The pearl by the sea

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Dubrovnik is a gem perched on the southern-most tip of Croatia. Known for its fortressed walls, delicious seafood, and charming stairways, the town quickly engulfed us with its charm and hospitality.

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The Old Town stone walls, built in the Middle Ages, tower up to 82 feet in some places and are a great point of pride for Croatians — no marauding outsiders have ever successfully invaded them. We spent a grey morning walking the walls, with the cloudy sky over the ocean only adding to the mystic.

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Katie shooting for her portfolio as a Target influencer
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A guard post along the walls

Dubrovnik’s rocky coastline is so stunning that is has been adopted by HBO’s Game of Thrones. For the CGI-heavy series, Dubrovnik’s beauty is truly the stuff of fairytales.

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We climbed up to the Lovrijenac Fortress, as seen here from the Old Town wall, taking stairs from Pile Beach in the cove below.
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A Game of Thrones filming location, as seen from the walls of Old Town

Dubrovnik falls within a region of Croatia known as Dalmatia, which also includes a portion of the Bay of Kotor, which you may remember from my Montenegro post. Fun fact: the Dalmatian dog originated here.

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The region was once under the control of France, greedy for its natural resources and ports along the Adriatic Sea. Croatia did not declare independence until 1991, making it fairly young country.

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Croatia saw terrible war throughout the 1990s as Yugoslavia unraveled. Croatia was one of 6 republics of Yugoslavia which included Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. The Siege of Dubrovnik was a particularly awful period, taking place over 7 months beginning in the fall of 1991. Residents of Old Town faced terrible conditions as there was a communication blackout and supplies were extremely scarce. By Dec 1991, 19,000 people had been evacuated from the port of Dubrovnik with the help of ships flying the UNICEF flag.

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As we walked the Old Town wall, it was truly inconceivable to think of 3000+ mortars raining down upon the terracotta roof tiles.

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You can see which buildings were damaged based on the age of the tiles.

Katie and I did a lot of research about the war while in Montenegro and Croatia. What seems clear is that the conflict was not black and white. ESPN’s 30 for 30 episode entitled  “Once Brothers” offers a heartbreaking take on the fallout of the war through the eyes of Vlade Divac, the former NBA player and Olympic medalist. As the episode points out, “war crimes were committed on both sides”. Many different interests with no clear winner.

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Our courtyard within the Old Town walls

Know as the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik has a lot to offer, especially in April before the cruise ships have begun to come into port. Highlights included a cathedral with a Titian triptych on the alter, hot burek from the bakery, and delicious Croatian wine.

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burek: spinach and cheese deliciousness
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A wine-tasting at Skaramuca

The rocky soil of the region, combined with the reflection off the rocks and water, mean the grapes get 3x the amount of sun as your average vineyard. With all the delicious seafood, I enjoyed the white posip.

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With many places to choose from in Old Town, the Pubo Dubrovnik proved our favorite.

We also took a day trip to Lokrum, known as the Emerald Island. Just a 10 minute ferry ride from Old Town, Lokrum is good for quick trip and a walk around the island. This was certainly a nice way to escape the tour bus crowd.

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A Lokrum Island resident

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For Game of Thrones fans, I snapped this epic pic at an exhibition about the filming of the series in the region

Travel Tips:

If you take the bus from Tivat or Kotor to Dubrovnik, anticipate nearly an hour extra for border control. Croatia being an EU country only exacerbates the wait. On the return, you sail through relatively unimpeded. 4 hours from Tivat to Dubrovnik’s Port Bus Terminal; just 3 hours from the Port to Tivat. 45 gorgeous miles. This is Tivat’s bus terminal – by the way – please ignore what Google Maps tells you. About 18€ each way. Euros are sometimes taken in Dubrovnik but the Croatian kuna (HRK) is preferred.

