Segorbe, Spain. August 2016

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“Nine leagues from Valencia, on the old road from this city to Zaragoza, and five from Sagunto, where today the corridor connects with the railroad from Valencia to Barcelona to the west and near the famous Idubeda, there is a beautiful almost circular plain one and two leagues in diameter, surrounded by picturesque and even elegant mountains, irrigated by the Palancia river, with the copious fountain of Hope, which from its source carries more water than many streams called rivers, and by many other smaller springs. Within this valley on the north rises a hill almost vertically. Difficult to find a place more excellent and proper for the first settlers who …

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Prague, Czech Republic. February 2016

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“Whoever wants to live in Central Europe must never sober up.” Writer Bohumil Hrabal “Beer is a sign of national identity, a medium of camaraderie, a gift from heaven and a character from a story.” Craig Cravens The slim spires of Gothic architecture are the dominant feature of the Prague‘s centuries-old skyline, the city known as “Hundred-Spired Prague”, (Stovezata Praha). And it was there I decided to spend a few days right after my 36th birthday, in February 2016. Beer, Bohemian glass and beautiful architecture are perhaps the first things that come to my mind when I think of Prague and Czech Republic in general. It was the first foreign country …

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Terezin. Czech Republic. February 2016

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“Anything can happen if we want to, if we just pull together, and we’ll be laughing on the Ghetto’s ruins”. Lyrics of a Karl Svenk’s cabaret song. “Beasts of burden, we shouldered bundled of what pieces of past we were allowed to keep as we joined the river of fear, a current of shuffling feet, sobs, and whimpers that crept past dark mouths of archways and windows of Terezin” Paul Janeczko “Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto”. I grew up in Belarus, where even in 1980s, the horrors of the WWII were engraved on everyone’s DNA and where history wasn’t just “somebody’s story”, but it was tightly intervened with my …

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Venice, Italy. Part II. February 2016.

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“You will fall in love with the city itself. There is nothing left over in your heart for anyone else” – Peggy Guggenheim “Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Marco Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at one, if I speak of it. Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.” For the Part I of the Venice (History, Piazza San Marco, The Grand Canal, Sestieri di San Marco & Castello) click here. Sestieri San Polo and eastern Santa Croce San Polo is Venice’s smallest but oldest sestiere, dating back to the 9th century. The Rialto, as area …

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Venice, Italy. Part I. February 2016

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“When I went to Venice, my dream became my life.” – Marcel Proust “Venice opens her arms to all whom others shun. She lifts up all whom others abase. She welcomes those whom others persecute. She cheers the mourner in his grief and defends the disposed and the destitute with charity and love. And so I bow to Venice with good reason. She is a living reproach to [papal] Rome.” – Pietro Aretino in his address to Doge Andrea Gritti, 1527 If you have never been to Venice, you haven’t seen the most beautiful city in the World. When people ask me about my favorite place, I always tell the truth …

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Georgia. July 2015

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The Alps we already knew, and the Pyrenees, but this was finer than anything we had ever seen or even imagined in our wildest dreams! This was the Caucasus….How I wish I had brought my copy of Aeschylus! Alexandre Dumas père (1858) “It is a magical place, Georgia,” wrote John Steinbeck during a visit in the late 1940s, “and it becomes dream-like the moment you have left it.” Georgia’s landscape, wine and extravagant people consistently win it friends. John Steinbeck heard from Russians about Georgia’s charm long before he set foot here. “Wherever we had been in Russia, in Moscow, in the Ukraine, in Stalingrad, the magical name of Georgia …

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Azerbaijan. July 2015

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The countries of the South Caucasus have always been the “lands in-between”. In between the Black and Caspian seas, Europe and Asia, Russia and the Middle East, Christianity and Islam and, more recently, democracy and dictatorship. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and the territories around them have the mixed blessing of being at the crossing-place of different cultures and political systems. However, in my memory, those 3 nations were a part of one country I was born in – USSR. The beauty of the land, hospitality and heroism, three things that are always associated with Caucasus, I learnt in childhood by reading Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Leo Tolstoy and watching the all-time …

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Istanbul, Turkey. July 2015

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Istanbul – the only city that lies on both continents – is a place of wonder, curiosity, immense cultural tensity, history, architecture, food and human density. It is a place to be visited by everyone at least once in their lifetime, and it won’t leave you adamant or unbiased. It is a megapolis that, to some extent, carries on the traditions of a legendary city of Constantinople, its heritage, arts and tales. I have already visited Istanbul in 2000 as a law student and I, frankly, hated it. Not the city, but the obnoxious, stalking Turkish men who followed me around. I was 20 years old, it was my first cultural experience outside Belarus, and even …

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Malta. July 2015

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I chose Malta as my wedding venue! Yes, I chose the entire island where early Christian catacombs and Byzantine walls, Muslim streets and Norman towers, megalithic temples and Knights’ forts defined the world history for thousands of years. When D. and I started to plan our wedding, we considered a few options, however, it didn’t take us long to settle on Malta as it had everything we wished for and even more (and of course, D’s great-grandma was Maltese-born). Malta isn’t just another European island. Its history goes back to the 5000 B.C. blending together the cultures of ancient Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans etc. It is home to one of the oldest European …

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Athens, Greece. August 2014

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Click here for Part I of “Athens, Greece. July 2014” August 2, 2014 D and I were back to Athens to celebrate Stacy and Antonis’ wedding at Island Art and Taste  – a beautiful wedding venue on a cliff in Varkiza area of Athens. The wedding wasn’t till evening, but after 2 weeks on the road, we needed our “re-charge” time so we stayed at the apartment, ate the most delicious greek watermelons and read on the balcony. It was the best carefree time I could remember. In the evening, we drove to the venue and spent a wonderful evening with D’s school friends most of whom I just met. …

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