Eastern Europe Trip – Day 20 – Flying Home

Today was the final day of my trip. It was time to start the long journey home. First flight was on a Lufthansa Airbus A320NEO from Helsinki to Frankfurt. The flight was an hour late leaving Helsinki, which left me very little time for my connecting flight. I had to run through Frankfurt airport, clear customs, and clear security before boarding my second flight, a Lufthansa Airbus A320NEO to London. Both of those flights were in business class, which is essentially just economy class seats, with the middle row blocked, and meal service.

When I arrived in London it was much more relaxed, however still a fairly tight connection. I just had to clear customs, and walk quite the distance to my final flight back to Calgary on an Air Canada Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. This flight was also taken in business class. I’m always impressed by the level of service provided by Air Canada in their Signature Class. My favorite food I always look forward to is the cheese board and port for desert.

After arriving in Calgary, I cleared customs, and my dad picked me up and dropped me off at my apartment.

Where will I go to next? With COVID-19 still fairly prominent, and the latest Omicron variant causing havoc, I don’t currently have anything planned. I spent the Christmas holidays in Victoria with my family. I will do some skiing, and hiking during the winter. It may be a while until you see another post from me.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 19 – Helsinki, Finland

Today is the last day of my Eastern Europe trip. I woke up early so that I could explore everything that I wanted to in Helsinki, Finland.

Near my hotel is Uspenski Cathedral, an Eastern Orthodox cathedral that was built between 1862 and 1868. It is the main cathedral of the Orthodox Church of Finland, and was designed by Aleksey Gornostayev. A fun fact about the cathedral is that over 700000 bricks were used in its construction, that were brought over in barges from the Bomarsund Fortress that had been demolished in the Crimean War. The church is designed in Russian Revival architecture style.

After snapping some photos of the cathedral I walked over to Senate Square, where there is a statue of Russian emperor Alexander II, as well as Helsinki Cathedral. The church was built between 1830 and 1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. It was known as St. Nicholas’ Church until Finland gained its independence in 1917. The Neoclassical church was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel and Ernst Lohrmann.

Nearby is the Pohjola Insurance Building, built between 1899 and 1901. It’s a fine example of Finiish National Romantic Architecture. The building was the original headquarters for the Pohjola Insurance Company, and was designed by Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren, and Eliel Saarinen. The soapstone, and granite facades are intricately detailed. The main entrance has troll and bear statues on each side of the door, and because the mouths of some of the characters are slightly open, sometimes when people are passing by they leave cigarette butts in the mouths of the characters as a prank.

Just down the street is the Ateneum Art Gallery, which is housed in a beautiful building designed by Theodor Hoijer, and was completed in 1887. The facade of Ateneum is decorated with statues and reliefs which contain a lot of symbols.

Across the street is Helsinki Central Station. The central train station was designed by Eliel Saarinen and opened in 1919. The design was finished in 1909, however the national romanticist style (similar to Art Nouveau) train station took 10 years to be completed. I love the four male statues holding the orbs; I think they look really neat. Over 400,000 people use the train station daily!

Right next door to the central train station is the Finish National Theatre, which is a 1424 seat theatre that was built in 1902. The National Romantic style theatre was designed by architects Onni Tarjanne and Heikki & Kaija Siren.

I then took a bus to Puu-Vallila, a colourful wooden house district that dates back to 1910. The district was built for the working classes during the 1910’s and 1920’s. It was designed by architects Karl Hård af Segerstad, Armas Lindgren, Jussi Paatela and Toivo Paatela.

I then took another bus to Kallio Church (Kallion Kirkko), which is a beautiful Art Nouveau style Lutheran Church designed by Lars Sonck, and built between 1908 and 1912.

A short walk away from the church is Mehiläinen Helsinki Ympyrätalo, also known as “Circle House”, a circular modern style office building that was built between 1960 and 1968.

I then took a bus to view a very strange piece of art called Sibelius-Monumentti. The monument is dedicated to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, and was unveiled by Finnish artists Eila Hiltunen in 1967. The monument consists of 600 hollow steel pipes welded together in a wave-like pattern, and weighs over 24 tons!

I then took another bus to Temppeliaukion Church, a Lutheran Church that is built directly into solid rock. It is also known as the Church of the Rock. Plans for the church date back to the 1930’s, however construction was delayed because of World War 2. After the war construction didn’t start until 1989, and was finished the remaining year. The interior was excavated and built directly out of solid rock. Natural light enters through the skylight surrounding the center copper dome. The church is used frequently as a concert venue due to its excellent acoustics. The church organ is comprised of 3001 pipes!

Kamppi Chapel, also known as the Chapel of Silence, is a very small, yet beautiful modern chapel located in Narinkka Square. It was built in 2012.

It was now time to get some lunch, as I was getting rather peckish. I took a tram to Löyly Helsinki Restaurant and had a delicious burger and seasoned fries. The restaurant is also home to a beautiful terrace overlooking the ocean, and saunas.

Final stop was Suomenlinna Fortress, located 20 minutes away from Helsinki by boat. It’s a maritime fortress built during the Swedish Era from 1748 to 1808 to protect their maritime fleet. It was taken over by the Russians from 1808 to 1917, when Finland gained its independence. It is.a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was now time to take the train back to the airport and check-in to my hotel; Hilton Helsinki Airport, which I received for free from a Hotels.com voucher. The room was very well appointed, and I ended up working, having a bath, and chatting with friends during the evening.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 18 – Tallinn, Estonia & Helsinki, Finland

Today I slept in until 8:30am. After getting dressed I walked a few minutes away to Cafe Rotermann and had a coffee and a traditional Estonian breakfast.

