Category: European Travel
Greece has always looked toward the sea and lived by it. Of necessity she must continue to do so. Because of her geographical position and because of the limited resources of her land, the Greeks have been a maritime people since the earliest times.
The mountains which break up the land seem to push the people into the sea, and indeed they make land travel and land communications so difficult that by comparison sea travel has always seemed simple. The land itself is so lacking in fertility that extensive agriculture is impossible. Thus the Greeks have been forced to import a large part of their food and to turn to the sea to gain their livelihood.
In Greece, the sea seems to be everywhere. The Aegean, the Ionian, and the Mediterranean all wash Greek shores, and these shores are so cut up and so strewn with islands that the sea penetrates everywhere. The coastlines and islands in turn shelter the sea and do away with the fear men have always had of vast unbroken stretches of water.
The Greeks are not such a people as would fear the sea, no matter how far it stretched. By nature they are adventurous and enterprising. Their love of adventure makes them good sailors, and added to this their capacity for enterprise makes them the best of sea-merchants.
Seamanship is an old Greek tradition. Children have been trained from the cradle to become expert sailors. It has been customary for seamen to take aboard ships and sailboats children ranging in age from 6 to 13 so as to accustom them to the sea. When an island was sighted, the children were called on deck, told the name of the island, its ports, and the most navigable routes around it. If, on the next trip, they had forgotten, they were punished. In like manner, children were thrown into the sea to teach them to swim. Nothing was overlooked in an effort to make them skillful and brave seamen.
The skill of Greeks at sea includes not only seamanship but also trading. The Greek was and is a sailor-merchant. There has never been absentee ownership of Greek ships nor have Greeks put their money in enterprises involving ships run by others. Even today, when there is a class of rich Greek shipowners owning sometimes large numbers of ships, such owners have nearly always been identified with ships and are in general successful sailor-merchants.
The permanent residents of Capri have the same uncanny ability as the Balinese for going about their business oblivious to the tourist hordes around them. Capri’s tourist numbers are even more extraordinary than Bali’s. Although its area is barely four square miles and its population a mere 12,500, Capri plays host to two million visitors a year.
Most are the dreaded day-trippers from Naples and Sorrento-pendolari, the Capresi call them, in description of their incessant to-and-fro motion-who arrive clutching a packed lunch, spend nothing, leave their rubbish, and depart at teatime. During the middle of the day, Capri is best enjoyed by disappearing to the island’s furthermost comers, which can be surprisingly pretty and peaceful. But the long, balmy summer evenings, after the pendolarihave left, are what for me makes Capri a favorite island. This is when the famous Piazzetta, the social hub of Capri town, comes into its own. Tiny and intimate, fringed by animated cafes, it is the perfect place for relaxing and people-watching.
An often-noticed thing about watching people in Capri is that everyone looks highly pleased with life, especially the Capresi themselves. James Money, the island’s social historian, as always has the explanation: “Making money out of the visitors is the dominant activity, and this is done by the islanders with characteristic Italian ingenuity and skill. Because this makes them happy, most of them look happy. A glum face is rarely to be seen.”
Down from the Piazzetta, the terrace of the Grand Hotel Quisisana is another prime spot for an elegant cocktail. Since 1982, Capri’s most splendid hotel has been in the ownership of the Morganos, an old Capresi family of hoteliers. I got to talking to the Quisisana’s immaculately dressed general manager, Dr. Gianfranco Morgano. Aged forty-one, he had just decided to abandon his career as a cardiologist to run the family flagship full-time.
The Quisisana, he reminded me, had originally been built as a sanatorium (its name means, roughly, “Get well here”), so it was appropriate that his first act had been to equip it with a gleaming new fitness center. If you are planning to have a heart attack-and some do when they get the bill-the Quisisana seems a pretty good place to be.
Elsewhere, the Morganos are extending their dynastic rule over Capri’s hotels. The Scalinatella, the island’s second-most highly regarded, is now run by Enrico Morgano, and a new hotel, Casa Morgano, is run by Nicolino Morgano-both brothers of Gianfranco. Needless to say, all look very happy indeed.
