Rio de Janeiro (Brasil)
All in all I spent the 8 days in Rio, in fact the ajority of this was just before carnaval (that is how its spelt) and another 2 days during carnaval and I can tell you this ...I enjoyed Rio more when it was not Carnaval. Its got allot of characteristic for a city, unlike say Sao Paulo - which is a huge metropolis of a place but it all ... looks the same save for a couple of places.
Beaches : Rio is famous for having great beaches , it has beaches on its cusp very much like Sydney. Copocabana and Ipnema are the two biggest but not necessarily the best, again like Sydney there are many beaches around the myriad of bays in all the islands around Rio, but as a tourist it is hard to know which ones to go to and even if you did, how to get there ! These beaches are unfortunately really reserved for residents, so if you know someone that lives there- great. Of these two main beaches Ipnema has nicer sand and bigger waves - around 8 feet in places and less 'looky looky' men, who in fairness arent much of an annoyance as a quick shake of the head and they know your not interested.....and the beach is generally less crowded compared to Copacabana.
Touristy things: The two biggest attractions are obviously Christ the Redeemer (O redentor) , see my review, this was the best attraction I visited, and Sugar Loaf moutain. Both sum up Rio grand and overbearing...both are instantly recognisable and both have special routes that the guide books all make it sound harder to get to then they actually are. Sugar loaf is harder to find really you can walk around Botafago beach into an urban area on a mountain rnage just behind Copapcabana beach, but its a long walk and you should have a map.....the entrance to the swiss style cable cars is near the Naval base and Rua Laura Muller. There you`ll see two queues as is customary in Rio, one for cash, one card. Pay by cash, the queue is twice as fast. It will set you back about 55 Real each, or around 19 quid. You will then take two cable cars up to the first point, and then the second up to 1100 feet. I actually found the view from the first point, better then the second and you can see helicopters take off from the first point. Expect long queues, around 45 mins, to get down again.
Clubs and Bars: Rio isnt as simple as you might think, go to Copacabana at night time and its slightly dangerous in the early hours of the morning and the streets behind the beach hold hardly any good bars, only 1 that we found and it was hyper expensive. The best area`s are Sanat Teresa during the day, a cobbled maze that leads you upward of 500 feet, past several squares and each ones has many nice bars and restaurants and each one gets better and better (do not bother getting the cable car from the Cathedral station which is still open - it no longers runs as we found out, so you have to walk). The get down before the sun sets to the white Aquaduct of Lapa, here there are two streets folked in the road with dozens of bars along it, during Carnaval this was definately the place to be. For more clubs and less bars, go to the streets behind Cinelandia...this is a more open square and the small streets behind it closest to Lapa have a few up market clubs.
Parks - Rio has many, forget Praca de Republica its a bit dangerous as there are lots of tramps in it...go to Praca de Paris 200 meters away from Cinelandia , its has guards on the entrances who only let tourists and non-homeless people in and its much quieter and nicer. Also if you venture to Catete there is a great guaded park there in the old colonial municipal building grounds.
Museums and Galleries - Most are situated around Cinelandia and Rua io Branco, most are free.....in the old courthaouse closest to Cinelandia, you can see a great free art gallery with many pictures photographs of Rio life past and present. We watched a particulaly harrowing film about the pasification of the slums in the 90`s and 2000`s all to Beethovens Moonlight Sonata. I have to say that for all the people affected and for the tragic few innocents caught in the cross fire I still think Rio and its inhabitants are better off now then it was then.
Transport- the main bus station (Rodoviaria) is past Central metro station, so past it, you cant walk it as a tourist, one road is a dual carraigeway (we tried), and the other way goes trhough a mile of new slums areas that even with my knowledge of whats bad and good in the city, I would not try to do with my backpack on ! These slums are new because the city is building something in the north of the city for the Olympics I think and the displaced are now camping on the streets, its pretty harsh to see. It is one thing to pacify slums to rid them of criminals , its another to purposely create more homeless. So you have to get a bus to the station. The metro system costs £1 a trip, is faster and more efficient then TFL !