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Those black hills

Hello, everyone. Just back from my spring break trip to Montenegro and Croatia, two gorgeous countries, both formerly part of Yugoslavia. The trip fell upon me by happenstance – my friend wanted to see Dubrovnik and no matter how we sliced it, we couldn’t get there without 7+ hours of driving or connecting flights. These days my patience for airplane connections is rather low, especially when it comes to a break from school. Thankfully, Katie had the presence of mind to look at a map of the region… and we were off to Tivat, Montenegro!

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Never seen the sky quite so cerulean blue – the Bay of Kotor

We were elated to touchdown at little Tivat Airport to sunny skies and 70F weather. Though this glorious weather didn’t last all week, it certainly cemented our appreciation for the gorgeous fjord that is the Bay of Kotor. This tiny country, half the size of Wales, packs a stunning aesthetic punch.

A few things to know before you go – Montenegro means “black mountain”. This ruggedly handsome country is a combination of deep water and soaring sky, with jagged mountain ridges uniting the two. Wedged in between Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania, Montenegro is one of the world’s youngest countries, born in 2006 (only senior to Kosovo and South Sudan). The majority of the population is Orthodox Christian, which played a role in the regional factions that led to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

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A fjord is a narrow surrounded by steep sides or cliffs created by a glacier which came in from the ocean.

As we drove along the fjord, orange trees and wisteria dotted the waterfront properties. Mountain streams came crashing into the fjord, producing churning water that could surely be harnessed for natural power. Rocky crags jutted out over the single lane highways, hemmed in only by flimsy-looking netting.

All visitors to Montenegro have 24 hours to register with the police. If you stay at a hotel or Airbnb, your host will often do this for you. Euros are the currency here, though it is not an EU country. It is, however, a travel destination for Russians as no visa is required here. The same is true for Americans.

We began our stay at the Boutique Hotel Casa del Mare Aurora, a hidden gem that I cannot recommend highly enough. Another accidental finding, this spot proved perfect for two teachers to unwind and acquaint ourselves with local customs.

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Doesn’t take long to defrost after a Russian winter!

The hotel featured a gorgeous deck over the water where locals and hotel guests would congregate each afternoon. Whether we fancied an Aperol spritz or a glass of Vranac (the delicious local specialty of a Cabernet Sauvignon and a rich, dark-berried Syrah), the sommelier had us covered. Definitely the best hotel breakfast buffet I’ve ever encountered, and the kindest staff to boot.

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Vacation official

Looking to explore (and find an ATM), we made our way to Perast, a town along the Bay of Kotor featuring stunning views and two churches on man-made islands just off-shore.

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The lake looked as smooth as an oil painting
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Sister cats in Perast on a casual Sunday morning

After a few days of rest, we ventured into Kotor, an ancient town which was ruled by both the Byzantines and Venetians at one point throughout history. Dating back to 300BC, the red-roof city charms many a cruise-ship visitor (ships do dock here regularly).

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The view from our hotel balcony
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Old Town has its charms once you escape the tourist shops

From the road, the medieval walls of Old Town hide the adorable town within, and the cliffs above the city do well to mask the church and fortress which cast a watchful eye over the little town.

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We walked the 700 steps up to the Church of Our Lady of Remedy. We opted not to climb all 1500 steps as it was beginning to mist and the steps were slippery!

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Exploring more of the local area, we first drove down to Budva and then inland to the edge of Lovcen National Park. Having opted for digital-free navigation, we noticed a road sign indicating Kotor was accessible without retracing our steps. Little did we know we would end up on the Serpentine Road!

We began at 880m above sea level (that’s 2,200 feet or a half mile).  Down and down the switchbacks I drove, encountering few cars (thankfully) but a horse and multiple cattle along the way. The views were extraordinary, like walking on the wing of an airplane.

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Mountains beyond mountains

Renting a car was pivotal for exploring Montenegro but we opted to take a bus to Dubrovnik, knowing that the majority of the ride would be spent traversing the circumference of the Bay of Kotor. We wanted to enjoy the view without stress (those pesky crags!).

