Famous Quotes on Famous European Cities

Well, let’s just say this is more like a research post. I was looking up some cities in Europe and got distracted by what famous people have to say about some of my favorite cities from that continent. And boom, I thought I should put together all these nice quotes with some of my pictures, that maybe somehow represent those sayings. Again, it’s hard to pick and choose most appealing cities of Europe, but here are some of my tops ones:

  1. Prague: “The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plaster-work and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.” ―Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone 
Steeples of St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle from Charles Bridge in Prague

Steeples of St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle from Charles Bridge in Prague

2. London: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. ” – Samuel Johnson

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Millennium Bridge on River Thames in London

3. Venice: “There is still one of which you never speak.’Marco Polo bowed his head.’Venice,’ the Khan said.Marco smiled. ‘What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?’The emperor did not turn a hair. ‘And yet I have never heard you mention that name.’ And Polo said: ‘Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.” ― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

One of the inner canals of Venice, look at those beautifully decorated windows

One of the inner canals of Venice, look at those beautifully decorated windows

4. Rome: “Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”
– Giotto di Bondone, Renaissance painter

Trevi Fountain - The largest and the most spectacular fountain of Rome

Trevi Fountain – The largest and the most spectacular fountain of Rome

5. Paris: “Paris has history, it has art, it has wonderful architecture, it has literature, but much more important than all these, it has freedom! If a city cannot offer freedom to its dwellers, all its other beauties will be meaningless!”  ―  Mehmet Murat Ildan

Moulin Rouge in Paris

Moulin Rouge in Paris

6. Granada: “How lazily the sun goes down in Granada, it hides beneath the water, it conceals in the Alhambra!” – Ernest Hemingway

Alhambra overlooking Granada

Alhambra overlooking Granada

7. Amsterdam: “Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.” – John Green

Endless canals of Amsterdam in The Netherlands

Endless canals of Amsterdam in The Netherlands

8. Salzburg: “Framed by mountains, crowned by the Hohensalzburg Fortress and divided by the turquoise Salzach River, the Salzburg landscape is pure drama.” – Frommers

Stunning view of Salzburg from Hohensalzburg Fortress

Stunning view of Salzburg from Hohensalzburg Fortress

9. Edinburgh: “Edinburgh suited Ann; she liked the tall, dignified buildings of grey stone, the short days that sank into street-lamped evenings at five o’clock, and the dual personality of the city’s main street, which on one side had glittering shops and on the other the green sweep of Princes Street Gardens.” ― Maggie O’Farrell, After You’d Gone

Walking on Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Walking on Royal Mile in Edinburgh

10. Copenhagen: ” If Copenhagen were a person, that person would be generous, beautiful, elderly, but with a flair. A human being that has certain propensities for quarreling, filled with imagination and with appetite for the new and with respect for the old – somebody who takes good care of things and of people.” – Connie Nielsen

Burst of colors in Nyhavn (New Harbor) of Copenhagen, Denmark

Burst of colors in Nyhavn (New Harbor) of Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Surprise Your Taste Buds in Thailand – 5 Must-Try Thai Dishes

If you are heading to Thailand in the near future, keep in mind that you are going to have to eat. While there are McDonald’s restaurants and other fast food in Thailand, that’s a terrible way to experience the local culture. The cuisine in Thailand is something that you simply won’t find anywhere else on earth; the Thai food in the United States is often a poor imitation of what actual Thai cuisine tastes like so don’t forget to try these five amazing dishes during your next visit to Thailand.

Red Pork Noodle Soup

First up is Red Pork Noodle Soup, one of the most delicious Thai dishes that you will ever eat. You won’t be able to find this in the restaurants in Bangkok, but you can find it throughout the market at street vendors. The way that it is made might give you pause (the broth sits for a really long time) but it is absolutely delicious. The broth is made of boiled pork bones and onions, and it is combined with noodles, slices of red pork, sprouts and bok coy. You can eat it with sugar, fish sauce or even chili. You definitely need to check it out at least once while you are in Thailand.

Spicy Beef Salad

Beef salad is pretty amazing on its own. You can find it in restaurants throughout Thailand and it is made of succulent strips of beef that is combined with a whole bunch of things to give it a unique flavor like coriander, spearmint, lime, dried chili and onions. This salad can be enjoyed on its own but that’s definitely not the best way to eat it. As your Thai friends will tell you, you must experience spicy beef salad with warm delicious bread and covered in fish sauce. You can even make spicy beef salad at home if you want to fondly remember your time in Thailand.