First stop of the day was Patarei Prison, a former sea fortress and prison, located on the shore of Tallinn Bay. The fort was built between 1830 and 1837 as part of the fortifications for the tsarist Russian state. In 1863, Tallinn was removed from the Russian Empire’s list of fortressses due to Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War, and the fort was converted into a barracks. After the Republic of Estonia declared independence in 1918 it was reconstructed into a prison, and was used until 2005. Patarei is one of the most prominent symbols of Soviet and Nazi political terror. The prison was closed and is currently planned to open as a museum in 2025. I was able to sneak a few photos of the site, due to poor security. I had to be careful as there was barbed wire everywhere. What a special treat it was to explore this place!

Second stop was the Town Hall Pharmacy, which is Tallinn’s oldest pharmacy, of Europe’s oldest pharmacies, dating back to the early 15th century.

Close by is St. Catherine’s Passage, also known as Monk’s Alley, winds its way from Vene Street to Müürivahe Street. The alley is lined with buildings that were built between the 15th and 17th centuries. The alley retains its medieval charms and was last restored in 1995.

When you exit St. Catherine’s Passage you can see Hellemann Tower and the Town Wall Walkway. Hellemann’s Tower, a three-story tower, dates back to the 14th century, and is integrated into the Town Wall.

It was time to grab some lunch, and I didn’t feel like sitting down at a restaurant, so I just grabbed a cheeseburger from McDonald’s.

My final stop in Tallinn was the KGB Museum at the top of Hotel Viru. Hotel Viru was completed in 1972. The building was the first high-rise building in Estonia. The Soviet Union hired a Finnish construction company (Repo Oy) to build the hotel. Construction started in July 1969, however the construction company went bankrupt in the middle of the project in 1971 due to a fire breaking out on the top floors in December 1970. Finland found another company to finish the project, and the hotel was opened on May 5th 1972. During the Soviet era, the 23rd floor of the hotel housed a KGB radio centre, which was used to eavesdrop on hotel guests. 60 of the ~500 rooms had concealed espionage devices, as well as some of the tables at the hotel restaurant. They were even clever enough to hide espionage devices in cigarette trays.

The KGB, known as the Committee for State Security, was the main security agency for the Soviet Union from 1954 to 1991. It was the chief government agency of “union-republican jurisdiction”, carrying out internal security, intelligence and secret police functions. The KGB was officially dissolved on December 3rd 1991 when the USSR fell apart.

The KGB left in a hurry in August 1991 when Estonia gained independence, and the secret rooms were not found until 1994! The former radio centre is now a museum, and is left virtually untouched from how it was found. The hotel is still in use today, with 516 rooms.

Once I arrived at the airport I went through security. I made a mistake at security and forgot to drink all my water in my water bottle, so I was pulled aside to check my bags. While my bags were being checked there was this elderly Russian lady who was also getting her bags checked. The security guard unzipped her bag and pulled out two containers. Container #1 had some weird dark brown frothy liquids, however was under 100ml. He asked her some questions in Estonian, and she responded in Russian and used a lot of gestures. He placed the container back in the bag. Container #2 was a re-used gummy vitamin container (~250ml) that had a clear frothy liquid in it, with… a bunch of leeches! He pulled her aside and they went into a private room with the bottle. I’d love to know the discussion that occured in that room. Upon returning he placed the bottle back in her bag, and zipped it up. It appears she was likely using the leaches for some old wives tale treatment…

After going through security I had a beer, and a croissant with ham and cheese while I waited for my flight. My flight to Helsinki was on a NORRA (on behalf of Finnair) ATR-72. This was my first time flying on an ATR-72, and it was really neat to watch the de-icing boots work on the short 30 minute snowy flight.

Once I arrived in Helsinki I took the train into the city, which took about 45 minutes. Once I arrived at the central station I took a short walk to Friends & Brgrs, and had an absolutely scrumptious cheeseburger, while overlooking the busy street below.

Next door was a liquor store, where I picked up a few IPA’s, before heading to my hotel to check in. Alcohol in Finland is by far the most expensive of all the European Union countries.

It was time to check-in to my hotel; Noli Studios Katajanokka. The room was $115/night which was actually a steal for Finland, which is one of the most expensive countries in the European Union to visit, besides Norway. The room was very well appointed, with a small kitchen, a gorgeous bathroom, a small living room area, and a bed on a raised part at the back. After checking in I went downstairs and spent a few hours in the spa.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 17 – Tallinn, Estonia

Today I woke up at 530am to catch the train to Vienna International Airport to board a flight to Tallinn, Estonia. I flew on a Lauda Europe (on behalf of Ryanair) Airbus A320. Lauda Europe was having financial difficulties a few years ago, so Ryanair purchased them. It’s interesting because the plane is still painting in the Lauda Europe livery, and the staff still wear Lauda Europe uniforms.

It was raining when I arrived in Tallinn. The airport is very close to the city center, and just a 10 minute tram ride away. I boarded the tram and took it to my hotel; Hotel Metropol, where I checked in around 11:00am. I dropped off my bags and went out to explore the sleepy city of Talllinn.

It was approaching lunch time so I stopped in at Pizza Grande for pizza and a diet coke. Food in Estonia is very inexpensive; I believe the pizza and coke were only about $10.

Close to the Pizza Grande is Viru Gate, two ivy-covered watchtowers, built in the 1300’s, that mark the entrance to Tallinn’s Old Town. The main road that enters the Old Town is also quite stunning!

After a short walk through the Old Town I arrived at Freedom Square, a plaza on the South end of the Old Town. It was created by Tiit Trummal, Veljo Kaasik, and Andres Alver. It was a parking lot prior to 2010. The War of Independence Victory Column is located in the square. The column, which stands 24 metres high and consists of 143 glass plates, commemorates all those who had fought for freedom and independence during the Estonian War of Independence (1918-1920).

