Portugal – Day 5 – Lisbon

I started the day off with an amazing buffet breakfast at my hotel, before walking to the Sao Bento train station to catch a quick Intercity train to Campanhã station, where I had a coffee while I waited for my train to Lisbon. The train ride to Lisbon took about 3 hours.

Before I dive into Lisbon, let’s explore a brief history on Lisbon. Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city, as well as Portugals largest city, with a population of 2.9 million people if you include its metro area. Similar to Porto, the area was originally settled by Celtic people, however much earlier than Porto. They settled in 1200 BC. The Roman’s, Moors, and Napoleonic’s then came and occupied the Iberian Peninsula, which we learned about in my writing of the Portuguese history. Lisbon was an important trade city, due to its port access. Lisbon became the capital city of Portugal in 1255. A fun fact that I mentioned before is that the ruler of Brazil became the King of Portugal during the 19th century, and the capital city was moved from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 1808 to 1821.

I arrived at Oriente Station, which was about a 15 minutes walk to my hotel; Myriad by SANA. Oriente Station (Gare do Oriente) was specifically built for Expo ’98. It is covered by a translucent roof composed of a reticulated roof structure. It creates a very grand entrance to arriving passengers. The building was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. This modernist station is a hub for the Lisbon Metro, high speed commuter train, regional trains, national and international buses, a police station, and even a shopping center. The train station has a lattice of reinforced concrete supporting the main floors, and a lattice structure of glass and metal covering the main floors and train platforms.

It was time to check into my hotel. The Myriad Hotel is adjacent to the Torre Casco da Gama Tower & Myriad Hotel. The tower is a 145 metre (476 foot) tall tower that was built in 1998. The 22 floor hotel was later built in 2012, and stands 72 metres (236 feet) tall. The tower was built in 1998 for the Expo ’98 World’s Fair. At the base of the tower, which is shaped like a sail, was a three-story building that served as the European Union Pavilion during the Expo. After the Expo was finished the three-story building was supposed to be leased out, but never found tenants, and sat vacant, with the rare exception for one-off events. Both the observation deck, and restaurant were closed in October 2004. Parque Expo eventually received permission along the riverside to build a 178 room luxury hotel. The three-storey building was demolished to make way for the 5-star Myriad hotel, which was designed by Portuguese architect Nuno Leonidas. In 2018 the panoramic restaurant named Fifty Seconds, was opened up in the space that was previously the observation deck, and now has a one-star Michelin rating.

After settling in for a bit it was time to set out and explore the Expo ’98 site. Expo ’98 was the specialized World’s Fair that was held in Lisbon from May 22nd to September 30th 1998. The theme of the fair was “The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future”. 143 countries participated, and the expo received over 11 million visitors. The idea for Portugal to host the World’s Fair actually dates back to 1989. The expo was built in a derelict area of the city, and ended up creating a thriving neighbourhood that left a legacy. The buildings include Oriente Station (see what I wrote above), designed by Santiago Calatrava; Portugal Pavilion, designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira; Lisbon Oceanarium New Extension, designed by Campo Costa Arquitetos; Teatro Camoes (Camoes Theater), designed by Manuel Salgado (RISCO); Pavilhao do Conhecimento, designed by João Luís Carrilho da Graça; Utopian Pavilion (MEO Arena), designed by SOM; Torre Vasco da Gama (see what I wrote above), designed by Leonor Janeiro and Nicholas Jacobs; and Vasco da Gama Bridge, designed by Armando Rito.

Portugal Pavilion is the central hub, or jewel of the Expo site. Located along the Tagus River, this building has an enormous and thin concrete canopy (70 metres by 50 metres and only 20 centimetres thick) draped between two columns, creating a beautiful frame of the water. This beautiful building was designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira. The canopy is formed by the catenary arc of steel cables draped between the columns (porticoes) which were constructed with pre-stressed concrete. This is essentially the same technology used in suspension bridges, and Calgary’s own Saddle Dome arena. It is designed as a stressed-ribbon structure, wherein the loose cables are stiffened with concrete to eliminate sway and bounce.

