Sarajevo History and Wonderings

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Visiting Sarajevo was an enriching and memorable experience. Even though I am a seasoned traveller who has already traversed across a sizeable chunk of this crust, Sarajevo impressed and inspired me. This city gave my accumulated travel experiences another exotic dose of red hot spice. Sarajevo is sometimes referred to as the “Jerusalem of Europe” owing to its rich multi religious and cultural history.

I stayed at a modest but homely and warm family guesthouse located up on a hill in the Bistrik district south of the Miljacka river and only a few minutes walk from the Ottoman era Baščarsija old bazaar district. This historic district was constructed in 1462 by the Ottoman Empire general Isa-beg Ishaković just after the Ottomans arrived. Before they arrived, the biggest settlement then in Sarajevo was a village square called Tornik located today at the junction between Marsala Tita and Relisa Dzemaludina Čauševica streets where the Ali Pasha mosque is situated several blocks west of the Baščarsija district. Ishaković built a mosque named “Careva Džamija” (the Emperor’s Mosque) in 1457, which is the oldest mosque in Sarajevo. The original structure was destroyed by the end of the 15th century before being rebuilt in 1565.

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Sarajevo City Hall

Crossing over the Miljacka river and walking past the large Moorish style City Hall building, I commenced my adventure through the old Baščarsija streets. Most of the places along the first street I walked across are small eateries selling bureks; spiral pastry pies filled with potato, meat, cheese, or spinach and even pumpkin. On my first evening in Sarajevo, I took a chance on an authentic looking burek place with a magnificent open coal oven where the bureks and other specialities are cooked in large closed circular pans covered in crushed coals. The bureks here at Buregdžinica Asdž are very good and cheap.

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Buregdžinica Asdž: Great burek eatery in the Baščarsija district 

I venture down another smaller street and the oldest street in Baščarsija named Kazandžiluk street, better known as “Coppersmith Street” where small shops sell copper cups, plates, bowls and tankard-like jugs. Walking through this street feels like walking through one of London’s medieval streets around Fleet Street or St Bartholomew’s church with an Arabian tinge. At the end of this street there is an antique wooden coffeehouse where you can drink authentic Bosnian coffee.

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Coppersmith Street: the oldest street in Baščarsija 

 

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On Coppersmith street

 

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Wooden coffeehouse on Coppersmith street 

Anyone who visits Baščarsija will unavoidably cross paths with the main square or Pigeon Square as it’s sometimes better known as, because of the large concentration of pigeons at any given moment just like in London’s Trafalgar Square. In the middle of this square is an old Ottoman style wooden fountain called the Sebilj. It was originally built by Mehmed Pasha Kukavica in 1753 and then in 1891, during the Austrian-Hungarian era, it was repositioned by the Austrian architect Alexander Wittek.

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“Pigeon Square”: The main square in Baščarsija 

 

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By the Sebilj

Close to the Sebilj on Mula Mustafe Baseskije street is the old Orthodox Church of the Holy Archangelo Michael and Gabriel. It is a Serbian Orthodox Church and the oldest church in the city dating back to 1539 (although it’s original structure may date back even earlier).

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Old Serbian Orthodox church: The oldest in the city dating back to 1539

An integral part of my experience in Baščarsija was delving into the area’s history associated with Gazi Husrev-beg. Gazi was born in 1480 in Serres, Greece where his father, Ferhad-beg, was a governor. From 1521 until his death twenty years later in 1541, he was the Ottoman governor of Bosnia and had contributed immensely in the establishment of the city of Sarajevo. By the time of his death, Sarajevo had already developed into a thriving and successful trading center at the crossroads between east and west. He had invested most of his fortune (his endowment or ‘waqf’) towards the development of the city and was a great philanthropist and humanist who cared deeply about the welfare of his people.

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Gazi Husrev Beg mosque: built in 1531 and the largest in the country 

The most notable landmark associated with Husrev beg is the Gazi Husrev beg mosque built in 1531 and located in the heart of Baščarsija. It is the largest mosque in Bosnia and Herzegovina and an outstanding example of Ottoman architecture from that time. Within the mosque compound in the courtyard is an old fountain (‘shadirwan’) similar to the fountain in the main square yet this fountain is over 200 years older dating back to 1530. Situated on the west side of the mosque is the tall stone Sahat Kula clock tower built in the 17th century. It was restored after being damaged in a fire in 1697. The clock shows the lunar time meaning that the day ends at sunset after which a new day begins. Close to the clock tower, there is a water system created by Husrev beg for the city (he also built a public toilet in 1529 which back then was very rare) where the water was transported via ceramic pipes from a wooden aqueduct under the ground. Even today the water system is still in operation and locals (and tourists) continue to come to the fountain to drink the water. I drank from the fountain and I have to say that the water is some of the purest and freshest I’ve ever tasted. Also within the mosque complex is Husrev beg’s mausoleum.

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The Sahat Kula clock tower

 

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The old ‘Shadirwan’ fountain by the Gazi Husrev Beg mosque dating back to 1530

 

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The mausoleum of Gazi Husrev Beg

 

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Drinking from the Gazi Husrev Beg fountain. The water is excellent and comes from the oldest water system in the city dating back to 1529 and engineered by Gazi Husrev Beg

Opposite the mosque is the Ghazi Husrev beg Madrassa (or learning institute) built and established in 1537 for the education of the local population. Husrev beg stated that any money remaining after the madrassa had been built should go towards buying good quality books for the madrassa. Today the collection of those original books is housed in the new modern Gazi Husrev beg library which opened in 2014 and was financed via a $8m grant from Qatar. Within the old madrassa complex is the small Ghazi Husrev beg Museum, which is an excellent place to learn and understand more about him and his unique and generous contribution to the city of Sarajevo.