Nearby is Kiek in de Kök Museum and the Tallinn Bastion Tunnels. The artillery tower was built in 1475 and stands 38 metres (125 feet) high, with walls 4 metres (13 feet thick). Over the years the tower was renovated multiple times, until it became obsolete in 1760. It is now home to archives, and some floors were even converted to apartments. The Bastion Tunnels date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The town was constantly worried that it was going to be attacked, so they constructed high bastion walls around the outside of the city, as well as tunnels under the base of the walls so they could safely move around soldiers and ammunition. The tunnels eventually became forgotten, and were not found again until 2003 when workers digging a foundation near the Vabamu Meseum of Occupations and Freedom found them. During World War 2 some of the tunnel were used as bomb shelters. During the Soviet occupation the tunnels were modernized by adding electricity, running water, ventilation and phone lines.

Close by is Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral that was built in Neo-Byzantine style. Construction started in 1882, and was completed in 1912. The church has the capacity for 5000 people!

Next to the cathedral is Toompea, also known as Cathedral Hill. Toompea Castle is situated on the hill, and is topped by Tall Hermann tower. Toompea is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I then walked about 15 minutes to Telliskivi Creative City, an art focused venue that features studios, cafes, bars, and restaurants. There were some buses and trains close by at a place called DEPOO, that were converted to restaurants.

After visiting Telliskivi Creative City I walked to Towers Square, which gets its name from the Town Wall towers that border one of its sides, and the fact that numerous church spires can be seen from there.

One of those churches is St Olaf’s church, which was was originally built sometime in the 12th century. It was believed that it was the town center for old Tallinn’s Scandinavian community before Denmark captured the town in 1219. The church was originally Roman Catholic, then became Lutheran during the European Reformation, before becoming Baptist in the 1950’s. From 1944 until 1991 the Soviet KGB used St. Olaf’s spire as a radio tower and surveillance point. You’ll learn a lot more about the KGB in my next blog post.

Final stop before heading back to the hotel was Linnahall, also known as Tallinn City Hall, or originally Lenin Palace of Culture and Sports. The building is situated in the harbour, just beyond the walls of the Old Town, and was completed in 1980. The 1980 Summer Olympics were held in Moscow, however since Moscow wasn’t by the ocean and didn’t have a suitable venue to stage the sailing event, it was decided that Tallinn, the capital of the then Estonian SSR, would be the perfect place to host it. The building was built to host the event, along with the Pirita Yachting Center, and a few other sports and entertainment facilities. Unfortunately the building has now fallen into disarray. The skating ring was closed in 2009, and the concert hall in 2010.

When I arrived back at my hotel I decided to go into the hotel spa for 1.5 hours. The hotel had a swimming pool, four hot tubs, a steam room, and three sauna’s of various temperatures. It was a very delightful experience, for only $14! You can stay for a maximum of three hours.

It was time to have some dinner at Restaurant Olde Hansa, which was recommended to me. The restaurant gives an authentic medieval experience with dishes that are cooked according to recipe’s over 700 years old, as well as live music. I had three different kinds of game sausages (bear, wild boar, and elk), served with mashed turnip, cranberries, and something else I couldn’t recognize that was quite delicious. Desert was oven-baked herb and juniper cheese. Overall the total cost of my meal was a bit pricier, but not too bad, about $60.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 16 – Vienna, Austria

Today I finished exploring Vienna. I woke up around 7:00am again and went to the nearby McDonald’s and purchased a coffee, and picked up a sandwich from the Spar grocery store below.

First stop today was Hundertwasserhaus, an apartment complex with an expressionist architecture style. The building was conceived by Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertswasser and Jospeh Krawina. Friedensreich started his career as a painter in the early 1950’s, however became increasingly focused on architecture, and literature. In 1972 he had his first architectural models made for a telvevsion show called “Make a Wish” in order to demonstrate his ideas on forested roofs, “tree tenants”, and the “window right” of every tenant to embellish the facade around his windows. In these models he showcased his architectural shapes, which included “eye-slit” house and “high-rise meadow house”. In Late 1977 the federal chancellor Bruno Kreisky suggested to the mayor of Vienna (Leopold Gratz) that Hundertswasser create an apartment building to his own idea, however architect Joseph Krawina was invited to join him and help put his ideas to practice. Krawina presented his ideas to Hundertswasser in September 1979 with a Styrofoam model and rudimentary drawings. Hundertwasser was shocked and rejected them. In the end the house was built between 1983 and 1985 according to the ideas and concepts of Hundertwasser with architect Krawina as a co-author and architect Peter Pelikan as a planner. It features undulating floors, a roof covered with earth and grass, and large trees growing from inside the rooms, with limbs extending from windows. Hundertwasser took no payment for the design of the house, declaring that it was worth it, to prevent something hideous from going up in its place. The apartment complex contains 53 apartments, 4 offices, 16 private terraces, 3 public terraces, and 250 trees and bushes.

Second stop was Schönbrunn Palace. Schönbrunn Palace was the main summer residence of the Habsburgs. In 1569, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased a large floodplain on the Wien river. In 1548 the previous owner had erected a mansion called Katterburg. The emperor ordered the area to be fenced and introduced game such as pheasants, ducks, deer, and boar. Over the next century the area was used for hunting and recreation. Eleonora Gonzaga, who inherited the property after the death of her husband Ferdinand II. From 1638 to 1643 she added a palace to the Katterburg mansion. The name Schönbrunn first appeared in 1642. It also appears that the orangery was started by Eleonara as well. The Schönbrunn Palace in its present form was built and remodeled during the 1740–50s during the reign of empress Maria Theresa, who received the estate as a wedding gift. Franz Joseph I commissioned the redecoration of the palace exterior in the neoclassical style as it appears today.

