Sunday, June 17, 2018

Zsámbéki Öregtemplom

Excursion from Budapest downtown!

I am obsessed by the beauty of destruction and have wanted to visit Zsámbék Premontre monastery church (English Wiki available).

The history of the Romanesque-early Gothic style church dated back to 1220 AD. It was built and owned by a single family, the gens Smaragd (the family of Aynard).

In the 15th Century Hungarians had been in torment, due to the invasion of Ottoman Empire. The monastery's been used as fortress. The suffering era had eventually come to an end at the Battle of Buda in 1686.

However, here comes another ordeal after the retreat of Ottoman. On June 28, 1763, the church collapsed by an earthquake and has been abandoned since then.

Around 150 years after the earthquake, the monastery had partially fixed up to the present looking.

Stunning place to visit and spend serene time as there aren't many tourists!

Monday, January 1, 2018

A Happy New Year 2018 Part Two

Official fireworks New Year's ceremony took place at 18:00 today. Contrary to unofficial fireworks at midnight, there are tons of people gathered there. 

Well, rather say, it was too many...

A Happy New Year 2018

I went to Olomouc downtown to take photos of fireworks that are ignited by drunk locals. My ears still hurt by explosion noises...

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Magyar Állami Operaház

Hungarian State Opera House (Magyar Állami Operaház) is lavish neo-Renaissance opera house that is originally known as the Hungarian Royal Opera House. It is the second largest opera house located on Andrássy Avenue

For those who are into opera performance, ongoing programme and the history of the hose, please visit HP. Since this is a photoblog, I'd stress more on stunning interior view.

In front of the building are statues of Ferenc Erkel and Franz Liszt. Liszt is the best known Hungarian composer. Erkel composed the Hungarian national anthem, and was the first music director of the Opera House; he was also founder of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra.

The opera house was designed by the Hungarian architect Mikós Ybl, whereas the Baroque ornamentation, sweeping marble staircases, the frescoed ceilings, vast chandeliers, rich velvets and gilded tiers of seats in the auditorium were mainly contributed by Hungarian painters, Bertalan Székely, Károly Lotz and Mór Than.

Ticket counter
Construction began in 1875, funded by the city of Budapest and by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary. The new house opened with great fanfare on September 27, 1884. In the 1970s the state of the building prompted the Hungarian State to order a major renovation which eventually began in 1980 and lasted till 1984. The reopening was held exactly 100 years after the original opening, on the 27 September 1984.

As soon as entering the building, you notice that, in its beauty and the quality of acoustics, the Opera House is considered to be amongst the finest opera houses in the worldThe foyer is supported by nine marble columns. The vaulted ceiling is covered in murals by Bertalan Székely and Mór Than. They depict the nine Muses.

Grand staircase
A vast, sweeping staircase was an important element of the opera house as it allowed ladies to show off their new gowns. This is the meeting point where guided tour starts.

Feszty Bar
Feszty bar (Opera Cafe) is the place to enjoy booze and light meals before, during or after the show. The bar is flanked by corridors that used to be the place for smoking in the past...

Royal staircase
The royal staircase is a private entrance from the carriage ramp in Dalszínház street leading to the parlors on the first floor. This somehow reminds me of Ceremonial Stair Hall in Hungarian National Assembly (see this entry)...

Two bronze statues and portraits are exhibited there.

Auditorium -  a view from the VIP room in the second floor
The biggest attraction of the tour is, needless to say, the horseshoe-shaped, three-floored auditorium!!! Rich in gold red colors with stunning fresco in the ceiling, the auditorium is capable of accommodating 1261 audiences.

Mikós Ybl’s neo-renaissance palace has remained virtually unchanged in the 130 years since and continues to attract admirers of opera and ballet alike.

Visiting tours with mini concert (option) in several languages are available here. No need to book in advance. Be there prior to the tour.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Teatr im. Juliusza Słowackiego w Krakowie

Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków is an eye-catching beautiful baroque style building located in Plac Św. Ducha (Holy Ghost square), close to the Kraków main station (Kraków Główny). The edifice, designed by Jan Zawiejski, is ranked among the most valuable monuments of theatre architecture in Europe. 

Later named after noted Polish poet and playwright Juliusz Słowacki, the theater was modeled after some of the most beautiful venues in Europe and was the first building in Krakow to have electric lighting in 1893!

Have a wonderful weekend.

Saturday, December 2, 2017


The Cave Church is located near the Buda end of Liberty Bridge, across from the famous Gellért Baths. It is embedded in Gellért Hill.

According to the legend in the middle age, an hermit named Istvan or Ivan who lived there and was believed to have used the natural thermal water of a muddy lake next to the cave to heal the sick people. Today the water is used for the famous Gellert Bath on the other side of the road. Istvan was later canonised, and the cave was named Szent Iván-barlang (Saint Ivan's Cave).

The church was founded in 1920s, by a group of Pauline monks after a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. Originally, the altar was located at the entrance of the cave and the congregation was seated outdoors on the terrace. After its consecration in 1926, it served as a chapel and monastery until 1951.

During World War II, the church served as a a field hospital for the army of Nazi Germany. Due to the new Communist regime after the war, father Ferenc Vezér was sentenced to death and the remaining brothers were imprisoned for upwards of ten yearsIn 1951, the church entrance was completely sealed with a thick concrete wall. A part of the wall can still be seen by the entrance.