Restaurants - Rio Branco house soem swanky restaurants if thats your thing, but the best way to eat is as many Brazilians do....buy the Kilo, Kilo restaurants weight the contents of your plate and charge you per 100g weight. Most are quite cheap and have perfectly nice eating araes, most can be found around the back streets such as those of Rio Branco, Largo de machado.
Hope this all helps- overall I liked Rio, there was a bit to do and the people, I felt relatively save there, I wouldnt hang around in the early hours of the morning, but the police presence from about 7am to 1pm was great.
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My 1001 nights shorter version came up with my husband's 3 days away surprise. We had a long time to travel somewhere on the impulse, all our travels were because of business or family emergencies. So he thought the little escapade from the daily mundane world would be a blessing in disguise. And oh dear God it had been more than that, ... with all kinds of events whirling about us and making us believe we would never breathe calmly again!
The destination was Beirut, Lebanon the green gem of Middle East, better known as Paris of the Arab world. I haven't been there before, hubby has, though both of us did not know what to expect from this trip as Beirut went under a lot of changes because of wars, neighbouring attacks and internal political disputes.
Friday morning we were in the airport excited as you like prepared to get this adventure going. Well, as always with us, it had a bumpy start. At the check in desk were only 2 ladies and the queue thick and long and not all waiting were for the same flight. Alarm went red light in my head and I was already seeing my trip cut shorter than it already was! After 50 minutes, our luggage was checked in, our tickets printed and we were running like mad to the gate. Of course all this running was for nothing, because the plane was delayed 45 minutes to take off! Even now writing this I don't know the actual reason we were delayed so long to take off, for a flight that has the same duration as the delay, funny in the frustrating way.
When our plane landed on Lebanese soil, we were happy to be able to get out of it, because the loud people inside made our eyes to be out of focus, we were worse than Tom and Jerry with flying birds around their heads. First thing you notice once you are in Beirut's airport is the soldiers that are roaming up and down, the vigilant eyes measuring you up and down watching every step you take. Second thing you notice is that most of the signs are not translated in English and you kind of trail the people who know which corridors to follow. Of course here too only 2 desks were working! I think it was the rule of the 2, everywhere it had to be working 2 by 2 only to have long queues forming and my short holiday to really become a waiting thing.
Once faced with the passport checking officer I thought I would faint, he had such a hard look on his face I thought I did wrong to come to his country without announcing him first! The list of questions was not short, but it had the common one: "What's your reason to visit Lebanon." an entire interview if you ask me followed after that! I thought I would be put on the bench and my holiday refused, but I later learned that since they are on the red alert of war the army took charge of all the border points and they dealt with everything and everyone, army like to ensure the safety of their country and try as much as possible to keep at bay new problems. I was not one, because I was left to pass as my husband was, though because he had the British Passport he had a larger list to answer to!
After picking up our luggage we went to change some money, from euro to Lebanese Lira and American Dollars. In Lebanon everyone works best with Dollars and everything is valued in Dollars. Is best to have 20 Dollars bills, everything is 20 Dollars and I'm not kidding. And if you'll read further on my review you'll see what I mean. While my husband was changing the money, already the taxi drivers had their eyes on us; we were like little mice ready to be eaten by the big cats, in this case taxi drivers. One of them, not very bashful either, approached us straight and asked us where we'd like to be taken to already reaching for our bags. My husband answered with the name of the hotel, Portemilio Hotel & Resort, Kashlik, Jounieh. He said it would take only 20 minutes to take us there. Good we said, thinking it was really close. Wrong!!! It is outside Beirut, a really long way, those 20 minutes entitled the crazy ride at the crazy speed the driver took us there. I'm not even thinking to make it light and joking through what we went until we got to the hotel. I swear those people have no traffic signs, they don't even look in their mirrors to make sure no one will hit from the back; as for the sides, why should they use the mirrors when they can get their heads out of the windows to make sure they have space to cross from one line to another! This guy I think had all the tics in the world, eye twitching, restless hands, foot trembling and no sense of whatsoever he was saying because he started one thing to say and ended on something else entirely. I'm not exaggerating when I say I prayed all the way from the airport to the hotel to get there safe and sound! This was one crazy adventure, really, I don't know what kind of Lady Luck was watching over us that day, but she had some weird kind sense of humor.
