Hamburg, (Germany)

“Roman Treva”, “Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg”

Hamburg, Germany, July 2019

Again the finally well deserved time to come back to a city I have never returned since the first and only time 9 years ago, Hamburg. Why this long is easy to explain, basically being concentrated in visiting hundreds other cities across dozens of countries across the globe. In a lapse of 9 years I can easily count 90 countries and over 400 cities and places, most of which available here in my travel blog for anyone to enjoy a proper guide. No need to mention this is a great excuse for remaking this entire guide adding lots more to what was there already and bringing it a most up to day bump.

How a city can change in that many years is fascinating to be honest. Back then I remember a lot of cranes and construction going on. The second largest city in Germany was transforming and evolving itself, gentrification at its best and incredible projects coming out from the countless derelict areas around the former docks and factories. Restoring its heritage buildings while designing a proper 21st century city. Today, most of it is done, and new projects being drawn ever since. What has been a very industrial city, suffering from destruction during the WWII raids, the 1962 North Sea flooding, and then from the closure of dozens of factories, re-emerged  wealthier each time as a key tourist destination in Germany focusing in business, finance, media, research, education, science, arts and of course what it does best, a major shipping logistic and infrastructure.

Hamburg, together with its neighbouring trade alliance city of Lübeck merely 65 kilometres to the east marked at the brink of year 1241 the origin and core of the powerful Hanseatic League of trading cities; Lübeck itself becoming the capital of such vast network that extended all over the Baltic and benefiting Hamburg ever since in the riches and wealth from the trade.

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Warsaw, (Poland)

“Paris of the North”, The Phoenix City”, “The city that has risen from the ashes”

Warsaw, Poland, June 2019

Time for an entire remake of this travel guide for what it really deserves a city such a Warsaw, one of the most historical and beautiful not just in Poland, but in Europe itself. Yet considering how nice is always return here, this is merely my 3rd time, and very long time ago since the previous trips back in 2012 and 2004. I must say I’ve been quite busy trying to discover as many new cities as possible hence why I kept postponing a return to Warsaw, and plenty other great cities elsewhere in many other countries; however now that I am done with the 51 countries that form Europe as continent I’m glad for taking some further quality time returning. Not the last time either that’s for sure.

Now something I can say from comparing these 3 spacious in time visits is the enormous and sometimes radical change the city has experienced. An amazing gentrification and restoration with fine attention to detail in all that related the UNESCO listed Old Town area, and the incredible and fast growing shiny business district with plenty of ongoing projects to come adding to an already imposing skyline, mostly designed by world renown architects.

I recall being one of the few tourists wandering the city back in 2004, and now struggling to find local people that many years later among the hordes of tourists. Let’s not forget Poland is, over all, a very desirable tourist destination with lots to offer, and so much it has given the world in culture, the arts, astronomy, physics, science, medicine, mathematics, chemistry, biology, music, telecommunications… name any field no matter which, and there is certainly an inventor, a pioneer or a genius excelling at any of these. Are any of this familiar just as some examples?: Maksymilian Faktorowicz (founder of the Max Factor cosmetics company), Józef Hofmann (a pianist who invented paper clips), Ignacy Łukasiewicz (designed and built the world’s first oil refinery and oil well), the Warner Brothers (yeah the biggest media corporation and film studio), Frédéric Chopin (the composer), Nicolaus Copernicus (mathematician and astronomer), Marie Curie. Or stunning cities such as Krakow, Katowice, Gdansk, Torun, Poznan, Wroclaw.

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Ironbridge, (United Kingdom)

“Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution”, “First bridge in the world made of cast iron”

Ironbridge, United Kingdom, May 2019

For a long time now I was keen to come and visit this place. Double famous in which it was the area commonly referred as “the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution” since it was at the nearby village of Coalbrookdale where Abraham Darby developed the technique of smelting iron with coke resulting in an infinite cheaper production of iron. And with cheaper iron came railways, factories, infrastructures and unstoppable construction. And secondly, the construction of the first ever cast iron bridge in the world opened in 1782; quite an achievement back in the days, yet gifting the world with a new method of cheap construction of bridges and structures.

