Category Archives: History

Carmel-By-The-Sea Day Trip, Point Lobos and Mission Carmel

~K~

Just about an hour and a half south of us here in San Jose lies the world famous Carmel by the sea. While we’ve visited Monterey, which is just a few miles north, we had yet to really take in Carmel.

The picturesque location of mountains meeting the sea shore gives no wonder to why it’s such a popular day trip for many in the Bay Area. We had been back in California for a couple months at this point, and I was really itching to get a good coastal hike. After some research I decided I wanted to go to Point Lobos State National Reserve and Briana planned a couple other stops for our time down there such as Mission San Carlos Borromeo del río Carmelo (better known as Mission Carmel). 

Whaler's Cove Point Lobos

Mission

Stairs At Mission Carmel

We arrived at the Mission just after noon on a very clear and somewhat warm Sunday. It was pretty busy, as it is an operating mission, but we managed to get parking easily enough and made our way in to see the site.

The campus is large, and a perfect example of a classic Spanish Mission: adobe plaster, warm colored brick, and ceramic tile roofs. Mission Carmel had a distinct charm and personality to it, one that I find perfectly characterized by it’s crooked window above the entrance to the church.

Fountain At Mission Carmel

The grounds were well landscaped with numerous flowers and fountains. Throughout the compound there were also numerous rooms that we could visit that held various histories and artifacts related to the Mission and surrounding area.

Chapel Entrance At Mission Carmel
Fountain At Mission Carmel

The mission was established June 3, 1770. The mission served primarily to baptize the native Ohlone Indian population. It reached a peak of 927 members in 1794, but had dwindled back down to 381 by 1823.

Graveyard At Mission Carmel

The missions was secularized in 1833 by the Mexican government and slowly fell into ruin and disrepair until the Roman Catholic Church regained authority of the mission in 1863, with extensive restoration beginning in 1931.

Tomb At Mission Carmel

Today the mission serves multiple roles as a museum, working mission, and minor basilica.

Display In Mission Carmel

Carmelite Monastery

We also planned on visiting the Carmelite Monastery on our way to Point Lobos. I had thought this would make for a good starting point to our Point Lobos excursion. I was wrong – but it was still a nice stop.

Carmelite Monastery Monterey

The Monastery is mostly closed off to visitors. While you can visit, you will need to set up an appointment first. With that being said, you can walk around the grounds and enjoy the sea breeze.

Bri in The Carmelite Monastery Garden
Carmelite Monastery Garden

Point Lobos

Having parked at Monastery Beach, which sits across the street from the Carmelite Monastery, we made our way along the beach in search for the trail into Point Lobos. The maps online are very misleading, because it appears that you can enter the park via a trail at the far end of Monastery Beach – you cannot do this. As such, we walked about a mile up the road to main entrance to the park. It also turns out this is the only entrance into the park.

Monastery Beach
Warning Sign for Monastery Beach

Parking costs $10, however, there is no charge for people just walking in as we did. When you enter the park, you are a little bit away from the actual coast. Because of this, we set off for Whaler’s Cove via the Carmelo Meadow Trail.

Forest Trail through Point Lobos

Whaler’s Cove is the largest cove in Point Lobos, and it offers stunning views the seashore. Upon arriving, we were treated to a fresh breeze and picturesque landscapes. We slowly made our way around the top of the cliff sides until we reached a boat launch.

Whaler's Cove Panoramic

Here at the boat launch, we were treated to a great surprise: a Sea Otter with her pup, eating crabs. We sat here and watched for nearly a half hour before proceeding on. It was mesmerizing to watch the wildlife here, and we managed to snap a few other pics of the local sea life.

Sea Otter Eating A Crab
Crab on the Rocks

From here, we proceeded up a trail along the cliff edge and continued on the trim around the coastal trail. Here you can find a small whaling museum to visit. The museum features stuff such as the equipment used by whalers, whale bones, and baleen.

Whaling Display Near Museum
Bri With Whale Bones

Cannery Point offered a great view of the ocean (as did most spots). Artists sometimes will take advantage of the location.

