6 Impressive Central and Eastern European Castles

Central and Eastern European countries share only one historical commonalty, they have been socialist countries for many decades. However, their architectural heritage is quite diverse and the region houses some of the most impressive castles in the world. Each of these countries possesses impressive numbers of fortresses, castles and palaces, so picking just six of them is quite a burden. Nevertheless, here are six impressive Central and Eastern European castles.

1. Prague Castle – Czech Republic

Prague Castle

Prague Castle is listed as the largest ancient castle in the world by Guinness Book of Records, with an area of approximately 70.000 square meters. The first parts of the castle were erected in 870 AD. The castle is actually an ensemble of religious and administrative buildings. As a result, the architectural style is quite diverse and presents traces of influential trends from the last millennium. Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors used to reside there and now the castle houses the President of the Czech Republic.

2. Buda Castle – Hungary

Buda CastleThe impressive Hungarian castle located in Budapest is old as well. The first completed version is dated back to the year 1265. The hilly castle location allowed Hungarian kings and rulers to have the best gaze over their closest subjects from Pest, located just across the Danube. The present shape of the main building was given in the 19th century. The whole area surrounding the castle is classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site, as it contains well preserved medieval and baroque buildings.

3. Hunyad Castle – Romania

Hunyad Castle

The Gothic Renaissance castle is located roughly in the middle of Romania in the Southern Transylvanian city of Hunedoara. The region itself is filled with medieval castles, but the Hunyad Castle is one of the most impressive, even if Bran Castle is probably more famous. Vlad the Impaler, Bram Stoker’s inspiration for the Dracula myth, was held prisoner here for a while by Hungarian leaders. Hunyad Castle was built in 1446, while the last modifications were made in the 19th century. This castle is considered to be one of the most fairy-tale like Eastern European castles.

4. Malbork Castle – Poland

Malbork Castle

The 13th century castle is famous for a couple of reasons. Marlbork Castle is the largest brick building in Europe. Moreover, it is the largest castle in the world by surface area, taking all its adjacent buildings into account. The castle was completed in 1406 by Teutonic Knights, making it one of the most impressive Central and Eastern European Castles. The Teutonic Order who founded the castle called it Marienburg (Mary’s Castle) and the reason they chose this location was to exert influence over the newly conquered territory. What an impressive statement!

5. Bratislava Castle – Slovakia

Bratislava Castle

The second castle from this list neighboring the Danube is the pride of Slovakia. The castle site connects the Carpathians and the Alps so the region is inhabited for several thousand years. The earliest efforts to erect the castle date back to the 9th century. During the 11th and 12th centuries, a pre-Romanesque stone palace is mentioned to have been placed on the site. Maria Theresa was the last ruler to have the widest influence over Bratislave Castle, which was turned into a luxurious Rococo structure. A fire destroyed the castle in 1811, which was partially rebuilt in the 1950s and 1960s.

6. Otocec Castle – Slovenia

Otocec Castle

Otocec castle is the only water castle from Slovenia. The 13th century building has a certain charm which helped it become a successful five stars hotel. Otocec Castle lies on an island on the Iazy Krka River. Historically, lords and noblemen inhabited it and the present day aspect was shaped during the Renaissance. The classical castle doesn’t need thorough description, as the picture accurately conveys the dreamy atmosphere only a water castle can possess.

 

9 of Dita Pepe’s Self-Portraits with Men

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Photographers don’t just have to push a button and that’s it. There’s much more to their work than we generally believe. They have to think of concepts, and messages, and compositions and atmosphere. The fact that all of us can become popular artists nowadays with the help of all sorts of applications doesn’t make us worth the boast. So let’s take a look at what a Czech female photographer, Dita Pepe has been up to lately. Here are 9 of Dita Pepe’s self-portraits with men. All the photographs from this post belong to Dita Pepe.

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Who is she?

Dita Pepe was born in 1973 in Ostrava, and belongs to a generation of Czech artists initially working under an atmosphere of intense attention from the West regarding her country’s artistic developments, just what generally happened towards other countries from the former Soviet bloc. This attention was meant to consolidate the entrance of art rising from that territory in a larger artistic circuit from which it was deprived during the forty years preceding the Velvet Revolution.

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What did she do to get where she is right now?

After moving to Germany at 19, she spent her first pay-check on a camera. Having been raised in a communist country, she became fascinated by the way Germans lived their lives and started documenting her experiences. Soon she turned the focus on herself, and that’s when the specific trait of her art started to fall into place.

“One of the main reasons I went to Germany was to get away from my dominant father whose influence on me led to my low self-esteem,” Pepe wrote via email. She went to therapy, spent time in libraries, took on a variety of odd jobs, including working as a waitress and a cleaning lady, and eventually married an older psychology student named Francesco Pepe, whom she divorced later in her life, but who had supported the beginning of her career and her goals.

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What’s Self-Portraits with Men all about?

