Posted by: RasmaSandra | November 24, 2021

Colorado Springs At the Foot of the Rocky Mountains

Colorado Springs is a city sitting at an elevation of 6, 035 ft. at the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains. It is a popular resort both in summer and in winter.

Enjoy Pikes Peak Highway which is a 19-mile mountain road with many scenic viewing areas. To get to the top of Pikes Peak you can also take the historic Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway which is the highest cog railway in the world. At the visitor center you can see brand new interactive exhibits.

At the top, you can see local wildlife like yellow-bellied marmots and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Along the way to the top, there is a recreation area with three lakes. To learn about the natural wonders of the area you can take a ranger-led tour. A shuttel is available to take tourists the last three miles to the summit from which on a clear day you can see five states Colorado, Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, and Utah.

The Garden of the Gods is just six miles northwest of Colorado Springs. This is a nature park with strangely shaped red sandstone formations and ancient cypresses. Among the highlights is the red sandstone rocke formations that might be nearly 300 million years old. In the park, you’ll find hiking, mountain biking, and horse riding trails. The visitor center is located just outside the park with a museum about the area and offering park tours.

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has a wide variety of species with both domestic and exotic animals. There is a chairlift that runs over the zoo offering great views of the park and its surroundings.

The Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun is a historic monument that stands high above the zoo looking down on Colorado Springs and can only be accessed through the zoo.

North Cheyenne Canon Park is known for its diverse plant and animal life. Wildlife making their home here include black bears, mountain lions, mule deer, and a wide variety of both native and migratory birds.

Among the highlights in the park are Helen Hunt Falls, awesome rock formations,

and the Starsmore Discovery Center.

There are many hiking trails that lead to some lovely sites among them Silver Cascade Falls.

The Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum has found its home in the old El Paso County Courthouse. You can find exhibits about the history of the town, Pike Peak, and the surrounding area. The museum is set in a park that has lovely lawns, gardens, trees, a granite fountain, and outdoor sculptures. The museum has an extensive collection of items like an assortment of quilts and Van Briggle art potter as well as a large collection of regional art. There are Native American items like pieces from the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho cultures. The Starsmore Center for Local History is also part of the museum which is a local repository for the history of the city and surrounding area.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park offers many activites to appreciate the natural beauty of Colorado including campsites, There are picnic areas with grills, a playground, and restroom facilities, The park offers over 21 miles of hiking trails and you can get a look at wildlife like turkeys, deer, and prairie dogs. The visitor center has educational exhibits, a shop, and a helpful staff.

Palmer Park has interesting rock formations among them narrow stone pillars balancing larger pieces of rock in a hilly terrain. An upper plateau has cactus, opuntia, and wild roses along the trails. The park has many hiking trails and the highest trails offer great views of the city. There are challenging mountain biking trails winding through the rocks, The park also has a playground, baseball field, and beach volleyball facilities, as well as several picnic areas.

Red Rock Canyon Open Space is a park that features reddish sedimentary rock that has been shaped and sculpted by years of erosion, The many hiking trails here include off-leash dog trails, horse and bike trails. There is a picnic pavilion. Permits are required for rock climbing.

The Incline or Manitou Incline is a hike that is located about 20 minutes west of Colorado Springs. Following the trail of a former cog railway it steeply ascends to gain over 2,000 feet in less than a mile, The hike is over a set of stairs and the stair number at the top is 2,768. There are amazing views from the top.

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is home to art galleries at the Fine Arts Center Museum and plays and musicals at the Fine Arts Center Theater. The center is also home to the Bernis School of Art. The art collection includes great names of American are by artists like Richard Diebenkorn, Georgia O’Keeffe, Walt Kuhn, John Singer Sargent, and Dale Chihuly. You can also enjoy Latin American and Native American art.

The US Olympic Complex is the main center for the US Olympic Committee and the primary Olympic Training Center for the US, It’s the headquarters of the USA swimming and shooting programs. The complex has the impressive Olympic Visitor Center and the Team USA shop, You can get a free tour of the complex. The rooftop terrace features an Olympic flame display and offers panoramic views of the complex and Colorado Springs.

Santa’s Workshop/North Pole is a park offering 28 child-friendly rides, The highlight here is a visit with Mr and Mrs Santa Claus, It is located in Cascade, Colorado just west of Colorado Springs.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | November 24, 2021

Kaunas On the Nemunas River

In our armchair travels through Europe we are now in the Baltic State of Lithuania. Officially it is the Republic of Lithuania and lies on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. Lithuania shares its land borders with Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south and Russia to the southeast.

Kaunas is a city in south-central Lithuania and sits at the confluence of the Neris and Nemunas Rivers. It is Lithuania’s second-largest city.

Of particular interest for tourists is Kaunas medieval Old Town which is found next to the confluence of two major rivers the Nemunas and the Neras. You’ll discover that Town Hall Square is surrounded by historic churches.

On the south side is St. Francis Church with two towers, a college and a Jesuit monastery. Close by you’ll find the unusual House of Perkunas built of red brick in the 16th century and stands on the site of a former temple built to the Lithuanian thunder god, Perkunas. On the bank of the Nemunas River is the Gothic Vytautas Church and to the west of the square built in the late Renaissance period Holy Trinity Church with a terracotta-roof.