Overlooking Whaler's Cove
Man Painting At Point Lobos

We kept on, passing through Big Dome and Cypress Coves before beginning to head back. While we only saw half the park at this point, we were beginning to get tired and the sun was beginning to go down, and we wanted to get back home before dark (we didn’t).

Cypress Cove Point Lobos

So when we came to a trail junction near Headland Cove, we turned inward back towards the park entrance. The park was very well maintained, so these trails in the interior were well manicured, paved, or had wooden walkways.

Meandering Trail In Point Lobos

The southern half of Point Lobos is considered phenomenal as well, as we plan on eventually making our way back to see the rest of the park. For those interested, you can also go scuba diving here and if you catch the park in the right season you can see whales and seals as well.

Sea Otter In Whaler's Cove Point Lobos

Entrance to Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

Thang Long Water Puppet Theater (Hanoi)

~B~

Soon after learning about this traditional art special to Vietnam- I put it on my must-do list for the country. We knew we would have multiple opportunities to catch a water puppet show so we put it off in Ho Ch Minh while we did other activities which could only be found there such as the War Remnants Museum, the Cu Chi Tunnels, and so on. Our first glimpse of a water puppet theater stage occurred there, though, in the Museum of Vietnamese History. There was a room with a stage and seating off to the side of one of the museum rooms where you could catch shows at certain times. This show, while on a smaller “stage” than the show we ended up seeing, is allegedly quite good! We might have gone except that it was starting as we arrived so we didn’t have much time to debate the extra little cost (we were on quite a budget at that time). There were other options in Ho Chi Minh as well, but ultimately we ended up going to the famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theater after making it to Hanoi.

Water Puppet Theater Entrance

One special thing about seeing the show there is that water puppetry actually originated in north Vietnam (specifically in the Red Delta River area in the north) back in the 11th century. Apparently this was a form of entertainment used by villagers when their rice fields were flooded. They were sometimes used to celebrate the end of the season (and possibly on other special occasions). In the old days, they would build pagodas in the rice fields which could hide the puppeteers who would stand in the (waist to chest deep) water controlling the puppets. The water hid the puppet controls and served as a stage. Back then, they would also often be dealing with cold water which could have leeches and water-borne diseases in order to put on these shows.

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater was established in 1969 as a way to preserve tradition and increase tourism. The puppets they use are carved from wood and are controlled with bamboo rods and string. Scenes and skits performed in the show address aspects of daily life for rural farmers like fishing and farming, as well as performances relating to folklore, festivals, and more. Water puppet performers from this theater have toured 40 countries to put on shows as well. If you’d like to get a glimpse of what to expect, you can check out some videos on youtube.

Little Figures

Anyway, this was one of the first things we did our first time in Hanoi. Our last 10 days or so in HCM was spent away from District 1 (location of a lot of the touristy stuff) and was during the period of Tet so we had plenty of time to get work done and were able to go out and sight-see pretty immediately once we got to Hanoi. On our first day out we walked quite a bit but I believe it was the next day we chose to walk to the theater. It’s located near Hoan Kiem Lake and lots of other neat activities in the Old Quarter, but was quite a long walk from our Airbnb at the time.

Road near our Airbnb

When we got to the theater, they were sold out! Be aware that this could happen to you due to its popularity.

Crowded Theater

We did not find tickets available online at the time and it seems it may be fairly common for them to sell out early for the day and sometimes even the next day or two. So- we bought tickets for the next day, got some coffee (for Kyle) and tea (for me) and then wandered around the area proceeding to get quite lost, making our journey back hours longer.

Crowded Hanoi

The next day we were so exhausted we decided to just get a taxi down to the theater for our show time. The funny thing is that all of this could have been avoided because after our 10 days on Cat Ba we ended up staying at a place just around the corner from the theater! That’s how things go I guess! Fortunately, like everything else, transportation is pretty cheap there and our taxi ride only cost us about $2 and we walked the way back (pretty sure we got lost again).

