This blog is about my travels. At home in New Zealand, in other parts of Oceania, North, Central and South America and in Europe.
The Palacio Real is one of the many royal palaces in Spain. Build in the heart of Madrid, the palace was built to rival even the OTT opulence of the palace of Versailles. It was completed in 1755 and has 3,418 rooms! It is now owned by the government and is also used for ceremonies. Photography isn't permitted in many areas, but the rooms are lavishly decorated. One room was completely decorated in porcelain and it was certainly a showy place!
The botanic gardens in Madrid were founded in 1755 and contain botanical specimens from around the world. A particular focus of the botanical gardens has historically been its thousands of specimens collected from countries colonized by Spain. In the 20th century they fell into neglect, but are now very well looked after.
The modern art museum, the Reina Sofia gallery is full of amazing modern and contemporary art. The most famous artwork of all is Guernica by Picasso, painted in 1937 to commemorate the bombing of the Spanish town of Guernica during the Spanish civil war. Many of the art works in the Reina Sofia gallery related to this devastating war.
The Prado museum is one of the most amazing art galleries in Europe. It is stuffed full of masterpieces. Most of these were donated from the collection of the Spanish royal family.
Some of my favourites were the artworks of Hieronymus Bosch, a mysterious 15th century dutch painter. His religious paintings of heaven and hell are some of the most wildly imaginative scenes in art history (unfortunately I wasn't able to take a photo of this, but if you're interested, have a google).
One of my other favourite painters is Francisco Goya. The Prado is full of paintings by this great Spanish artist. Some of his best paintings (in my opinion) are from his 'black period'. These are his 'grumpy old man' paintings, which contain some absolute masterpieces. Stricken with deafness, old, cast out from the Spanish court (previous deliberately unflattering royal portraits probably didn't help), and upset about ongoing war, Goya retreated to his country villa, painted the walls black, and set out on a series of paintings on the dark side of the human condition, ranging from human follies like vanity to war and cannibalism. He also painted these in his ground breaking expressive style. Occasionally he wasn't so grumpy though. His paintings at the time do seem to cheer up when he beautifully painted women, a favourite subject for him!
From Barcelona I caught the bus to Madrid. Madrid is packed with amazing art galleries and interesting sights.
I traveled briefly to Barcelona, and while I was there I decided to take a day trip up to the small country of Andorra which is nestled in the Pyrenees mountains. The views from the bus ride up there was stunning.
From city centre in Andorra, I went for a hike up in the hills. There were some great views of the mountains, and luckily it didn't rain (although it looked like it might).
From Zurich I took a long overnight bus down to Nice in the South of France. And from Nice I took a very short (30 minute) journey to the little country of Monaco.
I just had a quick look around Monaco. It is a very luxurious place full of fancy yachts and casinos due to it's status as a tax haven.
The next day, still stricken with laryngitis and no voice whatsoever, I decided to use my limited time to bag one more country, Lichtenstein! So I took the train. Not being able to speak definitely has it's disadvantages and at one point I even had to write down a question for the train conductor!
But I managed, and made my silent journey by train. The scenery was absolutely stunning! There are beautiful views of the Swiss alps and alpine lakes on the way.
My last transfer involved a short bus ride over a river to this completely new country!
I went for a short exploratory walk around this terra nova. It was a beautiful day and there were lovely views of the Swiss alps, the apple blossom was in bloom, and I concluded that there are most probably worse places to live than this part of Lichtenstein. I didn't stay long, as really I should have been in bed the whole time! But I got back to Zurich, ate some food, went to bed straight away, and thankfully a croaky version of my voice reappeared the next day.
I traveled to Zürich for a short stay in Switzerland. Alas, no sooner had I arrived than my throat started to get very sore indeed - I came down with Laryngitis! I don't get sick that often, but it can be easier to get sick travelling with all the buses and trains. Anyway, the morning after I arrived I completely lost my voice, not having a hoarse voice, I temporarily had no voice whatsoever. If I tried to make a sound I'd be lucky if a very tiny noise would come out. I still went for a wander around the city, enough to marvel at how spotlessly clean the city was, and the incredible efficiency of it's public transport system.
From Belgium, I visited Luxembourg, and while I was there I went for a walk through the old town of Luxembourg city, and also along the Chemin de la Corniche, a pedestrian promenade that runs along the top of the 17th century ramparts of the city's fortifications.
Along the ramparts there are the remains of a fortress which was built up over nine centuries. Because of it's location it was an important part of the border between Germany and France. It was known as one of Europe's strongest fortresses, and was used to hold off many attacks. In 1867, as part of the negotiations of a peace treaty to help to ensure that Luxembourg would be politically neutral, most of the original fortress was destroyed. Even though it has been largely destroyed the fortress is a UNESCO heritage site because of it's long association with military history.
As well as the fortress there is a network of tunnels underneath. While a lot of the outer part of the fortress was destroyed, the tunnels underneath remain. They were still in use in WW2, when they were used to shelter residents of the city from bombing.
I am a traveller from New Zealand. My blog is to inform friends and family about my adventures. I hope you enjoy it!