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Friday, 15 March 2013

Valladolid

Valladolid


Valladolid is the capital city of the autonomous region of Castile and León and the Province of Valladolid in north-western Spain. It is situated at the confluence of the Pisuerga and Esgueva rivers, and located within three winegrowing regions: Ribera del Duero, Rueda and Cigales.

Remains of Celtiberian and of a Roman camp have been excavated near the city. The nucleus of the city was originally located in the area of the current San Miguel y el Rosarillo square, and was surrounded by a palisade. Archaeological proofs of the existence of three ancient lines of walls have been found.


During the time of Moorish rule in Spain the Christian kings moved the population of this region north into more easily defended areas, and deliberately created a no man's land as a buffer zone against further Moorish conquests. The area was captured from the Moors in the 10th century, and Valladolid was a village until King Alfonso VI of León and Castile donated it to Count Pedro Ansúrez in 1072. He built a palace (now lost) for himself and his wife, Countess Eylo, the Collegiate of St. Mary and the La Antigua churches. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Valladolid grew rapidly, thanks also to the commercial privileges granted by the kings Alfonso VIII and Alfonso X, as well as to the repopulation of the area after the Reconquista.

In 1469 Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon were married in the city; by the 15th century Valladolid was the residence of the kings of Castile and remained the capital of the Kingdom of Spain until 1561, when the city was destroyed by a fire and Philip II, born here, moved the capital to Madrid, starting a period of decadence for Valladolid. In 1506 Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid in a house that is now a Museum dedicated to him. It was made the capital of the kingdom again between 1601 and 1606 by Philip III. The city was again damaged by a flood of the rivers Pisuerga and Esgueva.

Despite the damage to the old city by the 1960s economic boom, it still boasts a few architectural manifestations of its former glory. Some monuments include the unfinished cathedral, the Plaza Mayor (Main Square), which was the model for that of Madrid, and of other main squares throughout the former Spanish Empire, the National Sculpture Museum, next to the church of Saint Paul, which includes Spain's greatest collections of polychrome wood sculptures, and the Faculty of Law of the University of Valladolid, whose façade is one of the few surviving works by Narciso Tomei, the same artist who did the transparente in Toledo Cathedral. The Science Museum is next to the river Pisuerga. The only surviving house of Miguel de Cervantes is also located in Valladolid. Although unfinished, the Cathedral of Valladolid was designed by Juan de Herrera, architect of El Escorial.

Although an inland province, fish is commonly consumed, some brought from the Cantabrian Sea. Fish like red bream and hake are a major part of Valladolid's cuisine.

The main speciality of Valladolid is, however, lechazo (suckling baby lamb). The lechazo is slowly roasted in a wood oven and served with salad.

Valladolid also offers a great assortment of wild mushrooms. Asparagus, endive and beans can also be found. Some legumes, like white beans and lentils are particularly good. Pine nuts are also produced in great quantities.

Sheep cheese from Villalón de Campos, the famous pata de mulo (mule's leg) is usually unripened (fresh), but if it is cured the ripening process brings out such flavour that it can compete with the best sheep cheeses in Spain.

In the area of bread Valladolid has a bread to go with every dish, like the delicious cuadros from Medina del Campo, the muffins, the pork-scratching bread and the lechuguinos, with a pattern of concentric circles that resemble a head of lettuce.

The pastries and baked goods from the province of Valladolid are well-known, specially St. Mary's ring-shaped pastries, St. Claire's sponge cakes, pine nut balls and cream fritters.

Valladolid is also a producer of wines. The ones that fall under the Designation of Origin Cigales are very good. White wines from Rueda and red wines from Ribera del Duero are known for their quality.




Valladolid’s Top 5:
  1. The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Assumption, better known as Valladolid Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral designed by Juan de Herrera. The cathedral has its origins in a late Gothic collegiate church, which was started during the late 15th century: before temporarily becoming capital of a united Spain, Valladolid was not a bishopric, and thus it lacked the right or necessity to build a cathedral. However, soon enough the Gothic collegiate church became outmoded with the growth of Renaissance classicizing architecture, and thanks to the newly established episcopal see, the Town Council decided to build a cathedral that would put similar constructions in neighbouring capitals in the shade. However, due to strategic and geopolitical reasons, by the 1560s the capital was moved to Madrid and funds for architectural projects were largely cut. Thus the cathedral was not finished according to Herrera's design; it was further modified during the 17th and 18th centuries, such as the addition to the top of the main façade, a work by Churriguera.
  2. The Plaza Mayor of Valladolid is the first great plaza in Spain, and closed with arcades, is a space intended for use as a market and as a backdrop to the public celebrations so dear to the Habsburg monarchy. It had been designed with large balconies to facilitate the viewing of the shows, and served as a model, since the seventeenth century, for many others in Spain (such as Madrid, 1617 or Salamanca, 1729) and South America, even having an impact in Italy. Its existence became defined in the mid-thirteenth century when the market moved from the Plaza de Santa Maria to Market Square, which since the early sixteenth century has been called Plaza Mayor. Individual unions were installed around it, as was the Convent of San Francisco, until 1499 the most important building in the vicinity. After that date, as mandated by the Catholic Monarchs it was the House of the Municipality who presided over the life of the city.
  3. The National Museum of Sculpture is a museum belonging to the Spanish Ministry of Culture. The museum has an extensive collection sculptural ranging from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century from convents, donations, deposits and acquisitions of the state. The museum was founded as the Provincial Museum of Fine Arts on October 4, 1842. It had its first headquarters at the Palacio de Santa Cruz. On 29 April 1933 it was moved to the Colegio de San Gregorio. Other current seats are in the 16th century Palacio de Villena and Palacio del Conde de Gondomar. The museum houses works from the 13th to 19th century, executed in the Iberian Peninsula or in other regions historically connected to Spain (Italy, Flanders, Southern America). Artworks include, among the others, a Raising of the Crossby Francisco del Rincon, I Thirst, and The Way of Calvary Gregorio Fernández, Adoration of the Magi by Alonso Berruguete, Lamentation of Christ by Juan de Juni, Penitent Magdalene by Pedro de Mena or the Holy Sepulchre or passage of the Sleepers Alonso de Rozas.
  4. The Teatro Calderón de la Barca is a theatre named after the playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca. The site of the theater was occupied until the mid-nineteenth century by the palace of the Duke of Osuna, Admiral of Castile, which was demolished to make way for the theatre. Jerónimo de la Gándara was the architect. One of the largest theaters in Spain, the facade has an eclectic neo-classical style. The Calderón opened in 1864. The interior has a horseshoe shape in the Italian style. The paint work, curtains and sets were created by the celebrated decorator Augusto Ferri. The Art Nouveau side lamps date from the early twentieth century. Other rooms were a coffee shop, a library decorated with many paintings, and a banquet room. The magnificent and lavishly decorated building became one of the main theaters in Spain when it opened.
  5. The Royal Palace of Valladolid was the official residence of the Kings of Spain during the period in which the Royal Court had its seat in Valladolid between 1601 and 1606, and a temporary residence of the Spanish Monarchs from Charles I to Isabella II, as well as and also of Napoleon during the War of the Independence. Currently is the headquarters of the 4th General Sub-inspection of the Army.





