Places with photo galleries in Europe
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Mt. Aragats (4,090 m)
40 km from Yerevan
Since imposing Mt. Ararat (5,137 m) rises in the horizon behind the Turkish border, Armenia's highest mountain is the beautiful little sister Mt. Aragats (4,090 m). It is a volcano with four peaks and the beautiful green foothills are dotted with tent camps of Yezidi Kurd herders along with their livestock. An old Soviet observatory Byurakan is located at 3,200 m and is the reason why there is a road all the way up to the alpine Lake Kari that forms during spring. The southern peak can be reached by scrambling (not just trekking) while the northern peak (the highest) needs gear to be summited.
© John Smith
Nagorno-Karabakh is one of those republics not recognised by anyone. It lies inside Azerbaijan but is "occupied" by Armenians - the Armenians have always lived in Nagorno-Karabakh, but the region was given to Azerbaijan during the Soviet times. When USSR dissolved, the conflict reemerged with fierce fighting going on in 1991-1994 which left many towns shattered or totally demolished. Today it is possible to visit Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, but only from Armenia - you will not be able to enter Azerbaijan later on if your passport shows proof of any trip to Nagorno-Karabakh. There are a handful of interesting historical sites, but the main reason for any Nagorno-Karabakh trip should be to witness first handed this troubled slice of land.
Disclaimer: We are not political here on Globe Spots, so the reason why there is a Nagorno-Karabakh guide under Armenia is because you can only enter the region through Armenia.
Noratus village, 90 km from Yerevan
The Noraduz cemetery has the largest collection of cross stones, called khachkars. There should be almost a thousand cross stones (though we didn't count them) spread out over the green hill, all finely ornamented. The oldest cross stone dates back to the 13th century, though most are from the 16-17th centuries when the cross stone tradition boomed. A cross stone normally depicted, besides crosses, the life story of the deceased, what he/she did and how he/she died. So a cross stone for a fisherman will have a fish on it and if he died from a serpent bite, a carved snake will zigzag across the stone. There are also tombstones, again, with fine carvings, for example, one showing how a wedding party got raided by foreign warriors.
On the shore of Lake Sevan
Sevan monastery, Sevanavank, consists of two churches which were both built during the 9th century. It was located on the top of an island, which today is a peninsula, in Sevan Lake. The view across the lake is magnificent though the sight of abandoned Soviet buildings might spoil the magic a bit. Throughout the history, the place has been plundered by various invading armies and it was totally abandoned during Soviet times where stones from the big church, Astvatsatsin, even got used to build a new house in Sevan city. Astvatsatsin church has since be reconstructed and the courtyard holds a fine collection of cross stones, called khachkars.
Capital of Armenia
Yerevan is a strange mix of drab Soviet-era apartment blocks, imposing Stalinist masterpieces and new-but-not-finished real estate projects. Even though it is one of the longest inhabited cities in the world, not many buildings pre-20th-century remain, due to the extensive city reconstruction that happened during the Soviet years and which was not fully implemented until recently with the finishing of the Northern Avenue. But this being Armenia, and not Eastern Europe, the street scene is extremely lively with a never-ending range of cafes, some very flamboyant with outdoor couches. Central Yerevan is small and walkable, so you can see the major sights within a day or two. The main sights are Cascade (Soviet monument turned not-completed contemporary art museum), Republic Square (former Lenin Square), Opera House and the surrounding cafe area and Vernissage Market during the weekends... oh, and the majestic views of Mt. Ararat on clear days from the top of Cascade.
© John Smith
Nagorno-Karabakh is a republic recognised by nobody, especially not Azerbaijan. It lies inside Azerbaijan but is "occupied" by Armenians - the Armenians have always lived in Nagorno-Karabakh, but the region was given to Azerbaijan during the Soviet times. When the USSR dissolved, the conflict reemerged with fierce fighting going on in 1991-1994 which left Nagorno-Karabakh wartorn. Today, it is possible to visit Nagorno-Karabakh Republic - but only from Armenia. You will be denied entry to Azerbaijan if they find any proof (souvenirs, photos, visa from NKR) that you have been to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Disclaimer: We are not political here on Globe Spots, we are just presenting things from a traveller's point of view.
Mir Castle is a real 16th-century castle with towers, spires, courtyard and everything. It's one of the few UNESCO sites in Belarus and a must-do day trip from Minsk. The castle has recently been through a total makeover, so it once again is complete. The interior has been cleverly rebuilt so the new modern exhibition rooms morph together with the original structure. Existing castle rooms are set up as dining room, meeting hall, etc. like in the old days, with antique furnitures and paintings. Information is only in Belarusian, but you can make sense of most of the stuff without.
Another great sight in Mir is Mir village itself across the road. Colourful wooden cottages make up most of the village and there are some pretty churches too. It might be your only change to have a peek at rural Belarus.
Walled city of Dubrovnik, Adriatic Coast
Dubrovnik is the iconic Adriatic medieval walled city. In the Middle Ages it flourished in maritime trading as the city-state of Ragusa and was rivaling Venice. During the Yugoslavian war, in the beginning of the 90's, it was sieged for seven month and got severe damaged by artillery attacks. Today Dubrovnik is again insane pretty and manicured to limit that it's almost too much. Just to top it off, there are beaches (pebbles though, not sand) with the most crystal-clear water you can imagine, but screamingly cold. All this makes of course Dubrovnik to the perfect tourist magnet and the stream of tourist buses also seems never-ending, but it is still possible to find adorable corners, without being run over by sunburned tour group.
Capital of Croatia
Zagreb is low on major sights, but this just mean you can enjoy the charm of the city without the hordes of tourists. The city is split into two parts, the handsome upper part and the ordinary lower part. The upper part is for sightseeing and pleasure, while the lower end is where life is lived. The few must-see places include Zagreb Cathedral, St. Mark's church (picture) and the vegetable market, but else Zagreb is best enjoyed by strolling aimlessly around. As with any capital in Eastern Europe the nightlife is good. Bar-lined Tkalciceva street turns into a public catwalk at nighttime with outdoor couches and affordable drinks - what more do you wish for.
All over Copenhagen
The urban landscape in Copenhagen is filled with art and cool design. It is an old tradition that ending of buildings have been used for painted advertising or murals done by famous and less-famous artists. As old building get replaced by new bright architecture with lots of windows, the big murals are slowing disappearing but there are still quite a few left. So go hunting for wall painting in the streets of Copenhagen.