The Lisbon Oceanarium was built for Expo ’98, and is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. The largest tank is a 5000 cubic metres! It was designed by Peter Chermayeff, the same designer behind Osaka Oceanarium Kaiyukan, which is one of the largest aquariums in the world. I went to Osaka in 2017, however I didn’t have time to visit it unfortunately. Inside the oceanarium there is a large collection of marine species (over 450 species, and over 16000 animals), including penguins, otters, sharks, rays, seahorses, starfish, etc.

Teatro Camoes (Camoes Theater) is another Expo ’98 facility. It was a concert hall with a capacity for 873 visitors at a time. I wouldn’t call this building beautiful by any means, however it’s certainly unique. The building is comprised predominantly of corrugated metal that is painted blue.

Pavilhao do Conhecimento is an interactive science museum that was built for Expo ’98. The modern building was designed by Carrilho da Graça and engineer António Adão da Fonseca.

Atlice Arena, also known as the Utopian Pavilion, is a multi-purpose indoor arena that was built specifically for Expo ’98. It has a capacity of over 20000 people, and was designed by Regino Cruz, alongside Skidmoore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). SOM completed many large sporting pavilions in Portland, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Minneapolis, as well as the Casco da Gama Tower, where I stayed during my stay in Lisbon. This unique building certainly resembles a UFO. In the background of this photo you can also see Torres Sao Rafael & Sao Gabriel, which are two modern luxury condos that are located close to the Expo ’98 site. They both have 24 floors and are 110 metres tall, and are the tallest residential buildings in the country. They somewhat resemble sails.

The Vasco da Gama Bridge is a six lane cable-stayed bridge, designed by Armando Rito, that spans the Tagus River. It is the second longest bridge in Europe, after the Crimean Bridge. It was built to solve a major congestion issue on Lisbon’s 25 de Abril Bridge, and eliminate traffic to have to pass through the city. Construction took place between February 1995 and March 1998, which coincided with the opening of Expo ’98. It is 12.3 kilometres long, 30 metres wide, and 148 metres tall at it’s tallest point. The longest span is 420 metres.

Telecabine Lisbon is a cable car that was built for Expo ’98. It covers a distance of 1230 m from the Aquarium to the Vasco da Gama Tower. Each gondola car can hold 8 people, and the route takes about 10 minutes to cover. This is how I took the pictures I posted above.

Also on site is a beautifully created piece of artwork of an Iberian Lynx, dubbed Bordalo II, by Artur Bordalo. He was tired of seeing trash strewn about the city, so he decided to do something about it and make art. This art has been on site since Summer 1999. I was inspired to find more of his artwork, so I will source that out on other days.

After exploring the Expo ’98 facility I explored other area’s of Lisbon, starting with a few subway stations.

Olaias Subway Station is located on the Red Line of the Lisbon Metro. The station, designed by Tomas Taveria, was built in 1998 and features beautiful art that was created by Pedro Cabrita Reis, Graça Pereira Coutinho, Pedro Calapez and Rui Sanchez.

Picoas Subway Station is located on the Yellow Line of the Lisbon Metro. That station, designed by Picoas Subway Station, was built in 1959. It was rebuilt and extended in 1982, and rebuilt again in 1995 based on the design of Dinis Gomes. What caught my eye was the classic Art Nouveau entrance, similar to some of the metro stations I saw in Paris.

Next to Picoas Subway station is Av Fontes Pereira de Melo 28 is an Art Nouveau building that was built between 1910 and 1914 as a residence for José Maria Marques. It was designed by architect Manuel Joaquim Norte Junior. Also next door was a really neat looking abandoned set of old buildings.

The Campo Pequeno Bullring was built between 1890 and 1892. It was designed predominantly for bullfighting, however it is also used for various other events. This beautiful building is of neo-Mudéjar style, a romantic style inspired by the ancient Arabic architecture of the Iberian Peninsula. The building design was based off an old bullring in Madrid that was designed by Emilio Rodriguez Ayuso, which was later demolished. The bull ring has a circular floorplan with four large octagonal towers on each cardinal point with oriental-looking domes. The Western tower is flanked by two turrets and serves as main entrance. The windows on the building also have a horseshoe shape.