This trip happened all in a perfect bank holiday weekend. A long due return to Liverpool and Chester the previous days, while as for the return towards London taking the road into the County of Shropshire, passing through beautiful scenery and villages before reaching Coalbrookdale and the Ironbridge Gorge, all of which listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

While there is not that much over here to keep you busy for a day, nor half a day, it is true that should you be wishing to enter the plenty of museums in the area and considering their opening hours, then you should consider and plan this ahead. Our main aim was to visit the Abraham Darby’s blast furnace and surrounding buildings, and of course, the slender and elegant Iron Bridge. Giving us enough time to walk around the nature and side by side of the canal, and a copious lunch at one of the many beautiful pubs available along the main street in Ironbridge parallel to the River Severn.

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Liverpool, (United Kingdom)

“The Pool”, “The World in One City”, “City of Talent”, “City of World’s Firsts”

Liverpool, United Kingdom, May 2019

For a very, very long time now I was keen to have a travel guide for this beautiful and vibrant city, but it was also many years since the last time I was there, long before I even started to create my travel blog hence I knew I had to return one day to get and compile the most up to date information and news, and experience it all once more to finally be able to share with you all what I consider as one of the most fascinating and impressive cities in the United Kingdom. A city that has given the entire world not just its name as such, but an entire institution of what its name means in the world of industry, transport, finances, arts, crafts and yes; music. The Merseybeat era (also known as Beat music or British Beat, with The Beatles the most prestigious band ever in history at the time.

A city not of Roman origin, celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2007. Ever since, the rapid transformation and consciousness in the incredible heritage, rich history from every building’s walls and its magnificent harbour and old docks transformed a decaying and quite dilapidated city into a modern thriving 21st century destination. Project after project, the change became unstoppable and continues to be so, to the point in which the prestigious listing of being an UNESCO World Heritage Site is nowadays in danger to retain. See it for good or for the bad, the organization claims that the continuous rise of taller and taller towers, striking museums and a blend with such post-modern style next to the most celebrated architectural classical icons is distorting the integrity and identity.

Many sites and entire ares in the city are UNESCO designated, notably what refers to its most direct past with the sea as a mercantile city. These are the magnificent Albert Dock and the Pier Head among others. Liverpool was once thriving in trade and transatlantic passengers; and there is another part of the city’s history, home to the Cunard Line and White Star Line, with some of the world’s most famous ocean liners registered in its port such as the Titanic, Olympic or Queen Mary. (more…)

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Avila, (Spain)

“Roman Abela”, “The Town of Stones and Saints”

Avila, Spain, April 2019

Impossible to think nor remember when was the only time I’ve ever been to this beautiful city, when I was a kid and never returned. Silly to think about it, how is it possible being that near Madrid and so easy accessible from here whether by train or bus, merely an hour and a half centre to centre. Considering the enormous patrimony and heritage, the only city in Spain retaining its medieval town walls absolutely complete and the city with the highest number of Romanesque and Gothic churches and constructions in the whole of Spain, it is no surprise it became one of the first entire cities to be listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

It’s the capital of the province of the same name, one of 9 that forms Castile and Leon, also one of the less populated. Barely 50.000 inhabitants. For much of its history it has been coexisting in the shadow, where no important events have taken place other than the fights between the Moors and the Christians. It was this quietness and somewhat remoteness from other bigger and important cities that left the heritage almost intact, a city that never needed to expand beyond its walls hence never tearing these apart, a perfect medieval city with some of the finest Romanesque buildings in Spain.

Not to mention, a day is well more than enough to enjoy it in full. The perfect day away from Madrid if that’s your base. After all, Madrid can be an idyllic base in order to reach stunning places and cities at around a maximum of an hour and a half distance, most of which listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Talavera de la Reina, Toledo, Aranjuez, Cuenca, Alcala de Henares, Guadalajara, Segovia, El Escorial.