Hotels in Capri
Bussola di Hermes Hotel Capri, Anacapri
Regina Cristina Hotel Capri, City
Hotel San Michele Capri, Anacapri
La Floridiana Hotel Capri, Piazzetta
La Bougainville Hotel Anacapri, Anacapri
La Vega Hotel Capri Island, Anacapri
Bristol Hotel Capri, Marina Grande
Relais Maresca Hotel Capri Island, Marina Grande
La Residenza Hotel Capri, Piazzetta
Il Girasole Hotel Capri, Anacapri
Casa Caprile Hotel Anacapri, Anacapri
Attica was a very small country according to modern notions, and Athens the only large city therein. The land barely covered some 700 square miles, with 40 square miles more, if one includes the dependent island of Salamis. It was thus far smaller than the smallest of our American “states” (Rhode Island = 1250 square miles), and was not so large as many American counties.
It was really a triangle of rocky, hill- scarred land thrust out into the Aegean Sea, as if it were a sort of continuation of the more level district of Bœotia. Yet small as it was, the hills inclosing it to the west, the seas pressing it from the northeast and south, gave it a unity and isolation all its own. Attica was not an island; but it could be invaded only by sea, or by forcing the resistance which could be offered at the steep mountain passes towards Bœotia or Megara. Attica was thus distinctly separated from the rest of Greece.
Yet Attica had advantages which more than counterbalanced this grudging of fertility. All Greece, to be sure, was favored by the natural beauty of its atmosphere, seas, and mountains, but Attica was perhaps the most favored portion of all. Around her coasts, rocky often and broken by pebbly beaches and little craggy peninsulas, surged the deep blue Aegean, the most glorious expanse of ocean in the world. Far away spread the azure water, — often foam-crested and sometimes alive with the dolphins leaping at their play, — reaching towards a shimmering sky line where rose “the isles of Greece,” masses of green foliage, or else of tawny rock, scattered afar, to adapt the words of Homer, “like shields laid on the face of the glancing deep.”
Above the sea spread the noble arch of the heavens, — the atmosphere often dazzlingly bright, and carrying its glamour and sparkle almost into the hearts of men. The Athenians were proud of the air about their land.
The third great element, besides the sea and the atmosphere of Athens, was the mountains. One after another the bold hills reared themselves, cutting short all the plainlands and making the farmsteads often a matter of slopes and terraces. Against the radiant heavens these mountains stood out boldly, clearly; revealing all the little gashes and seams left from that long-forgotten day when they were flung forth from the bowels of the earth. None of these mountains was very high: Hymettus, the greatest, was only about 3500 feet; but rising as they often did from a close proximity to the sea, and not from a dwarfing table-land, even the lower hills uplifted themselves with proud majesty.
These hills were of innumerable tints according to their rocks, the hue of the neighboring sea, and the hour of the day. In spring they would be clothed in verdant green, which would vanish before the summer heats, leaving them rosy brown or gray. But whatever the fundamental tone, it was always brilliant; for the Athenians lived in a land where blue sky, blue sea, and the massive rock blent together into such a galaxy of shifting color, that, in comparison, the lighting of almost any northern or western landscape would seem feeble and tame. The Athenians absorbed natural beauty with their native air.
Behind each of these mountain masses is another piece of Attica not visible from Athens. Between Hymettus and the eastward sea lies the Mesogaia Plain. It is larger and more fertile than the plain of the Cephissus, and yet figures little in history, for no highroad passes through it. Attica’s back-parlour, should one say? Behind Pentelicus lies the plain of Aphidnae, lying saucer-like with a ring of hills around it and a piece of rising ground in its centre. The great plain behind Parnes does not belong to Attica but to Bœotia. Parnes is the one landward boundary of the Attic peninsula. Towards the west her soaring ridges dip to Mount Aegaleus, and behind these is the sea-girt Thriasian plain around Eleusis, now reckoned as Attic territory.
