P.S. – Stephansdom Wien


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I don’t usually like taking pictures in churches. For as beautiful as they might be, I always like to think that there is at least one place where our eyes and our spirituality should be more important than the reporting activity. Of course, the same happens to me in mosques or temples.

St. Stephen’s Dome in Vienna was no exception, but I still captured a few images that will help me describe the experience I lived there.

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Summer in Vienna can be particularly warm, and entering the Stephansdom, right in the middle of the most famous square in Vienna, Stephansplats, is a joy for your body. The building hugs you in its shadow, and refreshes your skin.

History

The big construction dates back in the middle of the 12th century. The unfinished building was consecrated already in 1147, almost 15 years before its completion in 1160.

The church was commissioned by the Margrave of Austria, Leopold IV, former Duke of Bavaria.

There are many different versions to the story that explains why the church was built right there.

Until 2000 historians believed that Stephansdom was built in an open field right outside of Vienna; said field was supposedly one of the territories given to the city after the Treaty of Mautern.

However, relatively recent archaeological discoveries were made: not even 3 meters below the surface of the Dome, there are graves that can be dated back to the 4th century. Revealing that Stephansdom was not built in an open land, but it was purposely built on an ancient cemetery of Ancient Roman times.

Unfortunately, neither the historians, nor the clerics can explain why Stephansdom was built on an Ancient Roman cemetery.

Architecture

Stephansdom takes the name to the saint to who it is dedicated: St. Stephen. He was the patron of the bishop’s cathedral in Passau.

This explains why the geographic coordinates of the church are 48.2085°N, 16.373°E. In Catholic culture, St. Stephen is celebrated the day after Christmas, December 26th, and said coordinates indicate the orientation of the sunrise on December 26th, 1137.

The Dome is entirely realized with limestone, and it measures 107 metres in length, 136 metres in height at its tallest point, and it’s wide 40 metres.

Although what we see is this majestic construction in Gothic style, at first, before Duke Rudolf IV’s intervention in 1339-1365, the church was smaller and mainly Romanesque in style.

Now, 18 different altars ornate the interior of the Dome, and several chapels are dedicated to various saints or icons of the Catholic tradition.

I cannot say that it was an ugly church, but I cannot say it was the most beautiful I’ve ever seen either. It was a normal church, and the interior was average.

However, I liked the pulpit a lot. The stone pulpit is another Gothic element that makes the church a bit less average and more unique. It was realized by Anton Pilgram (or at least that’s what tradition says).

Pulpits are not too common in modern churches, but before any form of electronic amplification was invented, they were useful places from which the priests could do the sermon and be heard by the people.

The figures that are reproduced on the pulpit were explained by the audio-guide, and are said to be the Doctors of the Church: St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Gregory the Great, St. Ambrose, and St. Jerome. What the sculptor did was not only to reproduce the four different people, but to depict them in different stages of life, as to create a sort of religious-human syllogism sculpted in stone.

Beneath the stairs there is the symbol that I was most fascinated about: the portrait of a man out of a window. The tradition says that it is a self-portrait of the sculptor, and it famous in Vienna as the Fenstergucker (lit: the gawking man of the window).

Catacombs

If you buy the ticket to visit the interior of the church you will not only get an audio-guide, but the ticket includes a visit to the roof and to the South Tower, as well as to the Catacombs.

I have to say that the catacombs impressed me a lot.

A chubby Austrian guy with a very thick accent guided us through a series of underground rooms and corridors where people used to be buried.

Apparently the catacombs were not only for the members of the Church and for the Royals, but also common people got to get buried there.

When the plague hit Vienna in Medieval times, there were so many dead bodies to bury that there are some underground rooms where people were simply put without being buried. Nowadays you can walk right past those rooms, and the scenery is at the same time creepy and fascinating: millions of bones fill the air the way plastic balls fill the space in a kids inflatable pool.

They are not stones, they are not walls made out of cement. They are bones, and they are so many it seems surreal.

After some more walking I had the chance to visit the Ducal Crypt that holds almost 100 bronze containers with… the organs of several members of the Habsburg dynasty.

Yes. You’re allowed to feel a bit nauseous after this.

In a tiny chamber there are about 15 or 20 sarcophagi with the embalmed remains of some Royals.