Thursday, 14 February 2013

Poznań

Poznań





Poznań is a city on the Warta river in west-central Poland, with a population of 551,627 in the end of 2010. It is among the oldest cities in Poland, and was one of the most important centres in the early Polish state, whose first rulers were buried at Poznań's cathedral. It is sometimes claimed to be the first capital of the kingdom of Poland.

Poznań is now Poland's fifth largest city. It is the historical capital of the Wielkopolska ("Greater Poland") region, and is currently the administrative capital of the province called Greater Poland Voivodeship.


For centuries before the Christianization of Poland, Poznań (consisting of a fortified stronghold between the Warta and Cybina rivers, on what is now Ostrów Tumski) was an important cultural and political centre of the Polan tribe. Mieszko I, the first historically recorded ruler of the Polans, and of the early Polish state which they dominated, built one of his main stable headquarters in Poznań. Mieszko's baptism of 966, seen as a defining moment in the establishment of the Polish state, may have taken place in Poznań.

Following the baptism, construction began of Poznań's cathedral, the first in Poland. Poznań was probably the main seat of the first missionary bishop sent to Poland, Bishop Jordan. The Congress of Gniezno in 1000 led to the country's first permanent archbishopric being established in Gniezno (which is generally regarded as Poland's capital in that period), although Poznań continued to have independent bishops of its own. Poznań's cathedral was the place of burial of the early Piast monarchs (Mieszko I, Boleslaus I, Mieszko II, Casimir I), and later of Przemysł I and King Przemysł II.

The pagan reaction that followed Mieszko II's death (probably in Poznań) in 1034 left the region weak, and in 1038 Bretislaus I of Bohemia sacked and destroyed both Poznań and Gniezno. Poland was reunited under Casimir I the Restorer in 1039, but the capital was moved to Kraków, which had been relatively unaffected by the troubles.

In 1138, by the testament of Bolesław III, Poland was divided into separate duchies under the late king's sons, and Poznań and its surroundings became the domain of Mieszko III the Old, the first of the Dukes of Greater Poland. This period of fragmentation lasted until 1320. Duchies frequently changed hands; control of Poznań, Gniezno and Kalisz sometimes lay with a single duke, but at other times these constituted separate duchies.

Town Hall
In about 1249, Duke Przemysł I began constructing what would become the Royal Castle on a hill on the left bank of the Warta. Then in 1253 Przemysł issued a charter to Thomas of Guben (Gubin) for the founding of a town under Magdeburg law, between the castle and the river. Thomas brought a large number of German settlers to aid in the building and settlement of the city – this is an example of the German eastern migration (Ostsiedlung) characteristic of that period. The city (covering the area of today's Old Town neighbourhood) was surrounded by a defensive wall, integrated with the castle.

In reunited Poland, and later in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Poznań was the seat of a voivodeship. The city's importance began to grow in the Jagiellonian period, due to its position on trading routes from Lithuania and Ruthenia to western Europe. It would become a major centre for the fur trade by the late 16th century. Suburban settlements developed around the city walls, on the river islands and on the right bank, with some (Ostrów Tumski, Śródka, Chwaliszewo, Ostrówek) obtaining their own town charters. However the city's development was hampered by regular major fires and floods. On 2 May 1536 a blaze destroyed 175 buildings, including the castle, the town hall, the monastery and the suburban settlement called St. Martin.

In the second half of the 17th century and most of the eighteenth, Poznań was severely affected by a series of wars (and attendant military occupations, lootings and destruction) – the Second and Third Northern Wars, the War of the Polish Succession, the Seven Years' War and the Bar Confederation rebellion. It was also hit by frequent outbreaks of plague, and by floods, particularly that of 1736, which destroyed most of the suburban buildings. The population of the conurbation declined (from 20,000 around 1600 to 6,000 around 1730), and Bambergian and Dutch settlers (Bambrzy and Olędrzy) were brought in to rebuild the devastated suburbs. In 1778 a "Committee of Good Order" (Komisja Dobrego Porządku) was established in the city, which oversaw rebuilding efforts and reorganized the city's administration. However in 1793, in the Second Partition of Poland, Poznań, came under the control of the Kingdom of Prussia, becoming part of (and initially the seat of) the province of South Prussia.

The Prussian authorities expanded the city boundaries, making the walled city and its closest suburbs into a single administrative unit. Left-bank suburbs were incorporated in 1797, and Ostrów Tumski, Chwaliszewo, Śródka, Ostrówek and Łacina (St. Roch) in 1800. The old city walls were taken down in the early 19th century, and major development took place to the west of the old city, with many of the main streets of today's city centre being laid out.

In the Greater Poland Uprising of 1806, Polish soldiers and civilian volunteers assisted the efforts of Napoleon by driving out Prussian forces from the region. The city became a part of the Duchy of Warsaw in 1807, and was the seat of Poznań Department - a unit of administrative division and local government. However in 1815, following the Congress of Vienna, the region was returned to Prussia, and Poznań became the capital of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Posen.

After World War I the Greater Poland Uprising (1918–1919) brought Poznań and most of the region under Polish control, confirmed by the Treaty of Versailles. The local populace had to acquire Polish citizenship or leave the country. In the interwar Second Polish Republic, the city again became the capital of Poznań Voivodeship. 

During the German occupation of 1939–1945, Poznań was incorporated into the Third Reich as the capital of Reichsgau Wartheland. Many Polish inhabitants were executed, arrested, expelled to the General Government or used as forced labour; at the same time many Germans and Volksdeutsche were settled in the city. The pre-war Jewish population of about 2,000 were mostly murdered in the Holocaust. A concentration camp for perceived enemies was set up in Fort VII, one of the 19th-century perimeter forts (the camp was later moved to Żabikowo south of Poznań). The Nazi authorities significantly expanded Poznań's boundaries to include most of the present-day area of the city; these boundaries were retained after the war. Poznań fell to the Red Army (assisted by Polish volunteers) on 23 February 1945 following the Battle of Poznań, in which the German army conducted a last-ditch defence in line with Hitler's designation of the city as a Festung. The Citadel was the last point to fall, and the fighting left much of the city (particularly the Old Town) in ruins.

The post-war years saw much reconstruction work on buildings damaged in the fighting. The most recent expansion of the city's boundaries took place in 1987, with the addition of new areas mainly to the north, including Morasko, Radojewo and Kiekrz. The first free local elections following the fall of communism took place in 1990. With the Polish local government reforms of 1999, Poznań again became the capital of a larger province (Greater Poland Voivodeship). It also became the seat of a powiat ("Poznań County"), with the city itself gaining separate powiat status.

