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  • History | United Kingdom > London, United Kingdom > Greenwich
    Updated at Mar 16,2014

    A pleasant oasis of historical sites, markets, books and antiques shops and splendid waterfront.

    Directions: There are several ways to arrive to Greenwich (from Central London) - most of them are amazing.

    1. Cruise - Join a boat of Thames Clippers (departure from London Eye or Westminster Bridge). A must ! The boat stops at North Greenwich (near the O2) or at Greenwich Pier - a few metres from all Greenwich attractions. There is a special Blog on this journey in Tipter unter this trip.

    2. Take the Emirates Air line (Thames Cable Car) from Royal Victoria Dock DLR station to the North Greenwich station. Marvelous ! Your camera won't stop taking pictures. A budget service with excellent service. Wait until the tourists load in decreasing and try to enter your own, private cabin...

    Cash        single fare    Oyster or Travelcard user "Frequent flyer"
    Adult       £4.30             £3.20                                     £16.00
    Child       £2.20             £1.60 

    3. Come with the DLR (Cutty Sark, Greenwich). % minutes walk to Greenwich main attractions.

    4. Come with the Natioal Rail train to Greenwich station. 15 minutes pleasant walk to the Cutty Sark and the other attractions through St. Alfege church and Greenwich High Street.

    5. I recommend you a fifth way: From wherever you are, travel to Deptford Bridge DLR station (Bank - Lewisham DLR line). After descending Deptford Bridge DLR stn. steps - turn left and take a 53 bus heading to Blackheath Hill. The 53 bus runs every few minutes.You get off at Greenwich Park (one stop after Charlton Way). 5 minutes walk and you enter the park by the main entrance. Walk through the gates, famous as the scene of the start of the London Marathon, and walk straight ahead to the Rose Garden and other flowers beds.

    This Tip sticks with the Direction 5... Greenwich Park is lovely (still recovering from the Olympic egames) with a wonderful view of Greenwich's historic waterside buildings and a panorama of London north of the river. Historically, it was the grounds of the royal palace and still a Royal Park. It is better to start with the park, on top of the hill and then, walk down the hill for the main attractions.

    After passing te Golden Gates of the Greenwich Park, the Ranger House, the Rose garden and flower beds - you are now standing and gazing at one of the world's most beautiful views: fantastic view of Canary Wharf and the O2 from the famous hill of the park. Downstairs , that's Greenwich, the Thames and London. On a fine day most of London can be seen from here.

    On top of the same hill with the wonderful panarama of London and the Thames is a statue of General James Wolfe, (1727-59) looking out towards the river. General Wolfe led the British forces at Quebec against the French and won a great victory, at the cost of his life. He was a resident of Greenwich and is buried in the parish church, St Alfege's.

    View of Greenwich, London and the Thames from the steps of the statue -

    The Greenwich Royal Observatory was founded by order of King Charles II to study astronomy. The oldest in the group of buildings comprising the observatory is Flamsteed House. It was built in 1675. The time ball on the roof was first erected in 1833, providing the first public time signal. Opening hours: 10.00-18.00. Entrance to the Astronomy Centre: free, To the Flamstead Bldg. and the the Meridian Courtyard: 7 GBP.

    Other buildings include the Meridian Building, which is really three, built between 1749 and 1855, and the Great Equatorial Building with its onion-shaped dome. This was built in 1857, with a dome installed in 1893. The dome was severely damaged during the second World War, and the existing dome was erected in 1975. The meridian that divides the Earth's eastern and western hemispheres passes through here. Tourists aree photographed here standing with a foot on ether side of it.

    In year 1884, Greenwich Mean Time became the basis of time measurements around the globe.

    Next to the Observatory buildings is the new (opend in 2007) Peter Harrison planetarium which employs the latest space exploration technology. This is a state-of-art Planetarium - the only one in Londn.

    Now you walk downhill, through an impressive avenue of ancient trees - heading to the Maritime Museum. It is the world's largest maritime museum. Free admission. It includes a vast collection of everyting associated with the sea. Plenty of exhibition. Bright and airy museum with 3 floors of exhibits. 

    Opening hours: 10.00–18.00.  In the enclosed photo: Prince Frederick's Barge (1732).

    On permanent display, in front of the Maritime Museum is the Yinka Shonibare's "Ship in a Bottle". It has been moved from Trafalgar Square in April 2013.

    Greenwich Queen's House has less broad appeal than other Greenwich big hitters.  The Queens House has an interesting collection of paintings including one awesome Turner, famous portaraits of Elizabeth the First, Henry VIII, a couple of Van Dykes etc'., Do not miss the beautiful Tulip Stairs, and the lavishly painted Queen's bedroom and the geometric patterns in the cubical Queen's salon. Opening hourse: 10.00-17.00. Free.

    Queen's House - The Entrance

    Queen's House - The spiral Tulip Stairs:

    Now you approach King William Court with two buildings on both sides of the court: The Royal Naval College and the Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul. For both of them - admission is free. Open daily 08.00 - 18.00

    The Royal Naval College is an once-in-life experience: stunning architecture and breath-taking painted hall. The painted hall designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1698, originally intended as an eating place for naval veterans. The interior was painted by James Thornhill. It took him 19 years to complete this masterpiece. In 1806, after the Battle of Trafalgar, the body of Horatio Nelson was brought to lie in state in the Painted Hall. A plaque marks the spot where his coffin was placed before it was taken for burial in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral.

    The Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul was constructed by Thomas Ripley to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren. Originally, it was a major part of the Royal Hospital for Seamen to be built. Following a disastrous fire in 1779, it was redecorated by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart in the Greek revival style. Today it is a wonderful example of a complete neoclassical interior. The Chapel is often used for concerts thanks to its excellent acoustics of its glorious curved ceiling. 

    University of Greenwich from Greenwich Pier:

    ...and from Nando's restaurant near the Cutty Sark:

    The Cutty Sark - The clipper built in 1869 gained its fame on the China tea trade. Later, it plied in the wool trade with Australia. It has been brought to Greenwich in 1954. The name "Cutty Sark" means "Short Shirt" derived from Robert Burn's poem. en: 11.00-17.00.

    Greenwich Market: 

    Practical Information: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:30.

    Well known for its designer makers and customers can found items that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It is regarded as one of London's best markets.

    St. Alfege Church: Distinctively designed by Nicholas Hawksmoore with gigantic columns and urns. Completed in 1714. Open: Sat. 11.30-16.00, Sun. 12.00-16.00 only.

  • History | United Kingdom
    Updated at Mar 13,2014

    Dover Castle:

    There are, mainly, two top attraction in Dover: The Castle and the Cliffs. Every one of them deserves a FULL one day. Allow time for Dover downtown only for having a lunch or for shopping (cheaper than many other places in the UK !). The Dover Castle is the first line of defense for the UK for centuries. The extensive site includes: a mighty fortress (the greatest in the UK), medieval royal palace, the Secret Wartime Tunnels dug deep under / into the white cliffs and present, astonishingly the "Miracle of Dunkirk Retreat" (operation Dynamo) in year 1940.

    Opening Times: Daily 09.30/10.00 - 18.00.

    Price: 17 GBP. Concessions: 15.30 GBP.

    I climbed the whole way to the castle on foot. I was among very few who arrived to the castle on foot. You are told, on your way up the castle hill to "go to the tickets office and pay your entrance fee". It is up to you whether you pay or just continue walking into the huge site and explore it for hours without being checked even once. You are not asked to show your ticket even when you take part in the various attractions (like visiting the underground tunnels etc'). Coming with a car you must pay for your entrance tickets before being allowed to enter the site with your car. A great part of the visitors enter the Castle site with a member card - so, practically, they pay nothing for every visit...

    Special Events:

    It would be a good advice to plan your visit ahead and target it in sync with one of the numerous special events' days during the year: Roman Festival, Clash of the Knights days, Knights Tournaments, Falconry days, WWW II weekends, St. George Festival day, Children Festival.