I would like to share here the story of one of the embalmed bodies, since when the guide shared it with us I didn’t know whether to feel disgusted or laugh.

People at that time used to die quite young. Look at him for example [pointing at the main sarcophagus in the room]. He was 26 when he died.

Actually, the story of his remains is quite interesting: he died in Italy, and it was summer. As you know summer is Italy is hot, and the trip back to Austria would have taken some days, therefore they needed to preserve the body in some way.

So, they man in that sarcophagus [sorry, I don’t remember who he was] was boiled in red wine, and his body was then transported back to Austria, embalmed and buried here.

Yes. Now you’re definitely allowed to say “euhhh”.

Towers and Roof

The ticket gives you access to both towers. The North Tower has an elevator, and from there you can enjoy a wonderful view of Vienna skyline and admire the roof of the Dome.

The South Tower has no elevator, and the stairs are a lot, but the view is still worth the trouble, and there is an overpriced shop Japanese tourists seem to love.

…but honestly, no view will beat what I felt in the catacombs!

For further information about St. Stephan’s Dome, visit http://www.stephansdom.at.

Stay tuned for the rest of the entries for the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project, follow me on Instagram, and use the hashtag #passportandsunscreen!

F.

P.S. – Just like Princess Sissi, I walked and danced


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When I was a little girl I remember I once asked Father Christmas to bring me a copy of Princess Sissi’s castle for my Barbie dolls. I never enjoyed Barbie dolls, but I most definitely adored Sissi’s TV series, and when I went to Vienna, I knew I simply had to visit Schönbrunn Palace and the gardens.

Schönbrunn literally means “beautiful spring”, and it refers to the artesian well from which the court consumed water.

Schönbrunn Palace used to be the residence palace of the Austrian royal family. However, at first, when the Imperial family purchased the hill in the late 16th century, there was not a residence yet, and the place was used as a simple ground on which members of the royal family could go hunting. In fact, it offers the perfect setting for recreational activities.

It was only in 1695 that the royal family decided to adopt the hill as a potential residence, and Leopold I asked architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to project a majestic palace in Baroque style.

Given the dimensions of the palace and the times in which it was projected, the residential palace was completed only around the end of 1800s, when Maria Theresa commissioned Nikolaus Pacassi to complete it.

Although at first the most stunning thing that impress the visitors is how rigid, enormous, and at the same time scary Schönbrunn Palace is, it’s only once one has the chance to see the back of the Palace that the “magic” happens.

The perfectly symmetric building is open on the front on a relatively big yard, but on the back, wonderful gardens, a labyrinth, and pools amaze everyone.

I truly suggest all future visitors to invest a few extra euros in the Classic Pass ticket. For 18,50 € you can not only take part in the Grand Tour (40 rooms) of the Palace, but it also grants you the access to Crown Prince Gardens, the Maze and the Labyrinth, and especially it allows you to visit the Gloriette Panorama Terrace.

The Palace itself can only be described with the same word Leopold I described it: baroque.

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High ceilings, wooden floors and marble columns, decorations that come from all over the world (my favorites were the ones coming from Japan, adored by Maria Theresa), and a touch of the Royal Family every here and there: most of the rooms were directly decorated or furnished by members of the family, and it gives the place a special touch that kills the formal atmosphere and makes you feel part of the history of Schönbrunn.

Schönbrunn was not only a special place for the Austrian royalty, where someone like Kaiser Franz Joseph was born and lived with his strong mother and unloving wife Sissi, where important decisions concernin the Second World War were taken.

The Palace is special, it brings together so many different historical moments and important personalities that one feels almost over-stimulated to imagine how things used to be centuries back.

Schönbrunn is the place where six-year-old Mozart first performed for a public (made of Maria Theresa and few other royals), and where Kennedy and Khrushchev met in 1961.

From the XVII century until the Cold War, Schönbrunn made its appearance in global history, and the walls seem to hug you and whisper “yes, it’s all true, we can prove it!”.

Not only the palace, but also the gardens are majestic, wonderful, and make you feel a bit of a prince (or princess).