On the east side is the red brick Kaunas Cathedral which is the largest gothic building in Lithuania.

House of Perkūnas is a Gothic 15th-century mansion with a brick facade and ornate arches and turrets. It was built by merchants of the Hanseatic League. The interior shows the lifestyle of the nobles with chandeliers, dining tables, and a library with a small exhibition that is dedicated to 19th-century Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz. The house was named for the thunder god Perkunas. You can get a guided tour. The house has also been a drama theater and it continues to host performances from time to time.

The Town Hall has Old Town’s tallest tower that rises from it. It is an elegant white building that was built in the mid-16th century. The hall has been a theater, a prison, and a palace. Today it is used for official events. The first two floors serve as a wedding hall and there is a small town museum in the cellar.

Pažaislis Monastery was built by Camaldolese monks in the 17th century. The Baroque monastery is located 9 km east of central Kaunas on a promontory that juts into the Kaunas Sea. It was given to the Russian Orthodox order by Tsar Alexander in 1831. It has a 50 m high cupola and a luxurious Venetian interior that has pink and black Polish marble, On the premises, you’ll find Monte Pacis which is one of Lithuania’s best fine dining restaurants.

MK Čiurlionis National Museum of Art is one of the oldest and grandest galleries in Lithuania. It is Kauna’s leading art museum. Here you can see the impressive paintings of Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, one of Lithuania’s greatest artists and composers. In the gallery, you can see contemporary sculpture exhibitions, Lithuania folk and religious art, 16th- to 20th-century European works and Lithuanian landscapes and portraits from the 1900s to 1940s.

Open-Air Museum of Lithuania consists of re-created 18th and 19th-century villages that represent Lituania’s main regions. Joiners demonstrate their crafts in the museum workshop. There are indoor exhibits and you can get a tour of the park, The museum is located 25 km east of Kaunas.

Kaunas Picture Gallery is a branch of the Ciurlionis museum and exhibits the artwork of 20th-century Lithuanian artists include a Lithuania In Exile exhibition by emigre artists, Even though most explanations are in Lithuanian the art does its own talking with 1920s and 30s watercolors that depict the countryside and fishing villages along with a vivid triptych by 20th-century painter Adomas Galdikas, plus temporary exhibitions.

St Michael the Archangel Church is a neo-Byzantine church that was turned into a stained glass museum during Soviet times. It was built for the Russian Orthodox faith and reopened to Catholic worshippers in 1991. The church catacombs have been converted into the Kaunas Museum for the Blind letting visitors experience a sightless world.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | October 24, 2021

Wonderful Riga

Riga, the capital of Latvia is set on the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the Daugava River. The river runs through the city dividing it into the Right Bank which is the city side and the Left Bank the suburban side.

VecRiga or The Old Town is on the right bank of the Daugava River and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are lovely cobblestone streets and sociable square as well as some of the city’s oldest houses and churches.

There are many interesting things to see walking through the narrow street like the narrowest Rozena Street where you can touch both sides of the street as you walk.

Skarnu Street has an arts and craft market.

The Great and Small Guild Halls date back to the time when Riga was a Hanseatic City, trading across the Baltic and Northwest Europe.

Other impressive things to see in the Old Town are the Gothic style St. Peter’s Church where you can go up into the spire to get spectacular views of the city.

The yard at the Convent of the Holy Spirit.

The complex of residential houses The Three Brethern and so much more.

In the summer you can relax at the outdoor cafes and watch the people go by.

Dome Cathedral is a well-known landmark in the Old Town.It is the seat of the Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia. The spire has a golden cockrel at the top weighing 86 kg and functions as a weather vane. In the 16th century the Dome Pipe Organ was the largest in the world, unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1547. The present organ has a carved wooden case installed at the beginning of the 1880s with 6718 pipes.

The Swedish Gate dates back to the Medieval times when Riga was protected by a mighty wall with 20 towers and a 90-meter-wide moat which later became the City Canal that runs all through the city today past lovely picturesque parks.

The Swedish Gate is the only survivor from that time.Its reason for survival is that it was turned into an apartment for the city executioner, who would lay a red rose on the window sill of the morning of an execution. The stretch of wall along Torna Street was restored during the Soviet occupation.

Old St. Gertrude’s Church is a lovely church on Gertrudes Street. This is a neo-Gothic church with a red brick structure and a green copper spire.

One of the city’s highlights is its Art Nouveau that includesover 800 buildings dating from the beginning of the 20th century.There are many impressive buildings with lovely decorations. One of the best places to see Art Nouveau is on Alberta Street. Much of this street is the work of Russian architect Mikhail Eisenstein.

Also a star of the Art Nouveau movement is Konstantins Peksens who designed and lived in a building on Albert Street at the turn of the 20th century.The building at number 12 has had his apartment interior resored to its 1903 layout and decoration.

Tornkalna Lutheran Church is a lovely church that sits on top of a hill on the Left Bank of the Daugava in the neighborhood called Tornakalns. The neo-Gothic church dates from 1891 and was built to commemorate the birth of Martin Luther.