I’m going to pause the story here as I have to go pack another bag (don’t tell my cat!). Headed to meet some art teachers at the NuArt Festival in Aberdeen this weekend. Look for a Croatia blog post forthwith!

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A well-deserved cheers to Montenegro

“It’s Friday in Rome, shouldn’t there be fish?”

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Piazza Navona

When my friend Elena took a contract with the Eternal Word TV Network in Rome, I knew a visit was in order. It’s been a decade since my friend Kate and I last visited the Eternal City. Across from the Pantheon, a restaurant advertises “gluten-free pasta or pizza”. Smart cars are still parked willy-nilly; half on, half off sidewalks. The Colosseum is as epic as ever, especially at sunset. The food is still unbeatable. So when we had a Friday off for International Women’s Day, I hopped a plane.

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Sunrise over Rome as seen from Elena’s porch

International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries throughout Europe. Created to honor women who lost their lives in NYC in a textile factory fire in 1908 (prior to the more widely known Triangle Shirtwaist Fire), the day was adopted by many socialist and communist countries and then recognized by many feminist organizations worldwide. The UN began celebrating the day in 1975.

From fresh pasta to artichoke, Rome knows good eats. As I sat on fountain steps on my first morning in town, I watched a man wheel stacks of groceries through the square – cloves upon cloves of garlic.

Tradition runs deep in these parts. Food is serious business. Food is also the spice of life. Cappuccino: you stand, they deliver. Aperitivo, you sit. Pizza, stand. Gelato, stand or sit (seriously delicious either way). To say we ate our way across Rome that weekend would be accurate.

There are somethings I just love about Italian life. Charmingly (perhaps tellingly), every single public clock in the city but one proved incorrect. Work starts at 10am, casually wraps up at 6pm. Everyone and their mother is out in the square at night; drinking, playing, telling tales of the day. And the art. Ohhhh the art.

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Same piazza, different fountain. Yeesh.

Having seen David at the Accademia, I opted to forgo the usual tourist haunts. Upon Elena’s recommendation, I had booked an advanced timed ticket to the Galleria Borghese. Do not miss this one, folks. A stunner of a villa, this lesser-know palace has frescos that rival those of the Vatican. It was there I learned that Octavian’s sister (Octavia) was married to Mark Antony, of Caesar fame. Antony and Octavian were major rivals. This was all before Cleopatra came on the scene. The more you know. Anyways, the marble sculpture of Octavia as Ophelia with the apple is a stunner.

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In the Park Borghese I sat and sketched. A saxophone played nearby. The guy refused the coins I tried to give in appreciation but then relented after our funny exchange. As I walked deeper into the park, I found landscapes which looked ripped from canvases at the Louvre – too soft in focus to be real.

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The Villa Medici bookended the park with stunning views spanning the entire city below. I toured the grounds under the tutelage of a startlingly expressionless yet deeply devoted French guide named Blanche.

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The Villa has been under French ownership since Napoleon gained possession of the place in late 1800s. The Academy now sponsors dozens of fellows (known as “pensionnaires”) who will live and work on the extensive grounds. All artists who can speak French are welcome to apply. Upon hearing I was from Boston, my guide enthusiastically (her demeanor warmed considerably as the tour went on) shared that a former pensionnaire is now an art professor at Boston University. Go Terriers 🙂

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The Medici Garden pavilion frescos – c.1580. And this is just the guesthouse.

Perhaps the highlight of the weekend for Elena and I was our street art tour in the neighborhood of Ostiense. Never ones to skip a meal, we made our way to the Mercato di Testaccio. Once inside, we made a beeline for Mordi & Vio and their heavenly panino picchiapo. Little known fact – panini is plural, panino indicates just one sandwich. Wandering the stalls before our tour, I couldn’t get over the fresh produce. The beans were huge! After another shot of espresso, we set off to meet our tour guide, a local architecture student.