The Athenian loved sunshine, and Helios the Sun God was gracious to his prayers. In the Athens of to-day it is reckoned that the year averages 179 days in which the sun is not concealed by clouds one instant; and 157 days more when the sun is not hidden more than half an hour. Ancient Athens was surely not more cloudy. Nevertheless, despite this constant sunshine and a southern latitude, Athens was striken relatively seldom with semitropical heat. The sea was a good friend, bringing tempering breezes. In the short winter there might be a little frost, a little snow, and a fair supply of rain. For the rest of the year, one golden day was wont to succeed another, with the sun and the sea breeze in ever friendly rivalry.
The climate saved the Athenians from being obliged to wage a stern warfare with nature as did the northern peoples. Their life and civilization could be one developed essentially “in the open air”; while, on the other hand, the bracing sea breeze saved them from that enervating lethargy which has ruined so many southern folk. The scanty soil forced them to struggle hard to win a living; unless they yielded to the constant beckoning of the ocean, and sought food, adventure, wealth, and a great empire across the seas.
Tha City being taken as the heart of London, there are two main arteries by which its blood is put in circulation. One is Holborn, prolonged by Oxford Street and the Uxbridge Road, so as to make almost a straight line through the metropolis, continued eastward from Aldgate along the great Whitechapel highway, in all a distance of some ten miles for a bee that had spare time to measure it from Bow Bridge to Hammersmith. The other, beside the curving bank of the river, has a shorter stretch of a mile or so to the central ganglion where it branches into several veins; yet its former course may be roughly followed by Pall Mall and Piccadilly, along the Parks and through Kensington High Street on to Kew Bridge.
If any thoroughfare is to rank as chief street of all London, it is the Strand, till the other day choked by double tides of business and pleasure, but now opened out more roomily, and its channel seconded by the broad Thames Embankment, on to which a fleet of tramcars has at last broken way. The still raw cut of Kingsway is also drawing traffic into a new current But, as we saunter towards Charing Cross together, we shall follow the Strand as our main line, with peeps of exploration on either side. Its name may at least serve us as a text for considering certain aspects of London life, old and new. If a more fanciful title were wanted for this chapter, one might call it “All the World’s London.”
Beyond Temple Bar, the offices of business merge into a quarter chiefly noted for houses of entertainment. One must not count the Courts of Justice under a head that would seem a mockery to anxious suitors, not to speak of nervous witnesses and impatient jurymen. Yet here are often enacted thrilling spectacles to draw as eager crowds for admission as do any of the Thespian temples neighbouring this modern shrine of Themis, which some aver to be dedicated rather to Æolus, though all its draughts do not clear it of what has been described as “an amalgamated effluvium, a reek of stuff gowns, dog’s-eared papers, mouldy parchment, horsehair wigs, imperfectly washed spectators, police constables and witnesses, with a bracing whiff of ammonia from the wood pavement in the Strand outside.”
What one can say without fear of contempt of court, is that the Strand and its side streets are much given up to theatres, music-halls, restaurants, and hostelries of all kinds, making this the part of London most familiar to strangers, and perhaps to some Londoners. In the depths of Transatlantic backwoods, I once foregathered with a countryman holding a commission in the “Lost Legion”; and his first question of home was, how fared the Alhambra or some such rendezvous of pleasure-seekers. Had St. Paul’s or Exeter Hall been his focus of regard, he might not have come to play the “remittance man” so far away.
In the Strand itself it was my chance to meet a young American seeking direction to Furnival’s Inn, where he desired to lodge because Dickens lived in that “hotel.” Again, I have known another New Englander ready to quarter himself upon the “House” of a celebrated Briton, because he took this title to imply an hotel, as it did in Boston. The Dickens enthusiast was not so far out, since at that time a lodging for strangers was contained within Furnival’s Inn, now rebuilt as an Insurance Office by a Company so prudential in its dealings as to have become one of the great landlords of London.
We all know that London stands on the Thames, that it is the capital of an empire on which the sun never sets, and that it has the right to call itself the largest and richest city in existence, perhaps the greatest congregation of human beings to which history ever had a chance of preaching on that old text, the rise and fall of so many a Babylon. We ought to know how it measures at least a dozen miles in length and breadth, and how it contains five millions or so of people, to which some half as many must be added if we take in its outer area.
