Noto – A Stone Garden in Sicily’s Valley of Baroque

Porta Reale (Royal Gate) Arco di Trionfo – visitsicily.info

Noto is another Sicilian town revered for spectacular Baroque architecture. I visited on Saturday. The Mediterranean has been stormy and weather was overcast and windy – not great for photography.

Chiesa Santa Maria del Carmelo – Camin Vattin

Everything in the complex has unique symbolism and historical significance, I hoped to hire a local guide. Understanding the history and culture of countries makes travel more fulfilling. There weren’t any groups, and Noto private tours are expensive – €120 or more for 1 to 2 hours. Although I’m sure a guide would provide vast information, I’d probably forget most of it, so I decided to do research and guide myself.

Balconies Palace of the Princes of Villadorata – tourisminsiciliy.net

There’s something to be said for well-crafted smartphone tours. They’re effortless and lead you step-by-step from point A to Z allowing you to stop, start, and go back to points of interest at your leisure.

Fontana d’Ercole – Hercules

Noto History

Like Modica, Noto is a small city (population 25,000) in southeastern Sicily. It’s part of Siracusa Province in the Valley of Sicilian Baroque known for captivating architecture. There are about 50 buildings of major interest, mostly churches and palaces.

Dome La Cattedrale Di San Nicolò

Conquered by Arabs in 866, Noto became a “highly armed stronghold” ruled by Muslims for two centuries. Later it fell to Christians and Normans. Totally destroyed by the 1693 Sicilian earthquake, Noto was rebuilt to become “a masterpiece of Sicilian Baroque“. Known as Giardino di Pietra – The Stone Garden – it’s listed among UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

_____________

“Noto is built as if it were a scenography, studying and putting up perspective in a singular way, playing with the lines and curvatures of the façades, with the decorations of the shelves, curls and volutes, masks, cherubs, and balconies from parapets in wrought iron that fold into graceful, bulging shapes.”

_____________

Franciscan Monastery

Porta Reale and Corso Vittorio Emanuele

You enter the city center through Porta Reale (Royal Gate) Arco di Trionfo. Corso Vittorio Emanuele is the main thoroughfare leading to the three main squares. All three are brilliantly “oriented from east to the west for illumination by the sun”. Each Baroque piazza has its own glorious church:

Santissimo Salvatore Church

The churches and palaces were built with local golden-yellow limestone. A flexible stone “enabling elaborate cutting of the monuments and giving off a strong light.”

Cathedral di San Nicolò – tripinsider.net

_____________

“At sunset the warm color of local limestone used to build Noto’s palaces and churches mixes with sunlight, creating an atmosphere that grabs your heart.”

_____________

Piazza XVI Maggio Church of San Domenico – visitsicily.info

Like Modico, there’s much to learn and experience in Noto, a day trip isn’t enough. Even the side streets are a special adventure. In addition to the architecture, there were other distractions – almond sweets, pistachio crème brulée, street musicians, and an art exhibit with paintings by Klee, Dali, Picasso, Mirò, and Giorgio de Chirico. Entitled The Impossible Is Noto, the modern art exhibition “exposes the principle artists of experimental art movements” that seemed “impossible”.

Palazzo Nicolaci May Infiorata – visitsicily.info

La Cattedrale Di San Nicolò

Designed by architect Vincenzo Sinatra, the reconstructed eighteenth-century Noto Cathedral is near the entrance. It’s magnificent! Dedicated to San Nicolò of Mira the cathedral is the “most important place of worship in Noto”.

Cathedral of San Nicolò Rosario Cusenza – visitsicily.info

The Cathedral is across the street from Noto Town Hall – Palazzo Ducezio. Construction began in 1694 and completed in 1703. The façade and interior have undergone many alterations, including a neoclassical dome built after the original collapsed during a violent storm in 1996.

Works of art inside the cathedral were a highlight of my visit. Beautiful art in the three naves is considered “one of the last great sites of contemporary sacred art”. The paintings are indescribably beautiful.

Cathedral San Nicolò and La Chiesa di San Francesco – Wikimedia Commons

Palazzo Ducezio – notoinforma.it

Via Nicolaci, near Cathedral of San Nicolò, is famous for its May Infiorata (flower festival). This floral exhibition is dedicated to the world. Every year the theme features a different country.

Palazzo Nicolaci I. Mannarano – visitsicily.info

Palazzo Nicolaci

Palazzo Nicolaci was built in 1731. It has 90 rooms, frescoed vaulted ceilings, and eighteenth-century paintings. Balconies adorned with forms of animals, spirals, and arabesques surround the palace, the residence of the Princes of Villadorata.

Cava Grande Nature Reserve – thinkingnomads

Chiesa San Francesco

The Church of Saint Francis – also designed by Sicilian architect Vincenzo Sinatra – stands atop an “impressive staircase”. There’s a Franciscan monastery attached to the church, and the inside has a single nave with rococo stucco walls.