On site is Palemnhaus, a beautiful Art-Nouveau greenhouse, that was built in 1882 to showcase many exotic plants. The site is also home to Schönbrunn Zoo, the world’s oldest zoo, dating back to 1752. There is an amazing assortment of animals there; I was told roughly 8000, with 700 unique species including turtles, goats, pandas, penguins, lions, tigers, various birds, hippos, etc! I had a delicious brie and cured sausage for lunch at the zoo.

Third stop was Secession, a contemporary art museum with a gold dome of gilded laurels & temporary exhibitions by renowned artists.

The Austrian National Library was my fourth, and last stop of the day. It is the largest library in Austria with over 12 million items in its collection. The library dates back to 1368 when Duke Albert III moved books from the Viennese vaults into an imperial (national) library. The library is located in the Neue Burg Wing of the Hofburg in center of Vienna. Neue Burg, also known as Hofburg, is a former imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty. Today it serves as the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. It was built in the 13th century and expanded several times afterwards. It also served as the imperial winter residence, as Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence. Numerous architects have executed work at the Hofburg as it expanded, notably the Italian architect-engineer Filiberto Luchese, Lodovico Burnacini and Martino and Domenico Carlone, the Baroque architects Lukas von Hildebrandt and Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, Johann Fischer von Erlach, and the architects of the Neue Burg built between 1881 and 1913.

I spent the majority of the evening at the hotel doing work, however I did manage to sneak out for some delicious mushroom orichette and a beer at a restaurant called Schachtelwirt. I also took a few night shots of Vienna’s streets.

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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 14 – Vienna, Austria

Today I woke up at 7:00am. After getting ready I walked to a McDonald’s at a nearby mall, where I had a coffee and an Egg McMuffin. The Egg McMuffin was different than the ones that we get here, because they don’t put back bacon in the sandwich.

In the morning I explored Bundesamtsgebäude, Urania-Sternwarte, UNIQA Tower, Österreichische Postsparkasse, Gasometers of Vienna, Flak tower, Katholische Kirche St. Florian, and Majolikahaus von Otto Wagner.

Bundesamtsgebäude is the Federal Office Building. Due ot its octagonal shape, the building is oftern referred to as Octoneum. The three ring-shaped octagons and courtyards on the upper floors correspond to the three public zones on the ground floor. The octagons symbolize tradition, aesthetics, function, commitment, monumentality, technology, innovation, and economy.

Urania-Sternwarte (Kinder Train Museum) is a public educational institute and observatory. It was built in Art Nouveau style by architect Max Fabiani, who was a student of the very famous Otto Wagner. It was opened in 1910 by Franz Joseph I originally as an educational facility and public observatory. During World War 2 it was severely damaged, with the observatory dome being completely destroyed. It was reopened in 1957 after extensive renovations.

The UNIQA Tower is a 75-metre-tall tower that was built between 2001 and 2004 for Uniqa Insurance Group. The tower has 22 floors and was designed by Austrian architect Heinz Neumann.

Österreichische Postsparkasse was the headquarters of a postal savings bank that was owned by the Austrian Mail that merged in October 2005 with BAWAG to form BAWAG P.S.K. The building was designed and built by the famous Otto Wagner in Vienna Secession (Art Nouveau) style between 1904 and 1906. It was opened on December 17th 1906, and an extension was added between 1910 and 1912. The building is now used by BAWAG P.S.K. as their headquarters. The eight-story high building occupies an entire city block. The beautiful façade is covered with square marble slabs and aluminum applications. Granite slabs are attached to the lower and upper levels.

The Gasometers of Vienna are four former 90000 m3 gas tanks that were built as part of the Vienna municipal gas works project of 1896-1899. They were used between 1899 and 1984 as gas storage tanks. After the changeover from town gas to natural gas between 1969 and 1978, they were no longer used and were shut down. The spheres were designated as protected historic landmarks in 1978. In 1995 ideas were presented on how to repurpose the structures. The chosen designs by the architects Jean Nouvel (Gasometer A), Coop Himmelblau (Gasometer B), Manfred Wehdorn (Gasometer C) and Wilhelm Holzbauer (Gasometer D) were completed between 1999 and 2001. Each gasometer was divided into several zones for living (at the top), working (in the middle), and entertainment / shopping (ground floors). The historic exterior wall was conserved. The shopping mall levels in each gasometer are connected to the others by sky bridges.

Flak Tower VIII (G-Tower Arenbergpark) is a former concrete bunker from the Second World War. The tower had room for over 20000 people who could shelter during bombings, and there was also space for the storage of goods. The bunker was equipped with Flake anti-aircraft guns. These large towers were built during the Second World War in the cities of Berlin (Germany), Hamburg (Germany) and Vienna (Austria). The tower is now used for the storage of art.

Katholische Kirche St. Florian was built between 1961 and 1963. The concrete frame structure was built according to the plans of German architect Rudolf Schwarz, despite him passing away before the structure was completed. Johann Petermaier completed the construction of the building. The church has undergone a few renovations from 2005 to 2016. It’s really hard to pinpoint the style of this church to be honest; it’s a bit of everything.

Majolikahaus of Otto Wagner, also known as the Linke Wienzeile Buildings, are two apartment buildings that were designed by Otto Wagner, and constructed between 1898 and 1899 in Vienna Secession (Art Nouveau) style. They are lavishly decorated in colourful tiles, sculptures an wrought iron.

I was starting to get hungry so it was time to get some lunch. I stopped in at a restaurant called Wirr, where I had a delicious smoked salmon bagel, and some coffee.

After lunch I explored Neue Burg, Artaria Haus, Apotheke Zum weißen Engel, Innere Stadt Street, Anker Clock, Regensburger Hof, Karlsplatz Metro Station, Karlskirche, and the Vienna Opera House.