The Museum Residence of Dr. Anastacio Goncalves is a fabulous Art Nouveau style building that was the former residence of Dr. Anastacio Goncalves, that was later converted into a museum showcasing 19th-cenutyr Portuguese painting and Art Nouveau art and artifacts. The house was originally built in 1904 for José Victor Branco Malhoa, who sold it after his wife’s death in 1919. He moved into a home in Praça da Alegria. Between 1919 and 1932, the house exchanged hands a few times, before Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves, a great collector of artworks, moved in. Upon his death in 1965, the house and all its artifacts were left to the State, in order to create a museum.

Sotto Mayor Palace was built for the Portuguese aristocrat Sotto Mayor in the late 19th century. He was one of the wealthiest people in Portugal at the time. In 1988 the Sotto Mayor Palace was made a property of public interest after a fire at the palace.

I saw a beautiful Art Deco building on R. Rodrigues Sampaio 50C. I couldn’t find any information about it unfortunately.

Nearby to this Art Deco building I also saw two more buildings I found quite interesting.

Cinema São Jorge is one of the most prestigious cinemas in Portugal. It was opened in 1950. It consists of three rooms; Manoel de Oliveira, with 827 seats; Montepio, with 150 seats and room for 250 standing; and “Room 3”, with 199 seats.

Parque Mayer is the theatre district in Lisbon. It opened in 1956, and closed its doors in 1995. The land was originally used as a garden attached to Palacete Mayer (now the Spanish Embassy), before it was used as an amusement park in 1921, before the first of four theatres was built on the land. Teatro Maria Vitoria was opened in 1922, and continues to function to this day, although it was almost destroyed by a fire in 1986. In 1926, Teatro Varidades was opened. That theatre also survived a fire, and eventually closed its doors in 1992, and is currently undergoing restoration. Teatro Capitolio, a modernist style building, was opened in 1931, and is still in use today, however was closed for a long period of time due to extensive water damage. The last theatre, was Teatro ABC, which was opened in 1956, and was demolished in 2015.

Before heading back to my hotel I grabbed a salad, banana, and some sparkling water. I ate my dinner and chatted on the phone with a few friends, before heading up to the pool and sauna to relax for a bit. Continuing on the water theme afterwards I ran myself a nice jacuzzi tub, while watching some of the new season of Mayday: Air Crash Investigation. After getting my fill of relaxation it was time to head to bed.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, when I explore Sintra and Cascais.

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Portugal – Day 2 – Porto

Today I slept in until about 9:30am. I had a delicious breakfast waiting for me downstairs, which was also very nicely presented. It had everything you could possibly want ranging from yogurt, granola, pancakes, fruit, cheese, buns. a croissant, orange juice, milk (which I didn’t drink), and coffee. After breakfast I started out on my adventures for the day

Hotel Vincci Porto is an absolutely stunning Art Deco (Modernist) hotel built in 1933. It was designed by Januario Godinho and Jose Carlos Cruz. The hotel features 91 rooms, including 4 suites, and a 4-storey restaurant. I will be staying here in a few days, just for one night.

The Porto Tram Museum, which is located right next door to Hotel Vincci Porto, opened in 1992. It is located at a former Massarelos Power Plant along the Douro River. The collection contains 16 electric cars, 5 trailers, two maintenance vehicles, and the former equipment of the power plant. The power plant was opened in 1915, and served the city of Porto for 45 years. From 1915 until the 1440s the power station produced enough electricity to power Porto’s tram network, however due to the increase in the number of trams the power supply was insufficient and became partially dependent on the city’s power supply, and in the 1960’s energy production ceased, although it remained a substation for three tram lines until the tram museum was opened in 1992. Later on in the day I got to ride on one of the history tram cars.

Arrábida Bridge is a 500 metres long reinforced concrete arch bridge spanning across the Douro River between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. It was constructed between 1957 and 1963. At the time of its construction, its main 270 metre span was the largest of any concrete-arch bridge in the world. The building is now a protected historical item, and must be maintained. In 2016 some modifications were done to the bridge to allow pedestrians to walk across the archway, dubbed the Porto Bridge Climb.

