Sunday, 1 January 2017

Les Catacombes de Paris

As planned we got back to Paris by the evening of June 18, 2016. The day after we went to the Catacombes de Paris, which was worth the three-hour waiting in the queue. Although I'd probably recommend the reader to book the more expensive ticket online, and bypass the queue. It takes forever. Read more about our visit in the catacombs in Jeruen's blog. By the evening June 19 we were back at home in Berlin.


Back again. Our plan worked. After two days in Caen we arrived in Pontorson in the evening, and went to our accommodation, a family run bed-and-breakfast. In the morning while having breakfast in the family living room together with French tourists we wondering how a simple egg laid by the neighbor's hen can be so tasteful. It's totally different from the egg we get in the city. We left our luggage in the B&B and headed back to the train station, where we took the bus to Mont-Saint-Michel.
The long history of the place dates back to the 8th. century, when Aubert, Bishop of Avranches built a sanctuary on the island. During the 10th. century the Benedictines settled there, and established a village below the abbey's walls. There were several additions, and patches to the complex throughout the centuries. The place served as prison after the French Revolution, until it's renovation in the late 19th century.
The island is now connected to the mainland with a road, which can be used both in high- and in low-tide. Before this road was paved people could get in and out of Mont-Saint-Michel only in low-tide hours. We took an audio guide, and were exploring the abbey and the village for 3-4 hours. Spectacular views, amazing historical facts. Buildings on Mont-Saint-Michel were collapsing all the time, almost every century something collapses, burying dozens of humans. Great. Luckily that was not one of those days. We discovered a crêpe restaurant, which turned out to be an excellent choice, it was worth the waiting.
In the afternoon we took the train to Paris, which became a complicated task because of the strike, which cancelled one of our trains. But the train station staff was very helpful and explained us exactly what to do, and we were even refunded for a part of our tickets.
Please enjoy some views of Mont-Saint-Michel.

View from the road:

The road from the abbey:

Walking in low-tide

The village:

The other visitors:

Sunday, 11 September 2016


From Gare Saint Lazare I took the train to Caen, where Jeruen had the conference. Caen is a nice town in Normandie, with over 100 thousand inhabitants. It was ruined twice, once in the Hundered Years' war in the mid 14th. century by King Edward III of England, who conquered the city in one day, and to be on the safe side killed half of the population and burned down the town. 6 centuries later the British did it again, liberated the town from the Nazis, destroying most of the buildings, and killing about 2000 civilians.
Some streets were not damaged and remained untouched from the 15th. century. Caen has a very interesting atmosphere.

Center of the town:

Monastery at the City Hall

Grave of William the Conqueror



Castle of Caen with modern art:

Rich population:

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Paris - Palais Garnier & Perfume Museum

June 16, 2016, Thursday morning 5am, Berlin Tegel Airport. My 4 day long weekend in France begins here.
Two things are happening in parallel: strike season in France, the UEFA which happens to be in France. Both are tempered with demonstrations and street violence. Great time to go, I admit. We were careful not to book Air France, because we knew what would happen... At that moment it seemed that the chance that Air France will be on strike is slightly higher than Air Berlin would go bankrupt. Both could in theory actually happen. Air France went on strike, but thankfully Air Berlin still flew.

The other thing is the timing. That night, June 16 Germany was playing against Poland. Both nations were on the way to Paris, most of them on the same flight together with me. Great. They were trying to sing and scream louder than the other. I took the RER to the city center, where I headed to Gare Saint Lazare, where I made sure that my train runs, and picked up my ticket to Caen.

I had a couple of hours before leaving for Caen, so I decided to explore the extended area of the station. After a totally overpriced breakfast I headed to Palais Garnier, which is the Paris Opera House. The building was build in the 60's and the 70's of the 19th century (under the rule of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, who although remained on power after a coup d'état, but invested a lot of money in the reconstruction of the city), was designed by Charles Garnier, French architect, and has almost 2000 seats.

The foyer is impressive:

Main Hall:

But the highlight is Chagall ceiling of the main hall:

Chagall's ceiling is alive. A lot of things are happening there. It makes a very interesting contrast to the classical, frozen, over-decorated building.
I loved it.

Later I walked around the area, and found the Perfume Museum, which was very interesting. I was never too much into this topic, but my interest raised as I read Patrick Süskind's novel. I've learned a lot about the different types of perfumes, and the methods of perfume manufacturing.

You may need all these to create a good perfume:

Storing perfume in bottles in different periods of the history:

The sensation that the fragrance provokes could be represented by an olfactive pyramid. The perfumed notes create a fragrance, depending on their degree of evaporation and their persistence.

Some essences originate in animals.

The museum was surprisingly interesting. In the afternoon - as planned - I took the train to Caen, where Jeruen was waiting for me at the station.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Meandering around Vilnius

I have a some backlog to process in terms of blog-posts. We travel faster than I write. :) But I guess it's not a bad thing. I owe Vilnius, Caen, Mont Saint Michel. I will not blog about Copenhagen, I keep it for the myself.

So Vilnius. It was mid-November 2015. We decided to make a weekend somewhere, where we could get easily and was not expensive. This is one of the great advantages of living in Berlin: you can fly in Europe really inexpensive, and uncomplicated. So we found a relatively cheap flight to Vilnius, where we both haven't yet been.

A small twin-turboprop aircraft took us to Vilnius airport. The airport itself was built by the Soviets. It's nicely decorated. Sculptures of workers, soldiers and aviators from the outside and of flowers, bay leaves and stars from the inside are irregular nowadays. It reminded me somewhat Moscow's underground stations. We took a bus to our hotel, most probably our cheapest ever travel between hotel and airport, costed 1 (one) Euro.

Airport hall:

The next two days we toured all around the city. We visited the university, the Gediminas Castle, St. Ann's Church and also the Grand Dukes’ Palace and even an amber museum. The city is very friendly for tourists, everybody in the service sector speak English. There is an excellent restaurant scene is international. We explored exquisite Korean, French and Lithuanian restaurants.

The university consists of thirteen courtyards, from which the buildings are accessible.

In one of them we found some really weird wall-paintings:

It's just sick.

Gediminas Castle:

Old city:

Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania:

Home, sweet home.

We also found an apple, well half of it:

Then I realized that if you cut an apple into two you get the shape of a heart. On it there are "80 Names of Generosity" inscribed. They were probably good people. We conscientiously skimmed the names. We happened to visit this monument 6 times, as it was located on our way between the hotel and the old town.

Amber museum. We learned there the fascinating story of this special stone, and found some intricate instances of insects in them. The poor animals got captured about 130 million years ago. But I guess they would probably be dead anyways by now.

They sell these stones for quite a bit of money. We skipped the purchase. After all they're just stones.

Some views of the city from the castle:

Not bad for two days. :)