The “must-see” is most definitely the panorama from the Gloriette Balcony: both Schönbrunn Palace and the city of Vienna seem to be literally melting to your feet. There are no adjectives to describe such panorama, so buy a ticket and see it for yourself!

People are crazy about the labyrinth, and I was quite excited too… until I almost fainted in it, so I’m not really able to give an unbiased review… just a suggestion: DON’T FORGET YOUR HAT!

How to get there

  • by metro:  U4 – Schönbrunn
  • by tram: 10 or 58 – Schönbrunn
  • by bus: 10A – Schönbrunn

Tickets

More information about the various ticket options can be found here: TICKETS

Opening Times

  • April 1st – June 30th:  08.30 – 17.30
  • July 1st – August 31st:  08.30 – 18.30
  • September 1st – October 31st:  08.30 – 17.30
  • November 1st – March 31st:  08.30 – 17.00

Stay tuned for the rest of the entries for the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project, follow me on Instagram, and use the hashtag #passportandsunscreen!

F.

P.S. – Analyse me in Berggasse, 19!


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Berggasse, 19. Vienna. Austria.

If this address says something to you, then I can guarantee you two things: you’re a philosophy fanatic, and chances are that you’re my soul-mate.

For the rest of you, no need to be ashamed, this is a special, yet not-too-special, address: it Sigmund Freud’s home and office (now a museum) in Vienna.

It looks like any other 19th century building in the city, but it has a history.

The father of psychoanalysis, Freud, lived and worked there from 1891 until 1938, when he was forced to leave the country due to the rise of National-Socialism.

Just the way it looks from the outside, another ordinary and neat building, it is in the inside: when the psychoanalyst moved to London, he took basically almost all his furniture and belongings with him.

Even the audio guide, that is included together with the entrance ticket, warns you: “If you’re here to see the famous sofa where Freud analysed his patients, we’re afraid to disappoint you, but it’s not here”.

Luckily enough, Freud’s youngest daughter, the only one who followed her father’s career, donated some items to the museum, such as the original furniture of the waiting room, some archaeological artifacts that Freud collected, and other things like business cards, photos, diplomas, and so on.

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As an amatorial-conoisseur of Freud’s writings and discoveries, I couldn’t avoid paying a little visit to the museum, but it’s really not worth a visit if you’re not too interested. Save 8,00 € (adult’s fee) and invest them in a good piece of cake in any nearby konditiorei (= bakery).

Admission fees:

– with audio-guide included:

  • Adults: 8,00 €
  • Students (18-27 yrs): 5,50 €
  • Children (12-18 yrs): 3,50 €
  • Seniors (+65): 6,50 €

– guided tours (between 10.00 and 16.00 – reservation required!)

  • Adults (5+ people): 9,00 €
  • Students (10+ people): 7,00 €
  • Children (10+ people): 4,50 €
  • Seniors (10+ people): 7,00 €

How to get there:

Metro (U) to Schottentor.

Opening times:

Every day from 09.00 until 18.00. Latest entrance 15 minutes before closing time.

 

Stay tuned for the rest of the entries for the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project, follow me on Instagram, and use the hashtag #passportandsunscreen!

F.

P.S. – Relaxing with the dead at the Zentralfriedhof


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After an early morning flight from Rome Fiumicino airport to Vienna, and some initial confusion with the metro system in the Austrian capital, I was able to find my house in Vienna.

The very first day I arrive in a new place I like to simply go around and explore places that don’t require too much of an effort to see and understand. In this specific case, my uncommon tastes brought me to the Zentralfriedhof (lit: Central Cemetery).

As weird as it may sound, I do like cemeteries a lot. Not because I have a secret double personality that likes to revive Goth scenarios, but simply because I find graveyards unique places where to reconnect with my soul and find both peace and inspiration.

Before arriving there, however, I was rather skeptical that a place like the Zentralfriedhof could provide me with inner peace and inspiring thoughts, but it was definitely not the case.

Being it the biggest cemetery in Austria, I was convinced to find myself wondering in an excessively large and impersonal space, where very little place was left to art, and grey, simple gravestones were put all over, in ordinate rows.

Only once I did my own research I could read more about the connection Austrians have with death in general: especially Viennese people believe that the burial has to be the translation of one’s social status, and the grave should be a way to remember a person’s operate on earth.