Farolim de Felgueiras is a 19th century hexagonal lighthouse located on the Douro River. It is 10 metres tall and is constructed of granite. The views of the waves splashing again the walls is beautiful.

The Fort of São Francisco do Queijo, also known as the Castle of Cheese, is a fortification sitting on the coast. It was built in the 15th century, and is a fairly simplistic design. It was built on top of a structure that likely dated back to the 6th century. It’s suggested that the reason that it was built was to defend against the Armada of Galicia.

The Vodafone Headquarters is a unique modern building that has some brutalism components conveyed in its design. Designed by Barbosa & Guimaraes, and built in 2008, this beautiful concrete building has a dynamic modern twist to it. The concrete building has a bunch of free-form unique shapes. Internally the building is quite unique as it is essentially a shell of concrete with only three central pillars and two stairwells.

The Serralves Contemporary Art Museum is a great example of contemporary architecture, Modernism, and Art Deco architecture. The museum, built in 1999, was designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira. It is the second most visited museum in Portugal, with over 1 million visitors annually. There was a lot of audible art there, and it was fun to listen to. On site is Casa de Serralves, a beautiful Art Deco villa that was built between 1925 and 1944. The building is actually three different styles combined; neoclassical, romantic, and art deco. While I was here I had a smoked salmon wrap at the cafeteria.

Casa da Musica is a 1300-seat concert hall that was opened in 2005. The building, designed by Rem Koolhaas, is nine-storeys high and is constructed of concrete, marble and glass. It is the only concert hall in the world with two walls constructed entirely of glass.

The Super Bock Arena is a unique arena built between 1951 and 1952. This Avant Garde style arena  Designed by Jose Carlos Loureiro, it was finally opened in 1954. Between 2018 and 2019 it was fully renovated, bringing its capacity to 8000 people.

Museu Da Cicade (Casa Guerra Junqueiro) is a museum / residence of Guerra Junqueiro. This beautiful baroque style building was built between 1730 and 1746 for Domingos Barbosa, a magisterial deacon of the Se Cathedral of Porto. After his death, the house became the property was passed along numerous times to other family members before the home was donated in 1940 to the city of Porto, alongside the collection of over 600 works of art of Guerra Jungqueiro.

The Clerics complex consists of a Tower, Museum, and a Church. The church and tower are part of a baroque style building that was built between 1754 and 1763. It was designed by Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni. The tower is 75 metres tall, and after climbing 225 steps you are presented with a beautiful view of the city below. The museum is located in the House of the Brotherhood, which was built between 1754 and 1758. The museum allows you to explore the private spaces that were once part of the daily life of the Brotherhood of the Clerics. There’s a Dispatch Room, Safe Room, Registry, Infirmary, and a large collection of historical paintings, furniture, and jewelry.

The Livraria Lello Book Store is an absolutely beautiful bookstore that has been open since 1906. The building was designed by Francisco Xavier Esteves. This bookstore became one of the leading importers and exporters of literature in Portugal during 1920 to 1950. In 1993 the bookstore was renovated and restored. There’s a beautiful staircase going up to the second floor, that splits into two in the middle. It’s adorned by beautiful red steps. This was actually a mistake, because the original steps were brown, but during the restoration it was painted red. It was decided that it would stay that way, and all I can say is that it looks simply stunning. In 2013 the building received its designation as a heritage site. The building once again underwent restoration in 2018. This bookstore was featured as Harry Potter’s library in Hogwarts. Did you know that J.K. Rowling lived in Porto teaching English in the early 1990’s?

The Cunhas Warehouses are housed in a stunning Art Deco style building that was designed by Manuel Marques, Amoroso Lopes, and Coelho Freitas. Technically this building consists of three buildings with a single Art Deco facade. The main feature of the facade is the open feathered peacock displyed prominently in the middle. The building was finished in 1917.

Igreja do Carmo, also known as the Church of Our Lady of Carmo, is a Baroque style catholic church that was was opened in 1768.

Eurostars Aliados is a five-star 149 room hotel that occupies an old Art Deco style building on Avenida dos Aliados.

Farmacia Vitalia is a pharmacy located in a stunning Beaux Arts (Arc Deco) style building that was built in 1933. The building features a very distinctive facade, and was designed by architects Amoroso Lops and Manuel Lopes.