Neue Burg, also known as Hofburg, is a former imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty. Today it serves as the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. It was built in the 13th century and expanded several times afterwards. It also served as the imperial winter residence, as Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence. Numerous architects have executed work at the Hofburg as it expanded, notably the Italian architect-engineer Filiberto Luchese, Lodovico Burnacini and Martino and Domenico Carlone, the Baroque architects Lukas von Hildebrandt and Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, Johann Fischer von Erlach, and the architects of the Neue Burg built between 1881 and 1913.

Artaria Haus is an Art-Noveau style building that was built between 1900 and 1902. It was designed by Max Fabiana. The marble cladding of the facade is considered a parallel to Otto Wagner’s ideas, and the later very popular bay windows appear on this building for the first time in Vienna. The façade of the house is set back opposite the row of houses, which goes back to a regulatory plan that never came into effect. The Artaria House is also one of the first buildings in which electrical cables were laid under plaster.

Apotheke Zum weißen Engel, also known as the Pharmacy to the White Angel, is one of the oldest pharmacies in Vienna, started in 1587. It was relocated a few times in its history before settling on its currently location and Art Nouveau style building in 1901-1902. The new building and design of the pharmacy was carried out by Oskar Laske.

The Innere Stadt is the old town of Vienna. It’s the first municipal district of Vienna. Vienna’s city boundaries were expanded in 1850.

Anker Clock is a beautiful Art-Nouveau style public clock that was designed by Franz Matsch, and built between 1914 and 1915 at the Der Anker insurance company headquarters building. The completion of the clock took longer than expected due to World War 1. After two trial runs the water stayed off for quite some time. It was decided that it would be a “peace watch” and only after the end of the war it would be turned on. After World War 1 ended it was turned on. Sadly, during World War 2 it was badly damaged by arson. It remained out of service from 1945 to 1956.

Regensburger Hof is a beautiful building that dates back to the 14th century, however has been rebuilt many times. It was once the site of a historical meeting between Emperor Friedrich III, and the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus in February 1470. The original building was demolished in 1896, despite numerous protests. The current building was built in 1897.

Karlsplatz Metro Station is a former metro station of the Viennese Stadtbahn (Vienna Metropolitan Railway) that was operated from 1898 to 1989. The building is a great example of Jugendstil architecture, also known as the “Youth Style” architectural movement from 1895 to 1910. This architectural movement was known as the German Art Nouveau style of architecture. The building was designed by the famous Otoo Wagner. Toda the buildings are now used as an exhibition space by the Vienna Museum, with an U-Bahn entrance in its rear, and as a café.

Karlskirche, also known as St. Charles Church, is a Baroque church that was built between 1716 and 1737. The church is dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, one of the great counter-reformers of the sixteenth century. You can take an elevator inside to the very top, which offers great views of Vienna below.

The Vienna State Opera House was built between 1861 and 1869. The opera house can seat 1709 people, in addition to 567 standing people. It was designed by August Sicard von Sicardsburg, Eduard van der Nüll, and Josef Hlávka. The Neo-Renaissance style building is home to the Vienna State Ballet and also hosts the annual Vienna Operal Ball during carinval season.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 13 – Bratislava, Slovakia

Today I decided to catch a train to Bratislava, Slovakia to explore the small, but beautiful capital city. The train ride took about 1.5 hours, and I arrived around 10am. I left my bag at my hotel, which I ended up picking up at the end of the day, because I would be switching hotels.

Slovakia’s History

Slavs originally settled in the area in the 6th century AD. They were soon conquered by the Avars, but eventually drove out the Avars by the 8th century. In the 9th century Slovakia became part of the state called Great Moravia, which included parts of Germany, Hungary, and Poland. The Moravian empire ran from 830 AD to 906 AD, during which time Slovakia was converted to Christianity. The Moravian empire was destroyed by the Magyars (ancestors of modern Hungarians). Slovakia would be under Hungarian ruling for the next 1000 years.

During the Middle Ages the mining of gold, silver and copper ended up driving economic development. In the 13th century Germans settled in the country and town life flourished. In 1526 the Turks won the battle of Mohacs causing Hungary to be dismembered. Slovakia and parts of Hungary came to be ruled by the Hapsburgs of Austria. Slovakia was now part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

During the 19th century nationalism was a growing force in the Austrian Empire, with many Hungarians and Czechs becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Austrian ruling. In 1848 a wave of revolutions occurred across Europe, but the Austrian monarchy was still able to maintain power until 1867, which the Austrian Empire was split into two halves; Austria and Hungary. The Austrian monarch remained king of both independent halves. Towards the end of the 19th century the area surrounding Vienna grew rapidly.

In 1914 Archduke Ferdinand, the heir of the Austrian throne was assassinated, which led to World War I. In October 1918 the Austro-Hungarian empire broke up. Prague became the capital of the independent Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. During World War II Prague was occupied by the German Nazi’s. After the war, Czechoslovakia was re-established as an independent state. In 1946 the communists became the dominant party and formed a coalition government with other socialist parties. In 1948 the communists seized power. In the 1950’s the country suffered harsh repression and decline, and many Stalin style practices were adopted by the Communist Part of Czechoslovakia (KSC). Eventually these people in charge of the KSC were executed.

On November 17th 1989, the Velvet Revolution occurred, which ended communism making Czechoslovakia a democratic country. In January 1990 the first democratic elections were conducted, with Vaclav Havel becoming the president. On January 1st 1993 Czechoslovakia was split into two independent countries; Slovakia and Czech Republic, with Bratislava becoming the capital of Slovakia.

Exploring Bratislava, Slovakia

In Bratislava I explored New Slovak National Theatre, Historical Slovak National Theatre, The Blue Church, Schöne Náci Sculpture, Man at Work Sculpture, Michael’s Gate, St. Martin’s Cathedral, Bratislava Castle, and Most SNP (UFO Bridge).