Once we stopped in front of the hotel's doors it was like the storm passed and the sun was shining again, even though it did shine all right since we landed, July is one of the most humid month in Beirut. The thing I did hold myself not to do was to kiss the ground once I felt it under my feet, because I thought better not scare the people around me with my stupid reaction. I recovered quick though when I heard how much the taxi driver wanted for the crazy ride; 70 dollars and he had the guts to ask for "something for him" too, which made me wonder if he was for real or just tried to rip us of as much money as he could. My husband added 5 dollars more and sent him on his way.
Inside the lobby we thought no more crazy adventures and the day will start being good and no more surprising surprises as the taxi ride. We went to the reception desk and surprise surprise, the receptionists had no talent with English, their main foreign language they spoke fluently was French. Beirut's not Middle East Paris for nothing after all! I started getting irritated and not because the poor guys could not speak proper English or understand what we wanted, because my husband doesn't know more than Merci and Brigitte Bardot and I was not given too much attention. I guess as civilized as they are, the Arab way is still the Arab way and the man has to be dealt with and the woman to follow. I know French and in the end they had to deal with me if they did not want to have one raging animal (my other half) bite at them. We upgraded from a standard room to a Junior Suite only because of sleeping arrangements (I have a raging animal as a husband that snores as a broken tractor's engine) for the difference of 20 dollars, original price being 220 dollars a night and a Junior Suite being 240 dollars a night. The receptionist handed the room keys to us together with the Wi-Fi password connection and told us our room is on the seventh floor with parking lot view, if we wanted a Senior Suite with gardens view we had to pay another 20 dollars extra. We said no, after all the room was only for sleeping as we had plan to use the full 3 days to really explore as much as we could.
We entered the room and we had a shock what 5 stars meant for Portemilio Hotel; everything was not only outdated, was kind of dirty, screeching, creaking, rust in the bathroom, bugs on the balcony and spots on the couches. I think no hotel inspector had been by to see the state of it to downgrade it to a well worth 3 stars. I wouldn't have minded if they were to sell it to me as such, than to sell it as a 5 star and way too pricey for something that was like a joke. Getting over it, cause we could do nothing more than change it and for the amount of time we were to stay was not worth it, we just took our sun glasses and headed out. At the reception we were told that once we turn left at the gates we should follow the up hill roads and we'll get to the shops, restaurants and markets that are in the area. That's what we did, we hit the road on a hot and humid day and played the tourists role.
Kashlik is nice, as it is bordered by the mountains where most of Jounieh area lies and the sea which is full of entertainment, restaurants and people basking under the sun. We walked as much as we could under the sun, we lost ourselves on the narrow old streets and we admired the rocky hills on top of which are the most beautiful villas, the lizards that were running up and down. It was only 10 AM, and the day ahead was a long one and promising at the same time after all it was just the beginning. When we thought we got lost we arrived to the bustle and hustle of Kashlik center where all the shops were aligned and all the traffic seemed to crowd the narrow stone paved roads. As hot as it was, the side-walks were full with people just window shopping or strolling about. The coffee shop on the other hand were empty and as in any other Middle East country the owners tried to bait costumers from the side-walks with generous offers. You know, what I loved best in this place was the fact that every coffee came with free sweets! And I don't mean a chocolate biscuit, I mean big savoury Lebanese sweet, full of syrup and nuts! If you ever find yourself in Kaslik or Jounieh and there's a coffee shop owner bribing you in with various offers, don't think twice, cause the vast competition makes the package offered bigger, tastier and cheap.