This clearly explains why even though the Zentralfriedhof was opened in 1874, in the southern suburbs of Vienna, and it’s now the biggest in the country, it is still a place where the dead’s individual achievements are valued, and the final result is a quiet open-space where art and nature find the perfect combination.

The cemetery offers a wide variety of funerary monuments, both pompous and humble, both ancient and modern, all precisely distributed in different enumerated sectors that distinguish one’s social status (VIP gardens), religion (since it is a Christian Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Islamic, and Russian-Orthodox cemetery), and in certain cases the year of death.

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Among the most memorable things I’ve seen there, I would certainly recommend a visit to the section reserved to some great musicians like Beethoven, Brahms, Strauss (both Old and Young), Schubert, and Mozart (who’s actually in another cemetery, but has an honorary cenotaph at the Zentralfriedhof.

Not to forget is also the presidential crypt, where Karl Renner, the first Austrian president after WWII, is buried.

Although all these gravestones are just impressive in terms of emotional and artistic value, I simply fell in love with one special site under the porches: a memorial to August Zang, a miner.

Here are some pictures of the special memorial dated 1848:

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I can firmly say, it was a great way to relax a bit before getting ready to explore the city!

How to get there:

By tram 71 or 72, or via soft-train (S) to Zentralfriedhof, Kledering.

Opening times:

The place is open all days, with different opening times depending on the season. The paper guide I brought with me indicated the following:

  • November – February : 08.00-17.00
  • March – April: 07.00-18.00
  • May – August: 07.00-19.00
  • September – December: 07.00-18.00

Stay tuned for the rest of the entries for the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project, follow me on Instagram, and use the hashtag #passportandsunscreen!

F.

P.S. – A bratwurst to-go at Frankfurt am Main Airport


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***

Since my travel plans were unsure until the very end of June, I had to give up on a direct flight in order not to hurt my wallet too much, and this time my Amsterdam-Rome journey took longer than usual.

I stopped in Germany, at Frankfurt am Main Airport, only 12 KM away from the actual city of Frankfurt.

The last time I set foot there it was 2010, and so many things changed in my life, I’m happy I only had a one hour transfer, so that I couldn’t wander around for too long and feel nostalgic.

Anyhow, Frankfurt am Main Airport (also known as FRA or EDDF), is big, wonderful, and busy. After some research I learnt that it’s not only the busiest airport in Germany, but it’s also the 3rd busiest in Europe and the 11th busiest in the world.

Architecture

The airport was opened in 1936, and served as an important base during WWII, but after the war some mess happened (read it: German air travelers had restrictions – uhuh guess why…).

In 1951 German air travelers had freedom to travel again without restrictions, and four years later Lufthansa decided to use the airport as a hub again.

But so far there was nothing characteristic about FRA airport in terms of architecture or size.

Only in 1962 the importance and strategic position of the airport was fully understood. Since then many renewal and expansion works begun.

The latest expansion is dated 2005-2011, when an architect from Frankfurt itself designed and built a new landing runway and a new terminal (the 3rd). Moreover, also the Airport City Mall changed, and it reopened (after closing in 2007) in 2010, pleasing travelers with a new design and more spaces.

Facilities

Given the size of the airport and its annual passengers capacity of about 65 million passengers, it offers a  wide variety of facilities that are ready to satisfy any kind of travelers: from families that need to purchase baby’s diapers, to businessmen who need to reserve rooms for quick important meetings, to someone like me, who just needed to get busy for a while before catching my next flight.

I know nothing about conference centers, but apparently the Sheraton and the Squaire offer said services.

What I know more about is the so-called Airport City Mall, located in terminal 1, where one can find national and international retailers within almost any price range.

But honestly, why I find cute and funny at the same time, it is how German people are able to maintain their national identity also in such a big, busy, and international-oriented airport. How? With these:

-by suitelife.com
-by suitelife.com

Yes. With bratwurst.

While walking in the various terminals, you’ll be stunned by how many bratwurst stands you’ll see… and how many people with beer and sausages in their hands walking to the gates!

I would have had time for a bite and it was dinner time, but I’m not that of a meat-lover, so I passed… although I’m quite sure a very few customers were dissatisfied with the mixture of oily bratwurst and sauerkraut.