For dinner I had Francesinha at a restaurant called O Bacalhau Em Prato. Francesinha is a Portuguese sandwich that originated from Porto. The name translates into “Little French Girl”. The sandwich usually contains beef and chorizo, and then its covered in cheese and sauce. While it was tasty, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting texture wise, and of course it was quite rich.

Be sure to check back soon, when I explore more of Porto tomorrow.

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Victoria – Christmas 2021 – Part 2 of 2

The next day I woke up around 8:00am, showered, and walked over to my parents Airbnb to pickup keys for the car, so that I could explore a few buildings that I wanted to see that interested me. First stop was to pickup some breakfast, so I drove to a nearby Tim Hortons and got a bagel BELT, a hashbrown, and some coffee.

First architecture stops were 200 and 230 King George Terrace, which are beautiful Art Deco style homes that were built in 1945. They’re currently values at over $2.5 million each!

Next stop was Craigdarroch Castle, a Victorian style mansion that was built in 1890 as a resident for the wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir and his wife Joan. Unfortunately Robert died 17 months before construction of the castle was completed. Once his widow Joan had passed away the Craigdarroch estate was sold to Griffith Hughes for $38000, who subdivided the estate into building lots. To stimulate sales during an extremely slow real estate market, he decided to raffle the home to be won by one of the purchasers of the parcels of land. The winner was Solomon Cameron, who mortgaged the home to finance other failed ventures, which left him broke and the home was defaulted to his creditor, the Bank of Montreal. Over the years the building served as a military hospital, college, offices, and even a conservatory, before it was repurposed to a museum in 1979. The building was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1992.

Next stop was the University of Victoria complex, which houses some unique buildings such as the Clearihue Building, Petch Building, MacLaurin Building, McPherson Library, and Lansdowne Residence Buildings.

The Clearihue Building the the oldest building on the campus. It was constructed in 1961, with an addition built in 1971. The building is an example of modernism, and has a pillared ground floor supporting the classroom floors above, as well as features a clock tower.

The Petch Building was built in 1986 to accommodate the new Faculty of Engineering and the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, as well as provide additional space for the Departments of Biology and Chemistry. This brutalism style three story building is contructred out of reinforced concrete, with precase concrete exterior panels. The building features a unique heat-recovery system, where heat can be recovered and reused from air that is being exhausted.

The MacLaurin Building is the largest building on the campus, and was completed in 1966. The brutalism style building consists of several wings of offices, classrooms, and laboratories. The five story building is constructed of reinforced concrete, with an exterior finished in concrete and integrally coloured bricks.

McPherson Library is a modern style four-storey building constructed out of reinforced concrete. The exterior is clad with pre-cast concrete panels with exposed stone aggregate and rough granite. The building was originally constructed between 1963 and 1964, with a major addition built between 1972 and 1973.

The Lansdowne Residence building complex consists of six four-story brutalism style reinforced concrete buildings. The exterior of the buildings are unfinished natural concrete. The buildings can house 280 students.

After exploring the library I went and watching some planes take off and land at Victoria’s Harbour Airport. I also happened to catch a glimpse of a rainbow!

I drove the car back to my parents Airbnb, and just as I was dropping off the car my sister messaged me to see if I wanted to hike Mount Douglas with her. Mount Douglas provides some nice views of the surrounding area.

After hiking with my sister I grabbed some Spicy Beef Pho from Le Petit Saigon, and then went back to my hotel to relax for a bit.

After relaxing at my hotel for a bit I went back to my parents Airbnb and hung out with my parents for a bit. I had a microwavable dinner with them before walking around downtown Victoria to take in some views. We also went to the rooftop patio on the 12th floor, and it had some stunning views of the city below. Afterwards I went back to the hotel for the rest of the evening to relax.

The next morning was Christmas Day. It had snowed a bit overnight, which made it actually feel like Christmas. We all met at my parents Airbnb at 9:30am, opened stockings, cooked our traditional English breakfast that we usually do, and then opened presents. In the afternoon I continued to do a bit more exploring before coming back for dinner.