We had lunch at one of the restaurants by the sea, which had their terrace on the water. Bad thing the Lebanese don't clean the Mediterranean as the rest of the countries do; while we had our lunch our panoramic view was filled with trash floating on the sea and people having their swim in between. Excluding the view in the near proximity, the one deeper on the sea and surrounding us was stunning, sky kissing sea sheltered in the crook of the mountains made our copious meal even tastier. God the Lebanese know how to make their humous and the taboulleh is just fantastic; the white beans never tasted better and the meat had the best condiments in its mix! I loved the food over there, I think one great thing about this trip was the food, no European restaurant with Arabic cuisine can ever match the original! I vouch for it cause I had a taste and I still crave for more, though I don't think I could ever go as soon back and have some.
When we could not eat any more and had no power to walk we took a taxi back to our hotel, of course the rate was 20 dollars, the same as the lunch was charged for. Once back, we went to the Pool Bar to relax and have hookah, no trip to the Arab world should be made without having a taste of the flavoured tobacco. The Pool area was like a small Paradise on earth, nothing to do with the hotel as such, made you feel like it was not even under the same management, which I guess is the thing that keeps Portemilio alive and on prime positions amongst other hotels in Kashlik. At the bar the staff fussed around us and served our orders in minutes, our hookah set we just relaxed and admired the sunset in front of us. After 5 minutes I was dizzy, laughing like an idiot and started seeing double. My husband fret about my well-being and told me to stop play with the hookah cause it seemed quite strong. Even to this day I say that was no flavoured tobacco, something else was in it, because I have occasionally hookah at the bar we go each Friday and I don't laugh like an idiot and see double.
For dinner, we opted to eat in the Hotel, we were dead tired to go for another stroll and lucky find a place to eat, so we risked and stayed inside. The menu was kind of basic but did the trick to cover the hunger so with that Day 1 ended. Actually that night we had some scary things going on as the electricity was interrupted many times and the sirens went on alert and we thought the bombing will start shortly! Though it was only to announce the generators needed fixing, phew.
Day 2 started early in the morning with a big fat breakfast while planning what we should do. Now, I have to say we had no plans, ideas or even maps with important places to see. We said we'd start walking again and where our feet will take us there will stop if it looks interesting, if not walk further and after take a taxi which will have a reasonable driver and will not crazy drive us back to the hotel. Breakfast finished, we asked for a taxi at the reception and we were ready again to face some of Beirut's beauties. Mall is was!!! A beauty indeed, huge as nothing else I have ever been given to see. At the entrance of course there were soldiers to check in your bag or even body search you just in case you were to carry a weapon or something.
The mall has 4 levels up and 4 down, and is very long, covered surface of 50 000 m2, all I can say is that we got inside at 10 AM and left at 9 PM. We learned inside that if you don't want to pay big bills when having a meal, don't order alcohol that's imported, stick to the local beer and you'll be safe; instead of paying 40 dollars for 2 persons and drink wine better drink the local Almaza beer and is as cheap as water. We had so much beer that for one week after we returned we kind of avoided it. We were also told that you can bargain your route with the taxi driver and pay for almost all the trips 20 dollars!!! Even to the airport the fee will be the same and that we were played by the taxi driver that took us to our hotel! Again in the mall we learned that electricity in Lebanon is cut every 6 hours for about the same amount of time as it is on because their station is old and most of the households and hotels work with power generators; here was the explanations for our imaginary bombs and sirens.
Once we decided to return to the hotel we went on and tried the bargaining thing with the taxi drivers, and it worked! We were so proud, ha ha ha, after we spent more on taxi than on anything else since we landed, we finally had the hang of it. This taxi driver was very polite and helpful, one of the few Lebanese we met and did not try to rip us of. He became our guide in Beirut for the next 24 hours. Lucky hubby could finally talk with someone that knew English and did not need my help to translate for him. John, this was his name, told us that we should not leave the country before we went to shop in Bourj Hammoud and had a nice meal in Broumana where the famous Mounir Restaurant is and of course he'll take us around. Why had not we found this guy from the beginning?