We can learn that it counts a million of houses; that its myriads of streets, if set on end, would reach across Europe; that it includes some sixteen thousand acres of open spaces; that yearly it lays twenty miles of fresh pavements, and adds new inhabitants enough to make a country town, while it is always swallowing some old village in its insatiable maw.
Those who have an appetite for such figures may further be instructed that every year its port harbours more than twenty thousand vessels of all flags, that every day nearly nine thousand trains run into its stations, and that every hour about ten million gallons of water are drawn for its various needs, flushing out in subterranean channels more than one cares to count or measure.
The above are but samples from an imposing stack of statistics, that might be drawn upon by way of helping the imagination to realize what London is. Unimaginative and uninstructed eyes have long been content to leave the matter thus: “The cities of London and Westminster are spread out to an incredible extent. The streets, squares, rows, lanes, and alleys are innumerable. Palaces, public buildings, and churches rise in every quarter.” I am using the pen of Miss Lydia Melford, whose first sensation in those thronged thoroughfares was like that of the fabulous Scot, at a later date found waiting shyly up an entry in Fleet Street, as he explained, till the people had come out of church.
But next arises the question, What is London?–one to be less readily answered. Not every Londoner could say off-hand whether Hampstead, for instance, belongs to his hive, nor in what sense it includes Norwood or Kew. London was once a walled city about the mouth of two small brooks flowing into the Thames; then, escaping from this confinement, like the genius released by a fisherman in the Arabian Nights it quickly spread itself over the surrounding heights and flats, till, from an area of some square mile or so, it had expanded more than a hundredfold. Sovereigns in vain bade its growth come to a stand, their proclamations as idle as Canute’s commanding the waves. Not less vainly lords cried out against the citizens who presumed to neighbour their parks and gardens, sooner or later to be ploughed up by streets.
A century ago sociologists of Cobbett’s stamp vituperated that “wen” whose bulk seemed a danger to national health; and by the end of the century the tumour was swollen five times as great. Not that it has grown so much out of proportion to the general body, if we may accept Mr. Matthew Bramble’s indignant calculation, made several generations back, that “one-sixth part of this whole extensive kingdom is crowded within the bills of mortality.” That is much the same ratio as London proper now bears to England, its own thicker outskirts and the rest of the United Kingdom being eliminated, which, if brought into the sum, would make it work out in favour of the capital’s increase.
When we come to boundaries and definitions, we are met by the truly British want of system, symmetry, regularity, through which London was allowed to straggle and struggle up into a confused rough-cast conglomeration of materials stuck together by chance or by rule of thumb, cross-divided for different purposes, to be managed by divers and sometimes overlapping authorities.
There are citizens who, till the consideration be brought home to them by rate-collectors or other call to civic duty, do not care to know in what parish, borough, Poor-Law union, Parliamentary division, or what, they have their home; and on the edge of London some may be hardly clear what right they have to call themselves Londoners. The City, as it is styled, honoris causâ, forms an independent core, round which strangers must be taught to distinguish between the County of London, by law established, and the wider circle that has come to be known as Greater London.
The best time to visit Amsterdam is June, for the Festival of Fools. Amsterdam has accommodations of all types from the luxurious, through regular hotels, pensions, hostels, crash pads and all stations beyond. There are so many things to experience in Amsterdam: the quiet graceful old town of endless canals, narrow houses and tiny streets.
Amsterdam is a city of fantastic surprises, a place crammed with sights and activities that seem to bear not the slightest resemblance to the picture of tulips, cheese, and wooden shoes. For information about accommodations try the airport bureau or the VVV (The Netherlands Tourist Office). They are quiet good at finding accommodations off the beaten tracks.
