29 August 2013

Through the streets of Copenhagen :)

Copenhagen, Denmark - GMT +2
Officially - Kingdom of Denmark
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark
Currency - Danish Krone
Flying time - 6 hours
Airport code - CPH

Home of the Vikings, Little Mermaid and Lego!
It was noon when we took a map of the city and cameras in our hands and went out to explore another amazing European city, originally a Viking fishing village founded in the 10th century...
What to do in Copenhagen? What NOT to do?!
Walk walk walk all over the city, rent a bike and cycle around, breathe some fresh air, take lots of pics, enjoy the architecture, visit all the beautiful historic places, eat as much as 'Danish' pastries as you can, meet a Danish guy (if you're into blondes :p), read at least one H.C.Andersen story before you even come here, shop in one of the longest shopping streets in the world, meet a Little Mermaid, say hi to the Queen, enjoy the nature in one of the many parks and gardens, or even take a train and cross to Sweden, Malmo is just an hour away... :)

What to see? Everything! If you have the time... If you don't, prioritize :) Like we do, every time when we come to a place so rich with history and beauty that we have to decide what to see and where to go first and which things to leave for 'the next time'...

So we did it again, not like Britney did it of course, but like cabin crew does it :)

We were happy to see that everything is very close to each other so it's pretty easy to visit most places from your list by just walking around the streets, and the most important thing is - you can't get lost, it is so easy :)
Even though I find getting lost the best way to discover something new, something that's not on the map or in a guide.

Anyhow, this was our list...
1. Christiansborg - is the seat of the Danish Parliament, the Danish Prime Minister's Office and the Danish Supreme Court. It is the only building in the world that houses all three of a country's branches of government - the executive power, the legislative power, and the judicial power.
Also, several parts of the palace are used by the monarchy, including the Royal Reception Rooms, the Palace Chapel and the Royal Stables.

By the time we got there the rain started, just a shower but still enough to make us run through the building and its courtyards... But when we found the Royal library, the sun showed just enough to capture its magnificence... What can I say, I'm weak for books and libraries :)

On the way to our next stop we grabbed a hot dog out on the street, bought a few souvenirs and walked through the shopping street with our eyes wide closed :p reminding ouselves we don't have enough time (not to mention money) and Miss Little Mermaid is waiting impatiently for us to take some pictures with her :))

2. Rosenborg Castle - The castle was originally built as a country summerhouse in 1606 and is an example of Christian IV's many architectural projects and was used by Danish regents as a royal residence until around 1710. It is situated in Kongens Have ("The King's Garden"), also known as "Rosenborg Castle Garden". The Rosenborg Castle Garden is the country's oldest royal garden...

Next time would be very nice to visit its museum in the basement where the crown jewels are on display :)

3. The Little Mermaid - Den lille havfrue is a bronze statue by Edvard Eriksen, depicting a mermaid. The sculpture is displayed on a rock by the waterside at the Langelinie promenade. Her face is modelled on Ellen Prince, a popular ballet dancer, whilst it's rumoured that Eriksen's wife Eline posed for the body.
Based on the fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen, the small and unimposing statue is a Copenhagen icon and has been a major tourist attraction since 1913.
Aside from the Copenhagen's, thirteen undamaged copies of the statue are located in locations around the world, listed by Mermaids of Earth.

Must say the girls were pretty disappointed by the size of it but still it is one of the MUST HAVE pictures in one traveler's photo album ;)
Once again rain was pouring so we had to be fast and couldn't enjoy the scenery as we wanted, not to mention buses of tourists just arrived there so the promise was made - see you again next time :)

Tired, wet and hungry we continued our walk to the Nyhavn area but first there was one more church and castle to walk by, one more story to be heard from my i-guide :D

4. The Marble Church = Frederik's Church -  an Evangelical Lutheran church located just next to Amalienborg Palace, our number 5.

The foundation stone was set by king Frederick V in 1749, but the construction was slowed by budget cuts.
The church was left incomplete and, in spite of several initiatives to complete it, stood as a ruin for nearly 150 years. The church was finally opened to the public on August 19, 1894.

Amalienborg  is the winter home of the Danish royal family.
It consists of four identical classicizing palace façades with rococo interiors around an octagonal courtyard, in the centre of the square is a monumental equestrian statue of Amalienborg's founder, King Frederick V.
It was originally built for four noble families,however, when Christiansborg Palace burnt down in February 1794, the royal family bought the palaces and moved in. Over the years various kings and their families have resided in the four different palaces.

Amalienborg is guarded day and night by Royal Life Guards (Den Kongelige Livgarde). Their full dress uniform is fairly similar to that of the Foot Guards regiments of the British Army. The guard march from Rosenborg Castle at 11.30 am daily through the streets of Copenhagen, and execute the changing of the guard(unfortunately we didn't know so we've missed it).

When the Queen is in residence the The King's Guard (Kongevagt) also march alongside the changing the guard at noon, accompanied by a band that plays traditional military marches. The Guard Lieutenant (Løjtnantsvagt) is always alerted when Prince Henrik or another member of the royal family are reigning in absence of the Queen.

Despite the grandness of her house, Queen Margarethe II has a reputation for being down-to-earth and spirited - a keen painter. She illustrated an edition of Lord of the Rings under a pseudonym. She is hugely popular amongst Danes, they say... :)

The sun showed behind the clouds once again, in perfect time to click a few colorful photos of Nyhaven street, Copenhagen's harbour before we sat down for some dinner... The perfect sunset after the rain, clean air, wooden sailing ships and happy looking houses from 17th and 18th century was an ideal end of a day like this!
Houses to note are number 9, the oldest in the harbour dating back to 1681 and the three residences of Hans Christian Andersen at numbers 18,20 and 67.