While sightseeing around the city, one definitely should not stay hungry for a long time. Fortunately, there are many restaurants, cafés, eateries, small pubs and beer gardens located in the Old Town´s many romantic streets and around the Old Market Square that offer tasty dishes, beautiful views, excellent service and great atmosphere. When visiting Poznań, one
absolutely has to try delicacies of regional cuisine that are dominated by potatoes, here also known as ‘pyry’. The most popular local delicacies include ‘pyry z gzikiem’ – potatoes served with cottage cheese seasoned with cream, onion and chives – and ‘plyndze’, this is to say potato cakes. Among the inhabitants of Poznań there are many lovers of ‘szagówki’ (dumplings with potatoes and flour cut diagonally) and steamed yeast dumplings, called ‘kluchy’, ‘kluchy na łachu’ or ‘parowce’, served with meat and sauces as a substitute for potatoes. Housewives traditionally serve the dumplings with sauerkraut and roasted duck. One of the most popular snacks is meat aspic, here called ‘galart’ or ‘zimne nóżki’. 

Apart from local delicacies, restaurants and cafés in Poznań serve international meals and beverages. The city´s cooks know very well how to satisfy the appetites of all guests, even if they do not want to spend a lot of money. And if you are looking for fresh fruit, vegetable, fruits of the forest, mushroom, honey and marinades, you should visit one of Poznań´s markets. The most popular of them are Jeżycki Market, Łazarski Market and the ones held in Wielkopolski and Bernardyński Squares. All the delicacies that you can buy here will be both a delight to the palate and a perfect keepsake of your stay in Poznań.

The recently built Stary Browar shopping centre contains many high-end shops and is considered one of the best in Europe. It has won an award for the best shopping center in the world in the medium-sized commercial buildings category. 

Other notable shopping centres in the city include Galeria Malta, one of the largest in Central Europe, and the shops at the Hotel Bazar, a historical hotel and commercial center in the Old Town.



                                                        Poznań’s Top 5:
       
  1. The Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul is one of the oldest churches in Poland and the oldest Polish cathedral, dating from the 10th century. It stands on the island of Ostrów Tumski north-east of the city centre. The cathedral was originally built in the second half of the 10th century within the fortified settlement (gród) of Poznań. This was one of the main political centres in the early Polish state, and included a ducal palace (excavated by archaeologists since 1999, beneath the Church of the Virgin Mary which stands in front of the cathedral).  Saint Peter became the patron of the church because, as the first cathedral in the country, it had the right to have the same patron as St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. The first church survived for about seventy years, until the period of the pagan reaction and the raid of the Bohemian duke Bretislav I (1034–1038).  In the 14th and 15th centuries, the church was rebuilt in the Gothic style. At that time, a crown of chapels was added. A fire in 1622 did such serious damage that the cathedral needed a complete renovation, which was carried out in the Baroque style. Another major fire broke out in 1772 and the church was rebuilt in the Neo-Classical style. In 1821, Pope Pius VII raised the cathedral to the status of a Metropolitan Archcathedral and added the second patron - Saint Paul. The last of the great fires occurred on 15 February 1945, during the liberation of the city from the Germans. The damage was serious enough that the conservators decided to return to the Gothic style, using as a base medieval relics revealed by the fire. The cathedral was reopened on 29 June 1956. In 1962, Pope John XXIII gave the church the title of minor basilica.
  2. Grand Theatre, Poznań  is a neoclassical opera house named after famous Polish composer Stanisław Moniuszko. Designed by German architect Max Littmann, and inaugurated in 1910 with The Magic Flute (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), is a main opera stage in Greater Poland Voivodeship currently directed by Michał Znaniecki. Its season runs from mid-September to mid-June and the company mounts an annual "Festival Verdi" in October and "E. T. A. Hoffmann Festival" in April, often with special guests.
  3. Poznań Town Hall or Ratusz is located in the Old Market Square (Stary Rynek) in the centre of the Old Town neighbourhood. It served as the city's administrative building until 1939, and now houses a museum. The town hall was originally built in the late 13th century following the founding of the medieval city in 1253; it was rebuilt in roughly its present-day form, in mannerist style, with an ornate loggia, by Giovanni Battista di Quadro in 1550–1560. The display of mechanical fighting goats, played out daily at noon above the clock on the front wall of the building, is one of the city's main tourist attractions.
  4. The Museum of Poznan Uprising 1956  Placed in the interiors of Emperor's Castle shows exhibits connected with the Poznan workers' protest against the communist system in June 1956. On the exhibition there are photos of attendants and their personal belongings, as well as historical sources about the anticommunist opposition between 1945-1989. An interesting thing is a reconstructed tram, used by protestants as a barricade.
  5. The Imperial Castle popularly called Zamek, is a palace in Poznań. It was constructed in 1910 by Franz Schwechten for William II, German Emperor, with significant input from William himself. Since its completion, the building has housed government offices of Germany (to 1918 and during the Second World War) and Poland (1918–1939, 1945–present). During fighting in 1945, the castle was a temporary camp for German POWs, and was later used as a barracks by the Polish People's Army. During this period, the communist government considered the demolition of the castle as a symbol of the German occupation and bourgeois style. Due to a lack of funds, only some of the German symbols were removed and the upper part of damaged tower was demolished.
    During the war, the city hall and the seat of the town authorities was destroyed. The castle was renamed to "New City Hall" (Nowy Ratusz), and later transformed into a centre of culture. On 6 June 1979 the castle was declared a historical monument under protection of law. Today, the Throne Room is used as a cinema room; other apartments contain art galleries, a puppet theater, pubs, music clubs and restaurants. The courtyard is often a place of concerts and outdoor movie performances during summer. The second floor is still empty and has not been renovated. The square in front of the building is the main venue for the St. Martin's Day parade and celebrations held in Poznań annually on November 11.


References: http://www.poznan.pl/mim/public/turystyka/index.html?lang=en

The Adventure Company

Bergen

Bergen



Bergen is a city and municipality in Hordaland on the west coast of Norway. As of 13 February 2013, the municipality had a population of 268,100 and Greater Bergen had a population of 394,300, making Bergen the second-largest city in Norway. The municipality covers an area of 465 square kilometers (180 sq mi) and is located on the peninsula of Bergenshalvøyen. The city center and northern neighborhoods are located on Byfjorden and the city is surrounded by mountains, traditionally held to be seven mountains. Many of the extra-municipal suburbs are located on islands.

The city of Bergen was traditionally thought to have been founded by king Olav Kyrre, son of Harald Hardråde in 1070 AD, four years after the Viking Age ended. Modern research has, however, discovered that a trading settlement was established already during the 1020s or 1030s. Bergen gradually assumed the function of capital of Norway in the early 13th century, as the first city where a rudimentary central administration was established. The city's cathedral was the site of the first royal coronation in Norway in the 1150s, and continued to host royal coronations throughout the 13th century. The functions of capital city were lost to Oslo during the reign of King Haakon V (1299–1319). In the middle of the 14th century, North German merchants who had already been present in substantial numbers since the 13th century, founded one of the four kontors of the Hanseatic League at Bryggen in Bergen.