How to get there

From my previous experience, I can say it’s very easy to get a train from the airport, and it’s excellently connected to the city, where one can transfer to other regional/national trains, or simply continue the journey on the same line.

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Finally at midnight I landed in Rome!

Stay tuned for the rest of the entries for the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project, follow me on Instagram, and use the hashtag #passportandsunscreen!

F.

P.S. – With my boarding pass at Amsterdam Schiphol


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***

Every adventure has its beginning, and so does mine.

In my case, the “start sign” often coincides with an airport: Amsterdam Schiphol’s airport.

Located less than 10 KM away from Amsterdam, Schiphol is the largest airport in the Netherlands, and it is the primary hub for the Dutch company KLM as well as for some other ones.

According to some data shared on Wikipedia, Schiphol is the 4th busiest airport in Europe and the 16th in the world.

Architecture

Benthem and Crouwel designed almost all terminals of Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, and the result is something that is not common to many airports: a unique space where there is no actual physical distinction between terminals.

The airport consists of only one big building rather than a complex network of buildings, and it is possible to reach one of the three departure halls from the central plaza. In any case, if someone mistakenly walks to the wrong terminal it only takes up to 20 minutes walking time to reach the furthest gate from any given location.

Facilities

When I end up in Schiphol to hop on a plane I always like to get there at least a couple of hours prior to my boarding. Why? As much as I can be a silent control-freak inside of me, this is not the actual reason.

Schiphol is a pleasant place where to spend time both alone and in company.

The ground floor of the structure is open to anyone, and it offers a variety of shops and restaurants that are not too common in the rest of the Netherlands. One example is Victoria’s Secret boutique!

Depending on the company, the check in and baggage drop can take some time, but I never spent hours in line, so no worries about it. Luckily even if you’re stuck in a long line, you can have the certainty that once you pass the security controls, a new asset of shops, bars, and lounge restaurants is ready to welcome you!

My favorite stops? Flowers and bulbs shopping, and a frozen Chocolate Chip Frappuccino at Starbucks (which just moved to a larger stand within the airport).

There is supposed to be a wi-fi network for all passengers, but I never managed to exploit it at its best… but who cares when you can relax while sitting on one of the comfortable deck-chairs available there right in front of a glass wall that allows travelers to check out the airplanes ready to depart?

How to get there

What I love the most about this airport is its location and how easy it is to reach it from Rotterdam.

Passengers travelling from Rotterdam as well as from other major Dutch cities can simply hop on an Intercity for Amsterdam Central Station and will get to Schiphol very easily, or, even better, can take a Fyra train. In my case the Fyra Rotterdam CS – Schiphol Airport took about 25 minutes and didn’t stop anywhere else but the airport.

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My trip started at gate B31, when a Lufthansa airplane brought me to… Frankfurt.

Stay tuned for the rest of the entries for the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project, follow me on Instagram, and use the hashtag #passportandsunscreen!

F.

P.S. – Rotterdam Special: Blaak Market


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***

Sometimes I really miss Italy, its openness, its happy attitude despite all the mess that’s going on in politics and economy. One other thing I miss about Italy are open-air markets.

Luckily, Rotterdam is also known for its weekly market. Every Tuesday and Saturday, from 8 a.m. until around 5 or 6 p.m., vendors of different cultures showcase their goods and sell them.

The market is quite big, and it starts in the part of the city commonly known as Blaak – this name is taken from the railway station that was built there in 1877. Just to refer to something that most of internationals know: it’s right next to the Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen).

If we consider Blaak to be our imaginary South, the market continues for a few hundreds of meters towards our imaginary North-West.

Here is a screenshot from Google Maps (and my awesome drawing in paint – whoho!):

blaak marketAs you can see, it’s pretty big.

The entire market area is closed to traffic during market days, and I believe it has traffic restrictions during the rest of the week.

Rotterdam is not my favourite city, and it will never be, but it’s nice to believe that up to a certain extent, people from different ethnic and religious groups are still able to peacefully live together in the same environment.

Rotterdam Blaak Market is however the proof that interracial co-existence is possible: Dutch florists have their stands right next to Turkish bakers, Moroccan  sellers are next to Spanish importers, and the mixture is wonderful.

rotterdam market

The market itself offers quite some variety not only in terms of nationalities of the vendors, but also in terms of goods one can purchase.

