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Category Archives:Europe

Walking Tours of a White Copenhagen – a photo essay

When visiting a new city alone your only friend is a map. Though a map is not great at conversation. I learnt this the embarrassing way. There are plenty of sights to see in Copenhagen in winter, which could be comfortably seen in 3 or 4 days.

But I learnt that when you have no one to bounce ideas off, or tell you when breaks are needed, you will just seem to walk all day, see everything at double speed, then be absolutely rooted by 6pm.

I ended up in Copenhagen because I had just began my semester abroad in Leeds and planned to see as much of Europe as possible in the process. After getting settled I distinctly remember saying  to my housemate who had come over from Australia within the first few days: “So, where do you want to go this weekend?”

Frederiks Church Copenhagen, Denmark
Frederiks Church

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11 Extreme examples of Expensive European Architecture

Crazy King Ludwig spent millions on a castle that he never saw finished.

It seemed like a requirement that the Hofburgs of Austria needed to one-up their ancestors when building their residence.

And the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is still being built to this day, 132 years after its inception.

I visited a lot of incredible buildings in Europe and their beauty is only matched by the amount of money these would have cost. I am not going to speculate on how much, but I’ve collated some of my favourite palaces, churches and castles that have made the shift from active use to tourist attraction.

York Minster, York

Half an hour train ride from where I used to live, in a town of only 200,000 is a marvellous example of Gothic architecture and was one of the biggest I saw across Europe. So large it was difficult to fit the whole thing in one frame due to surrounding buildings.

York Minster Abbey

Sacre Coeur, Paris

Located just out of central Paris in Montmarte is the imposing figure of the Sacre Coeur, named after the “Sacred Heart” of Jesus Christ. An exquisite church made all the more so by the imposing location up on the hill.

Sacre Ceour Paris

Il Vittoriano, Rome

Also known as the Altare Della Patrio, or in English the “Alter of the Fatherland”, the Vittoriano is a mighty building. Maybe it’s the symmetry, maybe it’s that it’s so dominant and looks down on you, but the Vittoriano was actually a standout attraction of Rome for me. Just a beautiful building

Altare Della Patrio, Il Vittoriano

Buckingham Palace, London

Home to one of the wealthiest families in the world, the House of Windsor, Buckingham Palace attracts thousands of visitors every day just to watch their guards change shift. One of the few in this list that is still a residence and not a memorial or museum.

Buckingham Palace London

St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

In stark contrast to some cathedrals in Europe, St Patrick’s in Dublin is built on acres of space. It’s a beautiful spot within the city limits to wander the grounds or just have a rest by the fountain with a great view of the bell tower.

St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin

San Marco Basilica, Venice

In unusually tight quarters, St Mark’s Basilica stands out like nothing else. A different perspective to what you might usually see is gained up the nearby tower. Imagine having this on your doorstep?!

San Marco Venice

St Vitus Cathedral, Prague

Now if you want to talk about Cathedrals in areas so built up it’s almost impossible to fit in the entire structure into a frame, let’s talk about St Vitus Cathedral – the climax of any Prague Castle Tour. I am standing in the absolute corner of the courtyard and can only just fit it in the frame.

Prague Castle

See.. from the front, this is as much of the front facade I could fit.

St Vitus Cathedral Prague Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria

Probably the most expensive holiday home in the world, King Ludwig II of Bavaria didn’t even live to see his dream completed. If you notice any similarities to Cinderella’s Castle in Disneyland, that’s because Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for Walt Disney.

Neuschwanstein Castle Bavaria

Berliner Dom, Berlin

If my church’s name was Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church in Berlin – I’d probably shorten it to something easy like Berliner Dom as well.

Berliner Dom, Berlin

Brussels Town Hall

The Town Hall of Brussels is a stand out of the impressive Grand Place, the centrepiece of Brussels city centre, and a location you won’t be content with seeing just once.

Brussels Town Hall

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

I couldn’t write a post on Beautiful European Architecture without including my absolute favourite, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I think I love this one so much because when I visited after 6 months of seeing Gothic and Renaissance cathedrals throughout Europe – as impressive as they are – I was ready for something a little more unique.

Gaudi was an artistic and architectural genius and the Sagrada Familia is just one place through the city that has his fingerprints. And after 133 years since ground was broken, it was only consecrated only in 2010 and is still being completed!

Sagrada Familia Barcelona

Now obviously I’ve left plenty out, these are just a few of my personal favourites. Which historic building across Europe has stolen your heart? Did it make this list? Let me know in the comments below.