Overall, we really enjoyed the show. I noticed from online reviews that it’s not everyone’s thing- but it was our’s! We weren’t entirely sure what to expect but here are some of the things we liked: 1. It was educational. I felt like I learned a little bit about the history of the area and even a little bit about current life for rural villagers in Vietnam. There were scenes of fishing, festival events, etc. 2. It was entertaining. The show even made me laugh out loud a couple times. 3. It was slightly interactive (like smoke for certain parts and dragons spraying out water- though not really at you per se). 4. The music. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra including a Dan bau, bamboo flutes, drums, and more plays as an accompaniment/accent to the show. There is also some Cheo (a type of opera) singing.

People playing instruments

The only thing that sort of got in the way for us was that we couldn’t understand what the puppets were saying (their “voice actors” spoke in Vietnamese). We didn’t mind because we were in Vietnam, but do feel we might have missed a few things or could have learned more if it was in English or we knew Vietnamese. Still, with many parts the music, tone, and actions of the puppets helped communicate things to us.

Here is the info:
Address: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang – Hanoi – Vietnam
Cost: 100k dong (~$5)
Times: I see varying things online so I would just check in person. Show times are mostly in the afternoon/evening, I believe, though.
Website: www.thanglongwaterpuppet.org
Other info: Shows last for one hour.

Combine it with: Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple, Hoa La Prison (the “Hanoi Hilton”), the Temple of Literature, the Museum of Vietnamese history, the Vietnamese women’s museum, the Hanoi Opera House, and more!

In front of HK Lake

And if you can’t make it here there are a few other opportunities (such as these) across Vietnam to see water puppet shows of varying sizes.

Wat Pathum Bangkok Thailand

~K~

A trip to the heart of Bangkok will take you some of the highest-end malls and to some wonderful parks, and as you walk down Rama I road, you won’t be able to not notice the beautiful white walls and shining gold of Wat Pathumwanaram Ratcha Wora Vihan – or Wat Pathum for short. We stumbled across this Buddhist temple on accident while we were visiting the Siam Paragon Mall, and we saw the tell-tale roofs of a Buddhist temple.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

The temple itself is of a medium size, though it seems dwarfed by the massive malls and skyrail station beside it. The grounds of the temple stand as a quiet respite to the bustling cosmopolitan surroundings.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

The temple was founded in 1857 by King Rama IV as a place to worship near the Sa Pathum Palace. At the time, the area was only simple rice fields, but today it stands in one of the busiest parts of the city.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

The ashes of Thai Royal Family members from the line of Prince Mahidol Adulyadej are interred at the temple. The temple also served as a safe zone during the 2010 crackdown on Red Shirts anti-government protesters.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

The temple is simple, yet elegant and you can quietly slip away from the city here. If you’re passing by, it’s well worth a visit. There is no entrance fee, but of course, you are always welcome to place a donation at a til box.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

You can find it at:

969 Rama 1 Rd, Pathumwan,, Khwaeng Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand

The Tunnels, Book Review

~K~

So a little while ago, we decided to try out this cool thing that Briana found called Blogging For Books. It’s pretty simple, they send you a book for free and then you just have to write a review about it and post it on their site and as a post on your blog.

The first book I chose was “The Tunnels” by Greg Mitchell. I was in no way required to give a good review, simply an honest review. So here we go.

The Tunnels brings to face the harrowing conditions and turmoil that Berlin faced through the height of the cold war. The stories of the individuals, brought to light by the investigative work of Greg Mitchell, highlights the heroics of the ordinary people who braved ever heightening tensions to bring friends, family, and loved ones out of the control of Soviet controlled East Berlin.

The narrative paints a picture of struggle and conflict simmering to a boil. Through the real life accounts of prison, torture, death, and murder – Mitchell keeps the focus squarely on those who orchestrated the tunnel projects under the Berlin Wall and the political developments that brought about the predicament.

The book also serves as an eerily relevant critique of immigration, as a political tool to control and deny people the basic rights of life. In a time when discussion of a new wall being erected sounds out on the news stations, this book serves as a chilling, thrilling, and informative read that stands to not only commemorate those who worked, fought, and died for others, but also as a warning to look at our current day situation.

neolithic settlement at choirokoitia cyprus

Choirokoitia Neolithic Site, Cyprus

~K~

Cyprus is home to several prehistoric sites across the island, with Choirokoitia being one of the largest, and best preserved sites. It also just so happened to be pretty easily accessible. It lies just off the highway about halfway between Limassol and Larnaka and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hill top at Choirokoitia

We made our way out to the site during the time that Briana’s dad was visiting us. Just like our other adventures out to Tomb of the Kings and Kurion, this would also turn into a hike. 