The New Slovak National Theatre was designed in the early 1980’s, and construction started in 1986. The building took 21 years to complete due to lack of funding. The building was finally opened on April 14th 2007. The building is designed to hold roughly 1700 spectators.

Historical Slovak National Theatre was constructed between 1885 and 1886. It was based on a design by Viennese architects Fellner & Helmer, who designed theatre buildings in 10 European countries. This building was designed for roughly 1000 spectators and was illuminated by 800 gas lamps. This wasn’t Bratislava’s first theatre through, as it replaced a former Classic style theatre that was built in 1776 and demolished in 1884.

The Blue Church, also called the Church of St. Elizabeth, is an Art Nouveau Catholic church that was built between 1909 and 1913. The façade was originally painted in light pastel colours, but the church later received its characteristic blue colour, which makes it stand out.

Schöne Náci Sculpture is a bronze statue dedicated to Schöne Náci (real name Ignác Lamár). He was the son of a shoemaker and grandson of a famous clown and brought happiness to the streets of the city. He would walk around the Old Town in a top hat and tails, greeting women with the words “I kiss your hand” in German, Hungarian and Slovak. He received free food from many of the café’s in the city, and took the occasional cleaning job.

Man at Work Sculpture is a bronze statue of Čumil, also known as “the watcher”. It is a statue that reflects a typical communist era worker who is not bothered about the work he is doing. Viktor Hulik commissioned the piece in 1997.

Michael’s Gate is the only city gate that has been preserved and is one of the oldest buildings in the town. It was originally constructed in the 14th century, but was destroyed between 1529 and 1534. It was rebuilt in its current form between 1753 and 1758. The tower stands at a height of 51 metres tall and has a statue of St. Michael placed atop the tower. The gate received its name from the nearby Saint Michael’s church. Unfortunately it was under renovation when I was there, so nothing exciting.

St. Martin’s Cathedral is the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava. The gothic style cathedral was built into the city’s defensive walls when it was constructed in 1452. It’s 85 metre (279 foot) tall spire dominates the Old Town’s skyline. In 1760, the top of the Gothic tower was struck by lightning and replaced by a Baroque one, which was subsequently destroyed by a fire in 1835. It was reconstructed in 1847 and topped by the crown of St Stephen. The church was re-Gothicized between 1869 and 1877.

Bratislava Castle is a massive rectangular castle that built on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava. The area was originally settled on thousands of years ago because it was strategically located in the center of Europe at a passage between the Carpathians and the Alps. The Boleráz culture (the oldest phase of the Baden culture), were the first known culture to have constructed a fortified settlement on the castle hill, around 3500 BC. The hill was occupied over time by the Celts, Romans, Slavs, Nitrian Principality, and Great Moravia until the current castle was built in the 10th century, with extensive modifications being made until the 18th century. The castle, which has four prominent towers (one on each corner), was built originally in 9th century with many modifications being made until the 18th century. The castle features a central courtyard with an 80 metre (260 foot) deep water well. The tower on the southwest corner is known as the Crown Tower because it housed the crown jewels of Hungary from the mid 1500’s to the mid 1700’s. In 1811 a fire was accidentally started by garrisoned soldiers. From 1811 to 1953 the castle’s state gradually deteriorated and the military even sold parts of the main castle buildings as construction materials. It was even attempted to demolish the remaining structures to make was for government offices and a university district, but that never came to fruition. Instead, in 1946 the ruins were opened to the public, and in 1948 the town even constructed an amphitheater in the northern part of the castle site and used for about 15 years in the summer to shown films. It was decided to restore the castle in 1953, and the restoration took place between 1957 and 1968. It was chosen to restore the main building to the Baroque style, which was the last state of the castle when it caught on fire. Some of the other older buildings were restored to Gothic and Renaissance styles. Numerous other reconstructions have taken place since, with the latest reconstruction being the Honorary Courtyard in 2010.

Most SNP, bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, is also commonly referred to as the UFO Bridge. It was built between 1967 and 1972 and spans 431 metres across the Danube River. It’s an asymmetrical bridge constructed of steel, and suspended from steel cables. It features a restaurant and observation deck atop a 85 metres (278 foot) pylon.

Before heading back to Vienna I had lunch at a delicious restaurant called BeAbout, where they make home-made hamburgers. I had a jalapeno burger with onion rings and fries, which was absolutely delicious!

After catching the train back to Vienna I decided to check out a few places before heading back to the hotel including Belvedere 21, Belvedere Palace, the Embassy of France, and the Soviet War Memorial.

Belvedere 21 (21er Haus) is a modernist style steel and glass building designed by Austrian architect Karl Schwanzer. It was constructed in 1958 to be used as a pavilion for the Expo 58 in Brussels, and was later transferred to Vienna to house the Museum of the 20th Century. It was originally nicknamed 20er Haus. The building was used as storage for contemporary art works between 1979 and 2001. Between 2009 and 2011 it was remodeled by architect Adolf Krischanitz and renamed 21er Haus to reflect the 21st century. The building is currently used as a museum showing contemporary art by Fritz Wotruba.

Belvedere Palace is a comprised of two beautiful Baroque palaces (Upper and Lower Belvedere), as well as the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. The Lower Belvedere Palace was built between 1712 and 1717. Upper Belvedere was built between 1717 and 1723. Some extra work was required at Upper Belvedere at risk of structural collapse, so between 1732 and 1733 a vaulted ceiling supported by four Atlas pillars was installed. The buildings were built on request of Prince Eugene. When Prince Eugene died he did not leave a legally binding will so it was decided by Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI to give the Palaces to the Prince Eugene’s niece Victoria. Victoria was the daughter of Eugene’s eldest brother Thomas. Inside was a bunch of amazing art pieces, which you can see below.

I couldn’t find much information on the Embassy of France, however it’s a beautiful Art-Nouveau style building.