Our guide began by defining street art as public art with a message. In Rome, street artists do this work for free, for a cause, and (typically) with permission from both government and site owner. We wandered through neighborhoods for nearly two and a half hours, learning about artists such as Roa (Belgium), Axel Void (Haitian-American), and Clemens Behr (Germany). I was impressed to know that some street artists like Andreco and Iena Cruz (below, right) are using air-cleaning paints in an attempt to stymie the effects of pollution upon the city and inhabitants.

All too quickly, my long weekend came to an end. On my final day in Rome, Elena took me to see the Pope give his Sunday Angelus. Privy to the text of his speech prior to the address, she translated the message for me as we watched flag-waving pilgrims fill the square. When the moment was right, a maroon rug was unfurled and Pope Francis appeared at a window above the square. It was pretty wild to see him with my own eyes and to be part of the masses gathered on a Sunday in Rome. After receiving his blessing, we enjoyed a final meal together and I headed to the airport with a suitcase packed with pasta and limoncello.

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The top window, second from the right is where the Pope appears every Sunday at noon.

Like time spent with all of my friends from TASIS, it seemed like no time had passed. That weekend away was a game-changer for me, warm weather and all! Back to “spring” in Moscow which brings longer daylight and, hopefully soon, temperatures in the 50s. Addio a tutti!

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The Rome haul.

Prague

Life has been a little busy but in February, my mom and I were able to meet up for a week in the gorgeous city of Prague. Touted as one of Europe’s most enchanting cities, Prague’s position as the capital of Bohemia invites the folklore and mystique for which this city is known. From Art Nouveau architecture to a skyline dotted with church spires, it is easy to see why people from all corners of the globe fall in love so quickly.

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Deep blue skies and daily sunshine spoiled us during our week in town.
Prague has no shortage of gorgeous doors
Prague’s Jewish Quarter (also known as Josefov) dates back to the early 20th century when the area was remodeled to resemble Paris. The streets are quiet after lunch as people shutter their shops to head home for a rest.

Prague is a walkable city, with trams running up and down all major avenues. The metro system is fantastic – you can take it end-to-end for under $1. Before Mom arrived, I took a morning wandering the streets, checking out sights such as the kinetic head of Franz Kafta, as seen below (if only he knew).

 

Perhaps the most enchanting (and touristed) part of the city is the Old Town Square. Mom and I spent time over a few days here, admiring the astronomical clock, the amazing friezes on the buildings.

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Old Town Square

The food scene in Prague is fantastic. I would highly encourage visitors to Prague check out Sansho, featured in The Bib Gourmand – a Michelin Guide for the common (wo)man. Though I stumbled upon it by happenstance, I was treated to a meal that I would consider one of the best I’ve ever had. The exceptionally welcoming chef really made the whole experience and I cannot recommend the restaurant more. Do make a reservation!

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The gorgeous blue velvet night sky above Prague.
I also took Mom to Field, a Michelin rated farm-to-table restaurant in the Jewish Quarter. Dry ice poured from below this delicious dessert.

The best way to see Prague is by pounding the pavement. Taking in the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, and the Old Town was a thorough full day adventure.

A view of the city from the Charles Bridge.
The John Lennon Wall, a constantly evolving work of street art and graffiti which welcomes anyone to partake.

We capped off our first big day out in the city with an evening boat tour on the Vltava River. The sun slipped down behind Prague Castle as we got underway, making a rainbow as it mixed with the river below. A warm glow arose from the city lit by street lamps which mirrored dancing bits of marigold light onto the water’s surface.

Another must-do in Prague has to be the Mucha Museum. Featuring the work of Renaissance man (in ideals, not decades) Alphonse Mucha, the museum narrates Mucha’s incredible contributions to art history. A friend of Gauguin and Rodin, Mucha created art during the Belle Époque, Europe’s “Golden Age”. Born in what was then the Austrian Empire, Mucha studied art in Vienna and Munich before setting up shop in Paris where he became famous for his posters touting the actress Sarah Bernhardt. Delving into lithography and screen printing, Mucha participated in the 1900 World’s Fair and even screen the first films by the Lumiere Brothers in his Paris studio.