St. Ann’s Academy and Auditorium was built by the Roman Catholic Congregation of Women (Sisters of Saint Anne of Lachine, Quebec). In 1858 a Chapel was built, in 1971 a School was built, and in 1886 and 1909 a Convent was built. The Sisters of St. Ann closed the academy in 1973 and sold the property to the government to be used as office space for the public service for a few years, until it was closed for major repairs. The building was renovated and restored, and reopened in 1997.

Just down the street from the academy is 895 Academy Close (Athlone Apartments), a beautiful Art Deco / Streamline Moderne building built in 1947. The apartments were designed by Patrick Birley.

Final stop was 900 Park Boulevard (Tweedsmuir Mansions), which a large and beautiful Art Deco / Streamline Moderne building built in 1936. This is probably Victoria’s finest example of surviving Art Deco style building. It was built by McCulloch & Harvey for a cost of $23000. The original building had nine suites, some with their own street entrances. It was also the first apartment in Victoria to have a penthouse suite. In 1986 the building was renovated, including new exterior stucco. In 1995 the apartment complex was converted to a strata condominium complex, and a third storey addition on the West side provided more space for two of the suites.

It was time to head back to my parents Airbnb for dinner, which included turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, peas, and carrots. It was absolutely delicious, and it was very enjoyable getting to spend time with my family. After completely stuffing my face with food it was time to head back to my hotel to go to bed.

The next, and final day, I slept-in until 11am. When I looked outside I could see that it had snowed a few inches overnight. I checked out of my hotel room, and walked over to my parents Airbnb, and hung out with them for a few hours before heading to the the airport to take my flight back to Calgary. Before I left I wanted to catch a few more shots of Victoria.

My flight back to Calgary was on a Westjet Dash 8 Q400. Despite the poor weather, the flight was almost on-time leaving. Sadly, my parents had to contend with a nearly 6 hour delay on the following evening when they flew back.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 15 – Melk Abbey & Vienna

Today I woke up around 7:00am to catch a 7:55am train to Melk Abbey, a Benedictine Abbey, located about 1.25 hours West of Vienna. I had breakfast the same McDonald’s as yesterday, since that was the train station I was departing from.

Melk Abbey is located in the town of Melk, on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube river, adjoining the Wachau valley. The abbey contains the tomb of Saint Coloman of Stockerau, as well as the remains of several members of the House of Babenberg, Austria’s first ruling dynasty. The abbey was first founded in 1089 when Leopold II, gave one of his castles to Benedictine monks from Lambach Abbey. A monastic school, the Stiftsgymnasium Melk, was founded shortly after, and the monastic library soon became recognized for its extensive manuscript collection.

The current Baroque style abbey, designed by Jakob Prandtauer, was built between 1702 and 1736. The frescos on the roof were designed by Johann Rottmayr. The abbey somehow escaped dissolution under Emperor Joseph II, when many other Austrian abbeys were seized and destroyed between 1780 and 1790. The abbey also survived the Napoleonic Wars and World War 2. After World War 2 the school returned to the abbey, where currently 900 pupils attend. There are approximately 30 monks that currently serve the Monastery. Unfortunately I was unable to take any photos inside the abbey, so I have just a few photos of the exterior of the abbey.

After exploring the abbey I ate lunch at Rathauskeller, one of the oldest restaurants in Melk. It’s been serving customers for over 350 years. I had a wonderful Veal dish and a local beer.

After lunch took a train back to Vienna. When I arrived in Vienna I had some time to check out Wotrubakirche Church, before heading for dinner.

Wotrubakirche Church, also known as the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, was built between 1974 and 1976 on a model designed by Fritz Wotruba. Sadly Fritz died before the completion of the church. At first glance this church represents a piece of abstract architecture or sculpture. This brutalist style building is comprised of 152 asymmetrically arranged concrete blocks that weigh 1.8 to 141 tons. During the Third Reich in World War 2 the church houses German Wehrmacht barracks.