Laima Chocolate Museum will take you on a delicious tour. Laima is the largest chocolate producer in Latvia. The interactive museum is on Miera Street. There are many different exhibitions that show the history of Laima and how it produces the chocolates.You can purchase chocolates at the Laima shop and enjoy some at the cafe.

Esplanade Park is a lovely park on the Right Bank of the Daugava. It dates back to the 12th century and at one time was the parade grounds for the local garrison. It is a wonderful place to walk and relax. Here you can see the large statue of renowned popular Latvian writer Rainis and the statue of the Latvian Army’s first Commander-in-Chief Oskars Kalpaks. There are lush green lawns, and shady paths surrounded by the Orthodox Cathedral, the Latvian Art Academy, and the National Art Museum.

Latvian National Art Museum displays 19th and 20th century Latvian art. It was built by the Baltic German arhitect Wilhelm Neumann and completed in 1905. Two floors exhibit Latvian artists like the Expressionist Johans Valters, Art Nouveau artist Janis Rozentāls and the landscape painter Janis Rozentāls. Temporary exhibits can be found in the basement. On the roof is a terrace from which you can view the city.

The Freedom Monument is one of the most popular landmarks in Riga. This tall green lady that stands on top is affectionately known as “Milda.” She hold three gold stars in her outstretched hands that represent three historical regions of Latvia – Kurzeme, Vidzeme, and Latgale.

If you approach the base you’ll find 13 groups of reliefs recording national heroes, allegories, images from Latvian culture and pivotal moments in the nation’s history like the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the War of Independence.

Residents and visitors place flowers at the base of the monument to remember people who were deported to Siberia during Soviet times. There is a changing of the guard each hour. It is built from red granite and travertine.

The Freedom Monuments remains the centerpiece for official remembrance ceremonies.

Bastejkalna Park surrounds the Freedom Monument and reaches across both side of the City Canal. The name of the park translates to Bastion Hill. Over the centuries the park has developed and you can see gaslights, sculptures, formal flowerbeds,and a man-made waterfall. In the summer there is a fountain on the canal and tourists can ride in boats around the city. You can see ducks and swans here. Lovely wrought iron bridges let you cross over the canal.

Riga Central Market is one of the largest and most visited markets in Eastern Europe.It is an amazing sight with pavilions that were once German zeppelin hangars.These giant pavilions sit on the Daugava and each sells different products like meat, fish, dairy, and vegetables. A lot of modernization has happened and now these pavilions have changed greatly on the inside. Outside you can also find stalls selling different products in a very vast area, During the summer there are cafes you can relax at.

The Latvian National Opera is housed in an amazing white building with iconic columns. The new annex was added to the original building in 2001 with an additional 100 seats. Here you can enjoy opera and ballet performances. Take a walk in the lovely surrounding gardens with a fountain and a bronze statue.

At Town Hall Square you wil find the Town Hall and the impressive House of Blackheads.There is a stone marker in the ground that shows the location of what is believed to be the world’s first decorated Christmas tree, erected by the Brotherhood of Blackhead in 1510. Today you can still find the large Christmas tree decorated for the city here in Town Hall Square.

House of Blackheads originally was built in 1344 but was destroyed during war times. It was rebuilt in its original splendor in the 1990s. It is an impressive Gothic building with a Dutch Renaissance facade and many decorative statues.

Vermanes Garden is the second public garden in Riga. It is a lovely garden in the city center with an elegant fountain representing the four seasons and a set of stone lions. There are formal gardens and exotic trees,cafes, a children’s playground and an outdoor stage for music and dance performances in the summer.

Nativity of Christ Cathedral is for the Russian Orthodox community. It is very impressive with a golden central dome. Tsar Alexander II donated 12 bells which were melted down at the start of the Soviet occupation when the cathedral became the Republic House of Knowledge.In the 1990s it was restored to its original splendor as a cathedral.

The Museum of the Occupation is one of the city’s top cultural attractions. The museum documents the grim period from 1940 to 1991 when Latvia camed under the USSR, then the Nazis during WW II and then the USSR again.

Latvian Ethnographic Museum is an open air museum that is a delight to visit in a lovely spot on the north shore of Lake Jugla. Here you will find farmsteads, windmills, fishing villages, churches and country houses that were all moved from their original locations for preservation. You can see craftspeople creating things, enjoy Latvian food and drink and walk around the beautiful surroundings.

Jurmala is a famous international Baltic resort in Latvia

In the summertime you can relax and have some fun in the sun heading out to the “Latvian Riviera” or Jurmala as the beach is called that stretched along the coastline of the Riga Gulf. There are many towns that make up the resort and you can explore each of them as well. Take a walk along the main shopping street Joma Street with many shops on both sides that stretches through all the towns.

Posted by: RasmaSandra | October 23, 2021

Beautiful Boulder

In our armchair travels across the USA we have arrived in the western state of Colorado. The state has a diverse landscape of arid desert, river canyons and the snow covered Rocky Mountains.

Our first stop is Boulder at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in northern Colorado. To the west you can see the trail-lined Flatirons which are craggy rock formations that overlook the city.