Considered the “Father of the Arc”, Mucha is today known as the most famous painter of the Art Nouveau, however it was his undying patriotism for his country of Czechoslovakia which struck me most. After returning from a tour of America in 1910, Mucha began his Slav Epic. The project, which would grow to amass 20 huge canvases over an 18 year period, would become his love letter to his land. His daughter Jaroslava served as a model with Mucha pioneering the use of photography and artistic direction in capturing the epic scenes. When the country attained freedom in 1918, Mucha designed the stamps and banknotes. Alphonse believed that education was the way to raise the ethical standard of a nation and he championed freedom for education throughout his later years.

Alongside Princess Hyacinth, completed by Alphonse Mucha in 1911.

Mom and I also managed to take a day trip to Český Krumlov, a magical town approximately 3 hours driving from Prague. On the recommendation of my friend Katerina (who played travel agent and local guide for this journey), we booked the RegioJet intercity bus, leaving while the fog was still rising. Our journey took us past fields of poppy seeds and deer farms, across the gorgeous Czech landscape.

Once there, we walked the castle walls, taking in the views of the fairytale town below. Enjoy a good Czech pilsner on a picture-perfect sunny Czech day was a highlight of the whole trip for me and we took a few hours to wander the adorable town together.

Back in Prague, we took in more of the city sights. It was lovely to stay in one place for so long with no pressure to see everything. We also took an amazing tour of the city which highlighted the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The tour was given by a wonderful local with a passion for history and his 60-year-old Trabant, a car which made its way to Prague in 1989 as its owners fled East Germany. To read more about that moment in history – which is so wild that it can’t possibly have been made up – check out this New York Times article from that time.

Prague such an exceptional city, filled to the brim with art and culture. My mom and I took in concerts, enjoy the local fare, and explore antique stores while wandering along the city’s cobblestone streets. Among the gems, I spotted this gorgeous Art Deco piece from the 1920s, which Mom purchased for me as a reminder of our trip together. Here, it sits upon my windowsill in Moscow, capturing the colors and angles of that beautiful Bohemian city to which I hope to return.

Riga, Latvia

With the Christmas holiday fast approaching, I did what any teacher in their right mind would do… I applied for a personal day! I had been meaning to get over to Riga, Latvia for sometime, hearing tell of Art Nouveau buildings and a quaint Old Town. Leading up to the holiday, many European cities put on some version of a Christmas market. Riga, it turns out, had markets to spare.

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A quick direct flight from Moscow landed me on the outskirts of this city of brown bread and cobblestones. A small port city, Riga boasts both seabirds and strong, gusty winds. Weather vanes here are painted gold and black on opposing sides. Gold signaled fortuitous trade winds, bringing ships into port. A black arrow facing the water meant that it was time to resume life on a budget. Riga’s positioning on the Baltic Sea also brings the threat of city-wide flooding, the most recent of which occurred in 2009.

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With just under 7 hours of daylight as we neared the winter solstice, Riga certainly knows how to light up the night. Moscow, by comparison, gets just 20 mins more versus Burlington, VT which gets just under 9 hours this time of year.

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I caught the bus in from the tiny airport with ease (Bus 22, take a right onto the airport sidewalk and follow around the U-bend, buy a metro card within the bus shelter). After a quick 20-minute ride to the edge of Old Town (hop off at the cinema), I was greeted by the soft-falling snow and a violinist playing Christmas carols. Riga laid that charm on real thick and I was more than happy to dive in.

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Booked at the Hotel Mantess, I made my way through Old Town’s narrow, winding streets with ease. To set the scene – everything about Riga is dripping in warm light. Bird cages are big here; in hotel lobbies and cafes alike. Yarn shops and design stores provide hours of amusement alongside the local architecture museum and a number of art galleries. Many people still speak Russian, but English is plentiful as well.

