All Saints’ Day at Skogskyrkogården

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Skogskyrkogården, Stockholm’s Woodland Cemetery is a serene patch of green in the heart of the city. It is a place of remembrance, a place to take a pause, and think back upon loved ones. Graves and tombstones line up by the thousands under the soft shade of pine trees. The landscape is peaceful in itself. The architecture of the five unique chapels align completely with the tranquil environment. Everyone is welcome to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site and take in the placid surroundings at their own time and in a respectful manner. This place is beautiful any time of the year, but if it were possible to say so, a few degrees even higher on the evening of All Saint’s Day or Allhelgonadag on the 4th of September. This evening, following a time-honored tradition, hundreds come to the cemetery and light a candle in memory of a dear departed soul. You hear meditative music from organs of one of the chapels. Many people leave behind souvenirs, flowers and letters, all made with love and remembrance. Even if you personally don’t have a loved one resting in peace at Skogskyrkogården, a visit on this evening can be quite a humbling experience.

 

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Why you should visit Vatican City

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We all agree there are plenty of reasons why one should visit Vatican City, here are some usual & unusual ones:

  • It is the smallest country in the world by area (only 0.44 sq. km.) and population (less than 1000). For me, that kind of superlative is reason enough to go someplace, don’t you agree?
  • It is right next to or rather surrounded on all sides by the lovely Rome, which makes it both easy to and silly not to visit if you are already in Rome. Everybody should go to Rome, but more about that in other posts 😉
  • If you enjoy watching people and observing crowds, this is your heaven. Disregarding the size of this tiny nation millions of tourists from around the globe flock here – the Vatican Museum alone welcomes about 1.5 million each year.
  • Even if you are not a religious person keen on a pilgrimage to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, you’d want to take a look at the great works of art by giants like Michelangelo, Bernini, Botticelli and other Renaissance artists housed within and upon the walls of the vast St. Peter’s Basilica, Apostolic Palace and Sistine Chapel. There is no joy like spending hours walking through immense collections of  art, sculpture and history, is there?
  • Vatican City is also unique in that it is the only country that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in entirety. Incidentally, neighboring (or surrounding) Italy is the country with the most number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the current number being 53. Obviously, all that art and history that makes it a valuable center worth conserving for posterity to observe, enjoy & learn from.

Have you been to Vatican City? What were your reasons to visit?

Cyprus, Paphos

Cyprus trip : Day 3 & 4

Mr.A and I spent most of the 3rd day of our Cyprus trip in Ayia Napa, but set off for Paphos late afternoon. It’s a 2-hour drive to the city on the western part of the island. The highway boasts of good road conditions, sometime winding close enough to the sea to offer stunning views of the shiny sea, and at others, winding inland between sand coloured hills dotted with short bushes. It was a hot day, so we kept the air conditioning going and carried an ample stash of chilled iced tea to sustain us along the way. The radio blasted away and we sang along when a familiar melody came up.

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We reached the Capital Coast Resort and Spa just short of sunset. I was quite impressed by the property with its multiple pools, luxurious spa, spacious apartments, great sea view and pleasant restaurants. Since sunset was around 8 o’clock, we had enough time to splash around in the outdoor pool before that. We got changed and were back in the lawn to watch the golden sunset. It was in a long, long time that we had taken out time to sit and watch both sunrise and sunset together in the span of a single day… that was special & romantic 🙂

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We decided to visit some historical sites the following day. The forecast warned of a sweltering day. Covered in multiple layers of sunblock, armed with scarves, caps, sunglasses, umbrellas, bottles of water and so on, we set off! The Tombs of the Kings are a network of underground crypts from the 4th century BC, supposedly belonging to rich members of society but not kings per se. The sites are spread over a considerable area and have graves of varying sizes. Some of the complexes exhibit enclosed courtyards with Roman columns which are in impressively good shape, given the amount of time they have weathered the elements! We walked through many a mirage shimmering over the heated earth. But history always intrigues the two of us, and in spite of the heat waves, were happy to have been there.

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Few kilometers away is the Kato Paphos Archeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980. This area has been a settlement during several eras over history, but the most dominant and well-preserved remains – one can visit houses decorated with elegant mosaic floors depicting mythical stories – date back to the Roman era. These sites are excellent examples of craftsmanship and symmetry.

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We returned to the hotel and practically walked right into the pool to cool off. Thoroughly revived, we checked out & headed back to Larnaca to catch a red-eye flight. At Larnaca, we visited the Salt Lake and left our footprints on the slightly mushy surface. We also headed to the Hala Sultan Tekke, a mosque that has stood on the edge of the lake since the Ottoman Empire. Although we reached beyond admission hours, I’m glad we went – to our great surprise, we were met by a clutter of cats so large we had never seen before :-O They were everywhere, more and more of them kept crawling out from the shadows. We declared Cyprus as Cat-country right there and fled before they could enslave us!

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Dinner was at a traditional restaurant where we ate a truck-load of fish, no kidding. Lucky for us, some local artists performing song and dance at the restaurant. With still some hours to kill before the flight, Mr.A and I strolled by the water and found beach beds by a hotel. Nobody stopped us, so we lay down for an hour enjoying the cool sea breeze, listening to the slosh-slosh of the waves, counting stars… couldn’t have asked for a better ending to this lovely Cyprus trip 🙂

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Side trip from Venice to Murano

If you need a little break from the hordes of tourists in Venice, a welcome side trip could be the neighbouring islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello, all a short boat ride away. Mr.A and I made our way to Murano on a vaporetti earlier this spring. This is Venice’s little sister, just as pretty but smaller and cosier. You will still enjoy circuitous canals with boats bobbing past and bridges crisscrossing, old crumbling houses rising right out of the water, charming window boxes overhung with fresh blossoms, and of course, a quintessential display of Murano glass everywhere.

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Famous for using ancient glassforming techniques refined over the centuries, Murano remains a major player in the glass making industry. Incidentally, glass factories were moved to Murano in the 1200’s so that the risk of fires in Venice could be mitigated. Today, Murano not only remains a major exporter of glass goods, but is also an attraction for curious tourists who can enjoy visits to glass museums, excursions around factories that show you how it’s all done, and lots of shopping opportunities, from dainty earrings to gigantic chandeliers, and everything else in between.

Burano, on the other hand, is known for its lace, intricately woven by hand, another tradition nurtured over a hundred and more years. But no matter where you end up for a quieter day away from the bustle of Venice, as everywhere else in Italy, you’ll always find plenty of sunshine, a fine scoop of gelato and a good bowl of pasta close at hand 🙂

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