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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Lake Ohrid

'The Jewel of Macedonia'

I'll be honest and admit that up until a few months ago, I had never heard of Lake Ohrid! The closest I had come to knowing about its existence is being aware there was a 'beautiful lake in Macedonia'. It wasn't until I was talking about travel and interesting places to see with a friend of mine, that she spoke about how she had discovered Lake Ohrid. As I was travelling to Macedonia it seemed natural to try and add Lake Ohrid to the itinerary. 

View from my hotel window, large Macedonian flag in centre of picture.

Lake Ohrid is Europe's oldest and deepest lake, it's also a UNESCO heritage site, so I've added it to my list of sites visited! I travelled down from Skopje by car and the trip takes 2 and a half to 3 hours depending on the traffic conditions. The part closest to Lake Ohrid has road construction as a new road is being put through so that slows the trip down. 

Boardwalk to lakeside restaurants.

Tourism is now an important industry, but it seems that the tourists are mainly European based. According to the captain of the boat I took a trip on the lake, most foreign tourists are from Germany and The Netherlands. The rest of the world hasn't quite discovered Lake Ohrid yet!

The scenery is just gorgeous, a deep blue lake and surrounded by mountains.

The old town of Ohrid, built up on the steeper slopes, there's also a more modern part of the town leading up to the old town peninsula.

House built into the cliff.

St John at Kaneo Church

Ohrid has a number of Orthodox churches, driving down it was interesting to note that each of the small towns and villages I drove through had a mosque as their most prominent building. Then as we were close to Ohrid, Orthodox churches could be seen. It gave me a real life understanding of the religious diversity that can be found in Macedonia.

Most of Lake Ohrid is geographically in Macedonia, a part is in Albania, this is Albania.

Hard to see but this is 'The President's House'. Under Yugoslavia this had been Tito's residence on the lake, it's a series of villas which are used by the Macedonian president, the prime minister and other administration officials.

Sunset on Lake Ohrid.

Lake Ohrid was really lovely and it was nice to visit somewhere for me at least that was 'off the beaten track' meaning somewhere that wasn't frequented by hordes of tourists. It doesn't have the polish of a popular tourist area but that's what makes it interesting to see. Something that I didn't get around to visiting was the 'Bay of Bones Water Museum' which is a recreated village on water showing how people lived hundreds of years ago. It's about 30 minutes down the lake from the town of Ohrid.

Lake Ohrid does have a small regional airport so it is possible to fly into, the drive from Skopje though does have some spectacular scenery once it gets to the mountainous parts. Great as long as you're not the ones driving! I wasn't so appreciated the view!

Friday, 13 October 2017

Ljubljana, Slovenia

A quick overview

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and I had a quick visit there. The old part of the city is now a pedestrian zone and makes for a great way to explore the city.

The Shoemakers' or Cobblers' Bridge over the Ljubljanica River, the Shoemakers' bridge dates back to the 13th century and various bridges have been on this spot. This current version dates back to 1931. It was called the Shoemakers' Bridge as shoemakers set up shop along the bridge when shoes were taxed.

The population of Ljubljana is quite young and the city has a vibrant energy around it. There are cafes all along the river, in the old parts of town and in the student areas.

This was built by the river to encourage hygiene amount the food stall holders, they were built by the Italians and the decorations hark back to the glory days of Italy ---the Roman era. Fruit and vegetables were at the top, the fish venders were on the bottom near the water!

The market, with the Dragon Bridge in the background. The dragon has become the symbol of the city.

Looking up to Ljubljana castle.

The Three Bridges, the centre bridge is the oldest and two other bridges each side were built. The centre bridge was built in 1842 and dedicated to the Austrian Emperor Franz Karl, the two side bridges that run at slight angles to the centre one were built in 1932.

The Galerija Emporium, now restored, this department store was built in 1903.

The whole city had a great atmosphere with all the open air cafes, they were in the side streets, along the river and in areas close to the university.