    Walk to the Castle: You will see the brown signposts of Dover Castle from the moment you leave the Priory Dover Railway Station. It is 40-45 minutes walk to the Castle hill, passing the town centre with its attractive fountain:


    The last section of climbing the steep Castle hill is quite demanding. You are rewarded by having nice views to the sea and Dover Harbour.

    Allow, at least, 5-6 hours for the whole visit of the Castle hill and its attractions. Come no later than 09.30-10.00 !!!

    Even without the special events there was plenty to see and do. Spectacular castle, amazing views and friendly staff. Even if the morning is misty or windy it contributes to the eerie atmosphere. With bright weather you'll have beautiful panoramic views:

    Dover Cliffs from the Castle Hill (Admirality Lookout):

    Dover Castle walls:

    Roman Lighthouse Pharos and St. Mary-in-Castro Church:

    St. Mary-in-Castro Church interior:

    Palace Gate:

    The Great Tower:

    Views from the Tower top terrace are magnificient:

    Do not miss visiting the main Castle / Palace Henry II galleries and rooms including also the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment Museum:

    There is also a permanent exhibition of UK battles and wars during the centuries in Dover Castle (here the Imperial India room:

    King's gate:

    Medieval tunnels used also in the Napoleonic wars + Battlements Cannons (18th - 19th centuries):

    A walk around the perimeter is stunning. There are amazing views of the town of Dover and the English Channel:

    The WWW II Secret Tunnels themselves justify the hefty entrance price. Advice : go to the tunnels first as they have a long queue later in the day of more than an hour. They are 26 metres beneath the castle. There were the heart and the brain of Operation Dynamo - the evacuation of allied troops from the beaches of France in Dunkirk. Visitors witness the place where this operation took place: round-the-clock planning to assemble a huge fleet of ships to evacuate 338,000 British and French troops from Dunkirk:

  • History
    Updated at Nov 18,2014

    Schönbrunn Palace interiors:

    Tip 1: General information and the Palace Interiors - the Imperial Tour.

    Tip 2:  Palace Interiors - Rooms included in the Grand Tour.

    Tip 3:  Schönbrunn Gardens and other sites.

    ******************** Tip 1 *****************************

    Transportaion: Public transport lines arrive directly to the palace: Underground: U4, Schönbrunn station,
    Trams: 10 and 58, Schönbrunn station,
    Bus: 10A, Schönbrunn station.

    From the Westbahnhof (western railway terminal): journey time approximately 15 minutes - take the westbound tram line No. 58 and alight at Schönbrunn. From the Station Meidling: journey time aproximately 30 minutes - take the northbound U6 (brown) underground line and alight at Längenfeldgasse, then change to the westbound U4 (green) underground line and alight at Schönbrunn.

    Opening Hours: Schönbrunn Palace is open daily, including public holidays. 1st April to 30th June 08.30 to 17.30, 1st July to 31st August 08.30 to 18.30, 1st September to 31st October 08.30 to 17.30, 1st November to 31st March 08.30 to 17.00. Ticket sale starting at 08.15.

    Duration: 1 day.

    Tours types:

    Imperial Tour: 22 rooms, c. 30-40 minutes, € 11,50 / € 8,50 (see below).  You will see the state rooms and private apartments of Franz Joseph and Sisi.

    Grand Tour: 40 rooms, c. 50-60 minutes, € 14,50 / € 9,50 (see below). Besides the state rooms and private apartments of the imperial couple you´ll also see the precious 18th-century interiors from the time of Maria Theresia.

    There are combined tickets of the Schönbrunn and Hofburg Palaces.

    Prices:            Imperial Tour           Grand Tour                   Grand Tour
                            with audio guides   with audio guides         with guide
                            ------------------------    -----------------------         ---------------

    Adults                            € 11,50               € 14,50                       € 16,50
    Children (aged 6 - 18)   € 8,50                 € 9,50                         € 11,00
    Students (aged 19 - 25) € 10,50               € 13,20                       € 15,20
    Disabled persons          € 10,50               €13,20                        € 15,20

    Tips: Most of the outside grounds are free but you'll have to join a tour to see the inside. Of the 1441 rooms within the palace, 40 are open to the public. The Imperial Tour takes you into 26 of these, and in the last room those on a Grand Tour show their tickets again and continue through the remaining rooms. Note that the Grosse Galerie (Great Gallery), part of both tours, is being restored until late 2012. Despite the rather steep prices, both tours are well worth doing for an insight into the people and the opulence of the baroque age. Because of the popularity of the palace, tickets are stamped with a departure time, and there may be a time lag before you’re allowed to set off in summer, so buy your ticket straight away and explore the gardens while you wait. The palace tour is one of the few Viennese tourist attractions that remembers not all visitors speak German. Your ticket entitles you to a free — and excellent — audio guide, which has a choice of languages including English. There is some written information in the rooms (in German and English) but you need the audio guides to benefit from the experience. The narrators tell you what you're looking at, they put everything in historical context, and they throw in little anecdotes and bonus material, like an original voice recording of Emperor Franz Joseph.

    History: The land around Schönbrunn Palace had been in the possession of the Habsburgs since 1569, when the wife of Emperor Ferdinand II. had a summer residence built there in 1642. The Schönbrunn palace and garden complex built here from 1696, after the Turkish occupation, was redesigned from the ground up by Maria Theresia after 1743. By the early 1700's Emperor Charles VI starting using the property as a Summer hunting lodge since the grounds were heavily wooded 4 miles from central Vienna, but still no Palace... It wasn't until Emperor Charles VI gifted the residence to his daughter Maria Theresa in the mid 1700's that the Estate started to blossom. Maria Theresa decided to finish the grounds as a true Palace and added many fascinating features like a huge garden, the mighty Neptune Fountain, a theater, a festive zoo, beautiful galleries, and opulent fixtures from Chinese lacquer panels and murals, to colorful wall papers. When Maria Theresa died in 1780, Schönbrunn Palace again fell to the wayside of the uniterested Royal family and was even occupied by French Emperor Napoleon twice in 1805 and 1809. The Palace finally began to start hitting its potential in 1853 when Emperor Franz Joseph, who was born in the Palace in 23 years earlier, married Elizabeth of Bavaria. Elizabeth also known as Sissi had a very keen eye for design and the motivation to spruce Schönbrunn Palace up better than ever. Elizabeth quickly come to beloved by the people of Austria for her individual sense of freedom and how beautiful she was. In a moment of perfect timing during Sissi's revamping of Schönbrunn Palace, Austria and Hungary joined as one empire in 1867 giving her an unlimited budget for remodeling any way she wanted. During the remodeling the Hapsburg's built ornate carriages as well as a series of stately Imperial Apartments. Schönbrunn Palace even got its current yellow look thanks to a new coat of paint. Although it may seem that the gold paint was meant to be bold, it was actually used because it was the cheapest color of paint available. It turns out that even empresses with unlimited budgets can still care about making thrifty decisions. Sissi later ruled Austria after her husband died and went on to become the country's longest ruling royal ever. Toward the end of her life Sissi spent more time at the Palace of Gödöllő in Hungary, but she definitely left her mark on Schönbrunn Palace and the people of Austria. She died at the age of 60 in 1898 which was a long life back then. For most of the year, the Habsburgs resided in the countless number of chambers that a large imperial family needed - in addition to the formal state rooms. Emperor Franz Joseph, who later married the enchanting Queen Elizabeth, Sisi and reigned from 1848 to 1916, was born here in 1830. In the possession of the Habsburg dynasty since Maximilian II, the palace passed to the ownership of the Republic of Austria at the end of the monarchy in 1918. Although Austria is now a republic, Schönbrunn has remained a place of political encounter at the highest level.