The principal export traded from Bergen was dried cod from the northern Norwegian coast, which started around 1100. By the late 14th century, Bergen had established itself as the centre of the trade in Norway. The Hanseatic merchants lived in their own separate quarter of town, where Middle Low German was used, enjoying exclusive rights to trade with the northern fishermen that each summer sailed to Bergen. Today, Bergen's old quayside, Bryggen is on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Site.

The city's history is marked by numerous great fires. In 1198, the Bagler-faction set fire to the city in connection with a battle against the Birkebeiner faction during the civil war. In 1248, Holmen and Sverresborg burned, and 11 churches were destroyed. In 1413 another fire struck the city, and 14 churches were destroyed. In 1428 the city was plundered by German pirates, and in 1455, Hanseatic merchants were responsible for burning down Munkeliv Abbey. In 1476, Bryggen burned down in a fire started by a drunk trader. In 1582, another fire hit the city centre and Strandsiden. In 1675, 105 buildings burned down in Øvregaten. In 1686 a new great fire hit Strandsiden, destroying 231 city blocks and 218 boathouses. The greatest fire to date happened in 1702 when 90 percent of the city was burned to ashes. In 1751, there was a great fire at Vågsbunnen. In 1756, a new fire at Strandsiden burned down 1,500 buildings, and further great fires hit Strandsiden in 1771 and 1901. In 1916, 300 buildings burned down in the city centre, and in 1955 parts of Bryggen burned down.

In 1349, the Black Death was inadvertently brought to Norway by the crew of an English ship arriving in Bergen. In the 15th century, the city was several times attacked by the Victual Brothers, and in 1429 they succeeded in burning the royal castle and much of the city. In 1665, the city's harbour was the site of the Battle of Vågen, where an English naval flotilla attacked a Dutch merchant and treasure fleet supported by the city's garrison.

Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, Bergen remained one of the largest cities in Scandinavia, and was Norway's biggest city until the 1830s, when the capital city of Oslo became the largest. From around 1600, the Hanseatic dominance of the city's trade gradually declined in favour of Norwegian merchants (often of Hanseatic ancestry), and in the 1750s, the Hanseatic Kontor finally closed. Bergen retained its monopoly of trade with Northern Norway until 1789.

During World War II, Bergen was occupied on the first day of the German invasion on 9 April 1940, after a brief fight between German ships and the Norwegian coastal artillery. On 20 April 1944, during the German occupation, the Dutch cargo ship Voorbode anchored off the Bergenhus Fortress, loaded with over 120 tons of explosives, blew up, killing at least 150 people and damaging historic buildings. The city was subject to some Allied bombing raids, aiming at German naval installations in the harbour. Some of these caused Norwegian civilian casualties numbering about 100.

Bergen was separated from Hordaland as a county of its own in 1831. It was established as a municipality on 1 January 1838. The rural municipality of Bergen landdistrikt was merged with Bergen on 1 January 1877. The rural municipality of Årstad was merged with Bergen on 1 July 1915. The rural municipalities of Arna, Fana, Laksevåg, and Åsane were merged with Bergen on 1 January 1972. The city lost its status as a separate county on the same date. Bergen is now a municipality in Norway, in the county of Hordaland.

There is a great variety of restaurants and cafes in Bergen, but you should expect to spend some time looking for the best places. In the most central parts of the city, many of the restaurants are all the same. Move a block away from the most central parts of downtown to find lower prices and better food. Kitchens usually close at 11PM at the latest.

Waiters and other restaurant staff have good wages. You are not required to leave any money to cover the service, but many people choose to tip the waiter if he or she has been helpful and nice, and if the food was good. If you choose to leave a tip, rounding up or adding about five to ten percent will be appreciated. A rule of thumb would be that the more expensive the food is, the more are you expected to leave a tip.

Keep in mind that tap water is safe to drink and (usually) free of charge. To save money, ask for tap water to drink.

Finding local food might take some effort, but there are some options. There aren't that many local dishes available at restaurants. "Norwegian" food is the food of the husmann (cottager) – nutritious and cheap, not what you usually find in a restaurant. The Bergen fish soup might be the most important, as well as raspeballer and cooked cod. If you want to get that Norwegian taste and have a gourmet meal at the same time, look for dishes that use "local" ingredients (such as reindeer, stockfish and cod) with a twist, such as Bryggen Tracteursted's filet of reindeer farced with goat cheese.

Many cafe's and restaurants serve "raspeballer" on Thursdays. Raspeballer are local potato dumplings, in Bergen usually served with bacon, sausages, salted meat from sheep, melted butter and mashed rutabaga. 

In November, December and January, traditional Christmas food is served in many restaurants. Look for "pinnekjøtt" (cured, dried and sometimes smoked meat of lamb or mutton), "lutefisk" (lit. "lye fish", dried cod prepared with lye) and "ribbe" (oven-baked pork ribs). For a very special experience, try smalahove (sheep's head). It is a traditional dish from Voss not far from Bergen.

Night clubs are usually open from 11pm, but life never starts before 1am. Bars opens at different hours, some can be open all day. No places are allowed to serve alcohol after 2:30am, and the consumption of alcoholic beverages must cease at 3am at the latest. Some places are required to close earlier. The establishments are only allowed to let people bring their drinks outside if they have been granted a special permit. A requirement to get this permit is that they have a confined space outdoors for their guests. All drinks must be indoors by 1am. 

People go out all week, but Fridays and Saturdays are the best nights, Saturdays being the clear winner (most places will be a bit too crowded on Saturdays). Some clubs have a 2 for 1 policy on Wednesdays, and Sunday is usually the night for people in the industry.

Most places require that you are 20 years of age and that you can provide a valid ID, even if you are much older. Valid IDs are Norwegian bank cards, European standard driver's licenses and ID cards and passports.
Remember that smoking in all indoor areas where people work is strictly prohibited by law in Norway. Most restaurants, bars, night clubs etc. will require you to leave if you try to smoke indoors.

Drinking in public is illegal. Emptying a can in front of a police officer on a Saturday night will earn you a kr. 2500 fine. If you stroll through a park a bit outside the city center on a sunny day you will still see a lot of people having a beer or a glass of wine with the picnic. The police usually won't mind as long as everything passes in an orderly fashion.