As the Iron Curtain disintegrated, the chapel reopened on 27 August 1989 with the destruction of the thick concrete wall that had sealed the cave. By 1992, the Chapel had been restored and the Pauline Order had returned to the cave. 

Today, the monks continue to perform religious functions within, though the cave is also a common tourist attraction. 

A modern statue of St. Stephen holding a church is in the little square in front of the cave

This is also a good point to find a beauty of Liberty bridge, especially after the sunset!!!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka Salt Mine (Polish: Kopalnia soli Wieliczka) had been one of my "must visit" destinations until this summer in 2017, although it's not so far from where I currently live (Olomouc, Czech Republic). It is located in Wieliczka within the Kraków metropolitan area. 

The salt mine, run by the Żupy krakowskie Salt Mines company, was one of the oldest mines that the history dated back to the 13th century and kept producing table salt until 2007. Commercial mining was discontinued in 1996, because of salt prices going down and also mine flooding. The mine is one of Poland's official national Historic Monuments (Pomniki historii), as designated in the first round, 16 September 1994. About 1.2 million people visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine annually!!!

Image from Wiki
When you visit Krakow, there are millions of tourist offices offering the guide tours. The guide tour price varies according to the service - the more expensive tour tends to include pick-up service in front of your hotel - No need to take public transportation, no need to buy a tour guide when you get there. 

Chapel of Saint Kinga

Joining the guide tour means you are obliged to follow your guide as a group of around 30 visitors. You are not allowed to be alone there. In other word, being alone in the mine means you are likely to get lost in humongous underground salt world!
Rock-salt carving of Pope John Paul II
After setting-up the radio headphone, the following action visitors make in the tour is to come down the everlasting stairs to a depth of 64 meters. By following a guide's voice through the radio-headphone over walking almost 3 km (which is still less than 2% of the length of the mine's passages!!!) of meandering corridors, you encounter stunning beauty of chapels, statues, reception room that are all made of salt, as well as underground lake located at 135 meters in depth. 

Underground lake in Wiemar Chamber
If you haven't been to, I strongly recommend to visit there and indulge yourself in the crystal beauty of past industrial technologies and the faith among hardworking miners.

Casimir III the Great (left)
From time to time during the tour, you encounter well-carved statues. The bust of Casimir III the great (1310-1370) can be found in more than 100 meter underground corridor. Of course, he is made of salt rock carved by miners. He is called "the Great" because he was deemed a peaceful ruler, a “peasant king,” and a skilled diplomat. He reformed the Polish army and doubled the size of the kingdom. He reformed the judicial system and introduced a legal code, gaining the title "the Polish Justinian". He was the founder of the University of Kraków, the oldest Polish university. He also confirmed privileges and protections previously granted to Jews and encouraged them to settle in Poland in great numbers. 

He is portrayed in 50 Złoty.

St. John Chapel
The Chapel of St. John, a symbol of Wieliczka miners' faith and worship, is considered to be the most beautiful chapel with wooden furnishings. It is located 135 meters underground with floor area of 153 square meters. It appears at the very end of the tour. Make sure your camera battery is still alive and still enough space in memory card...

Chapel of Saint Kinga
There is no doubt that the Chapel of St. Kinga, located 101 meters underground with 31 x 15 m dimensions/ 465 square meters, is the biggest highlight of the tour. When you search image of Wieliczka Salt Mine, you are very likely to find images of this chapel. Due to the tour, I could only stay around 12 min.... Way too short!

All made of salt!!!

There is a legend about Saint Kinga of Poland (1224-1292). Well, she was a Hungarian princess born in Esztergom in Kingdom of Hungary. When She was betrothed to Bolesław V the Chaste, the Prince of Kraków in 1200s, she persuaded her father, Béla IV of Hungary, for a lump of salt because Krakow had lots of gold but hardly any salts then.  Before Kinga heading for Kraków, her father King Béla took her to a salt mine in Máramaros county in Hungary where she threw her engagement ring given from her fiancé, Bolesław, in one of the shafts. Upon arriving in Kraków, she asked the miners to dig a deep pit until they come upon a rock. The people found a lump of salt in there and when they split it in two, discovered the princess's ring. Kinga had thus become the patron saint of salt miners in and around the Polish capital. Her discovery of salt mine had brought Kraków the 700 years wealth by salt export.
Michalowice Chamber
Michalowice Chamber is another breathtaking timber-made structure built by mimers you encounter. jaw-dropping view!!!

Souvenir shop
I am not sure if the "embedded" souvenir shop was also made by miners... but so cool!

In 1978 it was placed on the 
first UNESCO list of the World Heritage Sites.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Czechoslovak Independence Day in 2017

It is a public holiday today in Czech Republic - supermarkets are all closed and people celebrate their Independence Day. This is my 4th time taking photos of military procession, ceremony and fireworks. For some reason I utterly forgot the day and was so unprepared to shoot. 

Due to the construction of streets downtown, the military procession route was changed, which I didn't know. I didn't take tripod with me. I got to hold camera in every possible ways you can come up with to stabilize camera. Hence I am quite reluctant to upload photos of fireworks this time but I own this photoblog, so why not.

Happy Independence Day!!!