Being the middle of summer, it was really hot out probably somewhere in the mid to upper 90s so we made sure to bring a fair amount of water and we put on a little sunscreen. The site, like much of the island, is very dry, on the verge of being desert.

Cyprus Thistle

Upon arrival, we saw that the site was very well maintained with a visitor entrance, bathrooms, plaques, and some stone pavement. Entrance to the park cost 2.50 Euro per person, so it was not too bad a price.

Entrance
Entry Path

The site lies at one end of a longer hiking trail that will take you to several neolithic sites including the Kalavasos-Tenta (another site you can see off of the highway) and the Byzantine church of the Panagia tou Kambou. However, considering the heat of the day and the fact that the hiking trail was several miles in length, we elected to just see the Choirokoitia site.

This worked out perfectly anyways as we still were able to explore the site itself for around two hours at a leisurely pace. The entire site makes its way around a hill, with several smaller sections to view. Near the entrance, manicured paths take you to various plaques that describe how the aboriginals of Choirokoitia lived on the land as well as about the wildlife, climate, and habitat of the region.

Fig at Choirokoitia
Building at Choirokoitia

There are also several brick and plaster buildings that have been preserved and restored that you can view. These buildings show how family units would have lived, with each building serving as a room, arranged in a circular pattern forming a larger familial structure.

Restored Village
Interior of Restored Village

Moving on from here, the path turns more to a worn dirt trail and makes its way around the bend, overlooking what used to be a river. It could still be river, but it was hard to see if there was any water considering the drought. Regardless, in ancient times, the settlement existed due to it’s location next to the Maroni River.

Hillside

Along this section we found the remains of ancient walls and early settlements. It is believed however, that this particular site was later abandoned in favor of a location further up the hill by a few hundred feet.

Archaeological Trail
Wall at Choirokoitia

When we arrived the larger location we were struck by the enormity of the site. Numerous stone alleyways, rooms, and buildings stood embedded into the hillside. For preservation purposes, we were not allowed to go into the ruins themselves (which were covered by a tarp to protect from the harsh sun), but elevated walkways and ramps provided for ample viewing of the archaeological dig.

Upper Village Choirokoitia

The structure itself feels small due to the fact that the people of Choirokoitia were between 4’11” and 5’3”. The 300 to 600 inhabitants only lived to 35 years on average.

For reasons unknown, the people of Choirokoitia abruptly abandoned the village around 6000 BCE. The region was not inhabited again for another 1500 years. Recent evidence in Limassol has pointed though, to the theory that the people simply moved further west – mostly likely in response to climate pressures. 

Looking at the Restored village

At the top of the village there is a viewing platform that provides for a great view of the surrounding hills and valley.

All in all the site of Choirokoitia is a great place to see. It’s a little off the beaten tourist path that you’ll encounter near Pafos, but it’s no less amazing. If you want to visit, it is open daily from 8.00 – 17.00.

Neolithic Cave at Choirokoitia

Hungarian National Museum

~K~

Half way through our stay in Budapest, we decided that we were going to visit the Hungarian National Museum. The cost of Budapest tested our budget, so we tried to go on the national holiday, during which time the museums were free. We had first gone to the House Of Terror and expected to follow up with the National Museum, but we had severely underestimated how tired we would be from all the walking and just how much time we could spend at the House of Terror.

With time flying by, we decided that we needed to see the museum. We regretted not seeing the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade, so with a little insistence and determination we got up and began the walk to the museum.

It was a pretty brisk day as we made our way. We set off just after lunch, covered up in our winter gear. The walk from our AirBNB took about thirty minutes, but the time passed quickly as we made our way down the busy roads.

HungarianMuseum_2

Entering the grounds, we were greeted by a large columned facade sitting atop a wide staircase. The building was reminiscent of a Greek or Roman temple. The museum was first created in 1802 and initially set up as the National Széchényi Library. In 1807 it became the museum and the Hungarian Parliament donated to the institution multiple times. In 1846, the museum relocated to its current location.