                                                        Bergen’s Top 5:
       
  1. Bergen Cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of Bjørgvin in the Church of Norway, the first recorded reference to it is dated 1181. It retains its ancient dedication to St Olaf. During the reign of king Haakon IV of Norway, a Franciscan friary was established near the church, then known as Olavskirken, or the church of Saint Olaf, which was incorporated in it. The church burned down in 1248 and again in 1270, but was reconstructed after both fires. In 1463, it burned down again, but this time it was not reconstructed until the 1550s, despite being declared the cathedral in 1537. After the fires of 1623 and 1640, Bergen Cathedral received its current general appearance. The steeple on the nave was torn down, and the current tower was built. During the renovation in the 1880s by architect Christian Christie, the Rococo interior was replaced to give the interiors back their former medieval appearance. A cannonball from the 1665 Battle of Vågen between the English and Dutch fleets remains embedded in the cathedral's exterior wall.
  2. St. John's Church is located on Sydneshaugen in the neighbourhood of Sydnes in Bergen. St John's was built between 1891 and 1894 in the Gothic Revival style. With 1250 seats, it is the largest church in Bergen. In 1888, an architectural contest was conducted for the design of a new church. It was built from drawings by architect, Herman Major Backer (1856–1932). The frescoes in the Church's ceiling date from 1924 and were completed by Hugo Lous Mohr (1889-1970). The building process was first lead by architect Adolf Fischer and from 1891 by Hans Heinrich Jess. The church was consecrated in 1894. The altarpiece depicts Christ in prayer and was designed in 1894 by Marcus Grønvold. The church tower is the highest in the city at 61 metres. 
  3. Bryggens musem  After the fire in 1955, when a lot of Bryggen burnt down, remains of the first settlement on Bryggen were discovered. The museum is built over these up to 900 years old wooden building foundations, giving a unique insight in Bryggen's architectural history. It contains the world's largest collection of medieval runic inscriptions, mostly inscribed on wooden items, but only a small number of these are on display. It also hosts themed exhibitions. 
  4. Gamlehaugen The villa at Gamlehaugen, built to resemble a castle, was the home of Christian Michelsen, former prime minister who helped free Norway from the Swedish rule through the peaceful dissolution of the "union" in 1905. Nowadays, the villa is the royal family's residence in Bergen. There is a large and very popular park around the villa. 
  5. Bergenhus fortress  Once the seat of the king, Bergenhus fortress is one of the oldest and best preserved forts of Norway. The oldest surviving buildings are from the mid 13th century, but the area was a royal residence from the late 11th century. The fortress is situated close to the international ferry terminal. The royal hall, Håkonshallen, (Haakon's Hall), named for King Haakon Haakonsson, was built some time between 1247 and 1261. It is used today for royal galas, as a banqueting hall for the city council, and other public events.








Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Córdoba

Córdoba



Córdoba, also called Cordova in English, is a city in Andalusia, southern Spain, and the capital of the province of Córdoba. An Iberian and Roman city in ancient times, in the Middle Ages it became the capital of an Islamic caliphate. The old town contains numerous architectural reminders of when Corduba was the capital of Hispania Ulterior during the Roman Republic and capital of Hispania Baetica during the Roman Empire; and when Qurṭubah was the capital of the Islamic Caliphate of Córdoba, including most of the Iberian Peninsula.

It has been estimated that in the 10th century and beginning of the 11th century, Córdoba was the most flamboyant city in the world, people there had a great sense of fashion/swagger and during these centuries became the intellectual centre of Europe.


The first trace of human presence in the area are remains of a Neanderthal Man, dating to c. 32,000 BC. In the 8th century BC, during the ancient Tartessos period, a pre-urban settlement existed. The population gradually learned copper and silver metallurgy. The first historical mention of a settlement dates, however, to the Carthaginian expansion across the Guadalquivir, when the general Hamilcar Barca renamed it Kartuba, from Kart-Juba, meaning "the City of Juba", the latter being a Numidian commander who had died in a battle nearby. Córdoba was conquered by the Romans in 206 BC. In 169 the Roman consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus founded a Latin colony alongside the pre-existing Iberian settlement. Between 143 and 141 BC the town was besieged by Viriatus. A Roman Forum is known to have existed in the city in 113 BC.

At the time of Julius Caesar, Córdoba was the capital of the Roman province of Hispania Ulterior Baetica. Great Roman philosophers such as Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger, orators such as Seneca the Elder and poets such as Lucan came from Roman Cordoba. Later, it occupied an important place in the Provincia Hispaniae of the Byzantine Empire (552–572) and under the Visigoths, who conquered it in the late 6th century.

Córdoba was captured in 711 by an Arab/Berber Muslim army. Unlike other Iberian towns, no capitulation was signed and the position was taken by storm. Córdoba was in turn governed by direct Arab rule. The new Arab commanders established themselves within the city and in 716 it became a provincial capital, subordinate to the Caliphate of Damascus; in Arabic it was known as قرطبة (Qurṭubah).

Different areas were allocated for the services in the Saint Vincent Church shared by Christian and Muslims, until the Great Mosque started to be erected on the same spot under Abd-ar-Rahman I. In May 766, it was chosen as the capital of the independent Arab Muslim emirate of al-Andalus, later a Caliphate itself. During the caliphate apogee (1000 AD), Córdoba had a population of roughly 500,000 inhabitants, though estimates range between 350,000 and 1,000,000. In the 10th and 11th centuries, Córdoba was one of the most advanced cities in the world as well as a great cultural, political, financial and economic centre. The Great Mosque of Córdoba dates back to this time; under caliph Al-Hakam II Córdoba had 3,000 mosques, splendid palaces and 300 public baths, and received what was then the largest library in the world, housing from 400,000 to 1,000,000 volumes.

However, following al-Mansur's death, internal struggle for power between different factions led to the pillage and destruction of Medina Azahara and other splendid buildings of Córdoba. The city fell into a steady decline in the next decades and after the fall of the caliphate (1031), Córdoba became the capital of a Republican independent taifa. This short-lived state was conquered by Al-Mu'tamid ibn Abbad, lord of Seville, in 1070. In turn, the latter was overthrown by the Almoravids, who were later replaced by the Almohads.

During the latter's domination the city declined, the role of the capital of Muslim al-Andalus having been given to Seville. On 29 June 1236, after a siege of several months, it was captured by King Ferdinand III of Castile, during the Spanish Reconquista. The city was divided into 14 colaciones, and numerous new church buildings were added.

The city declined especially after Renaissance times. In the 18th century it was reduced to just 20,000 inhabitants. The population and economy started to increase only in the early 20th century.

With the most extensive historical heritages in the world declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO (on 17 December 1984), the city also features a number of modern areas, including the districts of Zoco and the railway station district.

The regional government (the Junta de Andalucía) has for some time been studying the creation of a Córdoba Metropolitan Area that would comprise, in addition to the capital itself, the towns of Villafranca de Córdoba, Obejo, La Carlota, Villaharta, Villaviciosa, Almodóvar del Río and Guadalcázar. The combined population of such an area would be around 351,000.

Tourism is especially intense in Córdoba during May because of the weather and as this month hosts three festivals.

The May Crosses Festival takes place at the beginning of the month. During three or four days, crosses of around 3 m height are placed in many squares and streets and decorated with flowers and a contest is held to choose the most beautiful one. Usually there is regional food and music near the crosses.

