Showing posts from December, 2017

Bruges, Belgium

The first fortifications were built during Roman times to protect the coastal area from pirates. After the decline of the Roman Empire, in the 4th century, the Franks took over the whole region.  The city is first mentioned in records, in the 9th century, as "Bruggas", a word that probably comes from the old Dutch, meaning bridge. In this century, Baldwin I of Flanders reinforced the Roman fortifications to protect the city from Viking attacks. The city quickly became an important international trading port but in the 12th century, the river Zwin started to silt up. Bruges adapted by building outports in Damme and Sluis after a storm created natural channel connecting the Zwin to the sea, and by taking advantage of its strategic location at the crossroads of the northern Hanseatic League and the southern trade routes. The city became the capital of the County of Flanders in 1089 and received its charter in 1128. By the 14th century Bruges was the warehouse

Bruges Belfry and the Cloth Hall, Belgium

The Belfry tower is 83 metres tall and it takes 366 steps to reach the top and enjoy the panoramic view, even on a stormy day like the one on which I visited. The Belfry was built in the 13th century as part of a complex of halls that were used as warehouses and a market. The octagonal lantern tower made out of sand-lime brick was added in the 15th century. The belfries were a symbol of the cities' power and confidence and are amongst the first examples of civilian and public architecture. They served as an observation post for spotting fires and other dangers. The Belfry of Bruges houses a carillon with 47 bells weighing a total of 27.5 tonnes. The carillon was added in the 16th century. Also noteworthy are the iron gates in the old treasury where all important documents were kept in the Middle Ages. Opening hours: 9.30 am to 6 pm. Closed on Jan. 1 and Dec. 25. Entrance fee: €10 Back to Bruges

Sint Janshospital, Bruges, Belgium

Saint John's Hospital in Bruges is one of the oldest preserved hospital buildings in the world. It was built in the 12th century and was active until 1978. It grew during the Middle Ages and it was the place were the sick, pilgrims and travellers were cared for by nuns and monks. The museum displays several medical instruments and furniture but it's better known for six masterpieces of the 16th-century artist Hans Memling, including a shrine of Saint Ursula painted specifically for Saint John's. Unfortunately, the medical display can sometimes be cleared to give way to temporary exhibitions of modern art, which was the case the day I visited. Opening hours: 9.30 am to 5 pm Entrance fee: €8 Back to Bruges

Utrecht, Netherlands

There is some evidence that Utrecht was inhabited since the Stone Age. However, the founding of the city has always been related to the construction of the Castellum Traiectum in Roman times, decided by Emperor Claudius in 47 AD, to protect the Northern border of the Roman Empire, the River Rhine. Traiectum became the Dutch Trecht to which the prefix "uut" (downriver) was added to form Utrecht. Following waves of attacks from Germanic tribes, the Romans eventually left between 275-300 AD. In 695 the Anglo-Saxon missionary Willibord arrived in Utrecht where he founded two churches- the Church of Saint Martin and the Church of St. Salvator. The arrival of Willibord is usually considered to be the beginning of the Bishopric of Utrecht, which later grew to become the most important religious centre of the Northern Netherlands. In the 9th century, during a pillaging journey, the Vikings attacked Utrecht and destroyed the city's gates and walls. Nevertheless, b

Megalithic Monuments of Alcalar, Portimao, Portugal

The megalithic monuments of Alcalar are located near Portimão and about 5km from Mexilhoeira Grande, in the Algarve. They were built 5000 years ago, during the Chalcolithic period, when an important pre-historic community arrived at the region and built a settlement protected by walls, trenches and ramparts. The necropolis includes about 18 megalithic burial tombs. The site was discovered in the 19th century and has been studied since then. This didn't prevent construction close to the monuments and most of them are on private property. More recently, the monuments were classified as a national monument and two of them are accessible to the public. On the site, there is also an 18th-century oven. Opening hours: 10 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 4.30 pm (6 pm in August); Entrance fee: €2 or €4 together with the Museum in Portimão. How to go: Leave highway A22 on exit 3, Mexilhoeira Grande/Odiáxere. GPS (37,197515º; -8,589364º). The museum is in Portimão, in Rua D. Carlos I.

Lisbon Greenhouse, Portugal

At the turn of the 19th century, there used to be a basalt quarry on the site that, due to the existence of a water spring, had to stop operating. In 1912 a small space to shelter and adapt delicate plants was created. These plants were arriving from different parts of the world and were intended to nearby Avenida da Liberdade. However, the transfer to the avenue was delayed due to WWI and the plants started developing in the space where they were deposited. In 1926 architect and painter Raul Carapinha found a pleasant space and designed the Cold Greenhouse, inaugurated in 1930. During the 1940s both Edward VII Park and the Greenhouse were remodelled. In 1975 the Hothouse and the Sweet House were added, expanding the botanical collection to include tropical and equatorial plant species. Currently, there are hundreds of different plant specimens from all over the world among rocks, lakes and waterfalls. The name Cold Greenhouse comes from the temperature being