The Flatirons are the most distinctive feature in Boulder making them a natural backdrop to the city. There are five huge, slanted slices of sandstone. The area is home to many hiking trails leading into the surrounding foothills. One hiking trail the Flatirons Vista Trail will lead you right into the rocks. The Flatirons have also become one of the most popular rock climbing destinations.

The Open Space Mountain Park area is the best place to begin exploring the Flatirons. The lovely meadow space is where many of the hiking trails start.

The Pearl Street Mall is one of the most iconic man-made attractions in Boulder. It stretches along Pearl Street for four blocks. This is a brick-paved pedestrian mall that is filled with shops, art galleries, and restaurants. There are benches where you can sit and watch people go by and sometimes there are street performances.

Chautauqua Park is located next to the Open Space Management area offering amazing views of the Flatirons and hiking trials beginning in a lovely meadow setting. This park has been preserved as a historic landmark. Here you can find a community center dating from the late 1800s that hosts lectures and music festivals. There is a romantic restaurant The Chautauqua Dining Hall. Children will enjoy the playground and there are tennis courts.

The Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory is a company that is the largest herbal tea producer in North America. The factory in Boulder packages over eight million tea bags a day. You can tour the facilities. The 45 minute tour lets you see how the tea is made. There is an herb garden and you can see the Mint Room where huge bags of peppermint and spearmint tea are stored before shipping, There are also free tea tastings.

Eldorado State Canon Park is another top tourist attraction with Eldorado Canyon. High sandstone cliffs are popular with rock climbers and the park has over 500 technical climbing routes. You can also go hiking and mountain biking.

There are lovely picnic spots by South Boulder Creek which runs through the park. In the winter visitors can go snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

University of Colorado Boulder is worth visiting with impressive architecture such as The Old Main Building which was the first structure dating back to 1876. The campus has attractions like the outdoor Mary Rippon Theater that hosts the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in the summer.

On campus the Museum of Natural History has over four million object among them Colorado’s largest collection of bee specimens. The CU Museum of Natural History is a great place to learn about the flora and fauna of the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest.

The CU Art Museum offers over 8,000 objects that cover some 10,000 years of human artistic creations.

Fiske Planetarium is one of the largest planetariums between Los Angeles, California and Chicago, Illinois. You can check out the stars through the lens of the powerful Zeiss telescope, hear live musical performances and see theater performances, There are interactive full-dome films and the popular late-night laser and liquid sky sown that are set to music.

The Hill is a college neighborhood directly to the west of the CU Boulder Campus. There are student-focused shops and restaurants as well as live music venues like Fox Theater.

Flagstaff Mountain is a popular destination to watch the sunset. You can hike up or drive to the top of the mountain for some awesome views of Boulder. At the top you’ll find the Flagstaff Summit Nature Center where you can learn about the local flora and fauna. A hike to the top begins from the Flagstaff Trail head and is a two-mile hike to the summit.

Mount Sanita Hiking Trail winds up both sides of the ridge leading to the summit of Mount Sanita. Locals run the trail for a workout. There are lovely views of the valley from the top.

The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art was founded in 1972. There are three galleries that rotate exhibits of regional, national, and international art. A 100-seat black-box theater put on innovative performances from dance to poetry readings.

Take a trip to the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse that sits at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Central Park next to the Boulder Creek. The teas here are sourced from Dushanbe, Tajikistan which is Boulder’s sister city. The building is impressive with a carved ceiling and decorative wood paneling. The highlight here is the English High Tea with homemade cakes, pastries, and sandwiches accompanying the Dushanbe teas.

The Cure Organic Farm opened in 2005 run by Ann and Paul Cure with more than 100 different kinds of organic vegetables, herbs, and flowers on display that can also be bought at the farm store. There are also cuddly farm animals to see like ducks, geese, pigs, and cows.

Long’s Gardens were started more than 100 years ago by JD Long. Their gardens are known for showcasing the beauty of irises in the Boulder area. The farm grows bearded iris flowers that can be purchased here and can grow over 27 inches long, The peak blooming season is from May to June.

Posted by: RasmaSandra | October 6, 2021

Wonderful Cheyenne

Cheyenne is the capital city of the US state of Wyoming.

The Wyoming State Museum collect, preserves, and exhibits artifacts relating to the human and natural history of Wyoming. Among the permanent exhibits are the flora and fauna of the state and you can get a look into the effects of human presence on the state’s wildlife, and the history of Wyoming’s mining industry. There is a hand-on room for children were they can handle historic pieces and dress up in costumes.

The Nelson Museum of the West offers exhibits of the western culture throughout human history, including cowboys, Native Americans, and the US Military. There is a 4,000 book library. Artwork includes art by the Pueblo and Plains Indians and fine art by the most famous artists in the west. A Mexican exhibit has decorative sombreros, clothing, and silver-mounted spurs and saddles.

Visit the historic Governor’s Mansion right in the city center. It was once the home to state governors and their families and is now preserved as part of a historic house museum. It was built in the Colonial Revival-Style back in 1904. The interior has period furniture and pieces that decorate the stately rooms and suites. There is also a beautiful library and you can see the basement fallout shelter built during the Cold War. The mansion is now a National Historic Landmark.