The Patios Festival is celebrated during the second and third week of the month. Many houses of the historic centre open their private patios to the public and compete in a contest. Both the architectonic value and the floral decorations are taken into consideration to choose the winners. It is usually very difficult and expensive to find accommodation in the city during the festival.

Córdoba's Fair takes place at the ending of the month and is similar to the better known Seville Fair with some differences, mainly that the Seville one is private, while the Cordoba one is not.



                                                       Córdoba’s Top 5:
       
  1. Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba  also called the Mezquita and the Great Mosque of Córdoba, is now a Catholic Christian cathedral and formerly a medieval Islamic mosque. The Cathedral is regarded as the one of the most accomplished monuments of Renaissance and Moorish architecture. The building was begun around the year 600 as the Christian Visigothic church of St. Vincent. After the occupation of Islam to the Visigothic kingdom, the church was divided between the Muslims and Christians. When the exiled Umayyad prince Abd ar-Rahman I escaped to Spain and defeated the Andalusian governor Yusuf al-Fihri, he allowed the Christians to rebuild their ruined churches, and purchased the Christian half of the church of St. Vincent. Abd ar-Rahman I and his descendants reworked it over two centuries to refashion it as a mosque, starting in 784. Additionally, Abd ar-Rahman I used the mosque (originally called Aljama Mosque) as an adjunct to his palace and named it to honor his wife. Traditionally, the apse of a mosque faces in the direction of Mecca; by facing the apse, worshipers pray towards Mecca. Mecca is east-southeast of the mosque, but the mihrab points south.Since the early 2000s, Spanish Muslims have lobbied the Roman Catholic Church to allow them to pray in the cathedral. The Muslim campaign has been rejected on multiple occasions, by both Spanish Catholic authorities, and the Vatican. In 2010 there was a violent incident over the matter.
  2. The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Spanish for "Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs"), also known as the Alcázar of Córdoba, is a medieval Alcázar located next to the Guadalquivir River and near the Grand Mosque. The Alcázar takes its name from the Arabic word القصر (Al-Qasr, meaning "the Palace"). The fortress served as one of their primary residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon.
  3. The Puerta del Puente is a Renaissance gate in Córdoba. The gate is located on the site of previous Roman and Moorish gates, which united the city to the Roman Bridge.
    The construction of a new, larger and more modern gate was commissioned to architect Hernán Ruiz III by the city's governor Alonso González de Arteaga on 18 February 1572. The structure has a central square passage, sided by two couples of Doric columns, surmounted by a Classic-style entablature.
  4. The Calleja de las Flores is one of the most popular and tourist streets of Córdoba city. Positioned as an intersection of the street Velázquez Bosco, is a narrow street that ends in a plaza.
  5. The Roman bridge of Córdoba is a bridge built in the early 1st century BC across the Guadalquivir river. It is included in the small preserved area known as Sotos de la Albolafia. The bridge was built by the Romans in the early 1st century BC, perhaps replacing a previous one in wood. It currently has 16 arcades, one less than original ones, and a total length of 247 meters. The width is around 9 metres. The Via Augusta, which connected Rome to Cádiz, most likely passed through it. During the Islamic domination, in the Middle Ages, the Calahorra Tower and the Puerta del Puente were built at the bridge's southern and northern ends, respectively (the latter is now a 16th century reconstruction). In the 17th century, a sculpture depicting St. Raphael was put in the mid of the bridge, executed by Bernabé Gómez del Río. During its history, the bridge was restored and renovated several times (in particular in the 10th century), and now only the 14th and 15th arches (counting from the Puerta del Puente) are original. It was extensively restored in 2006.








    Tuesday, 12 February 2013

    Vaduz

    Vaduz


    Vaduz is the capital of the principality of Liechtenstein and the seat of the national parliament. The town, located along the Rhine, has about 5,100 inhabitants (as of 2009),most of whom are Roman Catholic. Its cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vaduz.

    Although Vaduz is the best-known town internationally in the principality, it is not the largest: neighbouring Schaan has a larger population.


    Vaduz is said to be mentioned in historic 12th-century manuscripts as Farduzes. It is, however, commonly believed to have been founded circa 1322 by the Counts of Werdenberg. In 1322 a mention of the castle is made, which was sacked by the Swiss in 1499 during the Swabian War. The entire town was also destroyed.

    In the 17th century the Liechtenstein family was seeking a seat in the Imperial diet, the Reichstag. However, since they did not hold any territory that was directly under the Imperial throne, they were unable to meet the primary requirement to qualify.

    The family yearned for the added power a seat in the Imperial government would bring, and therefore sought to acquire lands that would be Reichsunmittelbar, or held without any feudal personage other than the Holy Roman Emperor himself having rights on the land. After some time, the family was able to arrange the purchase of the minusculeHerrschaft ("Lordship") of Schellenberg and countship of Vaduz (in 1699 and 1712 respectively) from the Hohenems. Tiny Schellenberg and Vaduz possessed exactly the political status required: no feudal lord other than their comital sovereign and the suzerain Emperor.

    Thereby, on January 23, 1719, after purchase had been duly made, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, decreed Vaduz and Schellenberg were united, and raised to the dignity of Fürstentum (principality) with the name "Liechtenstein" in honour of "[his] true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein". It is on this date that Liechtenstein became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire. As a testament to the pure political expediency of the purchases, the Princes of Liechtenstein did not set foot in their new principality for over 120 years.

    The main shops in Vaduz sell tourist trinkets all branded in Liechtensteinian and Swiss colours. There are plenty of flags, t-shirts and cuckoo clocks available. People who enjoy collecting passport stamps are able to get an official Liechtenstein Tourist Office stamp at the Tourist Information office. This is especially unique as there are no border crossings at either of Liechtensteins frontiers. Postal Stamps and postcards can be bought at the post office opposite the tourist office as well as most other shops.

    There is also a small retail village between Vaduz and Balzers. This is home to a McDonalds, and a sports clothes shop among other things.

    The main square is behind the bus station in the midle of Vaduz. There are a number of cafes and restaurants offering hearty Liechtensteinian / Swiss / Austrian fare at reasonable prices.

    Liechtenstein isn't a cheap place to eat. If you want something budget and have a car, drive to Feldkirch just across the Austrian border.

    A short walk towards the river will offer visitors the chance to experience some great views of the mountains surrounding the city. The old covered bridge which spans the Rhine river provides an interesting way to cross the border between Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The unpainted, weathered wooden bridge is rustic in appearance. It accommodates foot or bicycle traffic only, cars are prevented from approaching. Drivers may find it tricky to pull-off. Cars on this road are headed to the Swiss Autobahn, a few hundred metres across the river directly west of the bridge. Please use care, these motorists may not tolerate the casual traveller on a busy road. There is no means to access the bridge from the west by car. 