Calamosche Beach Vindicari Nature Reserve – lolhostel.com

Interior Chiesa di Santa Chiara – Hermes Sicily

Church of Santa Chiara

Designed by architect Rosario Gagliardi around 1730 the Church of Santa Chiara – known as the church of Santa Maria Assunta – is noted for its “delicate baroque style”. The interior has works of art including walls with stuccoes and cherubs and a nave surrounded by 12 stone columns topped by statues of the Apostles. There’s an adjoining cloistered convent with a beautiful view.

Church of San Carlo and the Jesuit College – visitsicily.info

Nature Reserves in Siracusa Province Near Noto

There are interesting nature reserves, islands, and beaches near Noto. Some are described below. I didn’t find a group hike, but these more isolated areas are on my list for the next visit.

Hillside Asinaro Valley Overcast Day

Oriented Nature Reserve Cavagrande is renowned for its canyon and small mountain lakes created by the Cassabile River. The reserve is a natural quarry surrounded by steep rock walls and known for hiking trails and fantastic panoramic views.

Beach Vendicari Reserve – lacortedelsole.it

Cavagrande Natural Reserve is wild and untouched with hiking paths though Mediterranean woods “thick with berry patches and flowers”. The hiking trails lead to a canyon and pass the remains of villages and a stone necropolis. At the bottom of the canyon there are ponds, lakes, waterfalls, and beaches.

Noto Stone House

Uncertainty of the Poet 1913 Giorgio de Chirico – tate.org.uk

Vendicari Nature Reserve hugs the coastline along the southeast tip of Sicily. It dates back to the 5th century BC. The undisturbed ecosystem is known for migrating flamingos and some of Sicily’s best beaches.

Vindicari has famous beaches including Eloro, Marianelli, Marianeddi, Cittadella dei Maccari, and Calamosche. Popular Calamosche is on a sandy cove bounded by rocky headlands that provide shelter from the currents and an “always calm and crystalline sea” perfect for swimming.

Romans, Byzantines, Normans, and Saracens conquered the area “leaving their mark on the landscape by constructing a necropolis, catacombs, and forts”. Remains of the 2500-year-old Greek city of Eloro are hidden beneath Vindicari.

Isola delle Correnti – Vendicari Reserve

Isola delle Correnti at the southern point of Sicily is where the Ionian and Mediterranean Seas meet. The landscape is “made of wild and rugged dunes, in a rarefied atmosphere that bewilders visitors”.

May Infiorata Noto – Dooid

 

Modica Sicily – Baroque Architecture, Earthquakes, and Chocolate

Saint George Cathedral Modica

I’ve been relaxing in Pozzallo, content with long walks on the beach and uninspired to post on my travel blog or chase Sicilian attractions. Daylight hours are long (6:30 am – 8:30 pm) and April weather is mild. Like most coastal areas, Pozzallo’s wind can be fierce and unpredictable with temperatures changing quickly. We’ve had a few sudden Mediterranean squalls – ominous skies followed by rain, thunder, and lightning – almost as exciting as African storms.

Sicilian Poppy – chainimage.com

Transportation

I’ve considered the best way to navigate Sicily and explore places of interest. You don’t need a car in Pozzallo. For other parts of the island, depending on where you want to go, you can rent a car or bike or take a ferry, bus, or train. There are multiple daily departures. Ferries are costly but buses inexpensive and reliable. Figuring out the schedule and pickup and drop off points is the hard part.

Sicilian Wildflowers

_____________

Buildings in Modica Alta “almost climb the rocks of the mountain”.

_____________

Modica Architecture – Scopri Modica

Bus stops aren’t marked and the website and learning where to catch buses is confusing. Contacting the bus company directly helps but don’t expect English.

Hyblaean Mountain (Monti Iblei) Gorge Sicily – footage.framepool.com

Once you find the pickup point, if you have the exact fare bus drivers may sell you a ticket when boarding the bus. If you’re friends with the driver, a new pickup point might even be created in your honor… If not, you’ll have to figure out where to buy your ticket – sometimes it’s a nearby gelateria or café. You can miss a bus trying to buy your ticket – not fun but it happens in Sicily.

Sicilian Modicana Cattle – sicilianroots

Spring Scenery

Tuesday, I took a day trip to Modica. It’s close to Pozzallo in the southeastern part of Sicily, about an hour away. The drive was beautiful with glorious scenery reminiscent of favorite coastal areas in Greece and Turkey. We passed stone villas and ruins, olive groves, vineyards, grazing cattle, and open fields of purple, white, and yellow wildflowers with patches of bright red poppies. The other passengers were Sicilian men of all ages – most fell asleep during the gentle ride.

Temple in a Field of Sicilian Wildflowers – pixabay

The Mediterranean climate encourages flowers year-round, but in spring Sicilian wildflowers are spectacular! They thrive in the rich volcanic soil “fed by ash and lava from the volatile tantrums of Mt. Etna and other volcanoes”.

_____________

In April and May Sicily is “awash with a ribald rush of color”.