Cheyenne Depot Plaza stands right in front of the museum by the same name. There are many statues and monuments with lovely historic buildings surrounding the plaza. Here many of the city’s main community events and festivals take place as well as concerts. Informative plaques can be found all around the highlight the history of the downtown district. Enjoy the art installations like brightly colored cowboy boot sculptures.

The Cheyenne Depot Museum was once the depot for the Union Pacific Railroad it displays interesting artifacts and history of the railways and how they opened the American West to settlement and development. The depot was built of sandstone in the 1880s in Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. It reopened as a museum in 1993. At this National Historic Landmark you can learn about the past of the Transcontinental Railroad and see the massive model train on display.

Boots of Cheyenne you’ll see while walking about the city. There are over 25 boot sculptures at strategic points in the city. Each of them highlights a particular aspect of the history of Cheyenne or Wyoming. This started out as a local art initiative in 2004 to raise money for the Cheyenne Depot Museum and turned into one of the city’s top tourist attractions.

Cheyenne Botanic Gardens are in the Lions Park with lots of colorful flowers, plants, trees, and shrubs. It was established in 1977 and has ponds, landscaped rose, herb and perennial gardens. There is an arboretum and a children’s village as well as a Garden Labyrinth. The highlight here is the conservatory,home to tropical plants, a koi pond, and vegetable plots.

Wyoming State Capital right in the heart of the city is the state’s seat of government. It was built between 1886 and 1890 and has a golden dome over forty meters high. You can admire the Renaissance Revival-style building from the outside and take a tour of the stately rooms and legislative chambers inside. There are decorative furnishings, colorful murals and marble. Its most remarkable features are the stained-glass dome and rotunda. It is a National Historic Landmark surrounded by landscaped lawns.

Curt Gowdy State Park has amazing landscapes and nature. It is just half an hour’s drive west of the city. There are rolling hills and rocky outcrops, meadows full of flowers and verdant woods with three large reservoirs. The park is located among the foothills of the Laramie Mountains and there is plenty of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. You can also enjoy fishing, boating, and water skiing. For overnight stays there are campsites and cabins.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | October 6, 2021

Beautiful Valmiera

In our armchair travels through Europe we’ve come to another Baltic State this one is Latvia which is located between Estonia and Lithuania. The country lies on the Baltic Sea and has a landscape of wide beaches, sprawling forests, and wide meadows. There are bustling cities and many amazing things to see and do.

Our first stop is the largest city in the historical Vidzeme region, Valmiera.

One of the oldest towns in Latvia Valmiera is a most beautiful and romantic town lying right on both banks of the Gauja River. It is located in the Vidzeme district and is a popular town which Estonians, Lithuanians, Germans and Fins make as their destination for a one-day trip. The town’s name in Latvian means “a tranquil place”.

Gauja River

The heart of the town is a bridge spanning the Gauja and above it is a medieval bastion known as the “Stork’s Nest”. There is a lot for tourists to enjoy in the Valmiera region like lots of opportunities for eco-tourism and different kinds of outdoor activities. In the winter you can find places for skiing and in the summer you can take boat trips on Lake Burtnieks.

When visiting Valmiera you’ll want to take a look at the Valmiera Drama Theater which is one of the best theaters in Latvia. There are tours available behind the scenes, you can meet with popular actors, shop at the theater boutique and relax and enjoy some coffee.

Explore Valmiera Castle Ruins and Fortification. This was a former castle of the Livonian Order that has medieval fortifications and dates back to the 13th century. You can now see the Order Castle ruins and the remains of the fortifications near the Gauja River.

St Simon Church has amazing Romanesque and Gothic style architecture. The church has 15th – 16th century burial plaques of town notables, there is a pipe organ that was built in 1886 by well-known European organ builder Friedrich Ladegast and paintings on the pulpit. The organ loft was built in 1730. There is an exhibition space in the church tower and from a viewing platform you can get great panoramic views of Valmiera.

Valmiera’s most beautiful adornment the Gauja River winds through the city in the length of 8 km and divides it in two almost equal parts. In the past it used to be an important component of the city’s economic development; nowadays the Gauja is a delight to the eye and a solace for the soul yet simultaneously it offers great possibilities for recreation.

Valmiera leaves a strong impression as a venue of cultural and sporting events; it also offers good shopping and entertainment opportunities and allows everyone to leisurely enjoy the atmosphere of cosy cafes and comfortable lodgings. Valmiera can be proud of its own higher educational establishments like Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences,

Vidzeme Olimpyc Centre

and the largest regional shopping centre in Latvia “Valleta“.

Located in the old center of Valmiera the Valmiera Museum of Regional History is not far from the old castle. The museum consists of eight houses all within the area of the Livonian Order castle ruins. The houses consist of exhibition halls, a depository, a reading room and the museum administration. This museum was founded in 1959 and is one of the most important depositories of historical valuables in Vidzeme. Here you’ll find about 60,000 artifacts, photos and historic, artistic and archaeological documents. The largest collection is paintings by various Latvian artists like Teodors Uders, Janis Kalmite, Rudolfs Voldemars Vitols and Peteris Postaza. Each year there are more than twenty artistic, thematic, historic and other kinds of exhibitions held.