    The road that would appear to lead to the western end of the bridge is the aforementioned Swiss Autobahn. From the centre of Vaduz follow Zollstrasse (towards the football stadium) until you reach the river. There are no border checks.





                                                            Vaduz’s Top 5:
         
    1. Vaduz Cathedral, or Cathedral of St. Florin, is a neo-Gothic church and the centre of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vaduz. Originally a parish church, it has held the status of cathedral since 1997. It was built in 1874 by Friedrich von Schmidt on the site of earlier medieval foundations. Its patron saint is Florinus of Remüs (Florin), a 9th century saint of the Vinschgau Valley. The Archdiocese of Vaduz was erected by Pope John Paul II in the apostolic constitution Ad satius consulendum 2 December 2002. Before then it had been the Liechtenstein Deanery, a part of the Swiss Diocese of Chur. The solemn public ceremony took place on 12 December 1997, in the parish church of Vaduz, which was then raised to the dignity of a cathedral.
    2. The Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein (Liechtenstein Museum of Fine Arts) is the state museum of modern and contemporary art in Vaduz. The building by the Swiss architects Meinrad Morger, Heinrich Degelo and Christian Kerez was completed in November 2000. The museum collection of international modern and contemporary art is also the national art collection of the Principality of Liechtenstein.
    3. The Prince's Wine Collection Wine enthusiasts should definitely pay a visit to the Prince of Liechtenstein Winery, where visitors can walk through the vineyards and sample the excellent wines. The Winery  is home to the Herawingert vineyards. With its four hectares of south-west-facing slopes and mild climate influenced by the warm 'Föhn' wind, Herawingert is among the best wine-growing regions in the Rhine Valley. Its excellent quality of soil offers ideal conditions for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. .
    4. The Red House, a gabled stairs structure with a large tower containing living quarters, is located in the Mitteldorf area of Vaduz. The house gets its name from the dark-red colour the building has had since the middle of the 19th century. Documents show that work began on another construction on the same site several centuries earlier, before being abandoned in the 15th century. The Red House's many owners over the years include the St. Johann Monastery. Since 1807 the building has been in the possession of the Rheinberger family. Egon Rheinberger - a famous painter, sculptor and architect from Liechtenstein - extended the Red House between 1902 and 1905.
    5. Vaduz Castle (Schloß Vaduz) is the palace and official residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein. The castle gave its name to the town of Vaduz, which it overlooks from an adjacent hilltop. The earliest mention of the castle can be found in the deed of Count Rudolf von Werdenberg-Sargans for a sale to Ulrich von Matsch. The erstwhile owners - presumably also the builders - were the Counts of Werdenberg-Sargans. The Bergfried (12th century) and parts of the eastern side are the oldest. The tower stands on a piece of ground some 12 x 13 metres and has a wall thickness on the ground floor of up to 4 m. The original entrance lay at the Hofzijde at an 11 metre height. The chapel of St. Anna was presumably built in the Middle Ages as well. The main altar is late-gothic. In the Swabian War of 1499, the castle was burned by the Swiss Confederacy. The western side was expanded by Count Kaspar van Hohenems (1613–1640). The Princely Family of Liechtenstein acquired Vaduz Castle in 1712 when it purchased the countship of Vaduz. .








    Monday, 11 February 2013

    Parma

    Parma



    Parma is a city in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna famous for its prosciutto, cheese, architecture and surrounding countryside. This is the home of the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world. Parma is divided into two parts by the little stream with the same name.

    Parma was already a built-up area in the Bronze Age. It has been verified by now that in the current position of the city rose a terramare. The "terramare" (marl earth) were ancient villages in structural wood on pile-dwelling built according to a defined scheme and squared form, built on the dry land, generally in proximity of the rivers. During this age (among the 1500 BC and the 800 BC) the first necropolises (placed where stand the present-day Piazza Duomo and Millstone Square) rose also.

    The city was most probably founded and named by the Etruscans, for a parma(circular shield) was a Latin borrowing, as were many Roman terms for particular arms, and Parmeal, Parmni and Parmnial are names that appear in Etruscan inscriptions. Diodorus Siculus (XXII, 2,2; XXVIII, 2,1) reported that the Romans had changed their rectangular shields for round ones, imitating the Etruscans. Whether the Etruscan encampment was so named because it was round, like a shield, or whether its situation was a shield against the Gauls to the north, is uncertain.


    The Roman colony was founded in 183 BC, together with Mutina (Modena); 2,000 families were settled. Parma had a certain importance as a road hub over the Via Aemilia and the Via Claudia. It had a forum, in what is today the central Garibaldi Square. In 44 BC, the city was destroyed, and Augustus rebuilt it. During the Roman Empire, it gained the title of Julia for its loyalty to the imperial house.

    The city was subsequently sacked by Attila, and later given by the barbarian king Odoacer to his fellows. During the Gothic War, however, Totila destroyed it. It was then part of the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna (changing name to Chrysopolis, "Golden City", probably due to the presence of the imperial treasury) and, from 569, of the Lombard Kingdom of Italy. During the Middle Ages, Parma became an important stage of the Via Francigena, the main road connecting Rome to Northern Europe; several castles, hospitals and inns were built in the following centuries to host the increasing number of pilgrims who passed by Parma and Fidenza, following the Apennines via Collecchio, Berceto and the Corchia ranges before descending the Passo della Cisa into Tuscany, heading finally south toward Rome.

    Under the Frankish rule, Parma became the capital of a county (774). Like most northern Italian cities, it was nominally a part of the Holy Roman Empire created by Charlemagne, but locally ruled by its bishops, the first being Guibodus. In the subsequent struggles between the Papacy and the Empire, Parma was usually a member of the Imperial party. Two of its bishops became antipopes: Càdalo, founder of the cathedral, as Honorius II; and Guibert, as Clement III. An almost independent commune was created around 1140; a treaty between Parma and Piacenza of 1149 is the earliest document of a comune headed by consuls. After the Peace of Constance (1183) confirmed the Italian communes' rights of self-governance, long-standing quarrels with the neighbouring communes of Reggio Emilia, Piacenza and Cremona became harsher, with the aim of controlling the vital trading line over the Po River.Parma fell under the control of Milan in 1341. After a short-lived period of independence under the Terzi family (1404–1409), Sforza imposed their rule (1440–1449) through their associated families of Pallavicino, Rossi, Sanvitale and Da Correggio. These created a kind of new feudalism, building towers and castles throughout the city and the land. These fiefs evolved into truly independent states: the Landi governed the higher Taro's valley from 1257 to 1682. The Pallavicino seignory extended over the eastern part of today's province, with the capital in Busseto. Parma's territories were an exception for Northern Italy, as its feudal subdivision frequently continued until more recent years. For example, Solignano was a Pallavicino family possession until 1805, and San Secondo belonged to the Rossi well into the 19th century.