_____________

Santa Maria di Betlem – Scopri Modica

Baroque Architecture, Earthquake, Economy

Modica is an elegant Baroque town – population about 60,000. In 2002, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like Pozzallo it’s in Ragusa Province near the southern Iblei Mountains.

Easter Sunday Festa della Madonna Vasa-Vasa – Le Case dello Zodiaco

In 1693, a devastating earthquake reshaped southeast Sicily drastically changing  Modica and destroying its charisma and political importance. Reconstruction helped the city regain its current popularity and Baroque appearance.

Modica – italythisway.com

I explored Modica by foot covering as much territory as possible in four hours. I couldn’t find a guide and didn’t see any other tourists. It’s off-season, so you do your own research. Later I heard about Hermes-Sicily – guides who organize visits in southeastern Sicily. I’ll contact them before visiting Syracuse and Noto.

Stray Cats Modica Old Town

I got sidetracked following networks of winding side streets with houses, buildings, stray cats, and cafés. I entered Santuario Madonna delle Grazie and spent quiet time inside with about ten faithful Catholics. Some backstreet houses seem to be built into the rocky hillside. The quiet cobbled streets were mostly empty with and several abandoned houses in disrepair.

Santuario Madonna Delle Grazie

Modica has Greek, Roman, Arab, and Phoenician ties. From the seventeenth until the early nineteenth century it was known as the “City of Hercules“. The 1693 earthquake destroyed Modica and other cities in the Valley of the Sicilian Baroque.

Il Duomo di San Giorgio at Night – typicalsicily.it.

The Noto Valley has eight Medieval late-Baroque cities – Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa, and Scicli. These cities “were rebuilt (in part or entirely) after the 1693 earthquake”. Their architecture marks the end of one of Europe’s last Baroque Periods.

Hillside Old Town Modica

Modica’s economy is mostly agricultural, “characterized by olive, bean, wheat, and cereal production”. The area is known for prized Modicana cattle that flourish in the Mediterranean climate and produce “quality meat and milk”.

Church of the Carmine Modica

Modica – Bassa and Alta

As we approached central Modica, the bus veered sharply down a steep rocky ridge with stone houses sprawled along the hillside.

Bell Tower

Modica Bassa is in a valley where two rivers – Ianni Mauro and Pozzo – meet. Because of destructive flooding locals “covered” the rivers. Today, the area – Corso Umberto – is a historical center with spectacular churches and monuments. The third part of Modica – Sorda – is a new residential, commercial area.

Church of St Mary of Bethlehem

I divided my time between Modica Bassa and Alta. Bassa buildings guaranteed to blow you away include:

Antique Horse-Drawn Cart

Notable Corso Umberto attractions include Palazzo Grimaldi – the “finest example of neo-Renaissance style buildings in Modica”. The Palazzo’s art gallery displays paintings by famous nineteenth century artists from the karst plains of the Iblean area. Palazzo Polara has exquisite Baroque architecture and Palazzo de Mercedari – attached to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace – which was previously a convent and hospital during the 1709 plague”.

Fountain Palazzo Grimaldi Modica Bassa

History

Modica’s history dates back to 1000 BC when the Sicels (ancient Sicilians) became part of a Greek colony from Siracusa. Following the Punic Wars, the Romans took over the colony and later passed it to the Byzantines, Arabs, and Normans.

Modica Hillside

The first settlements began during the Bronze Age. After Arab conquest, Modica became an important commercial, agricultural center.

Palazzo della Cultura

Churches, Palaces, Monuments

Modica is a powerhouse of history, culture, and architecture. A day trip is a tiny intro to exploring and understanding its treasures. Known as “the city of a hundred churches” Modica is rich in Baroque Period cathedrals, convents, and monasteries. Most of these religious structures were built with “local golden stone”. There are brief descriptions of some in this post.

Reliefs Church of San Domenico

_____________

A special feature of Modica Baroque churches is that instead of overlooking squares, they face “imposing and spectacular flights of steps modeled on the slopes of the city’s hills”.

_____________

Teatro Garibaldi Modica – Nuovo Sud

A “fanciful rococo church”, the Cathedral of St. George looks like a “wedding cake topper”. Perched above 164 steps San Giorgio is the Modica’s mother church and on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Modica Street – typicalsicily.it

The Cathedral of St. George is a monumental symbol of Sicilian Baroque art. Italian architect Rosario Gagliardi helped reconstruct the church after the 1693 earthquake. It reopened in 1738.

The Church of San Pietro is at the top of a staircase lined with statues of “saints resembling a statuary welcoming committee”. San Pietro is the Patron Saint of Modica Bassa and a typical example of eighteenth-century Sicilian Baroque.

Modica Panorama – typicalsicily.it

San Pietro’s original foundation dates back to the 1300s but the current structure is from the seventeenth century. Destroyed by the 1693 earthquake, it was rebuilt on masonry structures that survived the earthquake. Statues of San Cataldo, Santa Rosalia, San Pietro, and the Madonna embellish the residence of the second order of mendicant nuns. The church façade has a sculpture of Jesus.