On my first morning there, I made my way over to St. Peter’s Church to meet the Yellow Suitcase Tour. Led by a local guide carrying – you guessed it – a yellow suitcase, this free walking tour gives a ton of information about the history of the country (occupied by nearly everyone at some point) and Old Town itself. There were nearly 40 of us on the tour and I was the only American.

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After the tour, I was in need of some sustenance so I checked out my first Christmas market. Nestled in a church square, the market featured everything from handicrafts to bao buns (unexpected, to say the least).

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I opted in for the Bailey’s hot cocoa and posted up to enjoy the people watching. I heard English, French, and Korean while sitting around the center hearth. Despite the influx of tourists, the market was cozy with an excited, positive vibe.

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The markets were really fun but I found the local shop even more fun and original.

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Hobbywool was a favorite (yarn + wool crafts).

Jaunais Kolekcionairs was my favorite by far – I sat sipping tea for an hour or more, painting in a window booth, and later raided their collection of crafts made by local artisans. Globuss bookstore had an extensive English selection. With 50+ vendors including delicious local breads, cheese, and more lovely woven handicrafts, the Kalnciema Saturday Market across the river proved 100% worth the tram ride.

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Riga made for the perfect weekend getaway, especially given the markets at holiday time. A friend who taught abroad there before coming to Moscow shared a few dining recommendations which really made my experience:

Istaba – an art space and store with a 12-patron restaurant above, prix fixe + set of the day (3 meat or 3 fish options). I sampled the local cider and cod. Best to go for lunch to avoid crowds.
  • Ala Pagrabs – traditional Latvian food and folk music. Try to get a seat by the stage but bar stools are fine, too.
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Rigensis – a cute little bakery right in Old Town. Delicious local treats like cherry strudel.

After dinner, I headed back out to make the night market rounds. Everything looks better under twinkle lights and freshly fallen snow!

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Not to be missed is Riga’s Art Nouveau architecture north of the Esplanade. With strong vibes of Embassy Row in DC, Alberta Iela features enchanting building facades with ornate entrances adorned with griffins, goblins, peacocks, among other fantastical beasts.

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This street was a 700th birthday gift to the city of Riga from Latvian architect Mikhail Eisenstein.

 

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Overall, Riga was the idyllic winter getaway. For anyone touring European Christmas markets, this is an easy and welcoming spot to stop. Bright, charming, and artsy, I couldn’t have asked for a better refresher prior to the final week before school break. Certainly put me in the Christmas mood. Happy New Year, everyone!

The Duke Rides a Motorbike

From a Roman fortification known as Lucilinburhuc (′little castle′), to the present day seat of the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg has been through a great deal over its thousand-year history. With a population of 576,000 and a landmass of just under 1000 square miles, this tiny country has three official languages: French, German, and Luxembourgish (it’s real!). You can drive across the entire country in just over an hour. It is the only remaining grand duchy in Europe (Tuscany and Finland were both grand duchies at one point). After repeated invasions by Germany – the last of which resulted in the foundation of the European Union – Luxembourg is heavily influenced by bordering nations Germany, Belgium, and France. And yet, it boasts a style all its own. “We want to remain what we are” is the country’s motto. And they do so with style and flair.

I traveled to the country to attend a professional development conference at the International School of Luxembourg (gorgeous campus, generous teachers), with much of my time spent with a group of ten art teachers from all over Europe. We spent a full day downtown, exploring and creating artwork in visual journals.

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We started our day at Skatepark Hollerich, taking inspiration from the gorgeous graffiti which covers the place from top to bottom.

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Hopping on the bus to downtown, we switched over to architectural drawings, practicing making art wherever we stood, and focusing on the details we encountered.

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Known as the City of Roses during Europe’s Belle Epoque, Luxembourg City has retained its charm. Arriving at the tail end of autumn, the city was abuzz with Christmas market preparations. I was one week too early to shop but the carnival made for some sweet compositions.