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By the entrance of the old Gazi Husrev Beg Madrassa which today houses the Gazi Husrev Beg museum 

 

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Gazi Husrev Beg museum 

 

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Gazi Husrev Beg library 

Yet the Gazi Husrev Beg journey isn’t over yet. Halfway between the mosque and the Sebilj is the Morića Han which was a ‘caravanserai’ or roadside inn. In its day it was able to accommodate as many as 300 travellers and 70 horses. It was built in 1551, 11 years after Gazi’s death, and funded using his endowment or ‘vakuf’. Since during this time Sarajevo was an important international trading centre, it was important to establish lodging facilities to accommodate travelling traders who travelled long distances via their horses often from other parts of the Ottoman Empire (which around the time the inn had been built had covered all of modern day Turkey and other parts of the Middle East, North Africa and almost all of south Eastern Europe). Today the Morića Han is transformed into a lovely historic courtyard with cafes and a small market bazaar selling textiles and various crafts.

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By the outside of the old Morića Han

 

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Inside the courtyard of the Morića Han 

Heading towards the western edge of Baščarsija is Gazi Husrev Beg’s Bezistan which is an indoor bazaar. The original structure of the bazaar was likely built around 1540 financed via Gazi’s endowment. During the period of the Ottoman Empire, the shops inside the bazaar traded textiles. Running parallel to the Bezistan is the old goldsmith street (Zlatarska) today known as Gazi Husrev Begova street where goldsmiths and jewellery shops owned by metal workers sold gold and silver jewellery.

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The entrance of Gazi Husrev Beg’s Bezistan 

 

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Inside Gazi Husrev Beg’s Bezistan

 

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The old goldsmith street of Baščarsija

The ruins of the original Tašlihan stone inn, constructed around the same time as the Bezistan to accommodate travelling merchant traders like the Morića Han, can be found in the summer garden of the historic Hotel Europe.

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The ruins of the original Tašlihan stone inn

Leaving the Baščarsija and the eastern Ottoman part of the city we literally cross over to the western part of the city over the “East-West: Sarajevo Meeting of Cultures” line.

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The “East-West: Sarajevo Meeting of Cultures” line marking the border between the Ottoman eastern part of the city and the western part of the city  

Our first port of call is the old stone Jewish synagogue built sometime towards the end of the 16th century. Since it’s establishment it was damaged several times before being reconstructed again. The current physical structure of the synagogue dates back to 1813. In 1941 it was raided and occupied by the Nazis and subsequently demolished. The Nazis detained Sarajevo’s remaining Jewish community here before they were taken to concentration camps. After enormous reconstruction, in 1966 the synagogue was turned into the Jewish Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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The old stone Jewish synagogue. In 1966 it was turned into the Jewish Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Inside the museum, there are various artefacts and fragments of traditional Jewish life in Sarajevo. There are moving and poignant displays and photographs from the time of the Nazi occupation in Sarajevo. Some of the written displays include stories of gifted Jewish teachers and intellectuals in Sarajevo whose lives were cut short by the Nazis. There is one black and white photograph from 1941, when it was a very dangerous time to be a Jew in Sarajevo (as in many other parts of Europe), showing a Jewish mother and her two children walking alongside two Muslim women. The Muslim woman in the right of the photograph is covering the Jewish woman’s Star of David symbol which she is wearing on her left arm.

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Paraphenalia in Sarajevo’s Jewish museum dating back to WW2 when the Nazis occupied Sarajevo and the city’s Jewish population was rounded up and sent to concentration camps. The postcards in the photograph are postcards from the concentration camps 

 

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Black and white photographs of captured Sarajevo Jews 

 

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Photograph dating back to 1941 showing a Jewish mother and her two children walking alongside two Muslim women. The Muslim woman on the right of the photograph is covering the Jewish woman’s Star of David symbol which she is wearing on her left arm

The history of the Jewish community in Sarajevo (and the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina) dates back to 1492, the year when Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, and also the year when the first wave of Jews arrived in Bosnia escaping the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions. They were welcomed by the Ottoman Empire ruler of the time, Sultan Bayezid II. In the time when Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the Ottoman Empire, the Jewish community prospered and were well-treated living peacefully with the Bosnian muslims. They had a large amount of freedom and rights including the right to buy property and land and establish trade in any part of the Ottoman Empire. By 1856, a law was passed within the Empire granting Jews (and other non muslims) full equality. The Jewish community continued to flourish during the subsequent Austrian-Hungarian Empire rule until the beginning of World War One. The rise of Nazism and the Second World War caused many Jews to flee Sarajevo and Europe. By 1940 there were around 14,000 Jews in Bosnia of which 10,000 were in Sarajevo. When former Yugoslavia was invaded by the Nazis in April 1941 most of the remaining Jewish population were deported to Auschwitz or concentration camps in Croatia. After the war, most of the Jewish survivors emigrated to Israel. Today only about 1000 Jews are living in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. If you have some time, I recommend a visit to the city’s Jewish cemetery located outside of the city. The local tour agency Funky Tours combine a visit to the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum with a visit to the cemetery.

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Photographs from Sarajevo’s Jewish cemetery. You can see the effects of the 1992-5 Bosnian War from the shelling marks on the gravestones 

The western part of the city is full of elegant and ornate buildings dating back to the era of the Austrian-Hungarian empire hand in hand with austere, brutalist architecture from the post WW2 communist Tito years. If you look closely, you may notice many buildings still scarred by intense shelling when Sarajevo was under siege during the Bosnian War from 1992-5. You may also see shelling scars on the streets you walk on. Some of these scars are painted red and known as ‘Sarajevo Roses’ marking the location where civilians died from mortar explosions during the war.