In 2003 she got a master degree for a series of pictures connected with “the Self-portraits”. For this theme she took pictures of herself and men, as their current partner or even wife. These pictures were made in exterior with the use of artificial light. The main purpose was to capture the tie of the photographed people with their reality and their environment. This project has not been finished yet and in the course of time Dita adds new works to it. Some of te men she already knew, some she didn’t. Moreover, the little girl that sometimes appears in these photographs is Dita’s daughter. Pepe’s presence in her own photographs perfectly mingles with the details of intimacy present in the pre-existent world she enters, profile and social background of the person she is portraying, that makes us wonder about the identity of the artist herself. Dita Pepe suggests two narratives: one of going in and out of the skin of the people she portraits, and the other of the personal story of each of those people, which can be presumed through their personal objects.

“Taking self-portraits with men made me realise how different partners influence one another,” Pepe wrote.

The book about Dita Pepe

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Dita Pepe Self-portraits is the first book about her and especially about her working on this collection. It was published in 2012 and written by Vladimir Birgus. It basically portrays her as a woman of many faces, infinite faces. Daughter, granddaughter, sister, or friend of many women, wife, lover, or friend of many men, mother of many children. Chameleon. Dita Pepe has created dozens of meticulously staged self-portraits in which she changes her age, character, and social status, and adapts to the people with whom she is photographed. It’s one of the best-photographed social-documentaries of our time.

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6 of the Most Impressive Subway Stations in the World

We spend an unimaginably long time travelling by subway. If you come to think of it, it’s a rather strange behaviour we humans have, but the advantages defy any discussions related to this odd mean of conveyance. We use it, and it helps us a lot to get from point A to point B, all across town. But there are a few places on Earth who have subway stations that stand for real museums, and tourists come from everywhere just to visit them. So therefore oddity is transformed in art in its strictest sense. Here are 6 of the most impressive subway stations in the world.

# 1. Moscow’s Central Ring

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Moscow has its central subway route like a ring around city center, marked by impressive stops. The thing is that the Russians have kept all their post Communist pride inside these subway stations, which are absolutely stunning. With huge statues representing the workers and their leaders, fancy lamps and mosaics representing glorious phases from the history of Russia, they are worth every stop. In case you don’t have time for all of them, at least go visit the Kievskaya and the Komsomolskaya stations.

# 2. Stockholm’s subway

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In Stockholm, the Tunnelbana is often considered the longest art exhibition in the world. The word actually stands for “underground” in Swedish. The station we’re talking about here is also referred to as the T-Centralen station, which is the core of the Stockholm Metro. Back in the 1950s, artists Vera Nilsson and Siri Derkert proposed that art should be part of the new subway system. The Tub3 section of the station is where the Blue Line runs, thus the blue and white artwork, which dates back to the 1970s. Inspired by the two, there are now more than 140 artists represented in 90 of Stockholm’s subway stations, including both permanent and temporary exhibitions.

Also check out Kungstradgarden Station, inspired by the Makalos Palace.

# 3. Shanghai’s Bund Sightseeing Tunnel

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Actually the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is not a subway stop. As the name “sightseeing tunnel” suggests, it is a touristic tunnel, running below the Huangpu River. It was originally planned to be a moving walkway to shuttle visitors from the Bund to Pudong, but this concept proved to be much more thrilling with flashing colored lights and exciting surprises.

# 4. Lisbon’s Olaias Station

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The purpose of the Olaias station was to link the inner city with the Expo ’98 area. Portuguese architect Tomás Taveira and a team of Portuguese artists, including Pedro Cabrita Reis, Graça Pereira Coutinho, Pedro Calapez and Rui Sanchez, designed it. Like many others in Portugal, it has a contemporary interior design, including dramatic coloring and exquisitely crafted tiles.

# 5. Kaohsiung’s Formosa Boulevard Station

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Formosa Boulevard is one of the busiest stations in Kaohsiung city, is also the location of the Dome of Light that’s located on the upper part of the station and is known as the biggest public art installation all over the globe. Artist Narcissus Quagliata is to be thanked for putting together the dome in a little less than four years, which included shipping pieces of colored glass directly from Germany.

# 6. Dubai Metro Stations

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Dubai’s railway stations were designed by Aedas of Birmingham to combine both traditional and modern architectural elements. All trains and stations are air conditioned with platform edge doors. For instance the Khalid Bin Al Waleed station has interiors inspired by the four elements: water, air, earth and fire, along with oversized chandelier lamps in the shape of jellyfish.

So now you’ve got a good reason to plan your trips accordingly, and have no excuse to go back to your hotel when your feet are a bit tired of all the sightseeing. Get a ticket and enjoy the subways!

7 of the World’s Strangest Museums

When it comes to traveling, visiting museums is basically the main interest. You take your most practical shoes out of the closet and start walking and walking and walking, until your knees go stiff. But the mirage of discovering unique cultures apart from our own is always rewarding. If an unconventional visiting trip is what you are looking for, maybe some stranger museums would be your cup of tea. So let’s take a look at 7 of the world’s strangest museums.