It was now time to head to dinner at Brasserie Palmenhaus, a neo-classical greenhouse that was built between 1823 and 1826 according to the plans of Ludwig Gabriel von Remy, raking from the designs of the greenhouse at Schönbrunn Palace. The rear wall of the building is part of the old city walls of Vienna. It was later demolished to make way for a new Art-Nouveau building, built between 1902 and 1906, designed by Friedrich Ohmann. The building was renovated between 1996 and 1998. The central part of the building houses the restaurant, the left wing houses a butterfly garden, and the right wing serves as a greenhouse. I chose to have a wonderful mushroom ravioli, and a few beers.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 2 – Plitvice Lake & Ljubljana, Slovenia

Today I drove from Zagreb, Croatia to Plitvice Lakes, about a two hour drive away. On the way I attempted to stop at The Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija, however the road was closed off for the season to prevent continued degradation of the site by looters during the off-season. The Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija is a World War 2 monument designed by Vojin Bakić, and built by Veliki Petrovac on the highest peak of the Petrova Gora mountain range. The monument celebrates the uprising and resistance movement of the people of Kordun and Banija against Nazi-fascism, as well as commemorates the victims of the Nazi-fascism. The monument took ten years to build and was finished in 1981. At the time the monument was finished it was the largest postmodern sculpture in the world. After 1991, antifascist monuments and memorial complexes were neglected. This continues to this day as local people continue stealing the stainless-steel plates off the monument. I snagged a few photos from Google Maps (credit given to the photographers) so you can see what it looks like.

Photo Credit: Bara Fai – 2021
Photo Credit: Arwen Swan – 2021
Photo Credit: Uldis Strauss – 2019

Next stop was Plitvice Lakes National Park. Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest and largest national parks in Croatia. It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. The park was founded in 1949 and is very well known for its beautiful lakes, pathways, and waterfalls. Entrance cost to the park is about $16 CDN, however expect to pay double when its not off season.

After visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park I drove about 3.5 hours towards Ljubljana, Slovenia. The border crossing took about an hour because they were checking everyone’s COVID vaccine passports. Before I dive into the rest of my day in Slovenia let’s talk about Slovenia’s history, which has a lot of overlap with Croatia.

Slovenia’s History

Slovenia is a relatively young country; being formed on June 25 1991. The history of Slovenia is very similar to that of Croatia; having been its neighboring country. Historically, Slovenia was part of many different states dating back to the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Carolingian Empire, Holy Roman Empire, Habsburg Monarchy, the Republic of Venice, the Illyrian Provinces of the First French Empire of Napoleon I, the Austrian Empire, and finally the Austrian-Hungarian Empire until it broke up in October 1918.

As mentioned back in my brief history of Croatia; in December 1918 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed. In 1929 this kingdom was renamed to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

During the beginning of World War 2 Yugoslavia had a neutral stance, but in March 1941 a coup was held by pro-British officers, and as a result the Germans invaded Yugoslavia on April 6 1941. The Germans set up shop in Croatia with the fascist Ustase in charge, but the Croatians were able to liberate them by 1945.

During the 1960’s nationalism re-emerged and more people were demanding autonomy. In 1971 Tito, the Communist leader put a stop to it, but he ended up dying in 1980. Communism collapsed in most of Eastern Europe in 1989, during the same time frame that many non-Communist organizations were being setup. In April 1990 elections were held and in December 1990 a referendum was held, with the majority of people in favor. On June 25 1991 the Slovene parliament declared Slovenia independent. This irritated the Yugoslavian army, so they tried to invade Slovenia a few days later on June 27 1991. They were held back by the Slovenian Territorial Defense forces and the police, and on July 7 1991 the Yugoslavians agreed to a ceasefire brokered by the European Union.

In December 1991 a new constitution was written, and on January 15 1992 Slovenian independence was recognized by the European Union. As was the case for many of the eastern European countries, Slovenia faced a long painful transition from Communism to Capitalism during the 1990’s. In 2004 Slovenia became a member of the European Union.

Exploring Ljubljana, Slovenia

When I arrived in Ljubljana, Slovakia my first stop was exploring Ljubljana Castle, a castle complex standing on Castle Hill, which overlooks the entire city. It was originally a medieval fortress constructed in the 11th century, rebuilt again in the 12th and 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The castle is depicted on the city’s coat of arms, along with a dragon on the top. The castle just finished a major restoration project that lasted from 2000 to 2019. There was also a puppet museum inside the castle, which was pretty neat.