The Ljubljana Cathedral, St. Nicholas, just stunning!

I walked through an area with small cafes and shops and lots of graffiti! To me it looked like the university student area.

Ljubljana was lovely, I did a boat tour along the river and the guide was great in giving us a very concise history of the city. Being able to spend longer in the city would give you more time to explore, but even only having a few hours it's possible to experience much of what the city has to offer. 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Rovinj Croatia

Also known by its Italian name of Rovigno.

Went to the lovely town of Rovinj today. The old town is now a peninsula but it had originally been an island, then in the late 18th century the channel separating the island from the mainland was filled in. The result is a large flat area of land between the historic old town and the newer area which is where waterfront bars and restaurants can be found. Rovinj traditionally had a large ethnic Italian population and the signs are all bilingual in the town.

The church on top of the hill is the Church of St. Euphemia, a statue of her is on top of the bell tower. The remains of St. Euphemia were said to have washed up in a casket at Rovinj, this is where the casket was supposed to have been found and then brought up the hill to the church at the time. This is St. Cross passage.

Rovinj was an important town in the Republic of Venice from 1283 to 1797 and three town gates were built. This is one of them coming from the water.

Old Town Street

A walled garden in the Old Town.

The town gate from the main square, the top the gate has the lion of Venice.

Passage down to the water, reminded me a lot of Venice.

Around Rovinj there is an archipelago of small islands, there are boats tours that will take you to see them.

Covered market selling truffles in oil as well as olive oil. Also fresh fruit.

The 'other side' as in the non marina side of Rovinj, with a dramatic sky. The buildings all go down to the water's edge.

Rovinj sunset beyond the clouds.

Not having been to Rovinj for quite a few years I was surprised by the amount of cafes and restaurants along the waterfront, it all makes for great people watching. The Old Town itself had quite a few small interesting bars down little streets. Even this late in the season there were a number of tourist buses and lots of people wandering around admiring the Old Town. It's a lovely town to experience and from what I saw there accomodation options to stay in the Old Town.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

London, United Kingdom

A few days of wandering around.

London is one of my favourite cities to visit and I've been here for the past few days. This is a collection of photos from my wanderings.

Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria memorial, which annoyingly gets in the way when trying to take a photo of the Royals on the balcony at Trooping of the Colour!

Looking up The Mall towards Buckingham Palace. At the Trooping of the Colour, each of the flagpoles has a Union Jack on it, I've also seen The Mall dressed up for a State Visit. The flag of the country making the visit are on all the flagpoles. It all looks very impressive!

This was a Sunday, as I was walking up The Mall a random group of people came past riding penny fatherings!

Statues of George VI and Queen Elizabeth on The Mall. Took a picture of these statues as I've just watched the series 'The Crown' and that included a scene where the King George statue was unveiled. After Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother died her statue was added. So that they statues matched, as the Queen Mother lived to 101, the statue is her in her younger days, not her as a very old woman.

Entrance to The Mall, until the other day I had been under the impression this was Marble Arch. It's not, only realised this when I looked at a map and Marble Arch was at a different location!! Further research states that this is Admiralty Arch, built by Edward VII to commemorate his mother Queen Victoria. So one end of The Mall has the Queen Victoria statue (in front of Buckingham Palace) and the other has this arch, all dedicated to Queen Vic.

Autumn in Green Park, a pleasant place to stroll from The Mall to Piccadilly.

Trafalgar Square with Nelson's Column. 

Tower Bridge, photo taken from London Bridge, the new version of London Bridge opened in the 1960s. The older one got sold and then reconstructed in Arizona! That's HMS Belfast on the right, a former naval ship now open to visit.

St James's Park, Birdcage Walk, more autumn leaves!

A squirrel eating, there are some well fed squirrels and ducks in the park!

Wellington Arch, came across this today when walking to the Hyde Park Corner Tube Station. Triumphal arches were all the rage in the 19th century.