    Between the 14th and the 15th centuries, Parma was at the centre of the Italian Wars. The Battle of Fornovo was fought in its territory. The French held the city in 1500–1521, with a short Papal parenthesis in 1512–1515. After the foreigners were expelled, Parma belonged to the Papal States until 1545.

    In that year the Farnese pope, Paul III, detached Parma and Piacenza from the Papal States and gave them as a duchy to his illegitimate son, Pier Luigi Farnese, whose descendants ruled in Parma until 1731, when Antonio Farnese (1679–1731), last male of the Farnese line, died. In the Treaty of London (1718) it was promulgated that the heir to the duchy would be Elisabeth Farnese's elder son with Philip V of Spain, Don Carlos. In 1731, the fifteen-year-old Don Carlos became Charles I Duke of Parma and Piacenza, at the death of his childless great uncle Antonio Farnese. In 1734, Charles I conquered the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, and was crowned as the King of Naples and Sicily on 3 July 1735, leaving the Duchy of Parma to his brother Philip (Filippo I di Borbone-Parma).

    During the Napoleonic Wars (1802–1814), Parma was part of the Taro Département. Under its French name Parme, it was also created a duché grand-fief de l'Empire for Charles-François Lebrun, duc de Plaisance, the Emperor's Arch-Treasurer, on 24 April 1808 (extinguished 1926).

    During World War II, Parma was a strong centre of partisan resistance. The train station and marshalling yards were targets for high altitude bombing by the Allies in the spring of 1944. Much of the Palazzo della Pilotta — situated not far (half a mile) from the train station — was destroyed. Along with it also Teatro Farnese and part of Biblioteca Palatina were destroyed by Allied bombs. Several other monuments were also damaged: Palazzo del Giardino, Steccata church, San Giovanni church, Palazzo Ducale, Paganini theater and the monument to Verdi. However Parma did not see widespread destruction during the war. Parma was liberated of the German occupation (1943–1945) on April 26, 1945 by the partisan resistance and troops of Brazilian Expeditionary Force. Recently Parma was chosen for the setting of John Grisham's American football comedy Playing for Pizza. During the European sovereign-debt crisis, after incurring a €900 million debt, the people of Parma voted in a direct democratic platform.



    If you are in Parma, your trip is not complete until you try a hunk of its eponymous cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano. Known the world over, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese owes its quality to its source. The cows that produce the milk graze only on grass and hay in fields around the city. The cheese is made and aged from 18 months to over 30.

    Another food you must try in Parma is the local cured ham, Prosciutto di Parma. Parma's Prosciutto is the gold standard for salumi. The hams are cured and aged in temperature and humidity controlled rooms for at least 10 months. The result is a salty, sweet, piece of meat that is sliced razor thin and can be eaten all by its self, or as a part of many regional dishes. It is delicious served simply over a plate of summer melon. As far as salumi goes though, Culatello is king. Unfortunately government regulation on the production of Culatello has driven it nearly to extinction, but there are still rogue producers who cure the meat in cellars. Culatello differs from Prosciutto in that it is made from the fillet cut of the ham as opposed to the whole ham.

    Parma is also known for its delicate stuffed pastas and outdoor markets. Be sure to take advantage of the fresh seasonal vegetables that Parma has to offer.

    An aperitivo in Via Farini is something you should not miss. There are several bars in that little street where you will find a lot of people standing outside with a Martini or a Sprizz con Aperol at around 6pm, enjoying the free buffet that is offered, when you buy a drink.

    Try a bottle of the local sparkling red wine called Lambrusco; great on its own and perfect with much of the local cuisine. It can be purchased in virtually any bar or corner shop and is very inexpensive.




                                                            Parma’s Top 5:
         
    1. Parma Cathedral (Duomo) is an important Italian Romanesque cathedral: the dome, in particular, is decorated by a highly influential illusionistic fresco by Renaissance painter Antonio da Correggio. The construction was begun in 1059 by bishop Cadalo, later antipope with the name of Honorius II, and was consecrated by Paschal II in 1106. A basilica existed probably in the 6th century, but was later abandoned; another church had been consecrated in the rear part of the preceding one in the 9th century by the count-bishop Guibodo. The new church was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1117 and had to be restored. Of the original building, remains can be seen in the presbytery, the transept, the choir and the apses, and in some sculpture fragments. The wide façade was completed in 1178: it has three loggia floors and three portals, whose doors were sculpted by Luchino Bianchino in 1494. Between the central and the right doors is the tomb of the mathematician Biagio Pelacani, who died in 1416. The Gothic belfry was added later, in 1284-1294: a twin construction on the left side had been conceived, but it was never begun. Beside the Cathedral lies the octagonal Baptistry of Parma.
    2. Teatro Farnese is a Baroque-style theatre, built in 1618 by Giovanni Battista Aleotti. The theatre was almost destroyed by an Allied air raid during World War II (1944). It was rebuilt and reopened in 1962. Some claim this as the first permanent proscenium theater (that is, a theater in which the audience views the action through a single frame, which is known as the "proscenium arch")
    3. The Baptistery of Parma  is a religious edifice in Parma. Architecturally, the baptistery of Parma Cathedral marks a transition between the Romanesque and Gothic styles, and it is considered to be among the most important Medieval monuments in Europe. The Baptistery was commissioned to Benedetto Antelami by the City Council of Parma in 1196. The outside of pink Verona Marble is octagonal. The inside contains sixteen arches, forming alcoves each containing a painted scene. All these are 13th and 14th century frescoes and paintings. The most striking part of the Baptistery, however, is its painted domed ceiling. Sixteen rays come out of the center of the ceiling, which each correspond to the arches. However, problems were posed over time as the paintings were not true frescoes. The paint would start to come off the walls and would be literally hanging on. Due to this, the Baptistery had to be painstakingly consolidated and restored with syringes and spatulas.
    4. The Museo Lombardi The Museum was created by the efforts of Glauco Lombardi (1881-1971), who devoted his entire life to the recovery, study and conservation of all that remained on the antiquary market or in private collections of the enormous artistic and documentary heritage of Parma under the Bourbons (1748-1802, 1847-1859) and Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma (1816-1847), largely scattered during the period of Italian Unification in various residences of the Savoy family. From 1915 to 1943 the original nucleus of the Museo Lombardi was housed in the ballroom and adjacent rooms of the Ducal Palace of Colorno. The year 1934 is a crucial one for the museum: it was then that Lombardi finally managed to stipulate an agreement with count Giovanni Sanvitale to sell to the Museum the precious objects that had belonged to Duchess Marie Louise, grandmother of count Giovanni.
    5. The Ducal Palace, built from 1561 for Duke Ottavio Farnese on a design by Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola. Built on the former Sforza castle area, it was enlarged in the 17th–18th centuries. It includes the Palazzo Eucherio Sanvitale, with interesting decorations dating from the 16th centuries and attributed to Gianfrancesco d'Agrate, and a fresco by Parmigianino. Annexed is the Ducal Park also by Vignola. It was turned into a French-style garden in 1749.