You won’t want to miss seeing Valmiera Old Town. Here you can find buildings which date back to the 18th – 19th century like the Old Pharmacy, the Little House of Valters and the Postal Service Horse Station. The little streets will take you back into history. The Old Pharmacy at Bruninieku Street is the oldest wooden building in the city and the second oldest pharmacy in Latvia built in 1735 above the cellar of the Livonian Castle.

Nature lovers can enjoy the great outdoors in several different locations:

The natural and cultural history trail is 2,7 km long and starts at Burtnieku Manor Park Gate and leads you to the bird watching tower at Burtnieks Lake floodplain meadow. The trail is marked and if you wish you can get a guided tour.

Relax by Burtnieks Lake. This is the fourth largest lake in Latvia and a total of 23 rivers flow into the lake. This lake is popular with fishermen and is home to over 20 species of fish. There are six boat bases here.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | September 27, 2021

Tallinn On the Baltic Sea

Tallinn on the Baltic Sea is the capital of Estonia.

The Old Town of Tallinn is one of the best-preserved Hanseatic town centers in the world. You can enjoy the cobblestone streets, architecture, and relax at the lively cafes.

Tallinn Town Hall and Town Hall Square in Tallinn, Estonia. Stitched Panorama

Begin at the Town Hall Square with colorful buildings and find the circular stone marked with a compass.

The Town Hall was built in 1404 and is the oldest town hall in Northern Europe with impressive Gothic arches and interesting artwork.

Across from the Town Hall is Raeapteek, which is one of Europe’s oldest continually running pharmacies. There is a mini museum where you can see antique medical tools and early healthcare techniques. In the basement you can sample herbal tea blends made from local ingredients.

The Viru Gate was once part of the city’s wall defense system. It was erected in the 14th century with round towers and conical roofs.

Lennusadam Seaplane Harbor has a museum that lets visitors step into Submarine EMI, Lembit, a vessel from the 1930s that is one of the few remaining submarines from that time.

You can climb aboard the Suur Toll icebreaker and explore this steamer’s captain’s cabin, crew rooms, and officers’ mess hall.

Hundreds of other artifacts displayed throughout the museum tell the story of maritime history in Estonia.

The structure of the museum is of interest and was originally built to house seaplanes in Peter the Great’s Naval Fortress. The hangar features “the world’s first column-less thin-shell concrete domes of such volume” and remained in use until WW II.

One of the most iconic places in Tallinn is the Russalka Memorial. The monument was built in 1902 by Amandus Adamson to honor the people who died in 1893 when the Russian warship Rusalka or Mermaid sank on its voyage to Finland.

The Tallinn TV Tower stands at a height of 314 m. On the 21st floor is the observation deck and has become a popular tourist attraction.

You can get amazing views over Tallinn and the Gulf of Finland.

The tower offers the Tallinn TV Tower Walk on the Edge where you’re strapped in a harness and you can walk along the ledge of the tower’s outdoor terrace and dangle your feet over the 175 m drop.

The high-speed elevator will take you to the observation deck in 49 seconds. If you like you can tryout for a broadcast journalism career and record your own news clip in the TV studio on the first floor. You can learn about the history of the Tallinn TV Tower at the history exhibit.

On Toompea Hill you’ll find the Toompea Castle with the initial stone structure that was built by the German Knights of the Sword in the 13th century.

Today it is home to the Riigikogu or Estonian Parliament raising the national flag atop the 14th century tall Hermann Tower every morning. Visitors can get free guided tours in English, Russian, or Estonian.

Take a walk 500 m northeast from the castle to the Patkuli viewing platform for fantastic views of Tallinn.

Alexander Nevski Cathedral is a 120-year old cathedral standing directly across from Toompea Castle. It was built in the Russian Orthodox style with five bulbous onion domes topped with gilded iron crosses. The cathedral has 11 bells , including the largest one in Tallinn, that weighs 15 tons. You can hear them ringing through the city at any time during the day. It stands at Kadriong Park.

Kadriong Park is the place to enjoy nature in Tallinn, There are blooming flower beds, a swan pond, Japanese garden, and an English landscape park with an oak grove.

The park is also home to the Kadriong Palace which was an imperial summer palace in the early 18th century and now is home to the Estonian Art Museum with foreign artwork from the 16th to the 20th centuries.

North of the palace is the Office of the President of the Republic. The building is a salmon-pink Neo-Baroque structure where the Estonian president works.

Kumu Art Museum is the headquarters of the Estonian Art Museum and has a vast collection of contemporary art. It offers educational programs and events. On the third floor you can see Estonian art classics from the 18th century to the end of WW II. On the fourth floor Estonian Art during the Soviet Era is exhibited.

The Estonian Open-Air Museum shows the lifestyles of Estonians hundreds of years ago. It is located in the seaside area Rocco al Mare. You can see 14 farms recreating the way rural Estonian villagers and fishing communities lived from the 18th century to the 20th century.

You can walk through the 74 buildings all over and see a traditional school house, seaside fishing sheds, historic homes, a fire station, and windmills. Visitors have the opportunity to take part in folk dances, midsummer bonfires, and horse rides.