Next morning we skipped breakfast and at 8 AM we were already in the taxi on our way to Bourj Hammoud. I love this place, it looks like the old centre of any city in the world, the old trading centre of Beirut which is mainly occupied by Armenian sellers. God, there was everything everywhere. Here was the gold shop with the most exquisite jewellery as for next to find the vegetable trolleys and fruits on the ground. You could find the small corner dealers that had on offer all kind of fake watches, glasses and pens; flawless, they could have been passed as originals easily. The streets where humming with people all over the place and once I looked up I saw the fanciest wiring I have ever had the pleasure to admire. I mean, half of the production of wires in the world where used in Bourj Hammoud! Neighbors stealing electricity from one another, sharing the satellite TV and internet and the wires for clothes made the sky seem a far away world and the people on the streets feel trapped in the webs of a giant black widow. I made sure to snap as many photos I could to be able to prove my seeing.
Any tourist in Beirut should not miss Bourj Hammoud as it is fascinating, I loved it. It has coffee terraces in the middle of the street. What in other places should be roundabouts, here they were transformed in little islands for relaxation with a cup of coffee in front of you. You find brands to buy in originals or copycats, you hear thousands of languages see all sort of faces not knowing if they are to mug you or they're just upset about personal problems. You can easily get lost around here and lose the notion of time. We spent quite allot here, it was impossible not to, if not for the beautiful things we bought, for the way each seller presented their products. You felt like you were at a private auction and you could not miss the rare opportunity not to buy it. We ate trolley delicacies, mostly spicy, made us drink lots of water, made friends with lots of people, because they were simply friendly here. A nice spot pointed out by our personal taxi driver guide.
When we finished with Bourj we called John to take us to Mounir. Breath taking sites, we were driving to high mountains, and as we advanced the air started getting cooler and more bearable. The restaurant is on top of the Jounieh, from up there you can see the whole Kashlik downstairs and part of Jounieh and some amazing views of the sea! This restaurant if huge, mostly used for weddings, parties, baptise celebrations and so on. At lunch time it was full and it had even two baptise celebrations. Because it was summer when we were over, the terrace was open and it was endless; on one side there was a rocky wall with mini water falls, at the back the was a green garden for kids and adults alike to take small walks and unwind as for the opposite side it opened on the valley and the breathtaking views of the sea and the city under. The place it is magic, even though it is opened space during summer, it had the long curtains here and there to emphasize its magic and give a royal feel to it. The food was not great, was gorgeous and in big portions and the attention given for each table was overwhelming! The place had 150 staffers, everything was on speed, no one suffered from waiting, everyone had what desired when desired. This was and is a 5 stars place not only for the food and great service but for the location too.
After our meal we had to return to the hotel and prepare for our departure. I was happy and sad at the same time. Sad I discovered the best of the place towards the end, happy that I was to leave the extreme humidity! During summer Beirut is a real sauna under the sun, not such great fun, everything feels hot and burning.
We left the hotel happily earlier than planned only because John said he'll show us Beirut city to have a glance at how it looks in the centre. If I have never had the pleasure to see extremes in the same place at the same time in my life ever again, now I did. Buildings tall and shiny on one side that are shouting modernism and money and black, with holes from bullets with carpets on their windows on the other side. Rich and poor face to face on the same street and in the middle the presidential palace circled with giant blocks of cements and barbed wire, a reminder that conflict is still lurking in the air.
On some army points you can see badly crashed cars with signs on top that say: "This can be you if you don't pay attention how you drive." and on others you can see stopped cars that are checked all over for illegal guns or suspicious weapons. This controversy of rich and poor, free but always being followed, beautiful but full of scars makes the place fascinating. And when it is only for a short trip is more so of an adventure.
Once arrived at the airport, we paid our driver the famous 20 dollars plus some more for he was the greatest help and we said goodbye to the extreme Paris of Middle East and went on to catch our flight back home. Of course we had to go through the same ordeal of being checked at least 4 times, the security is really intense and a bit scary; and of course even the flight back had a delay of 45 minutes to take off. I still don't know the reason why.