Related Link: Amsterdam and Canals
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Prague has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Prague suffered considerably less damage during World War II than some other major cities in the region, allowing most of its historic architecture to stay true to form. It contains one of the world’s most pristine and varied collections of architecture, from Romanesque, to Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Gothic, Art Nouveau, Cubist, Neo-Classical and ultra-modern. Some popular sights include:
Hradčany and Lesser Town (Malá Strana)
Prague Castle with the St. Vitus Cathedral which store the Czech Crown Jewels
The picturesque Charles Bridge (Karlův most)
The Baroque Saint Nicholas Church
Church of Our Lady Victorious and Infant Jesus of Prague
Písek Gate, one of the last preserved city gate of Baroque fortification
Petřín Hill with Petřín Lookout Tower, Mirror Maze and Petřín funicular
The Franz Kafka Museum
Kampa Island, an island with a view of the Charles Bridge
Old Town (Staré Město) and Josefov
The Astronomical Clock (Orloj) on Old Town City Hall
The Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn (Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem) from the 14th century with 80 m high towers
The vaulted Gothic Old New Synagogue (Staronová Synagoga) of 1270
Old Jewish Cemetery
Powder Tower (Prašná brána), a Gothic tower of the old city gates
Spanish Synagogue with its beautiful interior
Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) with gothic and baroque architectural styles
The art nouveau Municipal House, a major civic landmark and concert hall known for its Art Nouveau architectural style and political history in the Czech Republic.
Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, with an extensive collections including glass, furniture, textile, toys, Art Nouveau, Cubism and Art Deco
Clam-Gallas Palace, a baroque palace from 1713
New Town (Nové Město)
Busy and historic Wenceslas Square
The neo-renaissance National Museum with large scientific and historical collections
The National Theatre, a neo-Renaissance building with golden roof, alongside the banks of the Vltava River
The deconstructivist Dancing House (Fred and Ginger Building)
Charles Square, the largest medieval square in Europe (now turned into a park)
The Emmaus monastery and WW Memorial “Prague to Its Victorious Sons” at Palacky Square (Palackého náměstí)
The museum of the Heydrich assassination in the crypt of the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius
Stiassny’s Jubilee Synagogue is the largest in Prague
The Mucha Museum, showcasing the Art Nouveau works of Alphonse Mucha
Vinohrady and Žižkov
Jan Žižka large bronze equestrian statue in Vítkov Park, Žižkov – Prague 3
The neo-Gothic Church of St. Ludmila at Náměstí Míru (Peace Square) in Vinohrady
Žižkov Television Tower with sculptures of crawling babies
New Jewish Cemetery in Olšany, location of Franz Kafka’s grave – Prague 3
The Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Church at George of Poděbrady Square (Jiřího z Poděbrad)
The early-20th-century grand Art Nouveau apartment buildings in the area between Náměstí Míru (Peace Square) in Vinohrady and Riegrovy Sady
Vyšehrad Castle with Basilica of St Peter and St Paul, Vyšehrad cemetery and Prague oldest Rotunda of St. Martin
The Prague Metronome at Letná Park, a giant, functional metronome that looms over the city
Prague Zoo in Troja, selected as one of the world’s best zoos by Forbes magazine
Industrial Palace (Průmyslový palác), Křižík’s Light fountain, funfair Lunapark and Sea World Aquarium in Výstaviště compound in Holešovice
Letohrádek Hvězda (Star Villa) in Liboc, a renaissance villa in the shape of a six-pointed star surrounded by a game reserve
National Gallery in Prague with large collection of Czech and international paintings and sculptures by artists such as Mucha, Kupka, Picasso, Monet or Van Gogh
Anděl, a busy part of the city with modern architecture and a shopping mall
The large Nusle Bridge, spans the Nusle Valley, linking New Town to Pankrác, with the Metro running underneath the road
Strahov Monastery, an old Czech premonstratensian abbey founded in 1149 and monastic library
The cappuccino to be drinked in Prague’s Grand Café Orient is utterly mediocre, and that’s okay.
This is because the point is really the situation, however, is quite impressive: the coffee is on the second floor of the House of the Black Madonna, originally built in 1912 as a department store in architect Czech Cubist Josef Gočár and as of 2003, houses the Museum of Czech Cubism in Prague, an architectural and design movement that emerged, flourished, and disappeared here in about 15 years.