    Since the height of the Hapsburg Dynasty, Schönbrunn has survived many political changes and even a WWII bomb that crashed through 3 floors but failed to explode. Today the giant 1,441 room palace has 40 rooms available to visit with a paid guided tour and pristine grounds that can be seen for free. Inside the rooms had been renovated to look like Maria Theresa and Sissi had just spruced them up yesterday.

    In 1992 the Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. was founded and entrusted with the administration of the palace as a modern, limited-liability company. The company is solely owned by the Republic of Austria. Preservation and restoration have to be financed by the company from its own resources without recourse to state subsidies.

    Schönbrunn Palace is one of Europe's most impressive Baroque palace complexes. Today, the palace is part of UNESCO’s cultural heritage due to its historic importance, its unique grounds and its splendid furnishings.

    The tour: The tour actually starts at the west wing of the palace in the rooms of the aforementioned Emperor and his wife Elisabeth (the famous "Sissi"). The rooms in the west wing are Iess elaborately decorated and were used for domestic purposes by members of the imperial family. By contrast the living rooms and offices used by Emperor Franz Joseph are simple and very unpretentious. Take a note of the relatively (but only relatively) spartan decor so you can compare it to the rooms used by earlier generations of Hapsburgs. Franz Joseph clearly led a disciplined life. His bed (the one he died on) is totally nondescript, as is his lavatory. Yes, we get to see the place where even the Emperor had to be alone.

    Offer of itinerary:

    Proceed up the Blue Staircase--named for its color scheme--to the "Bel Étage," where the most important state and private rooms in the palace are located. At the top of the stairs, turn right into the Fishbone Room for a view of one of the inner courtyards, then turn right for a view into the relatively spartan room of the Emperor Franz Joseph's aide-de-camp (Adjutants Room). From there turn left into the Guard's Room, then right into the Billiard Room, which is decorated with paintings about the Hapsburg family history. Go straight to the Walnut Room, where the Emperor held audiences. Turn left into Franz Joseph's Study, where the Emperor spent most of his time working on State papers. Straight ahead is Franz Joseph's bedroom, where he died in 1916. On the wall is a portrait of him on his death bed. Go straight to the Western Terrace Cabinet, with its portraits of the daughters of Empress Maria Theresa and then left into the Stairs Cabinet--the study of Franz Joseph's wife, the Empress Elisabeth, better-known as "Sissi." Next up is Sissi's dressing room, and beyond that Elisabeth and Franz Joseph's bedroom, which they used at the beginning of their married life. Beyond this is Sissi's neo-Rococo Salon. The Marie Antoinette Room was used as the family dining room. Further along are the Children's Room, named for all the portraits it has of Maria Theresa's children, and the Breakfast Cabinet.

    Backtrack into the Children's Room and turn left into the Yellow Salon, which is notable for the drawings of children on the walls. Go straight into the Balcony Room, which features more portraits of Maria Theresa's children, and from here into the Mirror Room, where Mozart gave a recital as a boy. Move on into the Great Rosa Room, and from there turn to your upper right to the Second Small Rosa Room, and then straight into the First Small Rosa Room. This suite is named after Joseph Rosa, whose landscapes hang in all three rooms. Turn right into the Lantern Room, where the palace lantern carriers gathered.

    Move on straight ahead into the Great Gallery, a vast Rococo space used for balls and formal banquets. Turn right into the Small Gallery, which was used for family functions. To the right is the Round Chinese Cabinet and to the left the Oval Chinese Cabinet. These were conference and card rooms. Backtrack into the Small Gallery and Great Gallery and turn right into the Carousel Room, an audience room named after the subject of one of its paintings. Go straight into the Hall of Ceremonies, which is decorated with huge paintings. To the right is the Equestrian Room, named after all its pictures of horses. Turn left into the Blue Chinese Salon, where the last Hapsburg Emperor, Karl I - now a candidate for Catholic sainthood called Blessed Karl - renounced his throne at the end of World War I.

    Walk straight to the Vieux-Laque Room, which Maria Theresa decorated in honor of her husband Francis Stephen I after his death. Next to this is the Napoleon Room. It was occupied in 1805 and 1809 by Napoleon I. When Napoleon I abdicated the second time in 1815, his young son Napoleon Francis Charles Joseph was named Napoleon II, but he was little more that a toddler at the time and was stripped of his title. As his mother was an Austrian princess, he was sent to live at Schönbrunn, and was referred to as Franz, Duke of Reichstadt. He was kept a virtual prisoner in the palace and died in this room at the age of 21. His pet lark, which he claimed was his only friend, is preserved here under glass. Continue on straight into the Porcelain Room, a study and game room with faux porcelain walls, and to the left into the Millions Room, named for its expensive paneling. Off to the right is the Miniatures Cabinet, named for the type of artwork displayed therein. If you go straight you'll see the tapestry-filled Gobelin Room and beyond that, the neo-Rococo study room of Franz Joseph's mother, the Archduchess Sophie. The Red Salon is filled with Hapsburg portraits, while the Eastern Terrace or Flower Cabinet has--obviously enough--designs of flowers all over its walls. Turn left into the Rich Room. This was the bedroom of Franz Joseph's parents, Archduke Francis Charles and Archduchess Sophie. Next up is Francis Charles' portrait-filled Study and Salon. To the left of the Study is the Hunting Room, named for the the artwork it displays depicting hunting scenes. Exit and go down the stairs to see the ground floor Palace Chapel, which was completed under the aegis of Maria Theresa. On the ground floor are laso the Bergl rooms - open only to groups (special fee) or by advance appointment.

    Finish by exploring the extensive palace grounds and secondary buildings, including the Orangery, Children's Museum, Coach Museum, Zoo, Theater, maze, labyrinth, swimming pool, Neptune Fountain, Palm House, Gloriette pavilion, Obelisk Cascade, faux Roman Ruins, Butterfly House and Privy Garden.

    The Palace rooms:

    Enter the building via the Blue Staircase in the Western wing of Schönbrunn.The Blue Staircase used to be the dining hall in Joseph I's hunting lodge and was made into a ceremonial stairway when the lodge was converted into an imperial and family residence fo Maria Theresa by Nikolaus Pacassi in 1745. The ceiling fresco, painted by the Italian artist Sebastiano Ricci in 1701-2, was not affected by the conversion, and is a glorification of the conversion to the throne, Joseph, depicted as a hero of war and man of virtue who finally receives the victor's crown of laurels before the throne of eternity:

    Fishbone Room: When you reach the first floor go to your right, into the so-called “Fishbone” room. Through the window you look into the Grand Imperial Courtyard, which is now part of the Children’s Museum, in which visitors can find out a great deal about everyday life in the Imperial Court and can also try out a few things.

    Adjutants Room (Aide-de-Camp's Room): During the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph (and possibly earlier) an Aide-de-Camp's Room (adjutants room) was installed immediately before the monarch's apartments on the piano nobile of the palace. Its appearance is documented in a photograph dating from around 1910.

    Guard Room: Emperor Franz Joseph’s guards were posted in this room, to protect the entrance to his private apartments. To your right you can see a ceramic stove, which, like all the others in Schönbrunn, were originally heated with wood via a heating duct running behind the rooms, so as not to disturb the imperial family and to prevent dirt. From the 19th century on, a hot-air heating system was installed, which has been out of commission since 1992.