Briana on Steps of Hungarian Museum

Entering the building, we came into a large marble room. Here we purchased the tickets to the museum for 1,600 HUF (~$5.50) each. Because of the cold weather, we had obviously had our jackets on and were directed down to the basement to store our coats and backpack. The coat storage was pretty straight forward, and gave us a great place to begin our exploration of the museum.

The museum has a huge collection of gravestones dating all the way back to Roman times through to the Modern era. We went around the large basement room, checking out the headstones and stone carvings. In the center of the room was a very large tile mosaic.

Headstone
Kyle Near Tombstones
Large Mosaic

After the basement, we proceeded up to the main floor. Here we were able to learn about the paleolithic and early history of Hungary and the surrounding region. There was a heavy emphasis on the iron age and early migration of the Magyar people. I found it pretty interesting, and the museum presented the information very well. 

Bones at Hungarian Museum

Once we finished this hall, we visited the other hall on this floor. It was very interesting and started to get into the medieval history. So here we got to see more exquisite artifacts such as swords, royal jewelry, armor and other such things. We also got to see the influence of east Asian migrations. While it never occurred to me initially, it actually makes a lot of sense considering Hungary’s location on the continent that it would receive a fair amount of migration.

Ancient artifacts

The exhibition halls are very large and takes a pretty good while to get through. Once finishing the main floor, we proceeded up a grand staircase to the second floor. The ceiling of the staircase was painted with intricate murals.

Hungarian Museum Grand Stair

The second floor was even more interesting than the first floor, and it really had some interesting items. There were several rooms and halls on the floor to check out. We didn’t pay to see the special, temporary exhibition, but we did see the other halls.

Museum Hall
Portrait of a Noblewoman

These halls covered the more modern events of Hungary, particularly the Communist uprising and subsequent fall. The Terror Museum covered this far more in depth, but it was nice to have multiple perspectives and sources on such an important event in Hungarian history.

With tired feet, we made our way out and down the front steps of the museum. By this time, the sun had set and rain had begun to fall. We pulled out only remaining umbrella and set out to further explore the city.

To visit the museum, you can find it located at:

Budapest, Múzeum krt. 14-16, 1088 Hungary

It’s hours are: Tuesday through Sunday 10am – 6pm.

Kyle and Briana outside of Hungarian National Museum

Nikola Tesla Museum, Belgrade Serbia

~K~

It won’t take you very long to realize that Serbia takes great pride in it’s citizens. They’ve produced many great names, but there is one in particular that seems to stand a little above the rest – Nikola Tesla.

Bust of Nikola Tesla

One of the great engineers, physicists, and futurists in human history, Tesla has become beloved by the Serbian people. They love him so much they even stuck his face on the 100 Dinar bill (he was also featured on the 5 and 5,000,000 Yugoslavian Dinar bill). The airport in Belgrade is the Nikola Tesla Airport. Today, he is a little less known in America due to Thomas Edison stealing the limelight, but he’s no less important or relevant than he’s ever been. His name has been attached the electric car company “Tesla” in his honor.

In the heart of Belgrade, you can find the Nikola Tesla Museum. The museum was founded on December 5, 1952 with effort from Tesla’s nephew Sava Kosanovic. The museum resides in a residential villa that was built in 1927 according to the designs of distinguished Serbian architect Dragisa Brasovan.

Museum Entrance

The museum is divided into two key exhibits: a memorial exhibit and an interactive one. Upon entering the museum, you will find yourself in the main hall of the house where you can purchase your tickets for 500 Dinar (~$2.50).

When we entered, we had about twenty minutes until the guided tour would begin. While we waited for the tour to begin, we took our time exploring the memorial exhibit. The majority of this section was comprised of his personal belongings as well as his urn.

Urn Of Nikola Tesla

There was not a tremendous amount of information here, though there were a few interesting plaques. Most of it was simply his possessions and a few journal writings and the such.

Personal Items Collection

Tesla Museum Plaque
Tesla Museum Plaque

The real interesting part was the interactive tour. The tours run in both English and Serbian. It begins with an informative video presentation about Tesla’s life. It’s really pretty interesting, starting with his early life and working through his professional life. It briefly covers the most important Tesla’s 300+ patents, and spent a great deal of time detailing his work on wireless power and his Colorado Springs project.