Som Tam

Som Tam is one of the most prevalent foods in the Thai diet and you will find it being sold everywhere around you among the street vendors. The way that this dish is made is with shaved papaya fruit combined in a mortar and pestle with things like sugar, fish sauce, lots of chilies, peanuts, tomatoes and more. It is really spicy and if you can’t handle it, then get it made without the chilies. Even so, the mortar has a bunch of chili seeds already present when they start making yours, so you will get a little spice regardless.

Banana Pancakes

These aren’t your dad’s banana pancakes and you will be surprised just how prevalent this dish is within the marketplaces that you visit. The Thong Lor market in Bangkok has dozen of stalls selling this stuff. What is actually consists of is friend dough that is much more similar to a scone than a pancake, which is filled with chopped up banana and then topped with chocolate, or sugar mixed with condensed milk.

Krathong Tong

Our fifth dish on this list is the absolutely amazing Krathong Tong. This is an appetizer that you won’t be able to resist once you taste it for the first time. Fried appetizers have become more and more common in Thai cuisine and this is one of the best things to come from the Portuguese cuisine that has introduced them to the area. You probably won’t be able to find them unless you visit one of the nicer restaurants in Bangkok but they are very thin fried shells filled with chicken, corn, carrots, potatoes and a delicious, creamy mystery sauce.

8 Palaces/Castles in Europe You Never Thought of Visiting

Are you done visiting some of the most famous and colossal palaces of Europe, like Versailles Palace in France, Buckingham Palace in England, Schönbrunn Palace in Austria, or Alhambra in Spain? How about some other notable palaces or castles that Europe has to offer to its visitors that many people don’t know about? I have tons in my mind but here are 8 that are worth visiting and will surprise the guests with lots of secrets:

  1. Chateau de Godfrey de Bouillon, Belgium: Godfrey of Bouillon was one of the heroic knights from the 11th century and his castle is a major asset in Belgium. Built in the 11th century,  Chateau de Godfrey de Bouillon offers some thrilling views of Semois Valley, the river, and town below. Godfrey’s Chateau has a huge complex of medieval defense with old walls and stone buildings. Other than some exhibitions, tourists can see a medieval torture chamber and an underground prison. If you are in Brussels, this would make a nice trip to the Wallonia side of the country.
Godfrey's Castle and its surroundings in Bouillon, Belgium

Godfrey’s Castle and its surroundings in Bouillon, Belgium

2. Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark:  This palace once used to be the official residence of the Danish Royal Family, but presently is used as the Danish Parliament and Supreme Court. The original building of Christiansborg Palace  dates back to 1167. At 106 meters high, the tower of Christiansborg Palace is the highest among all the other palaces in Copenhagen.

Entering Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark

Entering Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen, Denmark

The Reception Hall consists of several important rooms of the castle, like the Throne Room, Great Hall, Dining Hall, Alexander Hall, and others. Each room is decorated with luxurious and elegant look. The beauty of the old furniture, tapestries, chandelier, art/paintings, decorative doors, lamps, vases, candle-holders, marble fire-place is beyond any expressions. If you have one day in Copenhagen, this would be the one place that one must visit.

Great Hall inside Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

Great Hall inside Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

3. Chateau de Blois in Loire Valley, France: This is one of many castles in the Loire Valley of France. Chateau de Blois was the residence of several French kings during the middle ages. Joan of Arc came here in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop before driving the English from Orleans. Also, this is where Queen Catherine de’Medici (wife of King Henri II) died in 1589. The main façade of this château was my favorite part. Interestingly, different parts of the palace features different era and style, like Gothic, Flamboyant, Renaissance, and Classicism.

One of the noble rooms of Chateau de Blois, France

One of the noble rooms of Chateau de Blois, France

4. Dresden Zwinger in Dresden, Germany: The palaces of Dresden Zwinger is the main attraction of the city. It’s a big garden surrounded by old Baroque palace buildings on all sides including Semper Building, Glockenspiel Pavilion (Clock Tower), Crown Gate, Rampart Pavilion, Nymphs’ Bath, and Marble Hall. This is a beautiful place to walk around and enjoy calm gardens and exquisite palace buildings.