Entrance to Hyde Park, the grandest entrance! There are others.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Osborne House

Queen Victoria's home on the Isle of Wight

Osborne House was the main reason for me wanting to visit the Isle of Wight. It was Queen Victoria's family home and I've been interested in her and her extended family for a number of years. Well since my teen royal history phase, other teens frantically gather information on the latest teen idol, I gathered information on Queen Victoria!

Victoria and Albert built up Osborne as their family home and stayed there at various times during the year, they cycled through their other properties of Windsor Castle and Balmoral.

Victoria had wanted Osborne to remain in the family but her son Edward VII didn't want to keep it. To be fair to him, it was quite run down, and needed a lot of work done on it, he had Sandringham as his country home and didn't need Osborne. For a time it was a Naval College and then opened to the public.

The restoration work on Osborne is ongoing and these lower terraces have only just been opened this year after being restored. (So good timing for my visit!) Victoria used to sit here to paint and read.

It wasn't totally a holiday home as Victoria continued to work whilst staying there, this was an audience room where she would meet visiting dignitaries. The carpet is quite threadbare so we can see how rundown the house had become.

Osborne was very much a family home and there are portraits in the rooms of various family members. I was nerdy enough to play 'name that royal'! This painting of the young family is quite famous and has appeared in various books, documentaries etc. I was sure I had seen it before at Buckingham Palace, turns out I was right. The original, now at Buckingham Palace had been at Osborne, Victoria had a copy made and that copy went to Buckingham Palace. That's now swapped, so Osborne has the copy.

Albert's desk in his study, after his death Victoria had the room left exactly as he had left it.

Victoria's sitting room, complete with spinning wheel.

In another part of the sitting room, she had two desks, one for herself and one for Albert, side by side. Victoria had her desk made slightly lower.

The nursery floor upstairs. The statue is of Albert in the uniform of a Roman soldier. Victoria had commissioned this statue for her private home, I had seen it a number of years ago at an exhibition called 'Young Victoria and Albert' at the Queen's Gallery. 

The nursery has been recreated based on this photo, at the time of her death Victoria's children were all grown up and many had grandchildren of their own. So the nursery was no more.

The cradle in the centre had been made for Victoria's oldest child Princess Victoria, the Princess Royal. (Much later Empress of Germany) The soft furnishings part is new, the rest is original.

The children's table, it's octagonal, according to the guide, it's not known why the seating was for eight as Victoria and Albert had nine children. It just could be due to the age spread of the children, the oldest child Victoria was married at 17 at which time the youngest child, her sister Beatrice was only 9 months old. So it's not likely all nine children would have ever sat together at the table.

When an extension was made to Osborne for the Durbar room, a lift was added for an old Victoria to get upstairs. The lift was a hand operated one, a person had to crank the handle to make it go up and down!

Victoria's bed at Osborne, she died here in January 1901, her children had the large plaque put in above the bed after she died. It's quite solid looking, not something you would want above you as you slept!

The path down to the beach, Albert believed in the benefits of bathing in the sea, so made sure that all the family went in during their summer stays at Osborne.

This is Victoria's restored bathing hut. She would get changed inside, the hut was pulled into the sea, by a horse, from the photo I've seen. Then she would descend down the stairs into the water. The hut was on rails so it wouldn't sink into the sand. After her death, the hut ended up as a chicken shed with a local! It was found and restored and now is by the sea again.

I was on my way back to the carpark when I spotted this. It's the bench dedicated to John Brown, the Scotsman who was Victoria's companion after Albert's death. 

There's a lot to see at Osborne, not just the house, but also the children's Swiss Cottage and the gardens, I'm leaving that for a future post. Really enjoyed my visit, as much as it was the home of a queen, Osborne does come across as a family home. A very wealthy family at that, but it's not grossly ostentatious, I've seen a lot of stately homes! Well worth doing my Queen Victoria pilgrimage to see it!