Having been neglected for decades, the East has been restored in spring 2005 to its original splendor rigorously angle. Everything is a replica of what once was: a huge polished brass lamps and silk shade is suspended from the ceiling, glossy white-beams, decorated with geometric paneling surrounding the mirror bar is finished to a high gloss, the benches flanking the half-octagon tables are covered with a replica of the original trim green and white.
Once visited almost exclusively by scholars and fans of architecture, today, coffee is a stop on the card is marked on the list of more than a hippie and the tables around me are filled with beautiful young local and a handful of travelers. Unless their presence, the room is a capsule in near-perfect of a place that exists here and only here for a little over a decade ago almost a century.
This is why coffee-under is not a problem, since the promise of a cup is in perfect condition all around me in a number of Italian coffee from Starbucks or chain-like in the bustling Old Town. But the restoration of love for the East Grand Café and, equally importantly, the warm welcome he received from citizens of Prague to talk about something interesting: a renewed affection between the Czechs for their own heritage and traditions, whether or Bohemia in the 20th century.
And it’s a new sensibility, a change from previous years throughout the city, full-throttle embrace of foreign cultures and distant influences a concern that was perhaps expected in a country whose borders were open if abruptly in 1989. Expectations of travelers powered by the 90’s booming air transport phenomena increasingly affordable and proliferation of culture Wallpapers for a growing number of so-called jet-set-up has to include the right inalienable have, for example, pitch-perfect Northern Italian cuisine or an “it” bag (or a perfect cappuccino), no matter where on the planet, they have touched, to Prague developed by leaps and bounds to meet these expectations. The local and foreign entrepreneurs have taken crafty like to invest in this new European capital which evolved so promising. In 2001, the city has offered cappuccinos with shovels and even a little “it” bags, and for good measure, a magnificent new Four Seasons Hotel, located on the river Vltava with Michelin-starred restaurant Allegro (still the best in the city, serving the pitch-perfect northern Italy, natch).
After seeing their city to reach the traps of the world situation and destination, however, a handful of creative residents began mining in Prague own traditions of food, art, design, inspired architecture. And they have been subtly but effectively change the look and feel of the city since then.
One of the first to see the promise of the indigenous culture of Prague was Janek Jaros, who for nearly a decade has been a champion of Czech Cubism of his gallery of modern city. Set a bit incongruous among the gift shops and vendors syrupy Celetná garnet along a popular tourist route in the historic city of Prague modernist emporium original Czech design.
The fortysomething Jaros manufactures reproductions of furniture, kitchen utensils, and china by the Czech Cubist’s best-known such as Vlatislav Hofman, and Josef Pavel Janák Gočár (House of the Black Madonna), and sources for hard to find a handful of original chip clients, among them London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. But only in the last two to three years that its local clientele relatively recently trained and ready to invest in their own aesthetic traditions began to develop. “Modernism has changed significantly over the past three years, and therefore the market. We’ll get back to basics, working with locals and expatriates living in Prague in the long term.”
Jaros has recently collaborated with the designers of the Rocco Forte Collection hotel of 101 rooms Augustine, which had its much-heralded opening last May, helping to source products for interiors. Housed in a 13th century Augustinian monastery, spread over seven buildings in the picturesque district of Mala Strana, the hotel offers Olga Polizzi, Director of Design Collection, a chance to delve into the history of design in Prague. “What is unique about Czech cubism is that they pushed the ideas of Picasso and Braque beyond what the movement in Western Europe has been producing,” she said. “In Prague, Cubism became buildings , decoration, printing, textiles. This is a very important, perhaps the most important period in Czech art.”
The Charles Bridge is a famous historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge replaced the old Judith Bridge built 1158 – 1172 that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342.
This new bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or the Prague Bridge (Pražský most) but has been the “Charles Bridge” since 1870. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava (Moldau) until 1841, the Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town and adjacent areas. This “solid-land” connection made Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe.
The bridge is 621 metres (2,037 ft) long and nearly 10 metres (33 ft) wide, resting on 16 arches shielded by ice guards. It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side. The Old Town bridge tower is often[vague] considered to be one of the most astonishing civil gothic-style buildings in the world[according to whom?]. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas.