Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Edinburgh Castle

Today we visited the Edinburugh castle in Edinburgh, Scotland.

This castle was built for King David the 1st in the 12th century.
It overlooks the whole city of Edinburgh and out onto the North Sea. It's tall, solid walls are lined with black cannons that were used for battles hundreds of years ago. It's cobblestone walkway, built in the 17th century, twists and turns around the old, beautiful buildings all the way up to the famous Scotish war memorial.

The Scottish war memorial was built on the 14th of July, 1927 by the Prince of Wales, and the Future King Edward VIII of England. He made this shrine to specifically honor all of the men and women who died in the 1914-1918 great war. The inside of this shrine is lined with books that hold the names of the thousands of people that served for Scotland. It also holds a small chapel with carvings along the side walls. These carvings were of Soldiers and Doctors and dogs going out to war. The carving says inspirational words about the soldiers. It is quite a memorable place.

Next to the memorial is St. Margaret's chapel.

St. Margaret's chapel happens to be the oldest building in the Edinburgh castle and the oldest building in all of Edinburgh.
It was built in the year 1130 and was originally believed to be built by King David I after his mother died of a "broken heart" when her husband (his father) died fighting The English in Alnwick. This chapel is quite small and plain but unbelievably beautiful at the same time. In the front of the church there is a small altar with the cross and beautiful gold and purple fabrics. Behind the altar there is a stained glass window of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.
**A quick fact about Saint Andrew is that he was crucified on an "X" instead of a cross. He wasn't crucified on a cross because he didn't feel that he was as important as Christ. **
This small chapel is still used today for weddings and baptisms.

Below the chapel there is a dog cemetery. A dog cemetery, in a castle? Yes it is unusual. It was built in 1814 for the army officers' loyal pets.
The weird thing about this cemetery is that it is built directly on top of the medieval constable's tower.

Overall this castle is absolutely stunning and very fun to visit as well.

You most definitely have to visit this castle when you go to Scotland.


Location:Edinburgh, Scotland

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dunfermline Abbey

Today we went to the Dunfermline Abbey Church.

The most famous part of this church is the tomb of King Robert the Bruce.

Here is a brief history about Robert the Bruce:

He was the King of Scotland from 1306-1329. He was one of Scotland's greatest kings. He fought for the independence of Scotland.

The only problem with this is that Robert did not have a large army. This was an issue because when his army took castles they had to destroy them otherwise the English army would just come and rebuild it, thus Robert would have to come back and re-destroy it.

Robert the Bruce's tomb was lost after his death until the city of Dunfermline found it in 1817 when the city was expanding the Abbey Church. They could only identify him in one way, he had broken ribs over his heart. This is because when Robert the Bruce died he had his heart removed by his friend sir James Douglas. Douglas did this in order to complete Bruce's crusade to build a united Scotland

His body was not the only one found in the ruins of the castle, they also found about 10 others, sadly they were unable to identify them so they are unknown but still are buried in the church today.

Robert the Bruce's actual tomb is made out of gold and purple marble. The tomb has many meaning to it, here are a few;

First, his sword is pointing down. This shows that he had finished what he promised to complete. He wasn't able to do this in life, but his heart did it in death.

Second, he has lion by his feet. This represents that he was a king or high ruler. If you were a knight or a lower ruler, you would have a dog by your feet but, as a king, you needed to show strength and power so he has a lion.

Lastly, Roberts crown is on his head which means that he is actually in the tomb. If the crown hovers it means there is no body in the tomb, it is only a memorial.

So, as you can see, the Dunfermline Abbey Church is built around Robert the Bruce. He is loved by all of Scotland and the people today still honor him and everything he did for his country.


Location:Dunfermline, Scotland

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Palacio Real

Today while we were riding our bikes in Madrid, Spain and we saw a huge, huge palace called the Palacio Real (the royal palace.) The current palace was built for King Carlos III. He wanted to live in the grandest most beautiful castle. He also wanted to put 50 large limestones statues on the top of the castle to honor many of the past great kings of Spain. This plan, however, never really went into action because of the king's mother. She was afraid that since the statues were on the roof and they weighed so, so much that one day she would walk out of the castle, the statues would fall off the roof, land on her and kill her. The castle has over 2,000 rooms( but only about 25 are open to visitors).

The palace has a statue of Carlos III in the front courtyard. It is made out of bronze. This statue was very challenging to build because Charles III wanted the horse, that he is riding in the statue, to be on its hind legs. This had never been done before, ever! So the artist of the structure, Velazquez, called the famous astronomer,Galileo, to help him. Galileo told Velazquez to make the front of the horse hollow and the back of the horse to be solid so the statue wouldn't snap in half or not be able to stand on its 2 back legs. When Velazquez finished the statue he brought it to The King and do you know what he said? He didn't think that the face of the statue looked like him. So he had the statue beheaded and put in the basement of the castle for many, many years until finally someone came and finished it.
This palace is very beautiful outside. It has statues of pots and people on the outside. There are gardens in front and around it with flowers and neatly trimmed bushes.

The current royal family of Spain, King Juan Carlos (and his family do not live here. They chose a smaller castle outside of Madrid. They thought this place was just too big!

When you go to Spain, I definitely recommend visiting this palace or at least walking through the gardens.


Location:Madrid, Spain

Monday, June 11, 2012

Madrid pictures

All is well with the Counters, no blog entries due to very little wi-fi available to us. Off to Scotland tomorrow, will try to update soon!

Location:Calle de Arrieta,Madrid,Spain

Friday, June 1, 2012

Catedral de Sevilla

Today we visited Catedral de Sevilla in Sevilla, Spain.

I thought it was cool because it is where Christopher Columbus really is buried. There are rumors saying that he has been buried in West Indies, Portugal, Spain, and Cuba. The truth is he has been buried in all those places and the distance his remains have traveled is almost as far as Christopher himself traveled. His body had been passed around all of those places, but now is in this cathedral in Spain. His tomb is very, very fancy. It has been lifted above the ground by four metal men, one on each corner of the tomb which represent the four kingdoms of Aragon, Castile, Leon and Navarra.

A very important feature to this church is the Giralda. It was a minaret for the mosque and now is a clock tower for the church. Sadly, we weren't able to go up in it because of on-going preservation. Although, many clock towers in the United States were fashioned after it.

This church is cool for other reasons as well. This cathedral is the place where Ferdinand Magellan started and ended his around the world journey in 1515.

This church also has many elegant and beautiful features to it. For example, there is an over 100 pipe organ that is well decorated and has teeny tiny pipes and pipes longer than your car. I could only imagine how wonderful it would sound when someone actually played it, although we did hear a small snippet of the organ when we arrived at the church.

Like many large cathedrals, this one has many separate chapels or rooms off the main cathedral, some hold tombs or relics of popes or saints or art and mosaics.

Some even hold separate little areas to pray or sit and listen to the organ or just to think. One of the chapels held flags of the countries that Ferdinand Magellan passed on his journey.

A couple of interesting facts about this cathedral are, one; it is the third largest cathedral in the world compared to Saint Peter's in Rome and Saint Mark's in Venice. And second; it was a mosque before it was a church.

Lastly, in the back of the church is a garden where there are orange trees, fountains and benches. The fountains date back to when this church was still a mosque. They were used for ablolutions. An abolution is when a person who is Muslim, wash their feet, hands and faces before they go in to the mosque. This garden is also interesting because of the drainage system. The drains are open and carved into the ground, when it rains, the drains run the water down to the orange trees to water them.

This church is quite touristy but don't forget to stop by if you ever are in Sevilla.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Claude Monet's Garden

Today we went to Claude Monet's garden, located in Giverny, France.
If you don't already know this, Monet (1840-1926) was a famous painter who liked to capture different light in his paintings. He was also known as an Impressionist. Some of his most famous art pieces were done in his (Monet's) garden.
This garden has a river running through to a pond, beautiful flowers everywhere and a few spectacular small bridges.
This garden is called Monet's garden because it was a made by Monet himself. He planted the lily pads that delicately float on the water. He planted the flowers and weeded them too. He made everything so perfect.

It wasn't just a place to glance at flowers though, it was Monet's inspiration for many of his paintings. In fact, Monet's most famous painting (1897) is called "water lillies" or in French, "nympheas, effet du soir." Guess what? It was done here in the garden.
I personally thought that Monet's garden was really cool because it inspired me to do more paintings and take more photos.
Also Monet's garden is just an hour outside of Paris by train. Another cool thing is that Monet's house was up on the hill just above it with a flower garden in front.
If you ever get the chance to go to France, then definitely go to Monet's garden because it is absolutely, stunningly beautiful!


Location:Giverny, France

Friday, May 25, 2012


Things I learned in Paris

* the Eiffel tower is exactly 1000 feet tall

* there are only three REAL gold things in Paris: The top of the egyptian obelisk in Concorde Place, the statues on the bridge representing peace with the Russians, and the Eglise du Dome.

* Napoleon Bonaparte lived and ruled in Paris but was banished to an island near Africa after he escaped the first one and recaptured Paris...

* One King of France named Louis XIV (also known as the Sun King) invented high heels to show off his legs .

*Napoleon Bonaparte was buried for the second time in a church behind Les Invalides near the military school in Paris. He is buried beneath the surface of the church with glass over his bones. You basically have to bow down to him to look at him. Here's the funny thing, a young man named Adolph Hitler (I'm sure you have heard of this terrible guy...)was a fan of Napoleons so one day he decided to go to the church to see Napoleons bones, Hitler liked Napoleon but thought he was even more powerful, so what he did was set up a series of mirrors so that he could see Napoleon but not have to bow down to

*another fact about Napoleon is that he always wanted to be the highest/ best in everything. He went to the military school, was in the military, was a commander, was the ruler, then he fired all the other senators and people who helped to make laws and decisions, he made himself ruler for life, but that wasn't high enough for him. When the pope was about to crown him to be the emporer, he stole the crown from the pope and crowned himself to show that he was more important than the pope himself.

*don't drive in Paris! use the metro, your feet, and the RER trains!!!!

* if you stand I front of the Louvre and look over the gardens, you can see a fountain in line with the obelisk, in line with the Arc de Triomphe, in line with the le Defense arch.

Arc de Triomphe

* Paris is beautiful in the night time...

* the Louvre museum is really, really awesome but don't use the glass dome entrance, use the metro to get there and go under ground to save you from the hour long wait.

* the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 by a man named Gustave Eiffel

* the French had an extremely simple naming system, for example; Gustave Eiffel built the Eiffel tower. √ącole militare was the military school. Art de Triomphe was the triumphant arch. Very simple.

* Paris has its own reproduction of the statue of liberty. The interesting thing is that the statue of liberty was actually a gift from France to the US...

*the H&M in Venice, Italy is bigger than the one in Paris... Weird? :)

*the Eiffel tower is 3 times as tall as the space needle, a little smaller than the empire state building, and about 5 times as tall as the statue of liberty.

*the Eiffel tower lights up every hour for ten minutes until 2in the morning.

*the whole left wing of the Louvre museum was where Napoleon lived.

The Louvre

Location:Paris, France