Interior Santuario Madonna Delle Grazie – Scopri Modica

The Santuario Madonna Delle Grazie was built in 1615 after discovery of a slate tablet depicting the Madonna with the Child in her arms. The tablet burned incessantly for three days in a bramble bush without being consumed. The tablet is preserved in the central altar of the church. In 1627, Madonna delle Grazie was proclaimed the main Patron Saint of Modica.

Frescoes Rock Church of San Nicolò Inferiore – izi.TRAVEL

The Rock Church of San Nicolò Inferiore is the oldest church in Modica. It’s a rare example of the Byzantine rock architecture of Ragusa’s Iblea area. Discovered in 1987, it reflects original architecture created by rock excavation. The interior has paintings of icons “articulated around a rectangular hall and an apse”.

Enzo Assenza – Colasanti Aste

_____________

Known as “the city of a hundred churches” Modica is rich in Baroque Period cathedrals, convents, and monasteries.

_____________

Chiesa di S. Maria del Soccorso – lasiciliainrete.it

Jesuits built the Rock Church in 1629. It’s near the Jesuit College. Architect Rosario Gagliardi designed and helped rebuild it after the 1693 earthquake.

Chiesa del Carmine Franciscan Rose Window – Scopri Modica

A fourteenth century Gothic-Chiaramonte style monument, the Church of Santa Maria del Carmelo (Carmine) accommodated Carmelite friars. A beautiful Franciscan rose window adorns the church portal. Carmine is one of few churches still showing “architectural traces from before the violent destructive 1693 earthquake”.

Church of San Domenico

The seventeenth-century Baroque Church of San Domenico is in Piazza Principe di Napoli. The Dominicans built it in the fourteenth century. It was destroyed by the 1693 earthquake and rebuilt.

Church of San Domenico – Discover Modica

The Church of St. Mary of Bethlehem also dates back to the fourteenth century. Traces of its past are visible in “bas-reliefs depicting adoration of the shepherds”. Inside there’s a late Gothic style Palatine Chapel. The arch has Arabic, Catalan, and Norman decorative elements. It houses tombs of the family of the counts Cabrera.

Church of Santa Maria di Betlem

Restored after the earthquake, Duomo di San Pietro is one of the most beautiful churches in Modica. The façade has four statues representing San Cataldo, Santa Rosalia, San Pietro, and the Madonna. The church includes a sculpture of Jesus and statues of the twelve apostles.

Nativity of St. John the Baptist – Gian Battista Ragazzi

Modica Chocolate

Modica has a history of chocolate making detailed in its Chocolate Museum. The ancient chocolate recipe came from Spanish conquistadors during their domination of Sicily. They got it from the Aztecs. Modica produces chocolate in many flavours like orange, cinnamon, and chili pepper.

Palazzo della Cultura

Palazzo della Cultura is Modica’s Civic Museum. In the seventeenth century it was San Placido’s Benedictine Monastery and during the fifteenth century a palace for the Platamone Family of olive oil fame.

Eracle by Cafeo – ragusanews.com

The most valuable piece in the museum is the Eracle by Cafeo, a bronze statuette “depicting Hercules naked in a standing position dating from the end of the 5th to the beginning of the 4th century BC”. Found in 1967 along the Irmino River, the statuette is one of the most important Hellenistic finds in Sicily.

Teatro Garibaldi Modica Interior – commons.wikimedia.org

Garibaldi Theater

Described as “a jewelry box of velvet seats surrounding an opera stage.” Garibaldi Theater’s first foundation dates back to the 1820s. Expanded and embellished the theater reopened in 1857 with Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata.

After the unification of Italy, the theater was named for renowned independent thinker Giuseppe Garibaldi, a leader of freedom and independence. Garibaldi theater became an important center of cultural life in Modica with opera, music, art exhibitions, and prose and theatrical performances.

Church of St. Mary of Bethlehem Palatine Chapel – Cosmo Ibleo

Famous Modica Residents

Twentieth century poet Natale Salvatore Quasimodo was born in Modica in 1901. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1959. The house where he was born is now a museum displaying his books and furniture.

Poet Salvatore Quasimodo – Sicily Widespread Hospitality

Quasimodo’s archives appear at Museo Civico F.L. Belgiorno in the Palazzo della Cultura. The museum also has archaeological and historical collections and the modern art of Enzo Assenza.

Enzo Assenza – Antonio Randazzo

Tommaso Campailla Philosopher and Poet – RagusaNews

Tommaso Campailla was an Italian philosopher, doctor, politician, poet, and teacher. Born in Modica in 1668 to the aristocratic family of Antonio and Adriana Giardina, he studied law in Catania at the young age of sixteen.

The Castle of the Counts of Modica – typicalsicily.it

Castello Dei Conti Di Modica and Clock Tower

Castello Dei Conti Di Modica and the Clock Tower are two iconographic symbols of Modica. They dominate the historical center of town and the Counts of Modica and County Governor lived there. Built for military purposes, the castle was the seat of Modica’s political and administrative power. It also served as a prison and courthouse.