1. Parasite Museum, Tokyo

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A visit to Japan, Tokyo’s Meguro Parasitological Museum can change the way you generally see parasites forever. Probably because it offers you the unique occasion to actually take a look at what crawls on your inside and outside. This research facility is the only one in the world that invites guests inside to explore exhibits on parasites and their life cycles with over 300 actual specimens on display. The piece de resistance is a 30-foot tapeworm pulled out of a woman who had reportedly picked it up eating sushi. It has no entrance fee whatsoever, so there’s more to spend on posters with intestinal parasites.

2. Museum of Funeral Carriages, Barcelona

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The vehicles used to transport the deceased have always intrigued many due to their unusual energy, but they definitely have grandeur, as you can simply witness by exploring the Funeral Carriage Museum in Barcelona, Spain.  The exhibit consists of 13 beautiful funeral carriages and six coaches that were used to transport departed citizens to their eternal resting place.

3. Phallus Museum, Reykjavik

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According to its website, it houses more than 215 penises and penile parts belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals found in Iceland. Ranging from displays of blue whale members to those from mice and shrews, the museum also has a section on folklore with examples it claims are from elves, trolls and sea monsters.

4. Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, New Delhi

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Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak offers a unique perspective regarding the history of toilets for the past 4,500 years. It underlines the historic evolution of the toilet and looks at how toilets vary around the world.

5. The Garbage Museum, Stratford

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The Garbage Museum features a huge dinosaur made from a ton of trash, which is the average amount produced per year by a single person. Visitors can gain unique perspective on Connecticut’s garbage by walking through a giant compost pile and following the recycling process from start to finish. In other words this goes out to the ecologist in you. It’s rather educational for kids, who can actually learn what garbage is, how much it actually is, and how one can help save the world. Go Planet!

6. The Museum of Human Disease, Sydney

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The Museum of Human Disease offers a bird’s eye view on a huge variety of diseases as well as their effects on the human body. It’s the best way to understand death in a unique perspective due to the fact that you can take part dissection workshops or explore some of the large number of vital organs on display. It is a somewhat successful attempt to explain the phenomenon of death in an unusual, yet practical manner.

7. Leila’s Hair Museum, Independence

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The Hair Museum proves that hair can be used when creating works of art. It contains thousands of wreaths and various creative jewelry pieces made out of real human hair, very popular in the Victorian period. There are also multiple pieces containing hair from famous people, including the likes of Queen Victoria.

The thing is that you can find museums on almost everything. An accurate city guide is the right thing to carry in your pocket in case you decide you want to see something else rather than the classical British Museum or The Louvre. Happy travelling!

Is Banksy Overrated? Some Street Artists Seem to Think So

Every time when someone mentions even the slightest interest in street art, you can bet that the name of Banksy will also be mentioned within the next two minutes or so. Most of these times, it will be the first name that comes up from the world of street artists, especially with people who admire the field from a distance and aren’t really all that immersed into it. But while it’s easier to remember particular works than names – especially if you’ve seen the works firsthand or if they feature a topic or a reference you like – it’s still easy to remember the name of Banksy.

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I don’t know exactly what makes it so. Perhaps it’s his fame in the first place, perhaps it’s the elusive air of a concealed identity that contributed to the myth building and now he’s such a myth in the scene that we don’t really care or remember how it was before the Banksy craze even started. (For those of you which might be appalled of the go-to assumption of gender, please take note that there have been a few seemingly legit interviews with the artist and while he still withheld any identification details, he confirmed to be a man.) The concealed identity and the somewhat subversive message of his art – even more subversive than street art is in itself – definitely contributed to the image of a modern day Robin Hood patrolling the cities and symbolically sticking it to the man. Perhaps that is the main reason for which Banksy has become such a huge favorite. But could it be that his days of glory have passed? Is Banksy overrated? Let’s see what recent street art trends seem to indicate.

One of the nicest recent moves related to street art, which we also covered here, is transforming street art works into GIFs. This way, the merger of street art with the other relevant field of today, which is digital culture and digital art, can be complete. Our post about it also featured an awesome Tumblr account which focuses only on Banksy’s works and transforms them into ingenious and creative GIFs, almost like breathing new life into them. Therefore, we can assume that the artist is definitely still relevant at least to one insider of the street art culture, if we only count the maker of the GIFs and not his many fans as well.

But in spite of this rather distinguishable exception, the general impression is still that most people who are in the know about street art consider Banksy overrated and a bit passé. He seems to remain a cult hero or a name to drop for extra points only for those of us who are really completely outside about street art in general and have only recently come to terms with the fact that graffiti is not vandalism. As for the street artists themselves who are the most likely to predict trends and reflect the general feeling in the field, the number of those who consider Banksy overrated seems to be on the rise.

Little mischief acts like this one are becoming more and more frequent, in spite of the fact that his works are now protected by the law. In the eyes of many street art enthusiasts, perhaps that is just one more detail that makes Banksy overrated and no longer relevant, since the main purpose of street art should be, theoretically, to defy the space it will adorn. When the art itself becomes protected by law and its altering constitutes an instance of vandalism, it kind of lost its mojo, wouldn’t you say?