The Soviet War Memorial is a semi-circular white marble colonnade partially enclosing a 12 metre tall figure of a Red Army Soldier. It was unveiled in 1945 to commemorate 17000 soviet soldiers who were killed in action during the Vienna offensive in World War 2.

It was time to pickup my bags from my hotel that I stayed at the previous night, and then I checked into my new hotel, which would be home for the next four nights; Hotel Urania. The hotel was quite beautiful, however I can’t recommend staying here based on the useless WiFi. It made working in the evenings a very frustrating experience.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 12 – Vienna, Austria

Today I woke around 7:00 am, as I had an early train to catch. I ate breakfast downstairs, before venturing off to Budapest’s main train station. I boarded the 8:40 am train to Vienna and sat next to two women who were from Ireland. We chatted about travel throughout the 2.75 hour train ride. When the train was crossing the border from Hungary to Austria some police entered and checked peoples passports. There was a group of younger Syrian men that were arrested by the police and taken off the train at the next stop. I presume that didn’t have the proper documentation, as I heard this is fairly frequent for this route.

I arrived in Vienna at 11:20am, and made my way to my hotel; Enziana Hotel Vienna. I was only going to be here the one night, as I booked this one free with a Hotels.com voucher. I booked another hotel for the rest of my stay in Vienna.

Before I dive into my day let’s talk about Austria’s history.

Austria’s History

Austria dates back to pre-Roman times and was settled by various Celtic tribes. The Celtic kingdom of Noricum was claimed by the Roman’s and made into a province. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was invaded by the Bavarians, Slavs, and Avars. Charlemange, King of the Franks conquered the area in 788 AD. As part of Eastern Francia, the core areas that encompasses Austria were left to the house of Babenberg. The first record showing the name Austria dates back to 996 AD, where it was written as Ostarrichi, referring to the territory of the Babenberg March.

In 1156, the Privilegium Minus elevated Austria to the status of a duchy, and in 1192 the Babenberg’s also acquired the Duchy of Styria. When Frederick II died in 1246 AD, this brought an end to the Babenberg’s. As a result of this, Ottokar II of Bohemia assumed control of the duchies of Austria, Styria, and Carinthia. In 1273 Rudolf von Habsburg became Holy Roman Emperor and defeated the Bohemian (Czech) king and in 1282 he made his son Albert Duke of Austria. The Hapsburg’s rules Austria for centuries, acquiring more territory and building up quite the empire.

Rudolf IV became Duke of Austria in 1358. He founded the great Vienna University during his ruling. In 1437 Albert II Duke of Austria also became king of Hungary and Bohemia (Czech Republic). In 1438 he became Holy Roman Emperor.

Starting in the 1500’s it was quite the rocky time for Austria over the course of the next few hundred years. In 1529 the Turks launched a siege on Vienna, but failed to capture it. Then the Thirty Years War occurred in 1618-1648. In 1684 the Turks tried to attack Vienna again, but an army of Germans and Poles helps drive them back. In the 18th century Austria ended up being quite prosperous despite even more conflicts; the first of which was the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714), which ended up with Austrian’s capturing Sardinia from the Italians.

Emperor Charles IV didn’t have a male heir and had to persuade foreign powers and national assembles to accept his daughter (Maria Theresa) as the next ruler. In 1740 Maria succeeded him. The War of Austrian Succession occurred from 1740-1740 and Maria had to fight off the Prussians, French and Spanish.

In 1748 Maria’s husband Francis of Lorraine was made Emperor Francis I. He ended up dying in 1765 and was replaced again by Maria, and her son Joseph II (1765-1790). The Austrians and French ended up fighting a series of war from 1792 to 1815, and during the period in 1806 Napoleon dissolved the Holy Roman Empire. The ruler of Austria gave up the title Holy Roman Emperor and became Emperor Franz I of Austria.

During the 19th century nationalism was a growing force in the Austrian Empire, with many Hungarians and Czechs becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Austrian ruling. In 1848 a wave of revolutions occurred across Europe, but the Austrian monarchy was still able to maintain power until 1867, which the Austrian Empire was split into two halves; Austria and Hungary. The Austrian monarch remained king of both independent halves. Towards the end of the 19th century the area surrounding Vienna grew rapidly.

In 1914 Archduke Ferdinand, the heir of the Austrian throne was assassinated, which led to World War I. In October 1918 the Austro-Hungarian empire broke up and Austria declared its independence on November 12 1918. During the 1920’s Austria was able to recover, but was soon hit with the global depression of the 1930’s.

In 1934 the German Nazis attempted a coup and shot Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss. The Austrian troops were able to defend against the coup this time, but the Germans were keen on taking over Austria. On March 12 1938 the Germans took control of Austria until the Russians invaded in 1945.

Governance of Austria was restored in April 1945, and by July 1945 Austria was divided into four zones controlled by the allies (USA, France, Britain and Russia). In 1955 Austria became an independent nation again, and joined the United Nations in 1955. Austria had tremendous economic growth in the remainder of the century. Austria joined the European Union in 1995.

Exploring Vienna

After checking into the hotel it was time to search for some food. Since it was a cold day I felt like getting some soup, so I stopped at a Vietnamese restaurant close to my first stop at Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

After having lunch I walked across the street to Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, which is located at Maria-Theresien-Platz, a large public square and museum of modern arts located in the former Imperial Stables. Facing each other from the sides of the square are two near identical buildings, the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum). The only difference between the nearly identical buildings are their façades. The Naturhistorisches’ façade has statues depicting personifications of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, where as the Kunsthistorisches façade features famous European artists.

Across the street from the Art History Museum and the Natural History Museum is Museums Quartier, which is a beautiful district in Vienna that contains Baroque and Modern style buildings completed by architects Laurids and Manfred Ortner. The Museums Quartier houses the installation of large art museums such as the Leopold Museum and the MUMOK (museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation Vienna). The museums were renovated between 1998 and 2001 at a cost of € 150M ($218M CDN).