St. Peter’s Church Modica

Easter in Modica

Easter in Modica includes a special celebration. “On Easter Sunday two processions, one with the Madonna and one with the risen Jesus, start from two different paths and meet where the two hug and kiss each other. In the dialect the kiss and the hug are called ‘vasata’ – that’s why it’s called Vasa Vasa.” This popular celebration is held in cities throughout Sicily.

The “moving and engaging meeting of Madonna and Jesus” includes the release of white doves. It’s Modica Easter tradition to continue Easter celebrations on the Tuesday after Easter Sunday – Idria Tuesdayin the homonymous sanctuary on the hill of the Idria overlooking the city.

Farm Ristorante Al Monaco – almonaco.it

There is so much in Modica! This blog post doesn’t touch many cultural and architectural attractions or local restaurants and cuisine. Farm restaurants are popular and Modica has a renowned cookery school.

Buona giornata, più tarde…

Central Belgrade Serbia

Church of St. Mark

After catching my breath, I’ve continued exploring Belgrade. It’s an impressive European city influenced by Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Serbian, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian empires. One of the oldest cities in Europe, it’s the only capital built at the confluence of two rivers – the Danube and Sava.

Old Telephone Exchange – Wikipedia

Complex history, language, and names make writing about Belgrade a formidable task. Belgrade’s history runs deep. Memories are short, so the purpose of my blog is making the effort to capture travel experiences.

Branko Radičević Serbian Poet – sikari.rs

Belgrade Tours

I’ve taken several guided walking tours and learned about Belgrade on my own. The complex history is a bit overwhelming. One tour guide – the owner of my rental flat – is “strongly connected with the history of Belgrade and Serbia”.

St. Mark’s Cathedral

Aleksandar’s family has lived in Belgrade for four generations. He’s knowledgeable about its history, traditions, and heritage and enjoys sharing his knowledge with visitors. The goal is providing tourists with an “understanding of Belgrade’s history and a perspective on modern life and culture”. Aleksandar is developing tours of Belgrade and outlying areas. His central city tour was fun and well-organized.

Syndicate House – Wikimedia

Central Belgrade

Central Belgrade is near my apartment. It’s a short walk to iconic buildings like the Old Telephone Exchange, Central Post Office, Church of St. Mark, Parliament Building, Presidential Palaces, and other landmarks. Many of the buildings were damaged during WW I and II and rebuilt.

Building of the Patriarchate Serbian Orthodox Church

Old Telephone Exchange

The Old Telephone Exchange is around the corner. Completed in 1908 it was designed by architect Branko Tanazević in Serbo-Byzantine style. The beautiful building is part of Belgrade’s cultural heritage. I enjoy admiring it from cafés along Kosovska Street.

Belgrade Central Post Office

Belgrade Central Post Office

A significant cultural monument, Central Post Office architecture reflects the “complexity of social and political circumstances during the interwar period – 1919 to 1940”. It represents modernist and functional architecture. Built as a branch of the National Mortgage Bank, Serbian architect Aleksandar Đorđević designed it in the “spirit of the French school of academic style”.

Belgrade Historical Museum – Virtuelni Mazei Dunava

Orthodox Church of St. Mark

The Church of St. Mark is spectacular inside and out! Dedicated to Apostle and Evangelist Mark it’s in Tasmajdan Park near the National Assembly. Spring is in the air and trees in the lovely park are beginning to bud. Walks in the park and stopping for coffee at nearby cafés is always on my itinerary.

Old Telephone Exchange Belgrade

The original church was destroyed during the war. Construction of a new building occurred during the interwar period. There are several tombs inside the church, including Mlan Obrenovic, King Alexander Obrenovic, his wife Queen Draga Mašin, and King Stefan Dušan the Great.

Belgrade National Assembly – Parliament Building

Completed in 1936 and designed by Russian architect and painter Nikolay Petrovich Krasnov, the National Assembly is the Republic of Serbia’s “supreme representative body holding constitutional and legislative power”. The Assembly has 250 elected members. The scope of the National Assembly is “given by the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia”.

Belgrade National Assembly

I haven’t been inside the National Assembly but it’s beautiful and the sculptures at the entrance are magnificent. Entitled Black Horses at Play, they’re the work of Croatian sculptor Toma Rosandića.

Belgrade National Theatre – Shutterstock

Supposedly, the theme of the statues is the struggle between man and nature. There are other more “political stories” about the meaning – most of them over my head. Belgrade has sculptures throughout the city honoring leaders and historical events. Some are by exceptional Croatian artist and sculptor Ivan Meštrović.

Black Horses at Play – Toma Rosandica Sculptor

Old and New Palaces

Belgrade’s palaces are across the street from the National Assembly on Andrićev Venac Street. Each palace has complicated history. There are interesting stories of Serbia’s two royal dynasties – Karađorđević and Obrenović – including an assassination.

Terazije

New Palace – Novi Dvor – was the royal residence of Serbia’s Karađorđević dynasty and later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Today, it’s the seat of controversial President Aleksandar Vučić.