Model of Colorado Springs Facility

He spent much of his time in the United States, working for Thomas Edison. Later, he worked on a wireless transmission tower, but when found out by his financier JP Morgan that he intended to provide free energy, his efforts were shut down. Many of his efforts did come to fruition though, such as the development of AC electrical generators and the building of the Niagara Falls power.

After the video, a tour guide went into further detail about some of the details mentioned in the video. As well, they demonstrated some of his inventions such as wireless transmission of energy.

Motor
Wireless Energy
Lightning Plate

The most interesting – and entertaining – was the demonstrations with the Tesla coil. It could shoot over 1,000,000 volts of electricity, but it was turned down to create cool little lightning bolts to shock people with.

Tesla Coil

The tour ended after about 45 minutes. The museum while a little on the small side, packs a nice punch and makes for a great short activity.

Invention Exhibit
Briana In Tesla Museum
Kyle In Tesla Museum

You can find it at Krunska 51, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia.
Tuesday – Sunday 10:00 – 18:00

Nikola Tesla Museum Belgrade Serbia, Tesla Coil Lightning

late afternoon october Belgrade Serbia Interior gun display of kalemagden fortress belgrade serbia

Kalemagdan Fortress Of Belgrade, Serbia

~K~

After a long walk from our AirBNB, we began our final approach through the well manicured, gently rising park to Kalemagdan Fortress. Sitting atop the ridge at the confluence of the Danube and the Sava river, the fortress has stood as the center of Belgrade since it was constructed by Justinian I in 535. The city had existed though since the 3rd century BCE as Singidunum. The fortress has remained an important icon to the history of Belgrade, standing strong through the mainly invasions and occupations of Serbia.

Kalemagden Statue
Kalemagden Front Gate

Passing through the flowered gardens, vendors with trinkets, and statues and busts of famous figures, the crisp wind of fall swept through the descending leaves and welcomed us into the massive stone entry. We were brought into an interior space filled with relics from the World Wars, most notably artillery, as well as recreational spaces. We proceeded on though, as were making our way to upper part of the fortress.

Kalemagden Park
Kalemagden Canons

This was not our first time at Belgrade Fortress, due to it’s location and size, it’s quite easy to make several trips to visit. We previously had ventured along the western side of the fortress, looking down upon the Sava and it’s moored bar / barges. The gardens that surround the fortress offer a great place to relax. It also offers wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Kalemagden Wall Overlook
Kalemagden Wall Overlook
Kalemagden Sava River

Our first foray into the fortress was from this western side, and presented slight difficulty as there was some construction going on. However, a quick climb put us right at the top and inner field within the fortress. We took a few photos, but as we’d already had a full day, we did not do a full exploration of the grounds.

Kalemagden Draw Bridge
Kalemagden Interior Home
Kalemagden Front Cliff

However, this time, we took a more thorough look around, and already knew what to expect and where to look. We were in search of the Ruzica church which we knew lay at the northeastern edge of the fort.

Kalemagden Ruzica Walls

We made our way out through the various bridges and fortifications of the massive fortress and eventually came out at one of the entrances facing the Danube. Jutting from the base of the walls was the Ruzica church. The church is small, but has a character to it. The chandeliers are made of the used bullet casings and swords from soldiers during the first World War.

Kalemagden Briana In Ramparts
Kalemagden Side Gate
Kalemagden Cliff Gate Briana
Interior of Ruzica

Setting out from the church, we could see the sun was beginning to set on the Danube, and we made our way down the hill towards a small ruin. What it was, we don’t know, but the crumbling stone walls indicate it was of some importance to the massive fortifications above.

Kalemagden Grass Hills
Kalemagden Field Path
Kalemagden Ruins

Before night fell, we made our way out of the fortress compound on the north where a large manicured field lays.

Kalemagden Panorama

The region around and within the fortress houses a lot to do. There is the Belgrade Zoo, Fortress Exhibition, Gallery of Natural History, and the Monument of Gratitude to France.