    Billiard Room:  The Billiard Room is the first in the suite of rooms comprising the audience rooms and private apartments of Franz Joseph. These rooms still have the original decoration and furnishings, most of which date from the second half of the 19th century. The furniture, accessories and mementoes give an idea of the monarch's world, his everyday life at the palace in both its professional and domestic aspects. Several times a week Emperor Franz Joseph received the members of his government and high-ranking military staff. While the ministers, generals and other officers waited here they were permitted to pass the time playing at this Biedermeier billiard table. The two large paintings are connected with the Order of Maria Theresa. The one in the middle depicts the ceremony at which this order was invested for the first time, in 1758. The two paintings flanking it record the celebrations held to mark the centenary of the order's foundation:

    Walnut Room: The name of this room derives from the fine walnut panelling of the walls. The gilt decoration and console tables are typical of the Rococo style – ornamental Rococo combinations made of rock, shell, plant forms or artificial forms – all adding to the astounding décor. The chandelier has 48 arms, and the furniture boasts Rococo. It was in this room that anyone living in the Monarchy could meet with the Emperor Franz Joseph. In this room Franz Joseph gave audiences to his generals, ministers and court officials. On Mondays and Thursdays any of the subjects of his empire could request an audience with the emperor. From these audiences Franz Joseph developed an astounding memory for names and faces retained well into his old age. Here you can see Franz Joseph's writing-desk with a number of items belonging to the emperor displayed on it:

    Study and salon of Franz Karl (39 and 38):

    The study room together with the adjoining salon were last occupied by Archduke Franz Karl, the father of Emperor Franz Joseph. After the death of the archduke in 1878 the rooms were refurbished and the decoration and furniture have remained largely unchanged to this day. The paintings that hang in the former study room (by Martin van Meytens and his studio) show Emperor Franz Stephan, Maria Theresa and eleven of their chilkdren on the terrace at Schönbrunn (two children were born later and three had died previously):

    Western Terrace Cabinet: The Western Terrace Cabinet leads into the apartments of Empress Elisabeth. It contains a portrait by the French artist Malers Pierre Benevault des Mares: Theresa's youngest daughters, Johanna Gabriela and Maria Josepha:

    Stairs Cabinet: The Stairs Cabinet served Elisabeth as a study. Here she wrote numerous letters and composed her diaries as well as her poems. Until the end of the monarchy there was a spiral staircase in this room which had been installed for the empress in 1863 and led down into her private apartments on the ground floor. These apartments were not furnished according to court guidelines but to the empress's personal taste. They had violet silk wall-hangings and also contained many personal items of furniture belonging to the empress. This apartment also had direct access to the gardens, enabling Elisabeth to leave and re-enter the building at any time without being observed by door-keepers, guards or other palace staff.

    Elisabeth's (Sissi) Dressing Room: Elisabeth's daily routine was dominated by a strict regime of beauty care, exercise and sport which she followed to preserve her appearance. Caring for her magnificent head of hair took several hours. Her hairdresser, Franziska Feifalik, became one of the empress's closest confidantes and sometimes even took Elisabeth's place in public, for example on official occasions where she would only be seen from afar:

    Imperial Bedroom: This room was the marital bedroom of the emperor and empress. In 1854, the year of their marriage, the room was hung with blue and white silk and furnished with heavy palisander furniture. The bedroom was only used during the first years of their marriage. From the very beginning, Elisabeth rejected the oppressive formality of court life. From the 1870s onwards she began to lead an independent life of her own, travelling extensively. Franz Joseph grew increasingly lonely in her absence, yet he continued to worship her right up to her tragic death. She was assassinated in Geneva by an Italian anarchist in 1898:

    Empress' Sissi Salon: The clock in front of the mirror on the window side of the room displays a unique feature: it has a reversed face at the back so that the time could be told from a brief glance in the mirror. The paintings in this room are of particular interest. The three portraits of Empress Elisabeth are impressive testimony to her beauty. In the oil painting by Skallinsky the empress is wearing a ruby parure, while the painting by Schrotzberg shows her with a blue ribbon. The anonymous lithograph shows off the empress's slender waist. The 18th-century pastel portraits in this room show some of Maria Theresa's children. The portrait of Marie Antoinette in a fashionable hunting costume is by Joseph Kranzinger:

    Marie Antoinette Room: During Elisabeth's time this room served as a dining room. The table is laid for a family dinner with Viennese porcelain, Viennese court silverware made by the company of Mayerhofer & Klinkosch as well as prism-cut lead crystal glasses made by Lobmeyr & Co. When the imperial family dined here alone the occasion was less formal than at court dinners which were ruled by the strictest court etiquette. The emperor himself determined the seating plan and conversation was permitted across the table, whereas at court dinners one could only converse with one's immediate neighbour in an undertone. On official occasions French dishes were served, while at family dinners Viennese cuisine and simpler dishes were preferred. These included Wiener schnitzel, beef goulash, beef with onions, steamed dumplings or 'Kaiserschmarren' (meaning literally 'the emperor's nonsense', a sweet shredded omelette made with raisins and served with fruit compote). The flowers for the table decorations were supplied by the court garden administration at Schönbrunn. Besides azaleas and hyacinths, the most precious arrangements were made of orchids. In 1900 the palace nursery garden contained 25,000 orchids of 1,500 different kinds constituting the largest collection in Europe at that time. The painting in the middle shows Emperor Franz Joseph at the age of 20. The room is named after a tapestry which formerly hung here showing Marie Antoinette and her children. It was a gift from Napoleon III to Emperor Franz Joseph and is today in the private ownership of the Habsburg family:

    Children's Room: In the right hand side of the room is a portrait of Maria Theresa in mourning. She was born in 1717, the daughter of Emperor Charles VI. She fell in love with Franz Stephan of Lorraine at while she was still very young. The couple married when she was nineteen. She bore him sixteen children, eleven daughters and five sons. The room is hung with several portraits of Maria Theresa's daughters. The rooms her children actually occupied lie on the ground floor or on the upper floors of the palace. The door on the left opens onto the bathroom installed in 1917 for Zita of Bourbon Parma, the last empress of Austria:

    Yellow Salon: The Yellow Salon marks the start of the apartments which overlook the gardens of the palace. This room was once the bedroom of Emperor Francis Stephen and Maria Theresa in the early years of their marriage until 1747. Later it was occupied by the Emperor´s sister, Charlotte of Lorraine, and it is mentioned as having been used by Emperor Franz I as his study room. The room is also remarkable for the pastel portraits with realistic depictions of children from the bourgeois classes, which form a complete contrast to the typical court portraits of Maria Theresa's children which can be viewed in the next room (the Balcony Room):

    Balcony Room: The paintings in the Balcony Room were made by the court painter Martin van Meytens and show the Maria Theresa's children. Among them is Maria Elisabeth, who was considered to be Maria Theresa's most beautiful daughter and thus a splendid match. However, she got smallpox and while she eventually recovered, her face was so disfigured by scarring that there was no hope of finding her a husband. The only alternative for the archduchess was to enter a convent. This was not the grim fate it sounds; the imperial archduchesses resided as abbesses of the convent they had entered in magnificent apartments as befitted their rank, and could pursue their own interests unhindered.

    Mirror Room: With its magnificent white and gold Rococo decoration and the crystal mirrors that give this room its name, the Mirrors Rooms is a typical example of a state room from the era of Maria Theresa. The mirrors are positioned so that they reflect one another, creating the illusion of a corridor that blurs the actual dimensions of the room. It was either this room or the adjoining larger Rosa Room that was the setting for the first concert given by the six-year-old Mozart in front of Empress Maria Theresa. After his performance - according to his proud father - "Wolferl leapt onto Her Majesty's lap, threw his arms around her neck and planted kisses on her face."...:

    Rosa Rooms: The following three rooms are named after the artist Joseph Rosa who created the landscape paintings they contain. The first painting on the left shows an idealised view of a ruin in the Swiss Aargau: the Habichtsburg (Hawk's Castle), a name that would later coalesce into 'Habsburg'. The castle is the hereditary seat of the dynasty. The largest of the Rosa Rooms also contains a portrait of Empress Franz I Stephan. It is a full-length portrait of the Emperor standing at a table surrounded by various objects and collector's items that reflect his interest in the arts, history and the natural sciences. The portrait, which has been housed in the storerooms of the Kunsthistorisches Museum for many decades, was restored in Japan in 2006 and first put on public display for the "Maria Theresa and Schloss Schönbrunn" exhibition:

    Lantern Room: Before electric lighting was installed in the palace the lantern-bearers used to wait in this room. Their task was to light the passage of the imperial family or members of the court household after dark. The room is also remarkable for the marble door panelling from the time of Joseph I.

    Great Gallery: Measuring over 40 metres by 10 metres the Great Gallery provided the ideal setting for court functions such as balls, receptions and banquets. The tall windows and the crystal mirrors facing them on the opposite wall together with the white and gold stucco decoration and the ceiling frescoes combine to form a total work of art resulting in one of the most magnificent Rococo interiors in existence. The central panel of the ceiling frescos by the Italian artist Gregorio Guglielmi shows the prospering of the monarchy under the rule of Maria Theresa. Enthroned at its centre are Franz Stephan and Maria Theresa surrounded by personifications of monarchical virtues. Ranged around this central group are allegories of the Habsburg Crown Lands, each with its riches and resources. Since the foundation of the Austrian republic the room has been used for concerts and official receptions. In 1961 the legendary encounter between the American president John F. Kennedy and the Russian head of state Nikita Khrushchev took place in this room:

    Small Gallery: The Small Gallery, which was built at the same time as the Great Gallery, was used for smaller family celebrations during the reign of Maria Theresa. In order to give an authentic impression of the room, the wall chandeliers have been fitted with special light bulbs which imitate the effect of candlelight and animate the shimmering surfaces:

    Chinese Cabinets: To either side of the Small Gallery are the two Chinese Cabinets; the Oval Cabinet on the left and the Round Cabinet on the right. The fashion for art from China and Japan had an immense influence on the decoration and furnishing of royal residences in the 18th century of which the two Chinese Cabinets are an impressive example. Set into the white-painted wooden panelling are lacquer panels of varying shapes and sizes. The gilt frames containing the panels incorporate little consoles which support pieces of blue and white porcelain. The rooms are also remarkable for their parquet flooring with its intricate patterns and their chandeliers. The two rooms were used by Maria Theresa for conferences with her ministers – the Round Cabinet was where she held secret state conferences with her chancellor, Kaunitz – and for playing cards:

    Carousel Room: TThis room was a waiting room for visitors of Maria Theresa. It is named for the painting hanging to the left of the mirror of a ladies carousel (carriage parade) given by Maria Theresa in 1743 in the Imperial Riding School to mark the withdrawal of the French and Bavarians from Bohemia.

    Hall of Ceremonies: The Hall of Ceremonies served principally as the antechamber to Emperor Francis Stephen´s apartments. Here the imperial family gathered before entering the oratories of the palace and it was also used for large celebrations such as christenings, name-days and birthdays, as well as for the court banquets. The hall is remarkable for its monumental paintings which were commissioned by Maria Theresa. The five paintings depict a family event of political and historical significance: the marriage of Joseph, the heir to the throne, to Isabella of Parma, a princess of the royal French Bourbon dynasty, in 1760. This marriage was also a calculated political move on Maria Theresa's part, intended to bring France onto Austria's side. The largest painting in the series depicts the entry of the princess from the Belvedere Palace to the Hofburg. The other paintings show the marriage ceremony in the Augustinian Church, the wedding banquet in the Knights' Hall of the Hofburg and the nuptial dinner and serenata in the ballroom. The paintings display a remarkable wealth of detail in their depiction of the buildings, the people, their clothing and even the tableware. The cycle includes what is probably the most famous portrait of Empress Maria Theresa as the 'First Lady of Europe' :

    ******************** End of the Imperial Tour ********************

    For rooms included also in the Grand Tour: see sub-ordinate Tip.

  • History
    Updated at Jul 25,2016

    Blenheim Place, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, 8 miles north west of Oxford:

    Part 1: Blenheim Parkland, Lakes and the Palace Staterooms.

    Main Attractions: East Gate, Clock Tower, Queen Pool, Great Lake, Grand Bridge, Column of Victory, Ancient Trees, Parks' Marshes, the road around Queen Pool, Palace's Inner Court, the Great Court, the Great Hall, Churchill Exhibition, the saloon, First, Second and Third State Rooms, the Long Library, The chapel.

    Location: Blenheim Palace is situated in Woodstock, a picturesque town that boasts boutique hotels, shops and restaurants in a historic setting.

    Transportation: Catch Bus S3 from Oxford (remember to catch the right bus on the left side of the road...). The S3 bus service to Woodstock runs every 30 minutes from Oxford Train Station and Gloucester
    Green bus station and stops at the Palace gates. Bear in mind that the formal timetable of S3 is quite unreliable. You may face serious delays in your back ride. During the weekdays - there should be a bus every 20 minutes (opposite the external gate of the palace on the Woodstock-Oxford road. Practically,  you may wait far longer times. I had waited for 50 minutes with other 8-10 foreign visitors. The S3 bus stop near the palace has a shelter against the rain. Keep in mind you have to walk 500 meters from the Palace's ticket booth to the palace and the parks. From the Palace gates to the Palace itself - it is at least a 10-15 minutes' walk with no shelter whatsoever. Bring your umbrella.

    Prices: The entrance fee to the palace and its gardens and park - is quite hefty. Better, buy your combined ticked from the S3 bus driver. It cost me (as a senior) £6.80 (bus ride to/from Blenheim Palace) + £12.80 (the palace admission). Keep your combined bus ticket - it saves a lot of money. Formal price list: Adult - £24.90, Concession Ticket (Over-60s and students. Excludes weekends and Bank Holidays) - £19.90, Child (Age 5-16. FREE for under 5s) - £13.90, Family (2 Adults 2 Children) £59.90. There is an option of £11.95 for access to the park and gardens only. The other is the mighty £24.95 which includes entry into the palace and a tour of part of the palace. There are additional fees for tours of other parts of the palace. For a tourist - this outing is very expensive compared with other UK attractions.

    Your bus ticket is presented in the external entrance booth and you get a formal ticket with a small map and brochure. Keep this ticket for converting it to annual pass (in the palace premises or, later, back at your home through an online conversion procedure in the palace's official web site Most of the visitors are locals with Annual Pass (giving you entry to the Palace, Park and Gardens throughout the year for the price of a Palace, Park and Gardens ticket). You will see a special booth for converting your daily ticket into an annual pass - with NO additional fee). Note: there are 3 daily excursions in the palace interiors - separately charged, that would have been an additional £16 per person. Try to look out for vouchers that offer discounts or 2 for 1 offers.

    Opening hours: The Palace - open daily from 10.30 - 17.30 (last admission 16.45), The Park - open daily from 09.00 - 18.00 or dusk if earlier (last admission at 16.45). All areas to be vacated by 18.30, The Formal Gardens/The Pleasure Gardens - open daily from 10.00 - 17.30, Visitor Centre - open daily from 09.30 - 18.00.

    Weather: Blenheim Palace and Park is a good choice for rainy weather. BUT, the gardens are wonderful under the sun. On a sunny day - DO NOT miss a walk around the Grand Lake ("The best view in England" - see later). Pick a nice day for seeing and exploring the grounds.

    Lunch: Bring your picnic lunch well packed. I found The Orangery Restaurant as the only viable option and it is quite reasonable in price and quality of food (£10-12 for mains). Opening Times: weekdays - 12.00 - 17.30, weekends - 10.30-17.00. Remember that after 14.30-15.00 the restaurant selection is quite limited. Their portions run out quite quickly. Note: the Orangery restaurant, sometimes, add a 12.50% Service Charge (NOT obligatory).

    Photography: you are allowed to take photographs inside the palace as long as the flash is not activated.

    Seven short facts and impressions:

    There is so much to see.  One day will hardly suffice to see it all. The palace and the parks are so vast. You will see only PART of them. Come as early as possible. They start at 10.00. Come before the crowds pour in. More than one visit is needed, hence the conversion to the annual pass. A lot of walking is concerned. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. Avoid going when there is an event on as it can get very crowded (unless it is something specific that you want to attend).

    Pronounced /ˈblɛnɪm/ BLEN-im or BLEN-em.

    Very elegant building and admirable parks and gardens around. Quite probable that you won't be able to take part in all the inside (palace interiors, the staterooms) excursions offered (part of them with special fee).

    In the second floor of the palace - there is virtual tour, which is very creative but a bit tedious. The door to each next room opens automatically and a video starts with virtual characters having a conversation in a historical or periodic scenario. If you are not really interested in the scenario you just wait for it to finish and the next door to open, but you can't get out until the tour in this specific room is over...

    Outside, the walks and gardens are really beautiful and relaxing, on a sunny day, If you are tired or have a mobility problem - you can pay (it is a donation of 50p for maintenance of this small train) and ride on the miniature railway to get around the various attractions of the extensive site. Take the little shuttle for an hour tour of the gardens, which is well worth it. It will save you a lot of time for inquiring the palace interiors. This is a good advice for a drizzling day. The train goes every 15 min.

    This is a World Heritage site and the birthplace of Winston Churchill who was the grandson of the 7th Duke/Duchess of Marlborough. The exhibition on the Churchill dynasty is especially well-presented. Today, it is home to the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. 

    If you just want to see the grounds and gardens, there is a pedestrian walk in that you do not have to pay for. Come from the Woodstock gate or  drop off from the Stagecoach bus at the next stop after the palce main entrance. Getting off at the second drop also gives you a beautiful bird's-eye view of the town of Woodstock. The gardens, grounds and lake were designed by Capability Brown and the waterfall at the end of the lake is very picturesque. There are lots of scenic walks and hidden gardens to explore at Blenheim.

    Short history: The palace was built between 1705 and 1722. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace was a reward to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough - for the duke's military triumphs against the French and the Bavarians during the War of the Spanish Succession in year 1704. The most famous battle of these triumphs is the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, was both a military commander and a politician. Churchill owed his good fortune to his wife Sarah, who was the queen's confident and best friend. Anne made Churchill 1st Duke of Marlborough, and had Blenheim Palace built for him on the former royal manor of Woodstock. The monarch had Parliament grant £240,000 for the construction of Blenheim, a huge sum in those days. So influential was Marlborough, mainly through the considerable political machinations of his wife, that it was said he was effectively the ruler of the country. The name of the dukedom refers to Marlborough in Wiltshire. Churchill was commander-in-chief of the English forces that fought in the War of Spanish Succession. While his military fame is secure, his political role is less well known – but along with Robert Harley and Sidney Godolphin, he was part of the Triumvirate who served Queen Anne. But, soon after the palace start of construction, due to political intrigues - the 1st Duke of Marlborough had been exiled and lost his hold on the Queen Anne. The Duke and Duchess were exiled, only to return the day after Queen Anne died in 1714. John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough was no doubt one of the greatest military commanders of his time. Blenheim and Ramillies being his greatest victories. Marlborough was an incredibly ambitious man who indeed sought position and wealth and was an opportunist (alongside others of his time) during the upheavals of 1688-1689. Nonetheless, his legacy still lives on at the magnificent Blenheim Palace, where his descendant and biographer, Winston Churchill would also lead Britain through a war which earned him a place alongside his great ancestor. Following the palace's completion, it became the home of the Churchill, later Spencer-Churchill, family for the next 300 years.

    At the end of the 19th century, the palace was saved from ruin by funds gained from the 9th Duke of Marlborough's marriage to Consuelo Balsan (1877 –  1964) - a member of the prominent American Vanderbilt family. The marriage of Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough and Consuelo became a famous, loveless marriage. They had two sons, John Albert William Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford (who became 10th Duke of Marlborough) and Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill. The Marlboroughs separated in 1906 and divorced in 1921. The palace is also notable as the birthplace (30 November 1874) and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill - grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a notable politician and his mother was an American socialite. It was also in the gardens of Blenheim at the Temple of Diana that Winston Churchill proposed to Miss Clementine Hozier during the summer of 1908...  Sir Winston Churchill’s love of Blenheim remained to his dying day. When he passed away in 1965, he chose to be buried beside his parents Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill, in the nearby churchyard at Bladon. And when Lady Clementine Churchill died in 1977, her remains were laid to rest beside those of her husband.

    Dukes of Marlborough from (1702 - 1704:

    • John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722), soldier and statesman
    • John Churchill, Marquess of Blandford (1686–1703), elder son of the 1st Duke, died unmarried
    • Henrietta Godolphin, 2nd Duchess of Marlborough (1681–1733), eldest daughter of the 1st Duke, succeeded her father by Act of Parliament (1706)
    • William Godolphin, Marquess of Blandford (1700–1731), elder son of the 2nd Duchess, predeceased his mother without issue
    • Anne Spencer, Countess of Sunderland (née Lady Anne Churchill; 1683–1716), second daughter of the 1st Duke, married Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland
    • Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706–1758), 5th Earl of Sunderland, second son of Lady Sunderland
    • George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough (1739–1817), elder son of the 3rd Duke
    • George Spencer-Churchill, 5th Duke of Marlborough (1766–1840), elder son of the 4th Duke
    • George Spencer-Churchill, 6th Duke of Marlborough (1793–1857), eldest son of the 5th Duke
    • John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough (1822–1883), eldest son of the 6th Duke and paternal grandfather of Winston Churchill
    • George Charles Spencer-Churchill, 8th Duke of Marlborough (1844–1892), eldest son of the 7th Duke
    • Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough (1871–1934), only son of the 8th Duke
    • John Albert William Spencer-Churchill, 10th Duke of Marlborough (1897–1972), elder son of the 9th Duke
    • John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough (1926–2014), elder son of the 10th Duke
    • Charles James Spencer-Churchill, 12th Duke of Marlborough (b. 1955), eldest surviving son of the 11th Duke
    • The heir apparent to the Dukedom is George John Godolphin Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford (b. 1992), eldest son of the 12th Duke.

    After paying for your admission (through a temporary booth "planted" near the Woodstock-Oxford road) - you walk 10-12 minutes

    until you arrive to the East Gate of the palace. A monumental triumphal arch, more Egyptian in design than Roman. This gate is also the palace's water tower. it was to carry the great cistern upon which the more important half of the palace, containing the private apartments and kitchen, would depend for water-supply. In this way Vanbrugh is giving even greater, almost God-like, importance to the areas of the palace occupied by the great Duke himself. Vanbrugh looked upon it, as he admitted, 'much more as an intended Monument of the Queen's glory than a private Habitation for the Duke of Marlborough', though it was of course celebrating military glory. Blenheim, then, had to be castle, citadel, monument and - less important - private house. Its main entries must speak of strength triumphant; and undoubtedly this East Gate, as Vanbrugh left it, spoke bluntly of that:

    Through the arch of the gate one views across the courtyard a second equally massive gate, that beneath the Clock Tower:

    Through the second gate, rather like the sanctuary of a temple, one glimpses the Great Court:

    Blenheim Palace stands in a romantic park created by the famous landscape gardener Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. The original landscape was, actually, set out by John Vanbrugh, who regulated the course of the River Glyme. It was, later, modified by Lancelot “Capability” Brown who created two lakes, seen as one of the greatest examples of naturalistic landscape design. The overall structure of the landscaped park layout remains largely as set out by Vanbrugh and Brown.

    Starting at the main Palace gates, walk down (right) over Vanbrugh's Grand Bridge. An asphalted road is leading from the inner palace gates to the Grand Bridge:

    On your right is the majestic Queen Pool. In the middle of the lake is the Elizabeth Island:

    On the left side of the bridge is the Great Lake. The 4th Duke, who employed Brown, began an English landscape garden scheme to naturalize and enhance the landscape, with tree planting, and man-made undulations. However, the feature with which 'Capability' Brown is forever associated is the lake, a huge stretch of water created by damming the River Glyme and ornamented by a series of cascades where the river flows in and out. The lake was narrowed at the point of Vanbrugh's grand bridge, but the three small canal-like streams trickling underneath it, were completely absorbed by one river-like stretch. Brown's great achievement at this point was to actually flood and submerge beneath the water level the lower stories and rooms of the bridge itself, thus reducing its incongruous height and achieving what is regarded by many as the epitome of an English landscape.The Great Lake is home to breeding birds, fish and small mammals, all of which can be seen from the many walking routes.

    The lake is dammed at it's southern end near the Cascades. At the Grand Bridge, in one of Brown’s most significant alterations, the lower sections of the bridge were flooded when the water flowed into the hollow that took ten years to construct. The bridge across the Queen Pool was built containing rooms, but they have never been used. Vanbrugh saw the extensive marsh, in front of the palace, as ornamental water crossed by the finest bridge in Europe. Marlborough, more cautious, consulted Wren, who prescribed a far less pretentious and less costly bridge and, for the steep palace approach, a sweeping circular drive. His plan was not adopted. Vanbrugh's persuasiveness, which was considerable, won the day. Everything about the bridge is extraordinary and much of it is puzzling. Sarah 1st Duchess of Marlborough vetoed the arcade. The immensity of the Grand Bridge and its cost was one of the main subjects of their dispute. Old guidebooks describe the bridge as a cool retreat in summer, and no doubt many a picnic was enjoyed in the sunnier rooms. Unfortunately it is no longer safe to enter now. Soon after Marlborough's death, in 1722, his widow called in Colonel John Armstrong, who had been his chief engineer, to re-plan the water-works in the park. The River Glyme, flowing under the Grand Bridge, was channeled into canals that beneath the middle arch leaped a cascade before broadening into a formal pool on the western side. The northernmost arch of the bridge was used to house Aldersea's engine, a huge paddle-wheel affair, which pumped spring water from Rosamond's Well (left side of the bridge, actually in the Great Lake) to the East Gate cistern. This stood on the leads, where the flag now flies, and provided the eastern half of the palace with water. As a water-supply it worked well but, as scenery, the canals looked inadequate: To judge from old engravings, the canal and pool Sarah favored looked very bleak - the pool it self was designed with a compass and was like a huge version of the Versailles fountain-basins. But formality was the fashion, and for those who admired it the results at Blenheim brought praise. Sarah herself was delighted. When Sarah died in 1744, Blenheim waited twenty years before reflecting the change of fashion from formality to naturalism in its own magnificent lake. Then, with one master-stroke, 'Capability' Brown was able to change the landscape. After building a dam and cascade near Bladon, he sliced through the causeways once leading from Woodstock Manor across the marsh towards Woodstock and Oxford, leaving a small strip now known as Queen Elizabeth's Island (in the middle of the Queen Pool). Thus he let the Glyme run through the bridge, engulfing the ground floor, and spread out into lakes on either side of it. Another mile downstream Brown made minor cascades of great beauty at the point where the Glyme falls into the Evenlode. The cascade Sarah had been so proud of is now under water; but Brown's Grand Cascade still tumbles into the lake at its western end (see below). At the Grand Bridge the northern arch had been cleared of its engine before the ground-floor rooms were flooded. This last event caused much anxiety. Could the bridge withstand it? It could and did. But the visible height of the bridge is now a great deal less than Vanbrugh intended. Its base is submerged, and the arcaded superstructure with which Vanbrugh planned to crown it has never been built:

    View from the Grand Bridge to the Palace Inner Court and North Front:

    To arrive to the Column of Victory - you continue northward from the Grand Bridge on an asphalted path. You take the RIGHT (EAST) leg of the path and continue towards the column. Although there cables which avoid stepping onto the marshes - it is permitted to walk on them without interrupting the sheep. In the northern part of the park stands an 134 ft tall Column of Victory. It is crowned by a lead statue of the 1st Duke of Marlborough, and shows him dressed as a Roman general. The splendid Grand Bridge crosses the lake to the Column of Victory (some 40m high), erected by Sarah Jennings and topped by a statue of her husband posing heroically in a toga:

    Blenheim Parkland excels also in its trees. The greatest collection of ancient oak trees anywhere in Europe has been discovered in Britain by a new survey (2016) - in Winston Churchill's backyard: the High Park. The estate was designed by Capability Brown in the early 18th century, but he left a 50-hectare woodland known as the High Park untouched. Around 90% of the woodland is made up of oak trees. At least 60 Middle Age oaks have been mapped in a survey of the grounds of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, with four of them measuring nine metres in diameter. The centuries-old area of the Estate, called High Park was originally created by King Henry I as part of a royal deer park in the 12th century. The remarkable collection of 900 year old trees have been preserved through a fortunate combination of the Royal love of hunting, the generosity of a grateful nation and landscape designer Capability Brown's respect for ancient woodland. All these factors have helped protect the forest from destruction and created one of the most biodiverse habitats in the UK:

    Do not miss, as well, the mighty Lebanon cedar trees - planted in various spots of the parks around:

    The Parkland Marshes are stunning - best viewed around the Queen Pool:

    Now we continue along an asphalted path surrounding the Queen Pool. You may start at the Grand Bridge or at the Column of Victory. From the column - pass the marshes with your face southward or eastward and connect with the road/path on the western side of the Queen Pool. Walking along this road - the Queen Pool will be, always, on your RIGHT. You'll face this building:

    The views along this circular road are breathtaking. This part of the trail offers some wonderful, crowd-free views of The Queen Pool, the palace (far in the south) and the woodland on your left. Have your camera at the ready !

    The view across the Queen Pool has been described as ‘the finest view in England’. If you got our hint and entered through the Woodstock Gate - you should to be hit by this spectacular view immediately:

    View from the northern banks of the Queen Pool. "Standing next to the tall cedar tree, on the same route as the original 'Capability' Brown carriage path - you are offered superb views of the palace emphasizing the immense size and architecture of the palace building...":

    You'll pass, on your right, the Seven Arches Bridge. A modest flow of water which is the river Glyme - the main inflow of the palace lakes. The willows (back of the photo), actually, hide, nowadays, the Blenheim palace. On your left are the palace walls and Woodstock road. From this spring - the asphalted road lights westward:

    View of the Grand Bridge and the two lakes from the path around the Queen Pool:

    Some of the resident geese posing for a family photo in front of the Finest View in England...:

    With your face to the "best view in England", "stands the Triumphal Arch, the Woodstock entrance to the park - designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, 1723:

    The path around the Queen Pool continues, now, more to the south - but the lake is wonderful, even more, under the rare sun rays:

    Walking around the Queen Pool, the more we approach the palace - the more visible and astounding is the Grand Bridge:

    After walking 4-5 km. along the Blenheim parkland paths - it is time to have a lunch. Better, have a picnic along this memorable path around the Queen Pool just explored above. Your best bet is the Orangery Cafe and Restaurant, near the palace main entrance. Your second option is having a meal in the cafe overlooking the terrace fountains (see below):

    You'll face, again the Inner Court (where carriages and horse carts would have made their way to the grand entrance of the palace. And on rare occasion, they still do !) and the Clock Tower. From here, there are several entrances to the staterooms and the various museum of the palace:

    From the Inner Court we enter another (westward), far bigger court - the Great Court. The west court links together the chapel the stables and indoor riding school. The three blocks together form the "Great Court" designed to overpower the visitor arriving at the palace. Pilasters and pillars abound, while from the roofs, themselves resembling those of a small town, great statues in the Renaissance manner of St Peter's in Rome gaze down on the visitor below:

    Our walk in the palace gardens and exterior attraction is far from its end. We shall turn, now, and visit the staterooms - just to complete the FIRST PART our our Blenheim Palace visit. We shall continue with further exterior and interior attractions - in our second part. Let us start with the grandiose staterooms:

    Blenheim Palace, in Oxfordshire, was designed by John Vanbrugh. The palace architecture is majestic and so beautiful. Inside is fantastic, rich with history and examples of furniture, tapestries, chandeliers, clocks, an impressive library and ceilings. The paintings and wall murals in the state rooms are magnificent, as are the furnishings. It represents a unique architectural achievement celebrating the triumph of the English armies over the French, and the Palace and its associated Park have exerted great influence on the English Romantic movement which was characterized by the eclecticism of its inspiration, its return to natural sources and its love of nature. The architect's intention was to create not only a home but also a national monument to reflect the power and civilization of the nation. To create this monumental effect, Vanbrugh chose to design in a severe form of Baroque, using great masses of stone to imitate strength and create shadow as decoration.