Belgrade National Assembly

Built when Serbia became a Kingdom, Old Palace – Stari Dvor was the Royal Palace of Serbia’s Obrenović Dynasty. The beautiful palace was restored after damage from WW I and II. Today it houses Belgrade City Assembly.

King Alexander Karageorgevich – Heroes of Serbia

Nikola Pašić Square

Serbian and Yugoslav politician Nikola Pašić is an “important statesmen and diplomat”. He’s credited with protecting Serbia from Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian influences.

Mihailo Obrenović III, Prince of Serbia

Pašić founded the People’s Radical Party and held prominent government positions including president of the Serbian National Assembly, Prime Minister of both Serbia and Yugoslavia, Mayor of Belgrade, and Serbian Envoy to Russia. He was one of the authors of the St. Vitus Day Constitution of 1921 giving Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes a unitary monarchy.

Belgrade National Assembly

A square in Central Belgrade is named after Nikola Pašić. In 1998 a monument created by Serbian Sculptor Zoran Ivanović was erected in his honor.

Tasmajdan Park – debuggil.wordpress

Terazije Square and Fountain

Terazije Fountain began as a water source for Belgrade. Towers were built throughout Belgrade to bring water from wetlands into the city. The “Turks called the water towers terrazioni,” so the square was named Terazije.

Nikola Pašić – en.wikipedia.org

Located close to famous hotels, taverns, and shops, Terazije Square was “the center of Belgrade’s social life”. It’s also near the location where German fascists hanged five Serbian patriots in 1941. Moved and reconstructed many times, the Terazije is now in front of famous Moscow Hotel, a great place to enjoy tea or coffee.

Terazije Square Moskva Hotel Belgrade – Tradesco Tours

Republic Square

Republic Square is undergoing major renovation. The square features a monument to Prince Mihailo Obrenovic (1823-1868), son of Prince Miloš and Princess Ljubica. He came into power following the death of his elder brother Milan in 1839.

Belgrade Republic Square Statue Prince Mihailo Obrenovic – Travel to Serbia

Italian sculptor Enrico Pazzi created the monument in 1882 honoring one of Prince Mihailo’s most important political achievements – “expulsion of the Turks from Serbia after five centuries of governance”.

Djura Danicic Serbian Scholar – Wikipedia

Mihailo Obrenovic was elected. He wasn’t a hereditary prince. In 1842, an uprising forced him into exile and brought Alexander Karageorgevich to the throne. Obrenovic spent six years outside Serbia collaborating with writers and poets including Vuk Karadžić, Đura Daničić, and Branko Radičević. When Prince Miloš returned to Serbia in 1858, Mihailo accompanied him and took command of the army.

Nikola Pašić Square – Relja Ivanić

After the death of Prince Miloš, Mihailo regained the throne in 1860 and established an army to “rid Serbia of the Turks”. “Expecting war with Turkey, Mihailo made alliances with other Balkan states – Montenegro, Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania.” In 1868, he was assassinated in Košutnjak, a forested Belgrade suburb.

Black Horses at Play Toma Rosandića – Atlas Obscura

Albania Palace

Built in Republic Square in 1939, Albania Palace is one of the tallest buildings in the Balkans. It replaced beloved 19th century Albania Tavern, a popular but cramped and neglected establishment. In spite of its shabby condition, the old Turkish-style building was a favorite spot for local socializing.

Palace Albania

Albania Tavern’s loyal patrons were “reluctant to abandon their favorite gathering place”. On the day it was demolished they gathered at the tavern. Guests were served “until firemen started taking tiles off the roof”.

Belgrade National Assembly

The Palace was the main headquarters of the Nazi work organization Todt. During 1944 in a WW II Allied bombing it was hit by a “half-ton bomb”. Luckily the well-constructed building only suffered minor damage. In 1983 Albania Palace became a Belgrade Monument of Cultural Importance.

Cathedral Church of St. Michael – Flickr

Belgrade National Theater

As directed by Prince Mihailo Obrenović, Aleksandar Bugarski, the “most productive Belgrade architect in the 19th century”, designed the National Theatre. The architecture is based on the design of La Scala Theater in Milan. It’s built on the location of former Stambol Gate – one of four gates placed at each way out of Belgrade.

Belgrade National Theatre Republic Square – Hostel Show Belgrade

Built in 1869, it’s a symbol of Serbian culture, tradition, and spirituality. The popular theatre hosts opera, drama, and ballet performances. The amazing performing art venue has performances every day of the week. Most are sold out. National Theatre was declared a Monument of Culture and Importance in 1983.

Nikola Pašić – Zoran Ivanovic

Bombings during 1941 and again in 1944 damaged the theatre’s exterior, interior, and façade. Many architects and engineers participated in upgrades, annexes, expansions, and reconstruction between 1870 and 2018.

Vuk Karadžić Serbian Linguist – Kurir

The design is a blend of Vienna Secession and Baroque architecture. Even with auditorium and stage expansions, there’s limited seating.