Visit the Kalev Chocolate Shop and Workshop and try some sweet traditional marzipan. The shop is located in the historic Rotermann Quarter. The sweets shop has gift boxes of martzipan and handmade chocolate and delightful marzipan animal figurines.

The shop allows visitors to put on an apron and try making their own treats in the workshop. The two hour hands on classes are guided by a master confectioner.

The Tallinn Zoo is a wonderful place to see animals from all over the world and is the biggest zoo in Estonia with over 13,000 animals.
The zoo has the world’s largest collection of mountain goats and sheep and a large eagle and owl collection, There are two tropic houses with crocodiles and other reptiles as well as fish, exotic birds, marmosets, chimpanzees, and mongooses.

At the Elephant House you can see snakes, African elephants, two black rhinos, pygmy hippos, armadillos, and rodents.

The Alpinarium offers mountain sheep, ibex, and snow leopards.

The Middle-Asia Complex has Przewalski’s horses, Bactrian camels, bison, yak, and hyenas.

Nearby are pheasants and water bird lake that is home to ducks, pelicans, swans, and other water birds.

At Hawk Mountain you can see eagles, vultures, and owls.

Tallinn zoo has successfully bred many animals, including the Amur leopard, long-tailed goral, Steller’s sea eagle, black rhinoceros and snow leopards.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | September 27, 2021

Visiting Casper

In our armchair travels across the USA we have arrived in Wyoming, a state in the Western US.

We’ll be visiting Casper, a city in central Wyoming.

The Casper Planetarium is a good place to learn all about the night sky. You can get a full dome view of celestial wonders and the planetarium offers the universe in HD. Visitors can attend educational events such as the laser show talking about various constellations.

Downtown Casper has historic buildings, unique shops, and great restaurants. Here you can see how the locals live and find out about the history of the city and its culture.

The Nicolaysen Art Museum exhibits artwork by both local and national artists. The artwork displayed changes every month. There are a variety of art programs for children and adults can meet artists in person.

The Ayeres Natural Bridge in Douglas is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Wyoming. It is among only three natural bridges in the US with water beneath. The scenic park is a great place to relax, hike, picnic, and fish.

Casper Mountain stands at 8,130 feet above sea level. It overlooks Casper. There are several public parks, camping spots, hiking trails, and a folk museum to catch up on history.

Fort Casper Museum is an 1865 military reconstructed post. The forst was the final river crossing of the California, Oregon, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express trails. The museum showcased the history of the natives, the energy industry, and the frontier army. There is a display of a recreated Mormon ferry. Behind the museum is a fort with all its initial buildings reconstructed.

Fort Laramie was established in 1834 as a trading location for fur and later became the most significant fully-equipped military post on the Northern Plains. It was there to protect settles moving west and was effective until 1890.

Hell’s Half Acre is a one of a kind geologic oddity with a hilly gorge that is shaped like a horseshoe. The 150-foot deep gorge covers 320 acres. It is a great place for hiking, camping, and exploration.

Independence Rock is a giant granite 128 ft high, 1900 ft long, and 700 ft wide. It was named after the 1830 fur traders’ celebration. It is among the most famous landmarks along the Oregon Trail.

The “Great Register of the Desert” a spot along the trail has more than 5000 early emigrant names carved on this special boulder.

Another thing to do in Casper is to rent a kayak and explore the waterways of Fremont Canyon. The canyon is four miles southwest of Pathfinder Dam and is a wonderful tourist destination. Lovely rock walls rise up on either side of the river. People come here to do some sightseeing and to canoe, kayak, and fish.

The Oregon Trail can be explored on horseback along the Platte River with the Independence Rock nearby. You can choose to take an overnight wagon trip or a half or full days’ horse ride.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | September 19, 2021

Exploring Montana

Montana Glacier National Park Mountains Cracker Lake

Glacier National Park is located in northwest Montana. It is wonderful place to see nature with mountain ranges, alpine meadows, thick forests, waterfalls, lake and glaciers.

The only paved road that takes you through the park is called Going-to-the-Sun Road and it stretches for 50 miles. The road crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass and connects St. Mary to Apgar Village and West Glacier.

Highline Trail

There are more than 700 miles of hiking trails and among the most iconic hiking routes are Grinnell Glacier, Ptarmigan Tunner and Highline Trail. You can enjoy overnight adventures too.

The state of Montana has ten national forests and many of them are in the western half of the state. Five of these forests are a short drive from Missoula, which is home to the University of Montana.

Lolo National Forest surrounds the city. Some of the highlights are the Rattlesnake and Blue Mountain National Recreation Areas.

Bozeman is home to Montana’s other state university and a great place to start off exploring some national forests. Most visitors enjoy the Custer-Gallatin National Forest. The forest goes past the town of Big Sky and connects to Yellowstone National Park.

Big Sky Resort offers some of the best skiing in America and is about an hour’s drive from Bozeman. The slopes are known for their abundance of snow and in the wintertime it fills up with skiers and snowboarders.