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Antwerp, (Belgium)

“Gallo-Roman Antverpia”, “The Diamond Capital of the World”

Antwerp, Belgium, May 2010

It’s great to travel back to cities and places when long time elapse in between the visits, and especially if that is to one of the greatest cities in terms of history, architecture and sights. To me, this is the third time here. If the first was the shortest as all I had was few hours interconnecting buses on way from Brussels to Amsterdam with the second time way longer than before; now this is the longest I’ve been hence covering deeply every sight and corner of the city. A great chance as well to now completely revamp this travel guide, rewriting and reviewing most of it.

Antwerp is the second largest city in Belgium after its capital Brussels, and with difference, also the second in elegance and richness. While Ghent and Bruges are incredibly beautiful places, these are first smaller, and secondly, like taken out of a fairy-tale. Antwerp in the other hand is grand and one can feel how powerful it once was.

Its port remains second in Europe, and one of the biggest in the world. It is merely 25 kilometers to the North Sea along the Westerschelde estuary of the River Scheldt that cross the city. One of the most important trading cities in the 16th century especially during the Spanish rule when it was the sugar capital of Europe after such commodity was coming from the colonies; cinnamon and pepper from Portugal and plenty others, translating in rivers of wealth and countless merchants coming to the city, and earning the Spanish crown seven times more revenues than the Americas.

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Saint Lucia

“The only country in the world named after a woman

Saint Lucia, January 2019

One more island, and another country before a last one in this trip. Moving on from  Antigua onto the exotic Saint Lucia, docking at its capital city Castries. The only country in the world named after a woman; pulled back and forth for 14 times between the French who were the first to settle in the island and the British; it became permanently a British Oversee Territory until 1979 when it gained full independence. The Queen of English however, is still the head of the state as Saint Lucia is part of the Commonwealth Nations.

Among its key sights in such a small land, nature and landscapes are somehow unique. The incredible rain forests, such exuberant vegetation and truly paradise beaches all around, but something unique adding to the excitement, it is one of the few islands in the world that contains a drive-in volcano. This is self-described by the word, you can be driven right there to the very edge of the boiling water springs, but do not expect any height, instead a rather hilly area at the backdrop of Soufriere with marvellous views towards the colonial city, the coast and the world famous Pitons Mountains.

Both cities of Castries and Soufriere, the “largest” in the island yet tiny when compared to normal standards of size and population are straightforward to visit. It’s merely an hour or so and you have completed all the nice colonial buildings around, hence when planning your time be mindful of this, while sticking to the limitations if you’ve come on a cruise which generally gives you from the morning around 8.00am until 18.00pm. That’s well enough to actually enjoy the best sights in the island which are along the west coast and in between Castries and Soufriere and the Pitons, some 40 kilometres apart from each other. (more…)

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Antigua and Barbuda

“Land of 365 Beaches

Antigua and Barbuda, January 2019

After such a little piece of paradise that was Tortola, although anywhere in this trip and all the islands we are visiting are pieces or paradise, we dock in the capital city of a new country in the list of countries visited so far to date, Antigua and Barbuda. That’s 97 as of today, exactly the half of the world’s currently independent nations (it’s 195), and still 2 new ones to come in the next few days to rise to an astonishing 99.

The country name was, likewise almost all other islands in the region, given by  Christopher Columbus in 1493 in his second voyage in honor of the Virgin of La Antigua in the Seville Cathedral. It was nevertheless not a priority island to form a settlement, and has been for majority of the history part of the British Empire and Kingdom, until gaining sovereignty on the 1st of November 1981. Since that date, it remains a member of the Commonwealth, where Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state.

The twin islands country, an other islets in between has some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, hence why its fame, especially the island of Antigua. Barbuda, while smaller and more secluded, is by far less visited, rarely included in any cruise trip, and as of today is still recovering from the almost total destruction that caused Hurricane Irma in 2017. (more…)

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