King Alexander Obrenovic and Queen Draga – balkanekspresrb.rs

Belgrade National Museum

Established in 1844, Serbia’s National Museum is the largest and oldest museum in Belgrade. Since 1950 it’s been in Republic Square. The “museum’s collection has grown to over 400,000 objects, including several foreign masterpieces”. It was declared a protected Cultural Monument of Great Importance in 1979.

Belgrade National Museum – Like A Local Guide

Like the National Theatre, the National Museum experienced bouts of redesign and renovation. Various architects and builders were involved, including Andra Stevanović and Nikola Nestorović. It’s built in Neo-Renaissance style with Neo-Baroque elements on the domes. WW II bombings destroyed the domes.

Baroque Masterpieces Charlottenburg Palace Berlin

Schloss Charlottenburg Berlin

Last night I enjoyed an interesting concert at Charlottenburg Palace. Dressed in period costumes, the Berlin Residence Orchestra performed baroque masterpieces by Vivaldi, Händel, Bach, and others.

Scholss Charollotenberg

Before the concert, some savored a three-course “themed candlelight dinner”. Years ago, I experienced a similar but disappointing dinner in Salzburg, so I opted for the concert only. Charlottenburg Palace is in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf District and easily accessible via U-Bahn. From November 26 through December 27 a popular Christmas market is set up on Palace grounds.

Queen Charlotte – by Johann Georg Ziesenis

_____________

Today Charlottenburg is a working palace and one of Berlin’s most “grandiose event venues”. It’s a great place for concerts.

_____________

Schloss Charlottenburg During Blood Moon – U. Gernhoefer Photocase

Charlottenburg Palace History

Charlottenburg is Berlin’s last remaining palace “reflecting the one-time grandeur of the Hohenzollern Family“. The complex covers several blocks along the banks of River Spree. Restaurants, hotels, and cafés near the Palace feature paintings of the grounds and Queen Charlotte. The Palace is surrounded by a beautiful baroque garden best visited during the day, but also lovely at night.

Queen Sophia Charlotte

In 1696, Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Hanover, wife of Prussian Friedrich III, commissioned construction of Lützenburg, a “summer residence in Lützow”.

King Frederick I – Emerson Kent

_____________

“Originally a petite summer retreat, Lützenburg grew into an exquisite baroque palace with opulent apartments, festival halls, collections of precious porcelain, and paintings by French 18th century masters.”

_____________

Orangery Garden – Pinterest

Soon after his coronation in 1701, King Frederick and Queen Sophie Charlotte expanded their Lützenburg residence. Tragically, Charlotte died of pneumonia in 1705 at the young age of 37. After her death, Frederick renamed the residence Charlottenburg Palace, built a magnificent dome, and added an “elongated building” named the Great Orangery.

Great Orangery Schloss Charlottenburg – Qiez.de

_____________

“Loud against quiet, solo against ensemble, a competition of instruments dominates the Baroque period…”

_____________

Baroque Masterpieces Compère – Pixel and Dot Photography

Berlin Residence Orchestra

In 2006, the Berlin Residence Orchestra began staging classical music concerts in Charlottenburg’s Great Orangery. The chamber music ensembles formed within the orchestra play at events throughout Berlin. The staged atmosphere transports audiences beck in time to when kings listened to Baroque music.

Berliner Residenz Konzerte Schloss Charlottenburg – Berlin Welcome Card

“Derived from the Portuguese barroco, or ‘oddly shaped pearl,’ since the nineteenth century, the term baroque describes the period in Western European music from 1600 to 1750.” The concerts are popular with locals as well as tourists.

Chamber Music Players

Last night, the chamber orchestra consisted of a harpsichord, cello, bass, flute, violin, and four violas. There were flute, viola, and cello solos. Soprano Sara Gouzy and countertenor Georg Arssenij Bochow were the featured vocalists, and their operatic solos and duos were fantastic.

Charlottenburg Palace Dome – Framepool

For a while, the commentator (compère) presented parts of the narrative in English and German – it was obvious he didn’t care for it. Later he spoke German only, so I missed the nuances and jokes that made others in the audience laugh….The program was slightly confusing to follow, but the music was wonderful.

Berlin Residence Concerts – Image Berlin

The program included well-known German and Italian composers, kings, and friends of kings:

Anna Fedotova Concertmaster – ResearchGate

Anna Fedotova Concertmaster

Multi-talented Russian Anna Fedotova studied at the Far East Art Academy in Vladivostok and later at Moscow’s Gnessin Academy. She’s participated in Salzburg masterclasses and is a “laureate of competitions in many countries”. Fedotova co-founded the Tango Ensemble Coamorous” and toured with the group throughout Europe. Last night she played a lovely violin solo.

Alexandra Rossmann Musical Director

Alexandra Rossmann Musical Director

Alexandra Rossmann is from Minsk Belarus, where she studied piano and became a teacher and accompanist. She performed at international festivals and made her début at the Belarusian Philharmonic at the age of 17. Rossmann moved to Germany and studied at the Musikhochschule Munich. Currently she lives in Potsdam and teaches piano. Alexandra played harpsichord during the performance.