 


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How to not die at Running of the Bulls

The adrenaline.

The panic and confusion.

The exhilaration!

San Fermin, or the Running of the Bulls, the now somewhat controversial festival begins in a few days in Pamplona, Spain. It really is a ridiculous festival given thought: a handfull of bulls run through the streets of a small Spanish town while thousands of people stand in their way, then quickly get out of their way.

And what better way to prepare for this unusual event than to learn how not to die there. Every year there is news of at least one person seriously injured, occasionally dead. This happened when I was there in 2010 not 30 metres up the path from me.

But don’t let this stop you from having a good time. The odds are most certainly in your favour if you know a bit about what you’ve gotten yourself into. Use these tips to make sure you stay alive.

San Fermin before dawn
We got there before well dawn.
  • The bulls run every day for 8 days so unless you plan on running all of them or you are pressed for time, sit the first one out. Find a good vantage point and see how the magic unfolds.
  • On the day you run, get there early. Really early. As the festival grows in popularity, so do the amount of people wanting to run. When there are too many people lined up the police will force everyone from a certain point onwards to leave. This will allow you to get a good starting point and leads me to my next point.
  • Choose your starting point nearer to the beginning, but not too far. The closer you are to the start, the less chance you have of being kicked out due to overcrowding. However, the further forward you are the more likely you are to make it into the stadium before they close the doors. It’s a balancing act.
  • Run near the outside of the road and take tight corners. It is inevitable that when the bulls come, people will disperse. Make it easy for yourself by already being there. The bulls are also not great at taking corners so if you get stuck on a corner as they come round, they will take it wider than you will.
san fermin Running of the Bulls
Getting ready to run
  • Look over your shoulder. This is obvious, but the bulls arrive very quickly and if you are not ready you’ll know about it.
  • If you want to make it into the stadium with the bulls you will need to stay ahead of the second pack of bulls (yes there are two). The doors close immediately after them. You will still be able to watch what goes on in the arena but it will be from the stands.
  • Finally: DON’T TOUCH THE HORNS! Touching the bulls in any way is actually prohibited. This is especially true of the horns and if the bull doesn’t attack you for it the locals certainly will. I saw a number of people get dropped for grabbing on to the bulls’ horns in the arena. Though if you do feel so inclined then by all means, it was plenty entertaining for us spectators.
san fermin Running of the Bull
Packed in tight at San Fermin

Basically if you use some common sense you’ll be fine, the people who get gored are generally those that try and be heroes or think that they are invincible. Below is an excerpt from my travel journal that I wrote shortly after running. Read in conjunction with the video below. It still gets my heart pumping just watching it.

So we are on the road waiting, it’s about 7:58 and we hear a fire cracker go off. This means “start running, we’ll give you a bit of a head start”. For whatever reason most don’t start running then. About 30 seconds later another one goes off saying: “the bulls have been released, run for your lives!!”

You can see this in the video but everyone is jumping to try and see the bulls coming. Once they realize you can’t see them we all turn and start running, the moment of truth has arrived.

It’s all very panicky, you are running trying to dodge so many people. I rounded a corner and noticed everyone screaming and moving to the sides, I turned around and saw a clear path behind me and thought “oh crap, here they come”.

Sure enough, before I knew it, about 45 seconds in to the race the bulls run past.

san fermin arena
Bull vs humans in the arena

My heart was pumping. So I start running again, which turns in to more of a light jog than anything and sure enough, there is a second lot, but they are much slower and seemingly less dangerous. They passed me safely and I thought “I need to keep up with these guys because the doors to the arena shut after them.” I missed out by about 15 metres.

But that was ok, I watched from the arena for a bit and it actually looks fairly dangerous in there. There was one bull in there and loads of people and it was just charging.

I must have seen about 10 people knocked around by it in a matter if minutes. Best part was though if someone grabbed on to the horns of a bull (which a few people did) the locals would just attack them. So many punches were thrown, it was awesome.

san sebastian
Spending the day at San Sebastian

Afterwards we decided we all wanted a nap, but also there’s nothing to actually do in Pamplona if not being chased by four-legged, horned beasts, so we went to the beach in San Sebastian again, fully intending to sleep on the beach, which I did, for 2 hours.

This is the video I took while running. It only goes for a minute or two and gives a real sense of the event like you are there. I’d love to know what you think. And if you’ve ever been or thinking about going, I’d love to hear about how your experience differed.


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