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An organization called Urban Sketchers (www.urbansketchers.org) had mounted an exhibition in one of the main squares. On this gorgeous fall day, the sun danced across the building facades, taking the edge off the chill as we sat and sketched.

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A tangle of sidewalks and alleyways make up the city’s historic downtown, with upscale butcher shops and boulangerie around every turn. Perhaps my favorite part of ducking in and out of the little cafes was talking with friendly local shopkeepers. I tried out more French than I’ve dared speak in years without any judgement. Everyone speaks a smattering of languages here and they truly appreciate the effort.

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Off the center of town, the fortress walls drop off into a wide, tree-filled valley. Below the rampart walls lies a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Bock Casemates, 14 miles of tunnels which still exist today. Once a staging area for gun and cannon artillery, the tunnels also housed shops and barracks for over a thousand soldiers in the 18th century.

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The valley provided a reprieve from the constant wind up above. A series of bridges resembling Roman aqueducts allow passage overhead. The whole city exudes a regal flair, particularly magical at sunset.

While I was there, I was fortunate to meet up with a friend from my old school in Korea. Soo had recently moved to Luxembourg with her husband and daughter. We had a great time exploring the city together. Here we stand outside the Gare Centrale, a slightly sketchy part of town with all the best restaurants and bars, of course.

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Luxembourg proved endearingly charming, so much so that I would love to return. I think a combined road trip through Belgium might be just the ticket (here’s looking at you, Bruges!), and sooner than later. Until next time… à bientôt, Luxembourg.

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Århus: Art City

Nestled between Aalborg and southern Denmark lies an enclave of culture known as Aarhus. A city of substantial size – 275,000 inhabitants – in a fairly small country, Aarhus packs a major artistic punch not to be missed.

Given my current zip code, booking transportation can be challenging (read: unacceptable foreign credit cards, Google Translate incompatibility), but chalk another one up for the Danes – they’ve got that on lock, too. DSB trains are efficient, timely, and extremely comfortable. As it was school vacation week, I opted to reserve a seat (always worth checking before booking!). Since my timing was flexible, I opted for the orange ticket – cheaper fares found at slightly less-traveled times. Very easy on the wallet in a country that leans towards the pricier side.

Pulling into Aarhus’ Central Station, I followed the signs to luggage storage. I easily deposited my overnight bag at the cost of 20 Danish krona for 24 hours (roughly 3USD). As I had opted to travel without a SIM card or an international phone plan – digital detachment being the vacation goal – I had prepped by downloading the city limits of Aarhus on Google Maps. Plugging in my first destination, the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, I set off into the chilly, grey morning on foot.

My destination was less than a kilometer from the station and I spotted its famed rooftop installation almost immediately. The Rainbow Pavilion had attracted my eye on an Instagram feed, leading me to plan this stop on my return trip to Copenhagen.

ARoS did not disappoint. Within the museum’s impressive contemporary art collection, I spotted works by artists I recognize and noted a few new names to investigate.

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World-renowned American artist Julian Schnabel’s canvases stretch over 40 feet high in ARoS’ cavernous underground galleries. Though I’m not necessarily a huge fan, I have to give him credit for these massive undertakings.

After wandering the galleries, I made my way to the museum’s roof. Perched on a hilltop, the building already has a height advantage over the surrounding low-lying city below. If you add a tunnel of the color continuum, you’re in business – views for days, and ever evolving ones thanks to the blustery autumn day.

I enjoyed my time in Aarhus so much that I’ve made a promise to return. With delicious restaurants, pedestrian walkways, and plenty of good shopping, there’s a lot to love. A few hours later, I arrived found myself back in Copenhagen for the evening. After spending time loading up on groceries not found in Moscow, I wandered the canal sidewalks, watching the lights of the row houses dance on the water. Denmark has a very special charm, buttoned up in stormy navy blue skies and shimmering golden light. Until next time…