Sara Gouzy Soprano

Sara Gouzy Soprano

French soprano Sara Gouzy completed her piano studies at the Conservatoire de Toulouse. She studied voice at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin and attended masterclasses in France and Germany. In 2012 Gouzy participated in projects at the “Hanns Eisler” and Berlin’s Komische Oper (Comic Opera). Gouzy is a scholarship holder of the association “Yehudi Menuhin Live Music Now” and soloist with the Berlin Residence Orchestra.

Georg Arssenij Bochow Countertenor

Georg Arssenij Bochow Countertenor

The German-Russian countertenor Georg Arssenij Bochow began his career as a chorister in the Berlin Staats- und Domchor and received Canada’s Saint Nicolas Award from the Royal School of Church Music. He began vocal studies at the “Hanns Eisler” in 2011 and took masterclasses. Bochow appeared with the Deutsche Oper Berlin in the world première of Evan Gardner’s Die Unterhändlerin (The Negotiator).

Great Orangery at Night

_____________

“There are many misconceptions and mysteries about the countertenor. Some take it for a whim of nature, though this type of voice has nothing mysterious about it.”

_____________

Charlottenburg Palace Courtyard

This is the first time I’ve experienced a countertenor in close quarters – a beautiful but most unusual voice!

Český Krumlov

Český Krumlov

Český Krumlov

The medieval town of Český Krumlov was one of the first places in the Czech Republic listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mesmerizing architecture of the castle complex and the medieval town is a mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles.

Český Krumlov is in a valley surrounded by the Vltava River with the Blansko Forest to the north and Šumava National Park to the south. The area is popular with sports enthusiasts for camping, river rafting, hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.

Ceský Krumlov from Tower

“The neglectful times of Communism saw the town grey and dilapidated – even then its beauty could be perceived under the rough surface. Since the early 1990s, Český Krumlov has been reborn and transformed into a place of charming beauty and near perfection.”

Český Krumlov is about a 30 minute drive from České Budějovice and yesterday I went for a visit. The local population is under 20,000 and it’s a wonderful town to explore by foot.

Five-Petalled Rose Celebrations

Five Petaled Rose celebration

Other than just being in this picturesque and magical place, the main attraction is the castle complex and its palaces, gardens, and views. Of the more than 400 well-preserved historical buildings in the Český Krumlov complex, St. Vitus Church is especially spectacular.

Sue Ceský Krumlov - with Black-Sported nose

Happy Sue with Dot on Nose

I climbed the 180 foot castle tower for sweeping panoramic views of the town and the Vltava River below. The tower has a gallery of wall murals dating back to the late 16th century and four bells built from the early 1400s to the mid-1700s.

Český Krumlov is more touristy and pricey than České Budějovice. The locals have the tourists well covered for food, shopping, and entertainment – from organic to designer and gourmet.

St. Vitus Church

The Czech Republic is known for its beautiful, rich amber and garnet gemstones. I met a friendly Czech jewelry merchant who spoke good English and bought a few small gifts at one of his shops. They specialize in original designs of amber jewelry. Amber is popular in the area and a favorite of mine. It’s considered the stone of calm and deliberate actions.

Back Street

Back Street Český Krumlov

Founded in 1253 by the Lords of Krumlov, the Gothic city’s history is colorful. The city changed coats of arms many times over the centuries.

In the 1680s, ruled by Johann Christian I. von Eggenberg, farming, construction, and the arts flourished. Český Krumlov began to rise from the stagnation caused by the Thirty Years’ War.

St. Vitus Church

In 1989, the non-violent Czech Velvet Revolution brought renewal to the city. Today it’s a cultural center with a dozen museums and galleries. Its theaters include the historic Castle Baroque Theater dating back to the 1400s and the popular and modern open-air Revolving Theater built in the 20th Century.

Castle Tower

Ceský Krumlov hosts hundreds of cultural events each year, including art shows, theater performances, concerts, and film festivals. For three days in mid-June, The Five-Petaled Rose Celebrations transform Český Krumlov back into a Renaissance town. The celebrations continue day and night with visitors attending dances, daredevil performances, fencing duels, jousts, arts and crafts fairs, and more! The celebrations “culminate with the highlight of the festival – a spectacular procession in historical costumes featuring knights on horseback and many notables linked with the history of the town”.

Linking Corridor

It takes several visits to experience the extraordinary beauty and history of Český Krumlov. I plan to go back for a performance in the outdoor Revolving Theater. Verdi’s Rigoletto begins July 26 and lasts for one week. The romantic opera has been performed at the theater every year since it opened. Another popular summer attraction, the annual International Music Festival, began July 19th and lasts through August 17.

Ceský Krumlov

If I can find the trails, I’ll go hiking in the beautiful areas near Frymburk and Lipno nad Vitavou – a short distance from Český Krumlov. Lipno Lake is the largest lake in the Czech Republic and known as “the Czech Sea”.