During our last visit to Germany (Stuttgart, Baden Württemberg, Southern Germany) we learnt that also this city, as all major German cities, has an artificial hill made of debris removed from the bombed buildings.
Downtown Stuttgart on a cloudy day. The city is surrounded by hills. The high density of new buildings mixed with older ones is a war legacy
Around Stuttgart lies a range of heights which give the city its beautiful look of an inhabited hollow surrounded by a crown of green hills.
One of those hills was chosen as the final resting place of Stuttgart’s postwar debris. The place’s name is Birkenkopf, and with its additional 120 ft of height due to piled rubble, has become the highest point in Stuttgart. Dirt has been added to allow tree growth.
The total amount of ruins piled on Birkenkopf is 15 million cubic meter.
I basically did two things. One is a must: visiting the Hermitage Museum.
The Hermitage is a huge, super-rich collection of pieces of art hosted in buildings which are pieces of art themselves. One of them, the main one, was the royal palace, the Tsar’s residence.
I haven’t seen anything similar to the Hermitage in my life, except for when I visited the Louvre in Paris and the Vatican Museums in Rome.
How long you’ll stay in there depends on your resistance. I think it can be up to one whole day
But what else to do in St. Petersburg on a two-day stay?
Since its first stone was laid in 1703 by Peter the Great, the Tsars called the best European architects from all over Europe to build what is now known as the most Western-like city of Russia.
Mainly Italian and French architects, but also Russians, year after year, century after century, called by Tsar after Tsar, erected a wonderful historical center, made of several different styles: the Petrine Baroque, the Baroque, the Neoclassical, down to nineteenth century’s styles.
All that has produced a large downtown that is an open-air piece of art, and which was promoted UNESCO World Heritage site.
Therefore, I decided to take a bus tour. Below you can find a selection of the photos taken during that two-hour memorable bus ride.
If you’ve never been to St. Petersburg, by looking at the following pictures you can decide yourself whether I’m exaggerating in being so enthusiast about this Russia’s pearl.
After knowing Croatia only for the terrible events of the 1990s, it was time to get to know it for what it is today, in person.
Croatia is a beautiful country located in the Balkans, one of the several ones emerged from the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. Actually Croatia existed long before Yugoslavia itself, but only a small part of its history was marked by independence.
An important and long part of its past was under Austrian rule, and that reflects in Zagreb’s downtown appearance, which is characterized by beautiful Middle European atmosphere and architecture. Zagreb old uptown could easily be a neighborhood of Vienna or Prague, and its old streetcars crossing downtown are not so different from the ones you can find in Budapest or Bratislava.
Statue of Josip Jelačić in the middle of Trg bana Jelačića, Zagreb’s central square
As for me, I had never been to Croatia until a few days ago, therefore the image about that country engraved in my mind was the one we all received from TV news during the 1990s: a country suffering war misery, its tanks facing enemy forces, and people hit with cluster bombs on the streets of Zagreb.
That’s the reason why I was twice as happy about visiting Croatia for the first time. Not only the city covered in snow introduced itself in the best possible way, but I also finally had a chance to get to know the country for its present, not only for its tough past.
During my recent brief trip to China, I had a chance to visit an old village. That told me much more about China, its culture and habits, than the big city where I used to stay most of the time.
You can find a lot of those typical villages, just by getting no more than a few miles into the countryside. A western driving license is usually not valid to drive on Chinese territory, but luckily enough, I knew some Chinese fellas willing to show me how their country looked like until not long ago.
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