(Once the area was divided into 'nice' and 'naughty' sides, the latter swarming with sailors and prostitutes. Now, the dens of iniquity have been turned into expensive hotels and restaurants.)

I don't have to mention I've slept for 12 hours straight and had a few extra Danish pastries with chocolate for breakfast :D

Have a wonderful day! :*


12 August 2013

Ile Maurice aka Dodo's island :)

Bonjour once again...

...from my room in sunny Dubai (can it be anything else? :p) sitting in front of my pretty old laptop wondering how to start describing you all the beautiful things we had a chance to visit in a few rainy hours on this beautiful island!

Maybe a little bit of history will help you (and me) to understand all the diversities of this small place in the middle of Indian Ocean, just 2000 kilometers off southeast coast of African continent!

The island of Mauritius was unknown and uninhabited before its first recorded visit during the Middle Ages by Arab sailors, who named it Dina Arobi. 
Portuguese explorers in early 16th century found no indigenous people living on the island, so they established a visiting base there but didn't really find it interesting in years to come.
Dutch came after them and settled on the island at the end of 16th century but abandoned it only 100 years later.
In the last year of Louis XIV of France life and ruling, better known as Louis the Great or the Sun king (because who would remember all of them just by number :) ), in 1715 Mauritius became a French colony.
We all know what happened to Napoleon Bonaparte fighting half of the Europe in early 19th century, one of his losses was as well Mauritius, taken by British.
Mauritius became a Republic of Mauritius within the Commonwealth on 12 March 1992.

Considering all of that it's not surprising that most Mauritians are multilingual; English, French, Creole and Chinese languages are used. The country's populace is composed of several ethnicities, mostly people of Indian, African, French, and Chinese descent. Quite a mix ha? :)
If nothing else it gives you plenty of choice when it comes to decide what to have for lunch or dinner :D

As soon as we came in the hotel, we booked a taxi to take us on a tour around the island. We weren't thinking about the weather though, so we had a cold and rainy afternoon, while everyone around us were walking in long sleeves, scarfs and even boots we were acting as true tourists - shorts, sunglasess and flip flops :D
At least we had a great laugh getting wet everywhere we went :)

The route was - Old fortress above the capital Port Louis.
Fort Adelaide is also known as the Citadel, resembles a Moorish fortress. Built by the British around 1835 to watch out for potential riots in Port Louis before the abolition of slavery, the fort sits high on the crown of the hill, offering splendid views over the city and its harbor.
Later, the fort’s canons were used to trigger the alarm in case of a fire in town. Today, the Citadel has become a cultural meeting point and hosts concerts and shows of both local and visiting artists from all over the world.

Mc'Donalds on the way... (hungry and no time to sit in a restaurant :p)

The volcano next - Trou aux Cerfs also known as Murr's Volcano (wich we couldn't see from the rain, but we did try some nice fruits along the way :)

Next stop - 'Sacred lake' ... Ganga Talao lake also known as a Grand Bassin.
No pics for that one either, rain and wind, perfect combination what to say :)
It is a crater lake situated in a secluded mountain area deep in the heart of the island and it's considered the most sacred Hindu place in Mauritius
There is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and other Gods including Hanuman, Lakshmi, and others along the Grand Bassin. During Shivaratri, many pilgrims in Mauritius walk bare feet from their homes to the lake. I'm sure it is very beautiful on a nice sunny day :)

Driving for some time to the Chamarel Waterfalls and The Seven Coloured Earth(s) the rain stopped but the sun was still hiding behind the clouds. Despite that we were amazed with the view, all the nature around us and its colours!

It is a relatively small area of sand dunes comprising sand of seven distinct colours (red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow). The main feature of the place is that since these differently coloured sands spontaneously settle in different layers, dunes acquire a surrealistic, striped colouring, leaving you speechless...

That being seen we headed back to the hotel with just a quick stop by the sea...


After a long day it was time for dinner, sadly it was Sunday so the only choice was one of our two hotels, which wasn't that bad considering a piano player playing one of my favourite Michael Buble, just a perfect end of an amazing day :)

Next morning I had some more time, after a good 13hours of sleep (yes 13!) it was sunny so I went for lunch and a walk along the Caudan Waterfront, some souvenir shopping and after all... a long relaxing hour before the flight back! :)

After all this being said, lots of information, lots of history and interesting things to see and do, there is one more very important thing to write about Mauritius!

DODO the Bird! :)))
As much as we tried to find it...unfortunatelly it is not possible for a few hundreds of years now :(

Cute and funny mascot of this island, an extinct flightless bird, relative of the family of doves and pigeons that was endemic to the island of Mauritius.
Subfossil remains show the Dodo was about 1 metre (3.3 feet) tall and may have weighed 10–18 kg (22–40 lb) in the wild!
The first recorded mention of the Dodo was by Dutch sailors in 1598 and the last widely accepted sighting of a Dodo was in 1662.

How did it happen?!

Dodos were descendent of a type of pigeon which settled in Mauritius over 4 million years ago! (imagine that! Then the people came and sh** happened...)
With no predators to attack them, they lost their need and ability to fly.
The Portuguese became the first humans to set foot on Mauritius. The island quickly became a stopover for ships engaged in the spice trade. Weighing up to 50 pounds, the Dodo was a source of fresh meat for the sailors.
Large numbers of Dodos were killed for food.
Later, when the Dutch used the island as a penal colony, new species were introduced to the island. Rats, pigs and monkeys ate dodo eggs in the ground nests. The combination of two significantly reduced the Dodo population.
Within 100 years of the arrival of humans on Mauritius, the once abundant Dodo became a rare bird...

Hope you have enjoyed a little bit of it in your mind and imagination!