The town of West Yellowstone is near the western entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Stop by to see the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. It was opened as a sanctuary for animals who could not live in the wild, Here you can see grizzly bears and gray wolves in a natural habitat.

Montana has two main entrances into Yellowstone the West Entrance and the North Entrance.
Entering through the town of West Yellowstone you get into geyser country. When you get to Madison Junction to the north is Norris Geyser Basin, home to Steamboat Geyser. To the south are the Lower, Midway, and Upper Geyser Basins.

Through Gardiner, Montana you get to the North Entrance of Yellowstone and can take a lovely 90-minute drive through Paradise Valley from Bozeman. One of the highlights here is the Boiling River and farther into the park is the Mammoth Hot Springs area.

Lewis and Clark Caverns for exploring underground are located between Butte and Bozeman. This is Montana’s first state park and you can get guided tours. Lewis and Clark Caverns are one of the largest limestone caverns in the world. You’ll enjoy the amazing caverns and if tight spaces are of no problem to you you can take the three-hour Wild Cave Tour.

Above ground outside of the caves are hiking trails and a visitor center with interpretive information about the caves, There is a campground with cabins, tepees, and group campsites available.

One of the best hot springs in Montana is Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort next to the Clark Fork River in Paradise, Montana, The resort offer lodge rooms, cabins and the Hardwood House Restaurant.

The most historic hot springs is Chico Hot Springs with a large open-air pool. It is close to the Yellowstone River and a short drive to Yellowstone National Park.

The Beartooth Highway in southwest Montana will take you into the state of Wyoming. The route begins south of Red Lodge which is one of Montana’s best small towns and climbs more thatn 5,000 feet to Beartooth Pass on the other side of the Wyoming border.

Then the highway continues west through Shoshone National Forest to the northeast of Yellowstone National Park. The highway is open between Memorial Day and Columbus Day. There are hiking trails, campgrounds and amazing landscapes.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | September 19, 2021

Tartu On the Emajogi River

Tartu is a university city located on the Emajogi River. It is Estonia’s second largest city and the oldest city in the Baltic States dating back to 1030. Tartu is known as the cradle of the Estonian Song Festival, Estonian Theater, and the Estonian State. There are many wonderful things to see and to do in this interesting city.

A must when visiting Tartu is a look at The University of Tartu. This is one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe founded in 1632. The university has a large student population.

Tartu also has something unexpected and that is the “Tartu Ghost”. No one really know where the ghost resides but you can feel its presence most everywhere like in the city district Supilinn or “Soup Town”, on Toome Hill, in the lovely, little cafes and at the university.

Perhaps it is because of this ghost that residents of Tartu say that time here goes just a little slower. Apparently there is not only one ghostly resident in Tartu and that is what makes it interesting. An example is that the Old Town has a street called Ghost Street which residents believe is haunted. So when visiting the city you can also do some ghost hunting as there are other spooky places in the Old Town as well.

To get a closer look at how some of the residents of Tartu live take a visit to Supilinn or “Soup Town”. This is an area of interesting architecture, affordable housing and vegetable gardens. The streets are named after vegetables like Potato, Pea and Bean Streets and the residents are really down to earth.

Tourists love to take a look at St. John’s Church which is a great example of European Gothic Architecture.

Close by the church is St. Anthony’s Court, a marketplace where you can see and purchase goods created by Estonian craftsmen. There is a wide range of goods from pottery to leather to cloth artwork.

Don’t forget to see the famous Tartu kissing statue. This is a fountain on Raekoja Square which shows two students kissing beneath an umbrella. The statue’s author was inspired by seeing his nephew kissing a girl in the rain.

The Old Town of Tartu is its heart and soul. Here you can walk along narrow, pedestrian streets which criss-cross each other. There is lots of interesting architecture to see. You will find lots of wonderful restaurants and pubs to choose from.

When in the Old Town don’t forget to visit the “Leaning House” located at the northeast corner of Town Hall Square. The house was saved from falling over by Polish engineers. You can see the inside of the house by visiting the Tartu Art Museum.

Another thing not to miss is Tartu’s Town Hall which stand tall over Town Hall Square. It is a most majestic, pink building built in 1789. The architecture is a mixture of early classicism with some baroque and rococo.

The City Museum is located in a lovely 18th century mansion standing across the river from the Old Town. Visitors can get to know all about Tartu’s history here. There is a computer-generated video showing what medieval Tartu would have looked like.

Visit the Estonian National Museum where you can get to know Estonian culture. There is a permanent exhibition about traditional Estonian folk culture displaying folk costumes and life-like displays of peasant life. To get a taste of Estonia food, visit the café downstairs. At the gift shop you can purchase authentic handicrafts and unique souvenirs.

Enjoy the quietness of Toome Hill which rises above Old Town. At one time Tartu’s original settlement, Tarbatu was established here in 600 AD. Today the hill is home to some of the city’s most interesting historic sights. It’s great place for quiet strolls looking out over Tartu.

You can explore the cathedral ruins in Toome Hill Park.

You can have a great time taking a one hour cruise up the Emajogi River aboard the Pegasus. This is a wonderful way to get a different look at Tartu and while you’re relaxing on the river decide what other great sights you want to see.

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