Dresden Zwinger - Glockenspiel Pavilion (clock tower) on the right

Dresden Zwinger – Glockenspiel Pavilion (clock tower) on the right

5. Trakai Island Castle in Lithuania: The city of Trakai is beautiful  a lake resort area and the main attraction is the Trakai Island Castle. Sitting quietly on Lake Galve, construction of this Gothic masterpiece started in the 14thcentury. Upon entering to the main front courtyard, you can see beautiful fortress of red bricks in all three sides. Trakai History Museum is spread around the castle and linked via many arrays of wooden steps and dark spiral staircases. Soldiers’ barracks, Great Hall, and other small rooms are filled with some original furniture, decors, ceramics, potteries, and etc.

Trakai Island Castle on Lake Galve in Lithuania

Trakai Island Castle on Lake Galve in Lithuania

6. Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal:  The Pena Palace is the finest examples of 19th century Portuguese Romanticism and  is considered as the most important part of Cultural Landscape of Sintra.  Main façade of the castle is decorated with geometric patterned Moorish-style tiles and watch towers were built in various shapes, sizes, and colors making it look like a Disney fairy-tale castle. The oldest foundation of this place dates back to the 12thcentury. This is a great guided trip that can be taken if you are in Lisbon and have an extra day to roam around out the capital.

Breathtaking location of Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal...as we saw it from Queen's terrace

Breathtaking location of Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal…as we saw it from Queen’s terrace

7. Malaga Alcazaba in Malaga, Spain: Alcazaba de Malaga, a Moorish palace/fortress that has been standing on a hill since the Muslim era in Andalusia in 11th century and is one of the emblematic monuments of this town. The Nasrid Palace, Orange Patio and Patio de la Alberca (with a pool) are remarkable areas of Malaga Alcazaba. Among few other Moorish palaces of Spain, this Alcazaba is one of the best preserved palaces and a must-see.

Malaga Alcazaba - a Moorish castle in Malaga, Spain

Malaga Alcazaba – a Moorish castle in Malaga, Spain

8. Keukenhof Castle, The Netherlands: Many people don’t know about Kasteel Keukenhof in The Netherlands. Thousands of people from all over the word come to Keukenhof during the Tulip festival. When you are there, take a 5 minutes walk to this castle and you won’t be disappointed. The most amazing part of  Keukenhof Castle is that many of the furniture and belongings of this castle are from the original owners from the 17th century. It is a guided tour to visit inside the mansion but stay as long as you want in the garden.

An original Venetian chandelier, look at the detailed work

An original Venetian chandelier, look at the detailed work

Exterior of Keukenhof Castle

Exterior of Keukenhof Castle

Craving for Old Europe? Here are Top 7 Cities to Visit !!!

It’s not just the European food or people or cultures that attracts millions of people to visit the continent each year. Yes, those are appealing, but for the most part, it’s the unique medieval charms of Europe that people can’t get enough of when they are getting lost in the narrow alleys of small towns in Europe, looking at centuries old cathedrals or  ruins of ancient fortresses,  or walking on cobbled stoned squares from the middle ages.

Every time I’ve visited the big or tiny towns in Europe, I was taken back in time. I could feel and see the life that existed hundreds of years ago. It was like an open museum that has surprises in every corner of it. From big cities like Rome to one of the smallest ones, like Cyprus have medieval elements scattered though the cities.

After visiting more than 130 cities in Europe (it’s not enough for any continent, let alone for Europe), I had hard time hand-picking cities that will give the tourists most medieval experience of Europe. Oh yes, there are plenty of these towns where you can go and feel like you traveled to the past thru a time machine in this continent. But here are 7 not-so-common places that you should visit to experience some enticing old European charms. They are not in any particular order…enjoy

  1. Toledo (Spain): Once the capital of Spain, Toledo, is a must-see city when you are in Madrid. The history of this town dates back to 192 B.C. which became a UNESCO World Heritage site for its rich cultural and historical monuments. Some spots to hit in Toledo are Cathedral of Toledo, Monuments of Greco, Old city wall, the synagogue, San Martin Bridge, and finally the magnificent Alcazar.
An overview of Toledo with River Tagus and Puente de St. Martin

An overview of Toledo with River Tagus and Puente de St. Martin

2. Volterra (Italy): This is a perfect day-trip if you are in Florence or Sienna in Italy. Volterra is one of many walled cities of Toscana and it attracts thousands of tourists every month. Other than its sweeping beauty of its countryside and other small hill-towns, it has those cozy piazzas, like Piazza dei Priori, a roman theater, couple good museums like Alabaster Museum and Pinacoteca Museum, and finally an old baptistery…Santa Maria Assunta Church. To finish off the day, have some gelato from a local store.

