Sunday Special – Estonia


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Cliffs at Saaremaa Island, Estonia – Photo credit: Margus6Varahommik ja Panga pankCC BY-SA 3.0

This small Baltic country of Estonia has history that goes back for centuries and centuries with a Finno-Ugric language ancestry.  Throughout these times the Estonian’s faced German, Danish, Swedish and Russian control. In 1918 they became an independent nation but were forced into the Soviet Union in 1940. 1989 they demanded independence and gained it officially in 1991, with much credit going to their peaceful Singing Revolution of the 1980s. In 2004 they joined the European Union and switched to the euro in 2011. Today it is a tourism hot spot with plenty to offer. 

  • Capital city of Tallinn boasts an outstanding Old Town which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Sight
  • Experience “White Nights” from May through July when the sun barely sets
  • Take in the Suur and Väike Taevaskoda (Small and Large Heaven’s Hall) along the Ahja River for some hiking and seeing some caves
  • The Lahemaa National Park on the northern coast is filled with beautiful landscape and perhaps you will see moose, foxes and other animals
  • The south’s Soomaa National Park showcases a primeval forest and quiet nature
  • Get your adrenaline flowing with activities such as repelling, rafting, ATV rentals, go-karting and even a precarious walk along the ledge of Tallinn’s TV Tower 
  • Visit any of Estonia’s plentiful islands, many just a quick ferry ride away
  • Take in all forms of popular music at any number of clubs offering rock, jazz, alternative, electronic and more. Music festivals are popular as well.
  • Admire the architecture of old in the many lighthouses, manor houses, churches, castles, and forts throughout the country
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Katariina Passage in Tallinn’s Old Town – Photo credit: -jkb-Tallinn Katariina KäikCC BY-SA 3.0

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Panorama of Tallinn’s walled Old Town – Photo credit: Ivar LeidusTallinn Toompea Upper Old Town 2013CC BY-SA 3.0 EE

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My Top 5 Man-Made Sights


Last month I posted about My Top 5 Cities to Wander. This month my Top 5 is about man-made places or things. These places or works of art hold a special place in my memories, my heart, and bring a smile to my lips.

  1. Michelangelo’s Slave and Bound Slave, Louvre Museum (Paris) – I have never been more captivated by art than these two unfinished statues. They are complete by being incomplete. I do not know how Michelangelo did it but there is feeling, emotion in those statues. I have seen them three times and still my heart stops each time. 
  2. Eiffel Tower, Paris – Anyone who knows me, knows I love this building. It was among the first iconic buildings I had seen when I first visited Europe and has been imprinted on my heart ever since.  I have been to the top twice, once on my birthday where I drank sweet sweet champagne with my sister and friends.  If I had never seen Michelangelo’s Slaves this building would be number one.
  3. Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur – The circular and geometric designs of its spires and the walkway them give them a unique look.  I learned of them shortly after they were built I had wanted to view them for myself ever since.  They did not disappoint. I think they are most beautiful lit up at night against the backdrop of the dark sky and city lights
  4. Taj Mahal, India – I had wanted to see the Taj Mahal since I was a child. For a short span of years I thought I may never see and tried to downplay its importance, that it could not be that spectacular.  Silliness really. Yet I did make it to Agra. A hot, humid and crowded experience that was all shed to the side when I finally saw the splendour of this magnificent building. It stands majestically and rightly so.
  5. Pagodas of Bagan, Myanmar – There are so many things I could put for number five. Yet the pagodas throughout Bagan are the first I think of. The entire area astounds me with the sheer amount of pagodas to be found. I loved wandering through the back roads on my scooter and viewing the beauty and importance of these buildings  to the people. 

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World

 

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Michelangelo’s talent is breathtaking

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Gustave Eiffel’s treasure to Paris.

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Those brightly shining Petronas Twin Towers.

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The Taj Mahal, a labour of love.

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One of the numerous pagodas in Bagan

Sunday Special – Montreal


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View of Montreal from Parc Mont Royal – Photo credit: Taken and owned By John Lian (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Today we will check out the city which I think is the coolest in all of Canada and that is Montreal.  This fun city is the largest city in the province of Quebec and the second largest in Canada after Toronto. Not only that, this city is the second largest predominantly French-speaking city on the planet, just after Paris. Additionally it was recently ranked as the world’s best city to study abroad by Quacquarelli Symonds. Finally, Montreal is celebrating its 375th birthday this year. Which if you don’t know, makes it older than Canada (which turns 150 on July 1).  Montreal wa founded on what was Hochelagaa St Lawrence Iroquois village in the 15th century, though First Nations peoples inhabited the area for centuries longer. It was part of New France until the mid-18th century.  Today Montreal is a vibrant and social landscape that has a bit of a European feel to it. It has been far too many years since I visited though I do recall enjoying the vibe of the city a great deal. Perhaps another visit is due.

  • Visit historic Old Montreal and take in various sites such as Bonsecours Market, the Old Port of Montreal, and the picturesque Notre-Dame Basilica. Or perhaps you’d like to wander its cobblestones streets via food tour?
  • Take in a pretty city view from Parc du Mont Royal (Mount Royal Park) or visit the Jardin Botanique de Montreal (Montreal Botanical Gardens) in Parc Maisonneuve?
  • Foodies rejoice – Montreal has some great restaurants and dining of all ranges, though do try the Montreal-style smoked meat, the bagels and of course poutine!
  • Sports fans take in all manner of games to watch:
    • Montreal Candiens NHL hockey
    • Montreal Allouettes CFL football
    • Montreal Impact MLS soccer
    • Auto racing
    • Boxing
    • Women’s hockey
    • Tennis
  • Music and comedy festivals abound

I don’t think my list has done this city justice though I hope it inspires you check out Montreal at any time of year. 

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Vieux-Port Montreal (Montreal Old Port) – Photo credit: By Joanne Lévesque (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Montreal-style bagels – Photo credit: By Garyperlman at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Montreal-style smoked meat – Photo credit: By chensiyuan (chensiyuan) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Special – Mexico City Centro Histórico (Historical Centre)


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Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico City – Photo via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

I have been to Mexico 5 times. All of those have been to resort destinations. I enjoyed all my vacations as I was able to unwind and get a tan. That being said, I do claim that I have never really seen Mexico as I have only encountered that one particular aspect out of all that this country has to offer. For today’s feature I thought focusing on North America’s largest city would be the place to start to learn more. Mexico’s capital has plenty of history so let’s begin on “where it all started”, so to speak.

The oldest area in Mexico City is the neighbourhood of Centro Histórico (or Centro). It dates back to the Aztec town of Tenochtitlan (1325 CE) prior to the Spanish conquest. The heart of the Centro is the 240 m / 787.4 ft Plaza de la Constitución, commonly called the Zócalo. One of the world’s largest squares it is home to numerous concerts, fun events, demonstrations and the popular Festival de Mexico. Adjacent to the Zócalo is the stunning Metropolitan Cathedral – the largest one in the Americas with its twin bell towers housing 25 bells each. To the north-east of the square is the Templo Mayor, a large museum built on a former Aztec temple and showcases many of its ruins. These few places barely scratch the surface of what this single area of Mexico City offers. With copious amounts of history, churches, museums, architecture, food, stores, and vendors I would say it is evident that the Centro is a place where one can wander for a couple days.

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Mexico City’s Zocalo – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned By Flickr user schlaeger (http://www.flickr.com/photos/schlaeger/51220620) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons