Tag Archives: History

An Abbey and a house with something in common


April and May have been hectic months. Preparation and travels for Easter holidays, then more travels in May and I want to talk only about one of these experiences I have had.

England is rich in mansions, estate houses and abbeys open to the public and because we had to decide on the last minute what we will do with all the free time we had – 3 full free days – we stopped at a property known to us only from a friend’s recommendation – Audley End House.

I believe that many of you will think that this house is in Audley End, which is by the way a train stop away from both Cambridge and Stansted Airport, but the reality is that this house is in Saffron Walden.

Now that I have mentioned it, you can travel by car or if you have time and are in Cambridge you can take the bus 132 – from the train station stop no.3. The journey will take about 65-70 minutes, but it can take less than that.

Going back to the house we have visited. Originally on the same spot as the house was a Benedictine monastery. On King Henry VIII time, monasteries were closed and their possessions were given to noble families. The lands of this abbey were given to Lord Audley who was King’s chancellor. He, Lord Audley, is buried in a early classical, black touchstone tomb in St. Mary the Virgin Church, in Saffron Walden. We have been to the church but could not find his tomb.


After Lord Audley’s death, the property was inherited by his grandson Thomas Howard, the 1st Earl of Suffolk and Lord Treasurer to James I and he built the house on the exact place where the abbey was and it was 3 times bigger than it is today.

One of the royal families came to visit Audley End and seeing how large and grand the property was, the king said that a such a house is not appropriate for the king, but perhaps for his treasurer is. Not long after this visit, the king asked the owner of the house to demonstrate the origins of all his founds to build and maintain such a house. As this request could not be fulfilled, the family was arrested but then let free on a condition to pay a fine.

I do not remember the names of all the owners of this house, but listening to it, it gave me the impression that the house is cursed. Families will have no children or only daughters in which case the house passed to some of the male cousins, or had sons but they all died at a young age.

During the WWII, the house was the headquarters of the Polish Section of the Special Operations Executive. Polish volunteers willing to join the Polish underground movement were trained here before being dropped into their occupied home country. After the war, the house returned to its legitimate owners, but because they could not cover the debts and pay the tax, the house was sold to the English Heritage Trust.


The late owners of the Audley End’s house, Lord’s Braybrooke family now owns the Miniature Audley End Railway theme park just across Audley End’s house. More information about it here.

Today, you can visit the house, the gardens and the stables where you will see some of the horses and see the firefighters old machines.

People bring their own food and just sit on the beautifully maintained grass, in the shadow for a relaxed day. If you want to eat, there is a cafeteria in the main house and a coffee show just outside where the farm shop is – on the corner. The price for the food is reasonable and the quality is good too.

In the old kitchen, you will see some of the staff dressed like in the 19th century and in the nursery children have the chance to dress up and take pictures in some of the clothes provided – free of charge 🙂

If you fancy to read something or just relax on one of the sofas, then you can do so in the sitting room or the library. You are even allowed to read something from the collection – just ask.


Besides its beautifully decorations, you will be pleasantly surprised of the rich collection of oil paintings (of which about 90% belong to the latest owners of the house) and the birds collection.

Take a day to fully enjoy the property and relax. It is worth your time and money.

There are more things to say about this beautiful house, but I believe that it is better to see than many times to hear about it. For more information about the house, click here.

Travel safe and wise!








En route … to a small but charming ancient English village

Street in Bibury

In the UK there are 2 bank holidays in May. I have used one of these days to visit a village which was mentioned by a friend of mine.

This is a village in Gloucestershire, England, it is on both banks of the River Coln and it’s called Bibury.

It is a small village with a fish farm. You will think that there is nothing special to see, but if you happen to hold a British passport, then the inside cover picture depicts Arlington Row from Bibury. The cottages were built around 1380 as a monastic wool store to be converted into cottages for weavers in the seventeenth century. The area is a nationally notable architectural conservation and is one of six places in the country featured in Mini-Europe, in Brussels. On the Arlington (west) side of the village is Arlington Baptist Church, where a congregation has been meeting since the 1740’s.

Swan Hotel’s garden

If you want to stay overnight, then there are 3 hotels which are ready to great their guests. I have seen the Swan Hotel and it looks very very nice. I am sure that the Old Farm Cottage and the Old Byre are equally nice and comfortable.

The predominant honey color of the seventeenth century stone cottages with steeply pitched roofs are another reason why people come here.  

While tourists are coming here from all over the world, Japanese tourists have a particular interest because of Emperor Hirohito, who had stayed in the village on his European tour.

Someone’s garden


If you have watched Stardust or Bridget John’s Diary, then you will most probably remember the scenes from those movies.

You probably will find a lot of websites which will recommend you what to see and what to do, I have decided to recommend you just 3 of them:

 Images can tell substitute words, therefore, I let you admire the beauty and decide if this village will make it to your travel list 🙂

Many of tourists are coming to Moldova with 2 things in their mind: wine cellars and Transnistria! Well, this is one of the places to GO! GO! GO!

Soroca FortressI have read some complaints from tourists that went to Soroca fortress and could not read too many things about it on the place. This is why I decided to look for some information and came across a web page that talks about the historical and cultural importance of the fortress.

Soroca and Soroca fortress is at about 2 hours drive from Chisinau and one day trip to there is more than enough. You can combine this trip with another site Orheiul Vechi and later have a dinner at one of the rustic restaurants, on the way back to Chisinau 🙂

Now back to our ship, Soroca is an old locality on the Nistru river. It was attested documentarily for the first time in 1470.
According to some sources it was Stephen the Great who in 1475 had built the fortress the way we know it to be today, some other sources say that Stephen the Great’s fortress was a wooden fortress. And only in 1643, Petru Rares built the stone fortress.

The fortress structure was very well thought. It had to be able to protect the soldiers and people living in it, to be a strong construction and in case of attack to have enough food and water reserves for all the inhabitants. That’s why on inside, it was composed of three wooden storey building. On the ground floor or the first floor were kept the horses and the hay. People lived at the second floor. There were kept all their food reserves as well. On the last floor were placed cannons, soldiers’ weapons and guns as well as their pitch boilers.

The fortress from the beginning had the role of border protection against the Ottoman Empire, who at that time conquered the towns Cetatea Alba, Chilia and Tighina. In these towns were built other three fortresses and they are open to visit. After being taken over by the Ottomans, in 1538, those towns were incorporated in a separate Turkish province.

The stone fortress represents the peak of the development of the Moldavian defense works. In order to make it resistant to the Ottomans attacks, works on it were undertaken from the end of the 14th to the middle of the 16th centuries. The building and the structure of it has the form of a pentagon, the vertices of which are marked by pieces of defense cannon surrounded by a circular wall.
The figure 5, that is present in the structure of the fortress, is also a sacred figure often met in the mythological astrology and cosmology: 5 days were the time during which the ancient Egyptians celebrated the birth of gods, there are 5 essential elements of the world in Buddhism (the earth, the water, the fire, the air, the wind) and there are 5 extremities of the human body (the head, two hands and two legs).
Some historians and architects are saying that Soroca Fortress might be a replica of the famous Appullian castle, adapted for artillery and built when, in Europe, the Renascence architectural models were built on a large scale. The similarities are striking and these are: both defense works have common space forms geometrically defined, the compositions being subordinated to more axes. The Castel del Monte announced the Renascence in the world’s military architecture, and the Soroca Fortress is a genuine Renascence architectural work of art.

Today, in the fortress you can visit a small church. Sometimes, young couples choose to have their religious / christian wedding ceremony or to baptize their children.

If you want to read more about Soroca fortress, the all you have to do it to click here 🙂

One more insight here, on the way back from Soroca to Chisinau, ask your guide to tell you where is the best view over the Nistru river. I forgot the name of that place, but as soon as I find it or remember, I will update this information. The view is spectacular, NOT TO BE MISSED!

Travel safe and wise!

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A country that is most likely to become your favorite holiday destination :)

IMG_2701I was born, grew up and went to high school, made good friends, fell in love and got my first disappointments in this, for most people, unknown country – Republic of Moldova.

Due to historical circumstances, Moldova, has lost most of its cultural and historical sites and heritage. Even so, this country in the South-East of Europe is a place where one can blend with the nature, rich traditions and the welcoming people that are always happy to show, give and make anyone that steps into their home feel as they are part of that family.

If you think or consider traveling to this hidden place, be aware that in the villages, sometimes in the cities and towns people speak only Romanian and Russian. If you don’t posses any of these languages, please do learn some of the basic phrases, because this will make your travel experience easier and more pleasant 🙂

There’s no best time to go in Moldova, whenever you choose to go, you’ll be welcomed, but some of the things you should keep in mind: July-August, winter holidays and Easter are high seasons, therefore, expect high prices for accommodation, tours and flight tickets.

December, January and February there’s a very high chance that you’ll freeze, but walk on the snow 🙂 There are winters that are harsh, and when I say harsh I mean temperatures below 0 (-10C to -35C), so be well prepared.

If you want to taste from our reaaaally delicious fruits and veggies, then your travel time should be somewhere between June and October 🙂 In June there are plenty of cherries of different sorts and colors. Have you heard about sweet sour cherry, white cherry, pink cherry, bitter black cherry or yellow-red cherry? Well if you’re curious about these, you have one option: go there during June month. For the first wine tasting and moooore veggies and fruits, late September – early October is the way to go.

Autumn in Moldova is very rich in events and Festivals. One that started to gain more attention from the media and people is Gustar Festival. It is held on the one of the most scenic places in Moldova – Orheiul Vechi. The very nice part of it is that foreigners will have the chance to meet locals, try traditional food and even buy some handcrafted souvenirs from the people who are making them! Also, if you have a tent, you can sleep in it and save money for accommodation.

The Festival will be held between 24th and 25th of August 2013. For more information please, click here Gustar Festival. The National Day and Language Day – 27th and 31st of August. During these two days in the Chisinau main square will be held concerts, a fair with local products and at the end of the day fireworks! The events are open to the public free of charge and start from 9am until 12am!

In October there are two events: every year on the second Sunday of October is the Celebration of Wine or Wine Festival. During this day many of the local wine producers will have their exhibition places with free wine tasting and with the chance to buy some of the wine they have there. For the wine lovers and collectors that is a real chance to find old wines or high quality wines at reasonable prices. There will be stalls with local food, non alcoholic drinks and even local honey. My boyfriend really loves the honey, he said it’s nicer than the one you can buy in the Netherlands 🙂 14th of October is Chisinau Day! Another day of concerts and free events all over Chisinau. A fireworks show will begin, somewhere between 11pm and 12am, make sure you are in the right spot to see them! The best place to be is the main square 🙂
For events that have the main theme artfoodmusicsportsrural and national holidays, please click on the theme you’re interested the most.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve is celebrated TWICE! Why? In Moldova the main confession is Christian Orthodox, but the church is split: one is following the Gregorian callendar the other one is following the Julian calendar. 🙂

Other holidays are: Easter, 8th of March, 1st and 9th of May.

Some more tips here:

  1. Try to book in advance all your flight tickets and hotels/hostels/ apartments. If you travel in 2 to 4 people then the cheaper accommodation for you will be to rent an apartment for all of you, because the price is per apartment and not per person! Therefore, when you split the cost it comes cheaper! Also, there are some agencies that offer tickets for breakfast, this means by renting a flat with them you have free breakfast included. I would recommend Suisse4rent, CVSRental. If you rent a flat from 4rent then most of the time you’ll have breakfast included and the restaurant offers 3 choices for breakfast (Continental, Russian and American! ) 🙂
  2. Be careful with your belongings. Some people might take the opportunity and try to get your stuff, therefore leave all your expensive things in the locker at your hotel/apartment/hostel, etc.
  3. Keep small money in your exterior pockets and the credit cards and the rest of your money inside your jacket or inside your bag. Never show that you’re in possession of a large amount of money!
  4. Try not to split (if you are in a group) and always stay together. Don’t get distracted by people who are asking you directions, different kind of information, etc!
  5. Travel ONLY with authorized means of transportation. If you need a taxi, call one from your hotel or hire a taxi that has clear logo and phone numbers on it. Just in case, ask driver’s name, take the car’s plate number and the taxi company name. These information will be useful for the unlucky case of leaving something behind/ forgetting something in the car. For a better result and in order to get your things back, you’ll have to call the taxi company within the shortest possible time! This will increase your chance to get your things back. Sometimes drivers get other passengers that can take your stuff without declaring about their finding!
  6. Check in advance if you need a visa or not. For more information about this very IMPORTANT aspect, please go here or check the page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration.
  7. For those who want to buy some souvenirs, Moldova is offering a wide variety of handcrafted items : from paintings to wood and stone carvings and sculptures. Please go here to read more about this and maybe find your unique souvenir.
  8. Wine tours – there are more than one tour agencies that offer such a service. My advise to you is to go on such tour during working days – it’s way cheaper! If you want to know more about these tours, please go here. You can go there by car, by taxi or pay extra to your tour agency.

What is Moldovan cuisine like?

Cuisine of Moldova is based on a variety of fruits, vegetables, grain varieties, cattle breeding and fresh water fish. If you ask me what is your country food like, I will say that the cuisine is very diverse and it took elements, cooking techniques and dishes from Greek, Slavic, Byzantine, Mediterranean and Turkish cuisines.

If you travel to Moldova during late July early August, and stop somewhere in the country side, then you have a high chance to try fresh sweet corn cooked on coals or boiled. It depends on the place you are or the restaurant you go, you can taste fried, baked, filled and served as stand-alone treat or as a side-dish mamaliga/ polenta. We have different types of desserts and pastry made of corn flour. Give them a try! By the way, you’ll be very surprised when you’ll discover the wide range of pastry products that you can find in a big supermarket. The bread has a unique taste here, try the “Borodinski” bread with a cup of warm milk , you’ll be in heaven. 😉

Some of the restaurants and bistros I will recommend you to try, now that I speak about food, are :

  • Galbenus – str.A.Puskin, 22 – the CHEAPEST food!
  • Eli-Pili – St. Bucureşti, 68 (btw St. Puskin & St. Banulescu Bodoni)
  • Robin Pub – St. Alexandru cel Bun, 83 (at St. Alexandru Diordiţă)
  • Str. 513 – Blvd. Ştefan cel Mare, 79 (Entrance from St. Mihai Eminescu)
  • Delice d’Ange – 31 August 1989 str. 117/2
  • Creme de la creme – Strada Alexandru cel Bun 98
  • Caramel – Strada Mitropolit Gavriil Bănulescu-Bodoni 4
  • La Placinte
  • The Flying Pig
  • Gok-Okuz
  • La Taifas
  • MallMoldova 4th floor

I hope this post and the links that you can find in it will offer a wider information about what you can see, where to eat and stop over.

One last suggestion: find local friends and your holiday in Moldova will not be the last one there! 😉

Travel safe and wise!