What I really want to point out is:
-take care where you exchange your money and make sure they are small bills
-try to bargain as much as you can, because in the end you'll gain more than you can imagine
-while still home try to find the best offer on one clean with positive reviews hotel
-try to eat only traditional food as it is the cheapest, tastiest and fresh
-drink local beer as you'll spare your pocket to pay extra money
-try to stick with the same taxi driver, you'll save lots of money
-when you receive no help, try and tip and you'll be amazed by how smooth things will work out
-Bourj Hammoud is a must to get lost into
-Mounir Restaurant is my recommendation for the best meal ever
-try the hookah over, and after tell me if I was right
-try to cover as much ground as possible
-don't miss the Mall
-the night life Beirut has to offer is multivariate, this city does not sleep at night (Middle East Paris)
-be brave, that's the way they drive!
I hope I did not bore anyone with my experience, however this trip was balanced between good and bad, though the good won in the end; Beirut was, is and will be one of the greatest Middle East gem. If ever the opportunity will be presented to you, don't miss out, it truly is one unique experience.
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Fulda (pronounced 'Foolda') lies in the geographical centre of Germany. This has not always been the case. This remark must puzzle the readers who know nothing about Germany's recent history. How can a town move? A town can't, but borders can. Before WW2, when Germany included Pomerania (now Polish), Silesia (now Czech) and East ... Prussia (now Russian), Fulda was located west of the centre. After the war, when Germany was divided into different zones by the allies, it moved to the very east of West Germany. The inner German border between West Germany and the GDR (German Democratic Republic) which was also the infamous Iron Curtain ran only 30 km east of Fulda. This ended in 1989, and Fulda finally moved into the centre. Got it?
I had always known about the existence of Fulda but had never visited. Last year in June when I had to traverse Germany from south to north, I decided to interrupt the long journey and put in an overnight stay in Fulda to have a look-see.
I arrived in the afternoon, got a taxi to the nice Hotel am Dom I had found on the net and after unpacking went for a short stroll. I had planned to do the real sightseeing the following morning and to depart again in the afternoon. The first surprise was the size of the town. Considering the public awareness of the town I was surprised by its tininess. In fact, it's only as big as the town in the south of Germany where I live and which hardly anybody knows outside the immediate surroundings. It has a bit more than 64.000 inhabitants. There's a long list of towns with as many inhabitants which are also unknown to people who have no personal relation to them. What is it then that makes it so well known? It's Catholicism and Baroque. Not being a Catholic I didn't know that Fulda was the centre of German Catholicism and that every year tens of thousands of pilgrims flock there to celebrate St Boniface, the Apostle of the Germans. To be honest, I didn't even know that the Germans had an Apostle. It's also the place where all German bishops meet regularly.
Fulda has no tourist information office in or near the station. It's one of those towns where you find it only when you've already passed all the sights without knowing anything about them. It's on Bonifatiusplatz 1 in the Palais Buttlar. In wise foresight I had written to the Tourist Information and they had sent me some brochures. But I don't think that people would have problems finding their way around. The landmark is the St Salvator Cathedral which is a bit elevated and therefore good for orientation. What I noticed at once was that Fulda is not a town for the handicapped who move with the help of crutches or wheel chairs. Even pushing a pram must be exhausting. Cobblestones everywhere! Nice to look at if quaint places are what you like but certainly torture if you live there.
As it were, I saw all sights from the outside on my first stroll. I left going inside and looking at them in detail for the following day. Had I arrived early in the morning, I could have done everything in some hours. I rested my tired feet in the Ristorante Pizzeria La Romantica on the main road which has tables outside. On the other side of the street there's another restaurant also with tables outside. Nobody remembers when it started, but now Germans sit and consume outside cafés and restaurants at all times and in all kinds of weather. Well, there are worse pastimes, aren't there?