Old Town of Volterra, Italy

Old Town of Volterra, Italy

3. Plovdiv (Bulgaria): Dating back to more than 4000 B.C, Plovdiv is one of the oldest towns in whole Europe. The town is very well-preserved and many old buildings, paved streets, fortifications, walls, water-supply, and sewerage survived from its early period. Visit the Virgin Mary Church, St. Dimitar Church, Roman Theater, ancient Stadium of Philippopolis, and Djoumaya Mosque from the 14th century. Plovdiv would make a perfect trip if you are in Sophia and have an extra day to taste the old Bulgaria.

Roman amphitheater from the 1st century in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Roman amphitheater from the 1st century in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

4. San Marino (San Marino): This is one of the littlest countries in Europe yet it claims to be the world’s oldest republic. San Marino not only  offers impressive views of the surrounding hills, countryside, Adriatic Sea, and Italy, but it also has spectacular historic landmarks for its visitors. If you are in the Tuscany region in Italy, San Marino would be a perfect day-trip from there. Visit the Old Town, 1st Tower – Guaita, Basilica di San Marino, Piazza Publica, and enjoy its great Italian cuisine in any restaurants.

Walking thru the old cobble-stoned alleys of San Marino

Walking thru the old cobble-stoned alleys of San Marino

5. Luxembourg City (Luxembourg): This is probably one of my most favorite capitals to visit in Europe. The history and the beauty of Luxembourg City will truly make your trip a memorable one. Here are some places to see here: Gella Fra Monument, Notre Dame Cathedral, Grand Ducal Palace, Bock Casamates, and finally the whole town. This should be on your top list if you are visiting Belgium…too good to miss.

Walking around the old ruins of Luxemburg (Casamates)

Walking around the old ruins of Luxemburg (Casamates)

6. Valletta (Malta): This is a unique place where rich history, good Mediterranean food, scenic beauty, and colorful atmosphere come together in harmony. Malta’s capital, Valletta, was one of the earliest sites that got listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site for its old world splendor and magnificent Baroque architectures. While in Valletta, make sure to take a boat ride to the unforgettable Islands of Gozo and Comino. But in the city, roam around its old part and enjoy places like, St. John’s Cathedral (and many other old churches), Upper Barracca Garden, National Library of Malta, St. Fort Elmo, and Great Siege Square.

Valletta, Malta -the whole city is A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Valletta, Malta -the whole city is A UNESCO World Heritage Site

7. Dinant (Belgium): Situated by River Meuse, Dinant is a French-speaking (Wallonia) part of Belgium. This is the hometown of Adolphe Sax…the inventor of saxophone that dates back to 800 B.C. Visit the Dinant Citadel (and enjoy stunning view from there), Collegiate Cathedral of Dinant, Saxophone Bridge and River Meuse, and get lost in the old alleys that are packed with local goods and cafes. Another sweet trip if you are ever in Brussels.

Breathtaking view of the city and river from Dinant Citadel in Belgium

Breathtaking view of the city and river from Dinant Citadel in Belgium

 

 

Christmas in Peacock Lane

After living in Portland, OR, for many years, I finally got to visit this place that becomes magical during the holiday season. It’s in a neighborhood in the SE Portland which becomes pedestrian only area for the last two weeks of every December.

This is an old Portland tradition since 1920. Every house here are fully decorated with extravagant Christmas lightnings and ornaments. My girls had a blast walking in front of every house and checking out all the different themes and dazzling scenes.

The event is absolutely free, but we had to park couple blocks away from Peacock Lane. It does get crowded pretty quickly as soon as it gets dark.

Check out the pictures of Peacock Lane in Portland, Oregon…hope you like them.

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