After visiting the castle I drove to my hotel; BIT Center Hotel, to check-in, and do a few hours of work, which included a few meetings. After working I drove back to the castle to haver dinner at the renowned Strelec Restaurant. A reservation is a requirement here, however being off-season I just booked it in the morning and they were able to accommodate me. This is a michelin star quality restaurant, however it is not a michelin star restaurant. I was served a 5 course dinner, however it was more like 8 courses… I wish I had taken better notes as to what I ate, however I had a few favorites. My first favorite was the ravioli with truffles, cheese, and home made sour cream. My second favorite was venison with beet-root. Third runner up was beef tartar. The meal was finished off with chocolate ganache, ice cream, a sweet puree of some sort, hazelnuts, and gold foil. The meal cost me a total of $115 CDN, however it was absolutely worth it. It was one of the most enjoyable dinners that I’ve ever had.

Be sure to check back tomorrow while I explore more of Ljubljana, before driving back to Zagreb, Croatia to catch a flight to Belgrade, Serbia late in the evening.

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Brooks Aqueduct, Red Rock Coulee, High Level Bridge

As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 1.34 million people so far and taking the lives of 74,000 people as of the writing of this article on April 6th 2020. I was supposed to take an Eastern Europe roadtrip starting on March 18th 2020, ending on April 7th 2020. This trip has been postponed until further notice, but I will complete it when it is safe and socially acceptable to do so. In the meantime I am following government guidelines and maintaining physical distancing from others.

Last weekend I needed to get out to get some fresh air. I didn’t want to be around others so I decided to drive around Southern Alberta with Julie to take some drone shots of some of my favorite places, as well as explore something I hadn’t heard of (Red Rock Coulee) until I did some reading online. This 800km journey was completed in my new to me 2018 Toyota Prius PRIME, which I picked up about a month ago. I’ve already put 3000 kilometers on it, and it costs just pennies per kilometer to drive. The average fuel consumption is under 4l/100km.

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First stop was Brooks Aqueduct, which is a defund aqueduct originally built by the irrigation division of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company in 1914. It was made of reinforced concrete and provided irrigation to the area for over 30 years. It had a capacity of 25 cubic metres (900 cubic feet) per second and provided water to over 113,000 hectares of land. Water to the aqueduct was provided by the Bassano Dam, and built as part of the same project on the Bow River. In 1934 the aqueduct was refurbished. In 1969 the Alberta and Canadian governments assumed the responsibility of maintaining the aqueduct, but it had already fallen into disrepair and was shut down. It is now considered a National Historic Site of Canada and is fenced off. I was very lucky in 2011 when I was able to walk on top of the Aqueduct before it was closed to the public.

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Our second stop was Red Rock Coulee, a Provincial Natural Area near Medicine Hat, Alberta. The area features large spherical red coloured boulders, some measuring up to 2.5 metres (10 feet) in diameter. These formations were formed from the erosion, exposing the concretions of shale, sandstone, siltstone, bentonite, and brown ironstone. This place reminded me of the Devil’s Marbles on my trip to Australia in 2016.

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The third and final stop was High Level Bridge in Lethbridge. I decided to fly my drone here, albeit it being a tremendously windy day. I regret my decision later, because it ended up crashing after only 5 minutes of flying due to not being able to combat the wind. Damage is minimal, but I have to wait until Amazon delivers me some new propellers. High Level Bridge was constructed between 1907 and 1909 at a cost of $1.3 million by the Canadian Pacific Railway company. The 95 metre tall bridge spans 1.6 km over the Oldman River near Lethbridge, Alberta and provided a solution to extremely steep grades that hampered railway operations for the company. The grade was reduced to only 0.4 percent and saved over 8.5 km of track. Transport of the steel to the bridge required 645 railways cars, and another 40 cars contained the equipment required to build the bridge. The bridge is the largest railway structure in Canada, and the largest of its type in the world.

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A video of this adventure can be found on my YouTube channel here.

Wash your hands religiously, maintain social distancing to flatten the curve, and stay safe. See you soon!

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