A short walk away is Volkstheatre, also known as the “People’s Theatre”. The theatre was founded in 1989 by the request of the citizens of Vienna to offer an alternative to the Hofburgtheater (Burgtheater).

A couple blocks away is the Palace of Justice building, which is a beautiful Neo-Renaissance building that was built between 1875 and 1881 The building was designed by architect Alexander Wielemans von Monteforte as the new residence of the Supreme Court that was established after the 1848 revolutions.

The Austrian Parliament Building is next door, however I wasn’t able to take a great photo of it, as it was currently under renovation. The Austrian Parliament Building is where the two houses of the Austrian Parliament conduct their sessions. The building, designed by Theophil Hansen, was built between 1874 and 1883 in a Greek Revival style. He designed the building holistically, aiming to have each element harmonizing with all the others, including the interior decoration, such as statues, paintings, furniture, chandeliers, and numerous other elements. The building was heavily damaged during World War 2, but was restored afterwards. The building contains over 100 rooms! One of the most famous features of the building is the Pallas Athens fountain in front of the main entrance, which was designed by Carl Kundmann.

Nearby is Rathausplatz, which is a beautiful large square in the centre of Vienna that is often used as a Christmas market. It is built right in front of the Rathaus (City Hall). The city hall building, designed by Friedrich von Schmidt, was built between 1872 and 1883 in a Neo-Gothic style. The building is used by the Mayor of Vienna, as well as the chambers of the city council and Vienna Landtag (German) representative assembly.

After enjoying a bratwurst, and some mulled wine I walked over to Burgtheater, which I could see across the street from the Christmas Market. Burgtheater originally opened in 1741 and is one of the most important German language, and most important theatres in the world. It moved into its current building, which was designed by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer, in 1888. In World War 2 the theatre was heavily damaged, and wasn’t rebuilt until between 1953 and 1955.

The University of Vienna is just half a block north of the theatre. The University of Vienna has some absolutely gorgeous buildings. The University was founded in 1365 by Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria, and his two brothers, Dukes Albert III and Leopold III. The impressive library at the University has over 7.1 million books!

Nearby Votivkirche Church was under renovation. Votivkirche Church is a beautiful Neo-Gothic style church that was designed by Heinrich von Ferstel, and built between 1856 and 1879. Following the attempted assassination of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853, the Emperor’s brother Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian inaugurated a campaign to create a church to thank God for saving the Emperor’s life. Funds for construction were solicited from throughout the Empire. The church was dedicated in 1879 on the silver anniversary of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Empress Elisabeth. The church stands 99 metres (325 feet) tall!

The sun was starting to set, however I wanted to check out a few more places before I went back to the hotel for the night. A ten minute walk away was Strudlhofstiege, an outdoor staircase in Art Nouveau architecture style, that was opened in 1910.

My second last stop for the evening was the Spittelau Incinerator, which is waste-to-energy incinerator in the center of the city. It was built between 1969 and 1971. In 1987 a major fire destroyed major sections of the facility. Instead of tearing it down, it was rebuilt and it was decided that it would also become a public work of art. The environmentalist, nature lover and artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser was tasked with designing the new plant. The building was finished in 1992. Its colourful façade, the golden ball on the chimney, roof greenery and planted trees have made the new Spittelau unmistakable and a Viennese landmark. The facility processes 250000 tons of household waste every year and turns it into 120000 MWh of electricity, 500000 MWh of district heating, 6000 tons of scrap iron, and 60000 tons of clinker, ash and filter cake. This is enough energy to heat over 60000 homes!

The final stop of the day was Vienna’s Amusement Park, which houses Vienna’s Giant Ferris Wheel, and Prater Turm, among many other rides. It was amazing walking around the amusement park during dusk with all the rides lit up.

Vienna Giant Ferris Wheel, also known as Wiener Risenrad, is a 65-metre-tall Ferris wheel located in the Prater amusement park. The Ferris wheel was designed by British engineers Harry Hitchins and Hubert Cecil Boots, and constructed in 1897. It wore the crown as the world’s tallest extant Ferris wheel from 1920 until 1985. Prior to 1920 the 100-metre-tall Grande Roue de Paris, which was constructed in 1900, was the tallest Ferris wheel, but it was demolished in 1920, leaving the Risenrad to became the world’s tallest.

Prater Turm is a 117-metre high swing carousel in Wurstelprate amusement park. It is the world’s second tallest chain carousel, followed closely behind Eclipse in the Gröna Lund amusement park in Sweden. Prater Turm was opened on May 1st 2010. The tower has a mass of 200 tons and is anchored into a 16-meter diameter slab foundation that is two meters deep and weighs 720 tons. On the top of the tower there is a shiny gold onion done, which houses three 2.7 m clocks. There are also 1,200 LEDs in the top of the tower for night-time lighting.

After exploring the amusement park I took the metro back to my hotel, with a quick stop at a donair shop for dinner. I spent the rest of the evening working, before heading to bed.

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Blog Posts On Pause

I’ve reached a milestone in my blog posts where I’ve managed to completely fill my server, so I’m unable to upload any additional photos. I’ve completed 276 blog posts since 2016, and I’ve uploaded close to 6000 photos during that time. I will be placing the Eastern Europe series on hold for probably the remainder of the year, as I have to do some achieving, file size reduction, and Christmas is coming up. I look forward to continuing the series in the New Year, possibly sooner. In the meantime enjoy this beautiful photo of Vienna’s State Opera House. Be sure to check back soon for more content.

If you like the content that I produce and want to donate money towards the upkeep of my site, or buy me a cup of coffee please feel free to contribute towards it. I really appreciate it.