Most of the items can be classified as belonging to one of the following categories:

a) Food

b) Flowers

c) Clothes

d) Second-hand

Food stands at the market are my favourite. I’m definitely not one of those people who “eats everything”, but I do appreciate fresh items when I see them.

Every single time I visit the Rotterdam Blaak Market I am impressed by the variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, and especially fishes that are available – and you have to believe me if I say that I can spend hours deciding which fish to buy!

Turkish stands are the best for breads, spices, teas, and dried fruit. I’ve never been to Istanbul, but I’m sure that those few stands are quite in line with the Turkish atmosphere!

street food blaakSpecial attention has to go to street food you can buy at the market. Generally Dutch people opt for one of the options above: bread with haring and onions (Broodje Haring), typical Indonesian spring rolls (Loempia), typical Dutch french fries (by Bram Ladage, of course!), and stir fried fish, such as the shrimps in the picture.

But of course, if your sugar reserves are too low, you can always count on the stand that sells Stroopwafels!

c936d2e7-b80a-4ae1-b23b-4b6c5fc9bc19The flower section of the market is my other favourite. It’s way different from the Flower Market in Amsterdam (Bloemenmarkt), but I cannot say I like it any less.

Contrary to Amsterdam’s tourist-trap, Rotterdam’s flower market (or it’s better to say, flower stands) doesn’t offer cute Dutch-related items like a little tulip in a clog, but flowers are awesome, and plants are cheap.

No matter in which season you visit the Blaak Market, the flower stands are always colourful and somehow cheerful.

If you’ll ever want to buy an orchid, you’ll never find a place cheaper than this market: prices range from 2.00€ up to 25.00€ depending on the rarity of the plant. But trust me, a blue orchid for 17.50€ is a steal!

The clothes and second-hand stands are not my thing at all. The items look cheap or broken, and nothing is really useful to an international student who lives in 25 sq meters; but I wouldn’t be surprised if in one of your visits to the market you could make a deal for a used lamp or for a Persian carpet!

Extra tips:

  • Always bring cash money (easy to withdraw at the ING or ABN-AMRO ATMs near the Blaak railway station). There are just a few stands that accept PIN cards, and they’re usually the most expensive
  • Keep an eye on your purse or wallet. Rotterdam has always been a safe place for me, but there are enough stories and news that put me on “alert mood” when I go to the market.
  • Don’t buy the first thing you see. If you like something, keep looking around. Chances are that it’s not so unique, and maybe you can have it (whatever it is – from fruits to shoes) for a better price.
  • Go early or go late. Both times have their advantages if you want to make good deals, but avoiding the rush hours also means that you won’t live the experience the best way.
  • Raincoat & Sunscreen. Make them your best friends depending on the climatic situation. Avoid umbrellas and hats for security and comfort reasons!
  • Smile at the guy from the fish stand. I am sure the explanation is superfluous.

Stay tuned for the rest of the entries for the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project, follow me on Instagram, and use the hashtag #passportandsunscreen!

F.

P.S. – BBQ in Zwanenburg


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***

Yesterday one of my closest friends in the Netherlands gave a barbecue in Zwanenburg, North Holland.

If you see it on Google Maps, it seems to be extremely close to Amsterdam (11 KM), and I was sure it wouldn’t have taken me long to get there from Rotterdam. I was completely wrong.

Made the premise that I had to wait for an hour in Delft for another friend to join me and my travel partner for the day, the journey lasted – including waiting time – about two hours.

From Rotterdam Central Station there are no direct trains that stop at the Halfweg-Zwanenburg train station, meaning that you can either:

a) take a train from Rotterdam CS to Haarlem, then take another train to Zwanenburg;

b) take a train from Rotterdam CS to Amsterdam, then take a sprinter to Zwanenburg.

We chose the latter option, and enjoyed a few minutes of sun at Amsterdam Central Station.

When we finally made it to Halfweg-Zwanenburg, we immediately noticed how even if it’s a place just 11 KM away from the busy and touristic Amsterdam, Zwanenburg is the typical “little town”, rich of green spaces, kids playing in the streets, and cute houses with tiny gardens.

