Sunday Special – Florence, Italy


Florence, a city full of architecture, art, history, and culture. This capital city of the Tuscany region saw the dawn of the Renaissance period. It grew on the backdrop of trade, wealth, religion and the power of the Medici family. Today it is a tourist mecca and rightly so as many consider it one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. My first and only visit (to date) was a number of years ago. I recall the the incredible Duomo with its famous red dome, taking in the Ponte Vecchio, seeing stunning works of art at the Uffizi Gallery, and finally seeing Michaelangelo’s David at The Academia (arguably the world’s most stunning statue). Along with these world-renown sites Florence provides much more. Food, coffee, shops, street art, and gardens to picnic in are only a few things to take in. As I think about it, aside from the David I don’t think I appreciated what Florence had to offer as I was fairly young then. I think a do-over is on the horizon. 

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (a.k.a. Il Duomo), Florence – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – taken and owned by Warburg 

By Warburg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Ponte Vecchio, Florence – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – taken and owned by Rolf Sussbrich 

By Rolf Süssbrich (Self-photographed) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Special – Korčula Island, Croatia


Croatia. This country is definitely on my bucket list. I do want to visit all of the former Yugoslav countries (I have been to three: Slovenia, Serbia, and Macedonia) so of course that includes Croatia. However, that is not the only reason I want to visit it. I understand it is a wonderfully beautiful country with much to see. Islands lie all alongside its Adriatic Coast providing a large number to choose from. Some are major resort locales while others run at a slower pace. Of the latter, one such island is Korčula (also the the name of the main city) in the southern area of Dalmatia. Beaches of course are bountiful with shorelines ranging from sandy to rocky and everything in between. A great way to unwind. Wineries and wine tours are not lacking on the sun-kissed isle. In fact, Korčula Island has some indigenous varietals such as grk and posip.  Many of the wineries have been producing wines for centuries. Additionally, there are stories that explorer Marco Polo was in fact born on this small island and the very house where he supposedly entered the world. I wonder what the Italians have to say about that? LOL.

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Korcula, Croatia – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned by Andrzej Wolinski 

Andrzej Wolinski [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Town of Korcula – Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned by Martin Broz 

By Martin Brož (Martin Brož’s camera) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Korcula countryside – are those grapes for wine? Photo via Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned by Anto 

By Anto (talk) 14:40, 7 October 2009 (UTC) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Special – Amsterdam, The Netherlands


When I think of Amsterdam the city in its entirety comes to mind. Unlike other locales where a famous landmark comes to mind, Amsterdam itself forms the image in my mind’s eye. Not many cities have that ability, perhaps because this one is simply cool. Far too many years have passed since I last saw Amsterdam – unless you count the time I was there to get a burger before moving onto my bus and ferry to England. When I was in the Netherlands in December 2014 for one day my friend was amazing – she drove me all over the Dutch countryside and then stopped for that burger. Had I more time I would have re-visited Amsterdam. My prior visit eons ago has left only remnants of memories. I remember canals, colourful narrow buildings and bicycles yet no specifics. A re-visit is certainly due.

It seems the best way to see this colourful city is by being a pedal-pusher. With more bicycles than people and bike paths everywhere it is an obvious choice. Rent a bike and take in the sights. See the colourful gable buildings, chill at any one of parks found in abundance or cruise along the city’s famous canals that make up one quarter of the city space. Tulips are synonymous with The Netherlands so it would be appropriate to visit the floating flower market for not only tulips but flowers of all colours and smells. If you are there in the spring the flower fields (Bollenstreek) are filled with a stunning colour palette of tulips. Later on, when the sun sets and lights go out head out for food and nightlife. Concerts, festivals, cafes and nightclubs will keep you rockin’ and dancing into the wee hours.

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Floating Flower Market set against Amsterdam’s narrow gabled buildings – Photo is Public Domain

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I Amsterdam sign – Photo is Public Domain

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Amsterdam canals at night – Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned by Marcus Obal 

By MarcusObal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Sunday Special – Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina


Situated along the beautiful Neretva River lies Mostar, a city of cultural importance to the southern region of the Herzegovina area. Despite being one of the most heavily bombed cities in Bosnia during the Croate-Bozniak War, following the breakup of Yugoslavia, it has rebounded by rebuilding much of what was damaged. Today it is a popular destination for travellers (summer and fall mainly) and is said to have a festive and spirited vibe.

Among the most well-known and well-loved landmarks in Mostar is the Stari Most (The Old Bridge). In 1993 huge sections of it fell into the river during the war. Easily considered the heart of the city this 16th century Ottoman bridge was restored years later. Portions of it were even retrieved from the bottom of the Neretva. It is the pinnacle of the river and the pride of the city. It also is where Mostar Diving Club members gracefully dive 24 m/78.9 ft into the Neretva’s chilly 12C/53.6F waters.

Mostar’s Old Town is another popular area of the city. Admist the Medieval Ottoman style architecture that is prevalent you can find some pretty mosques and houses, such as the The Koski Mehmed pasa Mosque and The Biscevica House. And for something completely different and random, there is a Bruce Lee statue in the city as well.

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Stari Most (The Old Bridge) in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Mark Ahsmann

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Interior of Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque, Mostar – Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned by Stephen Hense