quiet when I visited, and therefore more enjoyable. Walking around the sand-coloured buildings and in the narrow streets was a pleasure (apart from the 40C degrees temperature..). One security guard offered to guide me around a couple of buildings and museums, giving me interesting information about history and local customs.

The Dubai Museum, located in the Al Fahidi Fort (built in 1787 and the oldest building in Dubai), was another highlight of the morning. It has very interesting displays of traditional ways of life in the UAE, and kept me occupied for quite a while.

The Dubai Museum (in Al Fahidi Fort)
The Dubai Museum (in Al Fahidi Fort)

I didn’t take a boat ride across the creek, on one of the traditional wooden boats (abras) that cross the river. I was planning to go back at sunset and do it then, but plans changed.

Trying to blend in
Trying to blend in….

I may never go back to Dubai – after all I have seen all I wanted to see – but I am glad that I have found something more than just glitzy and glamorous buildings.

For more Dubai photos click here.

Beautiful Hoi An

You will be pleased to hear that Hoi An has made it to the top of the “Chiara’s favourite places in Vietnam” chart!

This UNESCO World Heritage site (since 1999) is incredibly charming, picturesque, and laid back. And it doesn’t lose its appeal even with the hordes of tourists that flock its streets day and night.

I love the Old Town and its traditional houses – most of them now shops and restaurants – each one with colourful lanterns that create a dreamy atmosphere after sunset. There are also plenty of museums, Chinese Assembly Halls, family houses and various temples and pagodas – they can be visited by buying a daily ticket  that gives access to five sights of your choice. Choose wisely – I ran out of my five options in no time :-S.

I love the Thu Bon river, full of traditional boats. I love the bridges and the views over the town.

The river in Hoi An
The river in Hoi An

I love the town market, which offers never ending photographic opportunities.

"You want to take photo?"
“You want to take photo?”

The ladies carrying fruit baskets will be the ones asking you to take photos of them! I have even seen some running towards tourists once they realised that photos were being taken…

I love cycling around Hoi An, even better than walking. As long as you avoid the busiest streets, or your manouevring skills will be put to test!

I love Hoi An by night, with its colourful lanterns and their reflections on the river.

Hoi An riverside by night
Hoi An riverside by night

But it’s best if I let the images speak.