Kalemagden Dino Park
Zoo Mural
Kalemagden Tennis Courts
Kalemagden Briana On The Ramarts

The Big Churches Of Belgrade, Serbia

~K~

Christian influence into the region we know today as Serbia began in the 2nd century. Byzantine missionaries in the 9th century promoted and spread the religion across the land, with Christianity being declared the state religion.

Over the years, the march of history has brought Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and Judaism to the region, but Eastern Orthodoxy and Serbian Orthodoxy reign supreme in the region at 84% of the population.

As such, you can find numerous churches across Belgrade (and the nation). We visited a few of the more notable churches and cathedrals. And needless to say, they are quite impressive. Here I am going to go over the three big ones that should be on your tour lists.

Church of Saint Mark

St Marks Cathedral

This church was the first place that we visited. Sitting at the north end of Tasmajdan Park, it is a stunning and imposing church dedicated to the Apostle and Evangelist Mark. It was originally built in the 1830s, but the new church, as you see it today, was built in 1940.

St Marks Cathedral

The exterior is made of two colors of naturally occurring red stone. The interior is a large room that rises to 60 meters (186 feet). There is highly decorated gold throughout the church.

St Marks Interior
Interior of St Marks

Though we only entered the church once, we passed by it numerous times on our way to other parts of Belgrade.

St Marks Alter
St Marks

Today, the remains of Tzar Dushan, a prominent figure in medieval Serbian history is buried beneath the church.

St Marks Plaque

Saint Sava Temple

St Sava

We came to the Church of Saint Sava multiple times during our stay in Belgrade. The surrounding grounds are large parks and fountains as well as a large library. The church stands as a dazzling centerpiece to the area. We attempted to view the library, however you cannot simply go in as a tourist. We were limited to a very small display of old books and bibles.

St Sava Statue
St Sava Park
National Library

In 1594, Serbs rose against the Ottoman rule, during which time they carried flags with the icon of Saint Sava. The Ottomans responded by taking the sarcophagus and relics of Saint Sava and brought them to Belgrade, where they killed anyone in their path and then burned the remains on the Vracar plateau.

St Sava Front

Three hundred years later in 1895, it was proposed to build a temple to St. Sava at the place of the burning. Construction began in 1905, but was delayed by the first and second Balkan War as well as World War I & II. Construction began again in 1985 and progress has slowly continued.

St Sava Candles

Today, the church is nearly complete. The exterior is finished, though interior work continues as decoration of the walls and dome take form.

St Sava Interior
St Sava Interior Arch

The church is organized in the form of a Greek Cross, with a central dome rising 80 meters, and four semi-domes at each arm. The facade is white marble and granite, and the interior will be mosaics once completed. The church is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world by volume and is the largest in Serbia.

St Sava Murals
St Sava Interior Dome

Ruzica

Outside Ruzica
Ruzica Ivy

We visited the Ruzica Church at the base of Kalemagden Fort on the Danube. The original construction is not known, but the Ottomans destroyed the original church in 1521. It was later converted to a gunpowder magazine in the 18th century and then converted to a military church in 1867.

Ruzica Church
Interior of Ruzica

It was heavily damaged during the first World War and underwent renovations in 1925. Today, the church is decorated by chandeliers built from the spent casings and swords from soldiers during the first World War.

Ruzica Chandeleir
Ruzica Lawn

Ho Chi Minh Museum And Mausoleum Hanoi

~K~

Ho Chi Minh played a large part in making modern Vietnam what it is today. As such, you’ll see him pretty much everywhere you go in Vietnam. He’s on every piece of money, has a city named after him, and numerous other little spots in honor of his name. In Hanoi, you can find his Mausoleum and a museum dedicated to him.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

While in Hanoi the first time, we made a trip into the old quarter and paid a brief visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh is considered a national hero, having led Vietnam to independence against the French and for establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. After his death in 1969, work was put forward to construct a memorial to him. Work broke ground in 1973 and was completed in 1975.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The mausoleum, which sits at the center of Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, was rated the sixth most ugly building in the world by CNN in 2012 – but I believe this is a rather harsh statement to make. The structure is 70 feet tall,135 feet wide, and made of gray granite, inspired by Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow. The plaza in front is divided into 240 squares. Surrounding the structure is a garden holding 250 different species of plant and flower. The banner beside the structure says “Nuoc Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Viet Nam muon Nam” – “State of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam forever”.