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Zwanenburg is a relatively “young” town. Until the 1800s, it was completely submerged by water, and it was only when technology was advanced enough to drain great quantities of water that the land became an actual town.

As it happened in most of the former-marshy lands, the first people who colonized the land were the ones who took care of water drainage.

In the 19th century the train system in the Netherlands was already good, especially the connections between the two industrial cities of Haarlem and Amsterdam.

Now look at this map:

HZA

As you can see, Zwanenburg is right there in the middle!

In a time when connections between Haarlem and Amsterdam were so important, the town of Zwanenburg became an important center for commuters, and offered new jobs.

Right next to the railway station, you can see an old building from the second half of the 19th century.

I was told by one of my travel companions that it used to be a sugar factory and that it’s now a building with offices inside.

Unfortunately the light was terrible, and I didn’t manage to take a good shot, but here is the picture offered by Wikipedia:

sugar halfwegI don’t know about you, but I have a passion for buildings from the late-Industrial-times, and associating this former sugar factory with boring offices is something that really bothers me… I hope I’ll somehow “forget” it’s an office building now.

For the rest, the town was very pretty, very green, and very “familiar”. The population is less than 8,000 people, therefore I am sure they all know each other quite well – which might get a bit boring, I guess.

I don’t recommend it as a city if you come from abroad the Netherlands on vacation, it doesn’t have that much to offer, and apart from a few family-owned shops, not even shopping seems like an appealing option.

But if you’re Dutch or simply living in the Netherlands, why not spending a relaxing afternoon in Zwanenburg? Maybe drinking an iced tea near the water could become your family’s new Sunday activity!

As for me, the barbecue was lovely, the people nice, the food amazing, and someone even gave me medications for hay fever – couldn’t ask for anything better!

Stay tuned for the rest of the entries for the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project, follow me on Instagram, and use the hashtag #passportandsunscreen!

F.

P.S. – setting the mood


You are currently reading  from the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project.

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When you go on a trip you always need to make sure you have everything you need with you.

Keys, passport, beloved sunscreen, hotel reservation, and so on.

However, one thing I believe is fundamental is often forgotten by many people: the mood.

Before leaving for my travels I always need to take a few days for myself and actually make sure that I “set the mood” for holidays.

It happens always more often that people will work until the very day they jump on a plane for a foreign country, and when they get there, the first few days are sort of “wasted” by getting acquainted with the feeling that screams “I AM FREE FROM MY OBLIGATIONS!”.

So today, in order to make sure I don’t waste any time during my long holidays, I bought a lovely magazine I already saw once before at the book store: Monocle.

Monocle Magazine

Heavy as hell, rich of pictures and travel articles, Monocle Magazine could easily become my favourite magazine… No wonder it sets the perfect mood for travels!

Will enjoy it in tiny bites while sitting on my balcony in Rotterdam.

Stay tuned for the rest of the entries for the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project, follow me on Instagram, and use the hashtag #passportandsunscreen!

F.

Delicious pizza I ate last January in Italy

Let’s make pizza together


Delicious pizza I ate last January in Italy
Delicious pizza I ate last January in Italy

“Pizza is a lot like sex. When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.”

 

To me, making pizza is a bit like making love.

You start out of a few messy ingredients and end up with something deliciously hot.

Flour and water go together, a bit of oil never harms, but not too much, otherwise the dew is slippery.

You need the right amount of salt, and you need to make sure the yeast is of good quality and warm enough.

Then you have to work hard. It’s pure physical exercise: work with your hands, use your muscles, move your back and your bottom in accordance to what your senses say.

You know when to move faster and when to slow down, because in the end, the dew has to be perfect.

And then it has to be flattened down, again you need to use your arms and hands, and maybe use some extra “accessories” that help you accomplishing the goal.

When you’re almost there you know that perfection is just around the corner, so you pre-heat the oven, you add your own taste to the topping, and you finally put it in the oven.

Timing is crucial: the base has to be crunchy but not burnt, and the mozzarella has to melt but not to be bubbly.

And when it comes out… it’s an orgasm for our taste.

Making pizza is a bit like making love… so, when are we cooking together?

F.