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Architecture dating back to the time of the Austrian-Hungarian empire 

 

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Brutalist architecture in the city 

 

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Scars from the 1992-5 Bosnian War

 

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‘Sarajevo Roses’: red painted street scars from the war marking the locations where civilians died from mortar explosions during the war

On the corner of Obala Kulina Bana street by the main river and Zelenik Beretki street is the Museum of Sarajevo 1878-1918 and the location from where the young Bosnian revolutionary Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand who led the Austrian-Hungarian empire. His assassination was the catalyst for the First World War and the collapse of the empire. The museum documents the period of Austrian-Hungarian rule in Sarajevo as well as the assassination featuring photographs of the Archduke with his wife in their car after they were both shot, and original artefacts like the trousers Gavrilo Princip was wearing and the gun he used to assassinate the archduke.

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At the location from where Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand

 

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Inside the Museum of Sarajevo 1878-1918 which houses the trousers Gavrilo Princip was wearing and the gun he used to assassinate the Archduke

 

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Original photograph of the Archduke with his wife in their car just after they were both shot

Walking back towards Ferhadija street and west, you will eventually come face to face with the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Sarajevo, which is the largest cathedral in Bosnia and Herzegovina dating back to 1884, only a few years after the city came under Austrian-Hungarian rule. Viennese contractor Baron Karl Schwarz along with supervising architect Josip Vancaš designed the cathedral in a neo-Gothic style.

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The Sacred Heart Cathedral of Sarajevo: the largest cathedral in Bosnia and Herzegovina dating back to 1884

Close to the cathedral is the Orthodox Church of the Most Holy Mother of God, which faces Liberation Square. Here you will see locals playing chess like they have all the time in the world; un-restless and un-hurried.

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Orthodox Church of the Most Holy Mother of God

 

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Chess on Liberation Square

Not far from the square is the Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide which the documents the 1990s war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Amongst the many photos documenting this horrific period there is a display of a dug up mass grave where one can see a human skull, bones and miscellaneous scattered personal items. During the war 34,946 civilians went missing in Bosnia and Herzegovina and more than 5,000 locations containing body parts and mass graves have been discovered across the country. Through conventional methods of clothes/items recognition and more advanced DNA analysis, about 23,000 victims have been identified. Yet around 7,000 people as of today are still missing. Elsewhere there is a display of torture methods and devices used on victims during the war. On one wall there are graphic photographs of victims exposing shocking injuries inflicted on various parts of their bodies and photographs of war refugees cramped and lying on the floor of a building in sleeping bags to keep warm. On another wall there is a framed letter from Arnold Schwarzenegger to a Bosnian heavy weights star who lost members of his family in the war. In the letter Arnold tells him, in spite of all the trauma and destruction from the war, to move forward and take care of his mother. He also mentioned enclosing gifts in the letter. As I near the end of the Museum there is a sculpture of a man made from slices of bread by Mensud Kečo dedicated to the victims of the May 27th 1992 bread queue massacre. 26 civilians were killed and over 100 were wounded as they queued for bread on Ferhadija street.

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Mass grave display at the Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide

 

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A sculpture of a man made from slices of bread by Mensud Kečo dedicated to the victims of the May 27th 1992 bread queue massacre on Ferhadija street

To gain a good understanding of the Siege of Sarajevo, I embarked on a half day tour with Funky Tours. My guide was a middle aged man named Adnan who experienced and lived through the siege and was injured in his hip by flying shrapnel. With his unique experience he is also a charismatic and engaging guide, and it was riveting to listen to his stories. On this tour we visited the Sarajevo Tunnel located on the outskirts of the city. It was built discreetly by the Bosnian Army to link the neighbourhoods of Butmir and Dobrinja. At the time the entire city was surrounded by the Bosnian Serb army and it was very difficult to escape. Civilians were trapped and the tunnel enabled them to flee and get access to essential humanitarian aid. Today the house whose cellar acted as the entrance to the tunnel has now been transformed into the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum. When we entered the house we walked down the narrow 20 metre length portion of the original tunnel from its entrance. Inside the house there are photographic displays and War artefacts like military uniforms and equipment and also some examples of the humanitarian aid and food staples smuggled via the tunnel.

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By the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum

 

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Inside the Sarajevo Tunnel

Afterwards, Adnan drove us to the bobsleigh track built for the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. Eight years later from the start of the Bosnian War, the track was destroyed by the Bosnian Serb Army and also utilised as an artillery position. Today the track is a heavily graffitied relic. One area of the track has been graffitied with the image of a young girl crying wearing a yellow shirt with a flower. She’s holding two signs in each hand. The right sign features the John Lennon and Yoko Ono slogan ‘Give Peace A Chance’ whilst the left sign continues the sentence with ‘For All Kids’.

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Bobsleigh track photographs

 

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View over Sarajevo 

Close by the track we stopped at the side of a mountain road from where we had an incredible vista of the city of Sarajevo and its surroundings. All of the city is located in a valley surrounded by mountains. As magnificent as the scenery is, the heartbreaking truth is that such as setting made it relatively easy for Bosnian Serb Army troops to almost completely surround and lock the city.

 

 

Text and photographs by Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

 

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Photographs From Novi Sad

Arriving in the city of Novi Sad was my first taste of Serbia; a country I’ve always wanted to visit. After four days in this city, it certainly has not disappointed. In fact I had a real blast. Serbia’s second biggest city, after the capital Belgrade, has been a joy to explore and get to know. The attractive city centre around the main square is full of handsome buildings dating back to the time of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. There are lots of cafes to have a cheap cappuccino or bottle of Jelen beer along with a slice of Sachertorte or a couple of scoops of delicious ice cream. And all for just a few coins. Paris also has nice cafes and are great way to pass the day…..if you have deep pockets.

There are a plethora of sites to see in Novi Sad, but I recommend simply walking around this city. One great walk you can do is to walk towards the main bridge over the Danube river and on to the old Petrovaradin fortress. On sunny Summer days you will see locals bathing on the banks of the river. Once over on the other side, you are in the old part of town full of old buildings; many of them in splendid dilapidation. I seldom go to the gym but the walk up to the fortress more than compensated for that! When you’ve reached the top, you are rewarded with an amazing vista of the city and the Danube. There are also a couple of bars at the summit.

There is a small but interesting space which holds temporary art exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Novi Sad, which is part of the larger Museum of Vojvodina on Dunavska street. When I visited, there was an interesting exhibition by a Serbian artist called Igor Bosnjak entitled Projekat EUtopija. Next to the space there is a small display about the history of the Vojvodina region (of which Novi Sad is the capital) from before the start of the First World War until the end of the Second World War. It providing a very interesting understanding regarding what sowed the seeds for the First World War and the conflicts between the Austrian-Hungarian empire and Serbia. Directly opposite the museum is Dunavski park, which is a lovely spot to relax and have a walk. Look out for the statue of the Serbian poet and painter Djura Jaksic. He is sitting down and wearing a hat, looking uncannily like Don Quixote.

In the evening head to Cafe Veliki (one of the best and most authentic restaurants in the city) and order the Goulash. You won’t regret it! In the evening there are lots of bars to choose from. I had the good fortune to meet an interesting Anglo-Serbian guy from Manchester and a friend of his who took me on a tour of the city. We wound up the day in some bar, which I can’t recall the name of, where we had a few Jelens and some rakija. Rakija is a fruit brandy popular throughout south eastern Europe and comes in different flavours. At the end of night we went to a snack place for a pljeskavica; one of the national dishes of Serbia. You gotta have a pljeskavica if you ever come to Serbia! And it is perfect post-drinking food. There are also a smattering of bakeries open 24/7 where you can pick up a cherry strudel whenever you are feeling peckish.

There are many places to stay in Novi Sad. I stayed at the Hostel Podbara located outside of the city centre, but only a 10-15 minute walk away. It is a very tranquil and quiet place and almost feels like you are in the middle of the countryside. What’s more, the rooms are very comfortable and it’s incredibly good value for money; especially if you are on a budget. And the family who run the hostel are very kind and welcoming.

So, walk around and get stuck in! Don’t feel like you have to “do” Novi Sad. Grab a cafe and some cake. Have a Jelen and a pjeskavica. And just have fun!

Živeli!!!

 

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Novi Sad’s main square Trg Slobode

 

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By the main city centre church 

 

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Statue of the Serbian poet and physicist Jovan Jovanović Zmaj (1833-1904)

 

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Old town of Novi Sad

 

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Old town of Novi Sad

 

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Petrovaradin Fortress

 

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View of the old town from the fortress 

 

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The river Danube

 

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Novi Sad train and bus station

 

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Outside Novi Sad train and bus station 

 

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Street art in Novi Sad

 

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Street art in Novi Sad

 

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Goulash at Cafe Veliki

 

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Projekat EUtopija exhibition by Serbian artist Igor Bosnjak at the Museum Of Contemporary Art 

 

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Outside the Museum Of Contemporary Art

 

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In Dunavski park posing by a statue of the Serbian poet and painter Djura Jakšić

 

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Jelen beer and rakija on a night out

 

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A pljeskavica

 

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Novi Sad Synagogue

 

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Novi Sad in the early evening

 

 

Photographs and text by Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Original Relics Of Medieval London

The history of London goes back to 43 AD when this city was first founded by Roman settlers and orginally christened Londinium. Yet when one visits London today, one could argue that the year zero of this city begins with the renowned architect Sir Christopher Wren who was responsible for rebuilding the city after most of it was devastated by the Great Fire Of 1666.

Today very little of old medieval London exists. Yet it is there! Mostly in the form of the few churches which survived the Great Fire and of course the mighty Tower Of London and Tower Bridge. One of the principle reasons why most of London was destroyed by the Fire was due to the fact that the majority of the city’s houses and buildings were made out of wood. The fact that the Tower of London was made of good old hard stone speaks volumes about how its bacon was saved.

To experience a decent slice of medieval London, I personally like to head to EC1 and the Cloth Court/Cloth Fair area of narrow medieval alleyways and of course the magnificent St Bartholomew’s church. Nearby you have the legendary Smithfields Market and a little further up is the Barbican. By the jungle of Brutalist architecture one can find St Giles church and surviving relics of the original London Wall. For a definitive and comprehensive history of this city, the Museum of London is right round the corner. Currently there is an excellent exhibition on there commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of 1666. It is a very thorough exhibition with lots of information and even some original artifacts from that time. The exhibition is on display until April 2017.

Below I am featuring some photographs from my wonderings exploring another side to this city and unearthing some of these original relics of London, which were unaffected by the Great Fire…

 

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A portion of the original London Wall in the Barbican area

 

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St Giles-without-Cripplegate church

 

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The Staple Inn: This enourmous medieval building was built in 1585 and narrowally escaped the Great Fire by only a few metres

 

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St Etheldredas Church: this church was built in the latter half of the 13th century. It is one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in England.

 

 

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For me, this area close to Smithfields market is a fabulous slice of medieval London around the junction of Cloth Court alley and Cloth Fair. Notice the entrance to the iconic St Bartholomew’s church in the background

 

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41 Cloth Fair: This is the oldest house in the City Of London orginally constructed between 1597-1614

 

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St Bartholomew Gatehouse: this was constructed in 1595

 

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Priory Church of St Bartholomew-the-great: close up

 

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St Bartholomew-the-great church: this magnificent church was first founded in 1123 by Rahere (a prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral). It is adjacent to St Bartholomew’s hospital which was also founded by Rahere in that same year and is one of the oldest hospitals in the U.K.

 

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St Bartholomew-the-less church

 

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This shop built in 1567 was featured in Charles Dickens’ ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’

 

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The Seven Stars pub: This unique and charming pub first opened its doors in 1602. It is one of London’s few remaining independent pub and remains little change since it’s early days

 

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The Olde Wine Shades: first opened its doors in 1663

 

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This handsome medieval building on Fleet Street called Prince Henry’s Room survived the Fire. It was a former tavern where the London diarist Samuel Pepys liked to hang out

 

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St Katherine Cree Church

 

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St Andrew Undershaft Church: this church was originally constructed in 1532. It survived the Great Fire of 1666 an drew World War Two, but was unfortunately damaged in an IRA attack in 1992

 

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St Helen’s Bishopsgate Church: this gem of a church was built in the 12th century. It has the distinction of being the largest surviving church in the City of London. This was also William Shakespeare’s church during his time in the city.

 

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St Olave Hart Street Church: this church was constructed built in 1450. This church was saved by the Great Fire by Sir William Penn (who’s son also named William, founded the state of Pennsylvania) who instructed that the houses surrounding the church be destroyed to make a firebreak and thus save the church

 

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The Tower of London and Tower Bridge in the background. The Tower of London castle was built in 1078.

 

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All Hallows-by-the-Tower Church: Although the current facade of the church goes back to 1658, it is on the site of a church’s going back to 675. Samuel Pepys watched the city burn during the Great Fire from the church’s tower.

 

Text and photographs by Nicholas Peart

4th December 2016

(All rights reserved)

Touring The Oldest Pubs Of London

Following on from my tour of the pubs of Glasgow back in October, I thought I’d share with you all my experiences of touring some of the oldest pubs of London. Some of these pubs go back to the times of medieval London before the Great Fire Of London of 1666. The history of London is fascinating in itself and some of these old pubs or taverns project a strong energy and spirit of what London must have been like all those years ago.

 

Ye Olde Mitre

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This notorious pub, hidden down Ely Court in the Farringdon area, was first established in 1546. The bottom floor of the pub by the bar is full of hanging old beer mugs from the ceiling and historic photographs and pictures. The pub or tavern was originally built for the servants of the Palace of the Bishops of Ely from Cambridgeshire. The pub and palace were later destroyed in 1772. The pub in its current structure dates back to that year.

 

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Inside Ye Olde Mitre

I prefer to come here for a pint during the afternoon when it is quieter and there are less punters. My favourite part of the pub is upstairs where there are many old pictures of historical figures like Mary Queen of Scots. When I was there with my sister back in August, we were the only people there. During the evening, especially on a Friday night, the pub becomes uncomfortably overcrowded and loud. The pub is currently owned by Fullers brewery and does a decent selection of beers and ales. When I was there I had an Oakham Green Devil IPA ale. A sterling choice but at 6% this stuff can make you weak in the knees quicker than you think.

 

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St Etheldreda’s Church

If you have some free time, try to visit the atmospheric St Etheldreda’s Church which is the oldest Catholic Church in England built in 1291.

 

 


Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

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Number two of the Ye Oldes, this legendary pub, located on Fleet Street, was first established one year after the Great Fire Of London in 1667. What immediately strikes me about this pub is its heavy, wooden Old London austerity, rawness and darkness. You could have a thousand suns beaming down on this pub and inside it would still be darker than the blackest of hearses. This is not a place to go to for natural vitamin D therapy but if you want to experience the ghosts and grime of a time long gone, this is a great find.

 

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Many literary figures including Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, P.G Woodhouse and Dr. Samuel Johnson are all said to have been locals of this pub. Charles Dickens was also a regular of this pub and the atmospheric and ‘gloomy old London’ energy of the pub must have provided him with an abundance of inspiration for his writing.

 

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Downstairs at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Here this pub is at times a curious mix of one timer global smartphone-glued tourists and hardcore spit and polish long timer locals who’ve been drinking at this pub longer than I’ve been on this planet. My favourite part of the pub to sit is either in the small room where the bar is by the main back entrance or downstairs below the ground floor. It’s in these areas where I feel the spirit of the pub the most.

 

 

The Seven Stars

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The Seven Stars is a special pub in London. Not only is it one of London’s oldest boozers first established in 1602, it also has the rare distinction of having survived the Great Fire of 1666. Fortunately none of the owners throughout the pub’s history have been shortsighted enough to redesign the pub in any shape or form and so it remains exactly as it was when it first opened its doors in the early 17th Century. Furthermore, it is one of the very few remaining independent old pubs in London.

 

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Inside the Seven Stars

Since the pub survived the Great Fire and owing to the fact that it has hardly changed since its original beginnings, it offers a veritable taste of a typical medieval London tavern. A part of me would probably die if this place was ever turned into, god help me, a ‘gastropub’. What’s more, this pub has a decent selection of ales. When I was there with my sister, I had a pint of the dark Roadside Adnam ale which was very good.

 

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Yours Truly at the Seven Stars with a pint of Adnam ale

It is located by the Royal Courts of Justice and London School of Economics meaning that it is often frequented by LSE students and barristers who take their clients here for a celebratory drink.

 

 


The Cittie Of Yorke

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The Cittie Of Yorke is an outstanding old pub located in Holborn. It is a Samual Smith owned pub but is probably one of the most atmospheric pubs I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. The on site history of the pub goes back all the way to an impressive 1430 even if much of the current building is a rebuilding from the 1920s.

 

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Inside the Cittie Of Yorke

The main bar area is situated in an awesomely atmospheric hall with high wooden beam ceilings, low suspending globe like lights and a series of big wooden beer barrels above the bar. More than many other pubs I’ve frequented, it is here where I could really imagine myself in a crowded, noisy and messy old London tavern. People would be dressed in rags or in immaculate suits, coats and top hats. I could imagine the former like being straight out of a painting by the 17th century Dutch painter Adriaan van Ostade who was a great painter of the Dutch underclass who spent there time in tavern like places getting drunk and merry and disorderly; tankards clinking, loud voices singing and a multiple of instruments ringing.

 

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The legendary Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who was a great lover of pubs, wrote an impromptu ode to this pub when it was called the Henneky’s Long Bar. Aside from the main bar, there are some equally atmospheric rooms with dark wood furnishings, leather coaches, tall old windows and paintings.

 

 

The Hoop and Grapes

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The Hoop and Grapes located on Aldgate High Street was originally built in 1593 and is one of the few existing relics of medieval London to have escaped the 1666 Great Fire. This current pub dates back to 1721 and is currently owned by the Nicholson Brewery. In spite of its unique history and all the old furnishings and photographs on the wall, this is quite an ordinary commercial pedestrian pub playing standard mainstream chart music. Unlike Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, the original spirit of this place is hard to find.

 

 

The Anchor

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This pub located on the South Bank has a very impressive history. This was William Shakespeare’s local and the pub from where the great London diarist, Samual Pepys, watched the Great Fire Of London. The genesis of this pub was a tavern reported to be 800 years old and this would make this place one of the oldest pub establishments in the city even if the pub had been destroyed during the Fire and subsequently remodelled a few times since then. The Anchor was recently refurbished in 2008.

Despite the epic and awesome history of the place and even the fact that the old decor remains, albeit with a slick facelift, it is quite an ordinary commercial pub serving the usual fare of alcoholic drinks and pub grub. Still it’s location on the South Bank can’t be beat and on a pure blue summer day, this is a good place to go.

 

 


The George Inn

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Located close to Borough Market and short distance walk from the Anchor, the George Inn is a gem of a pub and unlike the Anchor has retained much of its original character and charm. The George is a former coaching Inn dating back to 1542 and the current building dates back to 1676 after the original Inn was destroyed in a fire. The pub has also had a distinguished set of people who came here to drink. Most notably William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. The latter mentioned The George in his novel Little Dorrit.

When I came here I had a pint of the locally brewed George Inn ale which I highly recommend. This is an outstanding pub and would be my personal choice over the Anchor if you happen to be in SE1.

 

 


The Prospect Of Whitby

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The Prospect, located in Wapping, is one of the oldest pubs of London and the oldest riverside tavern of London dating back to 1520. It is also one of the best pubs I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. It was originally called The Pelican, which was later renamed The Devils Tavern and then later The Prospect of Whitby in the 18th Century. Back in those early days most of Wapping’s residents worked by the river as fishermen, sailors, and boat and sail makers. In addition to this, Wapping also had its fair share of pirates, thieves and smugglers.

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Many famous people frequented the Prospect. ‘Hanging Judge Jeffries’ was a regular here. Throughout history it has been claimed that he would tuck into his lunch on the balcony of the pub whilst watching the hangings at a place then known as the Execution Dock. It was here where the notorious pirate Captain Kidd was executed in 1701. Then there was the 17th century London diarist Samuel Pepys who was a regular here during his stint as a clerk for the Navy and later Secretary to the Admiralty.

After the end of World War Two during the 1950s and 1960s, Wapping like many other parts of East London was in decline. However the pub was still doing brisk business and one of the pub’s rooms upstairs was a restaurant which was popular with many celebrities of that time including Richard Burton, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, Mohammed Ali and Princess Margaret.

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One of the rooms in the pub upstairs was at one point in history used for boxing matches. Some of the earliest international matches happened between sea workers from around the world. As well as boxing matches, cock fighting matches also too place in this particular room.

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I came here with a couple of friends one summers day back in September. We spent most of our time here on the outside riverside patio of the pub enjoying our pints and the beautiful weather. When we were not outside we were exploring the interior of the pub, it’s multiple rooms with old shipping memorabilia and paintings, portraits, photographs and records of all the distinguished people who crossed paths with this mighty place.

 

 

The Mayflower

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From Wapping my friends and I take the Overground line one stop south of the river to nearby Rotherhithe. It is here that we visit the historic Mayflower pub. This pub was originally established in 1550 and then rebuilt in 1780 as the Spread Eagle and Crown before being renamed The Mayflower in 1957 after the Mayflower ship which took the Pilgrim Father’s from Rotherhithe to America in 1620.

 

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Inside the Mayflower

The pub is atheistically a very tasteful pub with lots of old shipping related pictures and artefacts on the walls and around the pub. In a way it is the perfect vintage pub and it’s cosiness and warm vibe increase its attractiveness. It is best to come here when it isn’t crowded. When we came here there was a massive entourage of people celebrating something and we couldn’t move anywhere. But when it isn’t busy this pub is a delight. The riverside terrace is also one of the best in London.

 

 

The Angel

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Also in Rotherhithe is the Angel pub. For me it is not as attractive or interesting as the Mayflower. The interior reminds me more of a tough East London boozer where the Kray brothers or one of the older EastEnders actors or Lennie McLean would call their local. Nevertheless, this Samuel Smiths pub is a good no nonsense boozer and has a long history. It was originally a 15th century tavern established by the monks of Bermondsey Priory. It is mentioned in Samuel Pepys diary as a place where he drank.

 

 

The Grapes

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This unique riverside Limehouse pub has a history going back to 1583. The current building of the pub has a history dating back to the 1720s and was originally a raw working class riverside tavern serving predominantly the dockers of the Limehouse Basin. Regarding notable figures, our faithful friend Samuel Pepys makes an appearance here. His diary mentions trips to lime kilns at the jetty right by the Grapes.

 

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Inside The Grapes

The pub also appears in the Charles Dickens book Our Mutual Friend. The back of the pub is full of Dickens related paraphanelia including a large portrait painting of him.

 

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Portrait of Charles Dickens inside The Grapes

I like this pub. The interior and decor hasn’t been messed with and as a result it retains its original character and spirit.

 

 

Spaniards Inn

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One day earlier this year I met a friend of mine in Hampstead. After a long walk in the beautiful Hampstead Health park, we visited this gem of a pub nearby. This attractive pub is one of London’s oldest pubs dating back to 1585 and is a great pub to visit full of original character and charm. There is also a large outdoor sitting area which is perfect for warm Spring and Summer days. This pub has a distinguished literary heritage. Dickens mentioned the pub in his book The Pickwick Papers and the poet Keats wrote Ode To A Nightingale here.

 

 

The Olde Wine Shades

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Although more of an ancient wine bar than a pub, this place in the City of London nevertheless merits a mention more for its history and the fact that it is, like the Seven Stars pub in Holborn, a rare example of pre 1666 medieval London. It was one of the few buildings of that year to escape the Great Fire. Historical importance aside, I was quite disappointed to discover that it is nothing more than a mediocre overpriced wine bar. I would come here for a curious peep but I would rather pick the Seven Stars or the Prospect over this place any day of the week.

 

 

Text and photographs by Nicholas Peart

2nd December 2016

(All Rights Reserved)

Photographs from Liverpool’s Chinatown

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The Chinatown quarter of Liverpool has a very interesting history. It has the unique distinction of being the oldest Chinatown in Europe. During the 19th century when Liverpool was a thriving and increasingly prosperous port city through the booming shipping industry, and when Britain was an enormous colonial power, it was trading with most of the world.

The seeds of Liverpool’s link with China go back to 1834 when the first ship from China arrived in Liverpool to trade products such as cotton wool and silk. Yet it wasn’t until the creation of the Blue Funnel Shipping line in the 1860s by Alfred Holt and Company, which employed many Chinese seamen, when the first real migration of Chinese to Liverpool began. This shipping line established robust trade ties between the cities of Liverpool, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The Chinese seamen who stayed on in Liverpool settled by the docks on and around Cleveland Square, where the Holt Shipping Company built boarding houses for them. This was the beginning of the original Chinatown in Liverpool. Around the 1890s, some of the Chinese settlers set up their own businesses mainly for the sailors who worked on the Holt shipping lines.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, there were around 6000 Chinese seamen in the British Merchant Navy with a quarter of them in Liverpool. Much of the original Chinatown around Cleveland Square was destroyed during the Second World War. Liverpool was already by then a city in economic decline.

The Chinatown one sees today in Liverpool was only established in the 1970s on Nelson Street as its official street, although it extends along Berry Street up to where the bombed out church, St Luke’s, is located. On these two streets and some surrounding streets are a plethora of Chinese restaurants and some supermarkets such as Chung Wah and Hondo. The imposing and ornate Chinatown Arch at the beginning of Nelson Street was officially opened in the year 2000 on Chinese New Year. The arch was constructed from an estimated 2000 block components manufactured by the Shanghai Linyi Garden Company Ltd and shipped over to Liverpool from Shanghai along with twenty specially selected Shanghai craftsmen to build the arch.

 

Text and Images by Nicholas Peart 

19th October 2016

(All rights reserved)

 

 

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Baba Vanga: The Nostradamus Of The 20th Century

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Vangelia Gushterova or Baba Vanga as she was better known was born on January 31st, 1911 in Strumica, former Yugoslavia. She is often referred to as the Nostradamus of the 20th Century for her prophecies and unique ability to foretell the future

 

The Life Of Baba Vanga

When Baba Vanga was only three years old her mother died and her father went to fight during the First World War meaning she grew up pretty much alone. Her father later remarried when she was seven years old and at the age of twelve they all moved to a town called Novo Selo where Baba Vanga went through a period of tremendous unhappiness.

One day something unusual happened which would change her life completely. She was with her cousins outside when a powerful tornado appeared and proceeded to catapult her into the air and into a field of crops some distance away. When she was eventually found in the field after a long search, witnesses say that she was very frightened and in considerable pain. Her eyes were covered in dirt and dust and she ways unable to open her eyes because of the pain. The incident left her permanently blind and she was sent to a home for blind people in a town called Zemun until the age of eighteen. Afterwards she came back home to care for her brothers and sisters after her stepmother passed away. It was during this time back at home when she experienced unusual metaphysical activities. She would often dream, hear voices, have visions and even communicate with the dead and plants. More significantly, she predicted many events which came true with unbelievable accuracy.

Some days before her death on November 11th 1996, she said the following worlds in a TV interview, “Don’t hate each other, because you are all my children!”

Also, some time before her death, she said that a blind 10 year old girl living in France would inherit her gift, and said that the world would soon hear about her.

 

Baba Vanga’s Prophecies and Their Significance Today

Many of Baba Vanga’s predictions came true. Some of the more recent events happening in the world today most notably the 9/11 attacks and the rise of ISIS have been linked to Baba Vanga’s prophecies and have put her in the spotlight.

Some of her predictions which came true include…

The beginning of WW2

The date on which Tsar Boris III died (Bulgarian king from 1918-1943)

The break-up of Czechoslovakia

The riots in Lebanon (1968)

The war in Nicaragua (1979)

The election of Indira Gandhi and her death

The break-up of the Soviet Union

The nuclear disaster in Chernobyl

The date when Stalin died

The 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami (This is linked to a prophecy she made where she said, “A huge wave will cover a big coast covered with people and towns, and everything will disappear beneath the water. Everything will melt, just like ice.”)

The 44th President of the United States would be African-American (yet she also said that he would be the last US President)

The 9/11 Twin Tower attacks (This is linked to a prophecy she made in 1989 where she reportedly said, ‘Horror, horror! The American brethren will fall after being attacked by the steel birds. The wolves will be howling in a bush, and innocent blood will be gushing’.)

The disaster of the Russian “Kursk” submarine

 

Other Predictions

There has been quite a hullabaloo recently regarding some of her other predictions. Some claim that she had warned that Muslims would invade Europe in a ‘great Muslim war’ which would conclude with the establishment of an Islamic caliphate by 2043, with the city of Rome as its capital. This prophecy has propelled conspiracy theorists to highlight the rise of ISIS as evidence.

She also forewarned how the world would change due to the effects of global warming (“Cold regions will become warm … and volcanoes will awaken”)

Other predictions include a prediction that aliens would enable civilisation to live underwater by 2130 and another that in 3005 there would be a war on Mars

Although many of her predictions came true, many also didn’t. Most notably her prediction that in 2010 there would be another world war.

 

By Nicholas Peart

2nd October 2016

(All rights reserved)

 

 

Image source: http://www.catchnews.com

 

Text sources:

http://www.baba-vanga.com/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baba_Vanga

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/baba-vanga-who-is-the-blind-mystic-who-predicted-the-rise-of-isis-a6765071.html

Remembering The Great Fire Of London

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The Great Fire (image source: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk)

 

Today marks the 350th Anniversary of the Great Fire Of London. To recognise this the Museum of London currently has on display until April 2017 an excellent temporary exhibition. As well as a wealth of information, there are also original artefacts on show like the original leather buckets and fire squirt pipes residents used to stop the fire as well as some of the possessions affected residents tried to salvage from their burning homes.

Only a year before the Fire, London was devastated by the Great Plague of 1665 which killed 100,000 people (a fifth of the city’s population). There are a few reasons why the fire had the devastating impact it had. Firstly, most of the buildings of the city of London back then were made out of timber. The city at the time also didn’t have the proper facilities to reduce the fire. There were certainly no fire brigades and sadly one of the only ways to effectively put out the fires was to tear down many of the wooden houses to prevent the fires from spreading further. It had also been a very dry and hot summer and combined with a strong wind from the east, those initial small flames began to spread to almost all of the city of London.

The fire began very early one morning on Sunday 2nd September 1666 at a bakery on Pudding Lane close to London Bridge. The mayor of London at the time, Sir Thomas Bludworth, two hours after the fire didn’t take it seriously and was reported to have said, ‘Pish! A woman might piss it out’. Later in the morning the great London diarist of the time, Samuel Pepys, told the King in Whitehall ‘that unless his majesty did command houses to be pulled down nothing could stop the fire’. By the evening the fire had already grown half a mile wide enveloping great parts of the city.

 

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A portrait of the 17th century MP Samuel Pepys who witnessed the Great Fire and wrote about it in his famous diary (image source: http://www.twitter.com)

 

Most of the residents of London were ill-equipped to deal with the fire. Most of the methods the residents used were ineffective. Water carried in heavy leather buckets and fire squirts were used to try and reduce the fire, but with little to no success. It was, however, Charles II and his brother James who established firefighting bases around the city on the morning of the next day on Monday 3rd September 1666 to tackle the fire. It seemed that Samuel Pepys was indeed right when he said that the only way to reduce the fire was to pull down many of the wooden houses. By doing this not only was the fire prevented from spreading further, it also created gaps between the rows of wooden houses which the flames couldn’t cross. The first major casualty of the day were the printers of the London Gazette which earlier in the day printed the news that ‘a sudden and lamentable fire’ is burning down London.

On Tuesday the next day, the fire has engulfed even greater parts of the city. By 6am, one of the most important streets of the city of London, Cheapside, began to burn. When night fell, gunpowder was used to blow up houses to prevent the fire from reaching the Tower Of London. Around 8pm, the fire had burnt large parts of St Paul’s Cathedral. Fortunately, as the night progressed, much of the wind began to die down and by the morning of Wednesday 5th September, most of the fire had been eradicated.

The fire had left many residents homeless. More than 13,000 houses, 87 churches and 436 acres of the city were in ruins. It had also created a great housing shortage and rents for the properties unaffected by the fire were extortionate. Whilst residents were fleeing their homes they also tried to scavenge many of their possessions. Money, musical instruments, pets and Parmesan cheese were some of the things residents tried to save. Some unscrupulous carters helping residents to save and transport their stuff made a killing with some charging residents £20 (£3000 today) to hire their carts. Samuel Pepys was one of the fortunate few who’s house was unaffected by the fire. He also protected his Parmesan cheese and wine from the fire by burying them in his garden.

 

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The architect Sir Christopher Wren who was responsible for rebuilding  the city of London (image source: http://www.britannica.com)

 

The principle person involved in rebuilding London was the great architect Sir Christopher Wren who redesigned St Paul’s Cathedral and many other churches and buildings affected by the fire. All new homes, churches and buildings were made with brick instead of wood in order to be able to withstand future fires. Few original relics (one example being the Tower of London) of London before the Great Fire remain and in many ways the year zero of the London that one sees today is the London of Christopher Wren.

 

by Nicholas Peart

2nd September 2016

(all rights reserved)