We did not get to go into the mausoleum itself, because it was late in the day and you can only visit during the morning hours. But generally, you can see the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh in the central hall of the mausoleum. There are strict rules however: be sure to cover legs, not have your hands in your pockets or arms crossed. No talking, walk in two lines. You also cannot eat, drink smoke, or take photography of any kind. They’re quite serious about paying respect to HCM in Vietnam.

The mausoleum is certainly a somber and imposing visit, but if you’re in the old quarter, definitely check it out. It’s hard to miss the big open space.

The hours are:8-11am Tue-Thu, Sat & Sun Dec-Sep, last entry 10.15am (closed 4 Sep-4 Nov).

After touring the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and it’s grounds, we stumbled across the Ho Chi Minh Museum by accident. They are located in roughly the same vicinity. But it was late in the day, and we weren’t really convinced on it either, so we didn’t go and decided we might come back another day.

Ho Chi Minh Museum Temple

During one of our last days in Hanoi, upon our return from Cat Ba, we decided to go see the museum since it was (kinda) within walking distance. The building sets the stage for what is to come, a large concrete building – imposing in the Soviet style and pretty much devoid of soul. Hello communism!

Ho Chi Minh Museum

Although everything online states that the entrance fee is 30,000 dong, it is really 80,000 dong per person (~$4). So right out of the starting gate, it left us with a bit of a bad taste in the mouth. When you enter, you start by walking up a rather grand staircase and begin the tour on the second floor. It begins with a rather dull, though informative exhibition on the development of the Vietnamese Communist party from it’s conception to present-day.

Ho Chi Minh Museum Entrance
Ho Chi Minh Museum Room 1

You then enter another exhibition regarding Ho Chi Minh and his early life as well as who he became. The exhibit is purely a highlight reel, and takes liberties with his life where things are vague. Apparently, he was awesome guy, and was the greatest thing that ever happened to Vietnam. Totally not propagandist at all. Still, it was more interesting to learn about the guy, he certainly had an impact on the country and instigated many programs and did build a national unity.

Ho Chi Minh Museum Room 2

Climbing up the next layer of stairs, you enter into an atrium with a grand statue of Ho Chi Minh. This room is probably the most inspired of the museum, and feels designed to show you that HCM is the big guy in country if you somehow missed it. Proceeding on into the remaining exhibition room, you do a complete walk around the entire floor. The floor is far more artistic and showcases the struggles of the Vietnamese people, while of course tying it back Ho Chi Minh. Some of the displays seem nonsensical, while others such as the clock showing time of death feel contrived. A few other displays just feel a bit pointless such as random journal writings from HCM.

Ho Chi Minh Statue
Ho Chi Minh Museum 3rd Floor

The museum as a whole is constantly trying to present this auspice of grandeur around the man. To most outsiders, it can come across as coarse and grating – it gets old after the 50th iteration of “westerners are bad, Ho Chi Minh said so”. It also left us a bit angry, seeing how overt the communist propaganda is within the country. The people are held back so much by their government, and the museum is a testament to it.

Ho Chi Minh Museum 3rd Floor

We finished the museum within about an hour and half. You take an elevator from the top floor down to the ground floor and are released into the gift shop. Our feelings as a whole – way over priced, not particularly interesting nor astounding. I’d say to not place it at the top of your activities list. However, with all that being said, it was enlightening in the sense that you got to see the living propaganda and how pervasive it is within Vietnamese life – and you do learn a fair bit about Ho Chi Minh (if you assume it’s true…).

Ho Chi Minh Gardens

If you want to go, the address is Chùa Một Cột, Đội Cấn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam. Keep in mind that photography is strictly prohibited (although no one bothered us when we took a few pics) and that saying disparaging things about the Communist Party or Ho Chi Minh is illegal and can possibly get you into some trouble – so keep your voices low or wait till you’re out of earshot before voicing your “opinions”.

Ho Chi Minh Garden Flower

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