The overall aspect of Fulda is pretty. It wasn't heavily bombarded during the war, so what we see is the real thing and not rebuilt Romanesque, Gothic or Baroque architecture only half a century old. I found the people friendly and helpful. A woman told me that living in the middle of the country they were a mixture of the positive characteristics of Germans from the north and those from the south. I have no reason to complain, so it's possibly true. I asked a woman what it was like for a Protestant to live in such an arch Catholic town. She laughed and said that things were getting better thusly implying that they used to be not so good. Now, it's important to mention that I'm not writing about Northern Ireland. Since the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century there have never been open troubles between Catholics and Protestants in Germany. I guess that nowadays religious differences show themselves mostly in nepotism based on religious denominations and the looking down of noses if someone doesn't come from 'the same stable'.
The main street with pretty small shops, cafés and restaurants leads directly to the Cathedral. The first thing I noticed when I approached it where workers dismantling grandstands. The taxi driver had already told me that Amy MacDonald had given a concert in front of the Cathedral the day before for 3.500 fans. I'm sure she doesn't always sing in such a setting!
The Cathedral was built in the early 18th century when the Baroque style was en vogue. Time must pass quickly during a boring sermon, there's a lot to see inside, squiggly ornaments and gold everywhere. But it looks good due to the white walls against which the treasures are set. The crypt is the burial place of St Boniface. As I knew nothing about him, I went down to learn something. While I was reading the leaflet lying there for interested visitors, a woman came up to me and told me in a whisper that the plate covering the sarcophagus had cracked when one of the few bombs fell on the town. I have no idea why she thought I wanted to know this, but it showed me that she cared for the saint. I found that remarkable considering that he died in the year 754 (!).
Boniface was born as Wynfryth in the Kingdom of Wessex. He was a missionary propagating Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. He was filled with missionary zealousness and in 716 set out to convert the Frisians in the north of Germany. Yet they didn't want to be converted and he returned to England. After two years he started anew but this time more in the south, mainly in Thuringia. He became Archbishop, travelled several times to Rome and founded the Abbey in Fulda. When he was nearly 80 years old, he had the not so brilliant idea to try again to convert the Frisians. They still preferred to remain heathens and murdered him and 52 of his mates. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one looking critically at missionary work. Wikipedia writes, "He is regarded as a unifier of Europe, and he is seen as a German national figure. However, there is some modern criticism of his role in the elimination of pre-Christian religious traditions of the era."
I don't intend to take you to all the churches in Fulda, but I'd like to point out the tiny St Michael's church near the Cathedral. It dates back to between 819 and 822. It has a crypt from the Carolingian period and is one of the most significant medieval church buildings in Germany. The contrast to the Cathedral couldn't be bigger. No shiny decorations here, this church impresses with plainness and simplicity.
Out of the church and across the street we come to the well kept Residence Gardens with the pretty building of the Orangery and the 6.8 m high (baroque, of course!) Flora Vase. I noticed that the colours of the flowers in the flower beds were rather subdued, white, off-white, light pink and light blue which gave the garden an elegant aura. Walking a bit deeper into the park one comes to a big picture frame standing freely on a lawn. Everybody looks through it! The sculpted landscape garden seems to be a picture, it becomes even more artful in this way, a nice idea.
It's possible to visit the Residence but I refrained. If you've never been inside a baroque castle, you have to go, no apology can be accepted. But I've already seen lots and was afraid of a baroque overkill. Opposite the entrance of the Residence on the Bonifatiusplatz (Platz = square) stands an enormous statue of Boniface holding an enormous cross in his raised right hand. I had enough of Boniface then - may he rest in peace - and decided to walk to the old quarter of Fulda which is at the other end of the main street. The streets are narrow and crooked there, many buildings half-timbered. Lots of shops and restaurants invite you to spend your money.
As it was beginning to rain, I decided to say Good Bye to Fulda. I know that there's a lot more to see. Several museums sound worth a visit. Maybe I'll pop in again. Next year I'll be travelling to the north of Germany another time. So, who knows?
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