    The entrance to the Palace Staterooms is magnificent. Do not miss looking at the ceiling as well:

    The North Portico of the Palace:

    The plan of the Palace's principal block is a rectangle (see plan) pierced by the two courtyards. Contained behind the southern facade are the principal state apartments; on the east side are the suites of private apartments of the Duke and Duchess, and on the west along the entire length is given a long gallery originally conceived as a picture gallery, but is now the Long Library.

    The entry hallway (or: Great Hall) and one of the magnificent chandeliers that light the entry way:

    Chinese porcelain in the Great Hall:

    Sir James Thornhill’s painted ceiling in the Great Hall depicts the 1st Duke kneeling to Britannia, proffering a plan of the Battle of Blenheim:

    The approach continues through the great portico into the hall, its ceiling painted by James Thornhill with the Duke's apotheosis, then on under a great triumphal arch, through the huge marble door-case with the Duke's marble effigy:

    The Great Halll is 20 m. high, and remarkable chiefly for its size and for its stone carvings by Gibbons, yet in spite of its immense size it is merely a vast anteroom to the saloon (see below):

    The following photos are from the  state rooms and the living quarters where Winston Churchill grew up. This suite of rooms is dedicated to Churchill, who was the grandson of the 7th Duke of Marlborough and was born in the palace. The year 2015 marks many important anniversaries in relation to Sir Winston Churchill. These include the 50th anniversary of his death, the 75th anniversary of his first becoming Prime Minister, and the 75th anniversary of his ‘Finest Hour’ at the Battle of Britain. To mark the this commemorative - Blenheim Palace opened (in 2015) a newly curated Churchill Exhibition. The exhibition includes displays and features aimed at providing a fascinating insight in to the life of the ‘Greatest Briton’ and of one of the most admirable figures in the modern history. Each of the five rooms situated in the Palace includes a selection of images, artifacts and audio as well as a replica uniform from his military days. You can listen to his most iconic speeches as well as learn more about his childhood at Blenheim Palace. The exhibition also focuses on the great man’s state funeral, which brought the nation to a halt as they paid their final respects. The exhibition includes historical and rare photos from the funeral at Bladon Church. New artifacts include an original Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars uniform, worn by Churchill’s colleague Ferdinand St. John, as well as his childhood pony saddle along with tales of his early equestrian career, featured in his juvenile letters from boarding school to his Grandmother, the 7th Duchess of Marlborough. The interactive exhibition uses multimedia to enhance the visitor experience including video content which is screened within the rooms. There are transcripts from private communications and a section is dedicated to Churchill’s past love interests too... More personal items are on display including original hand-written samples of Sir Winston Churchill’s speeches, the bed that Churchill was born on, and odd displays of items including these bedroom slippers and “siren suit” that was kept handy if he had to dress suddenly when an air raid siren went off. It is a very moving exhibition. The exhibition rooms are quite busy and packed all through the year:

    Winston Churchill’s government Despatch Box - covered in red leather with a brass carrying handle, the Despatch Box carries the monogram of the king, George V, and is inscribed ‘Secretary of State for War’, the post Churchill held between 1919 and 1920:

    The Siren Suit:

    This superb and ‘moving’ portrait group sculpture by Oscar Nemon (1906–85) shows Sir Winston and Lady Churchill seated together, he half reclining, she sitting with her left hand resting near him:

    West of the Great Hall lies the birth room of Sir Winston Churchill, grandson of the 8th Duke. You will enjoy the variety of interesting exhibits in this room, from Churchill's lively letters to curls cut from his head when he was five years old:

    The Green Drawing Room and the two rooms beyond it all have their original ceilings, which were designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, Vanbrugh's collaborator. Many fine family portraits painted by Keller, Romney, Reynolds, Sargent and Van-Dyck line the sumptuous damask covered walls:

    Chinese Porcelain, powder blue at the Green Drawing Room:

    In the Green Writing Room a delicate tapestry hangs from the wall, depicting the battle of Blenheim and Marlborough accepting French surrender:

    The Great Red Drawing Room:

    The saloon was also to have been painted by Thornhill, but the Duchess suspected him of overcharging, so the commission was given to Louis Laguerre. This room is an example of three-dimensional painting, or trompe l'œil, "trick-the-eye", a fashionable painting technique at the time. The Peace Treaty of Utrecht was about to be signed, so all the elements in the painting represent the coming of peace. The domed ceiling is an allegorical representation of Peace: John Churchill is in the chariot, he holds a zigzag thunderbolt of war, and the woman who holds back his arm represents Peace. The walls depict all the nations of the world who have come together peacefully. Laguerre also included a self-portrait placing himself next to Dean Jones, chaplain to the 1st Duke, another enemy of the Duchess, although she tolerated him in the household because he could play a good hand at cards. To the right of the doorway leading into the first stateroom, Laguerre included the French spies, said to have big ears and eyes because they may still be spying. Of the four marble door-cases in the room displaying the Duke's crest as a prince of the Holy Roman Empire, only one is by Gibbons, the other three were copied indistinguishably by the Duchess's cheaper craftsmen. The Marlborough family still use the dining room in the heart of the palace for their Christmas dinners! (so we were told):

    Various nations of the world are reflected in the Saloon wall paintings, while the ceiling shows the 1st Duke in victorious progress:

    intercommunicating between the Saloon and the Long Library, on the south front, are known as the First, Second and Third State Rooms. The walls of all three rooms are hung with tapestries of Marlborough's campaigns. Marlborough himself in fact commissioned them of the designer de Hondt, and the Brussels weaver, Judocus de Vos.

    The tapestry on the right-hand wall of the First State Room, next to the Saloon, shows Marlborough approaching the Schellenberg, a fiercely defended hilltop fortress taken by the allies on their way to Blenheim. In the foreground, dragoons are loading their horses with fascines, or faggots, to help the infantry cross the enemy's trenches; while in the background the walled city of Donauworth prepares its defences. The other tapestries in this room are of the siege of Lille, the lines of Brabant and the Battle of Malplaquet (1709):

    2nd State Room - Siege of Bouchain, 13 September 1711 Tapestries. The Victory Tapestries of John Churchill, commissioned by John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough to commemorate his famous victories at Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet, were designed by Lambert de Hondt and woven by Jucocus de Vos in Brussels:

    A Savonnerie carpet grace the Third State Room, and above the fireplace is a portrait of the 1st Duke of Marlborough with Colonel Armstrong, by Enoch Seeman. The third is sometimes called the Boule Room, after the furniture it contains:

    The final room is the Long Library which, surprisingly, also hosts a magnificent floor-to-ceiling organ. The Long Library was designed by Christopher Wren, 55 m. long, and was intended as a picture gallery. Here in the library, rewriting history in her own indomitable style, the Duchess Sara set up a larger than life statue of Queen Anne, its base recording their friendship. Nicholas Hawksmoor also completed the interior design of the library (and the ceilings of many of the state rooms and other details in numerous other minor rooms, and various outbuildings).

    Queen Anne statue in the Long Library:

    The Library houses the largest pipe organ in private ownership in Europe, built by England's great organ builder Henry Willis & Sons:

    When you are inside the palace, make sure you look out of the window in the library to get an amazing view of the palace gardens:

    Make sure you look out of the window in the library to get an amazing view of the Great Court as well:

    From the northern end of the library - access is obtained to the raised colonnade which leads to the chapel. The chapel is on the eastern side of the palace by the vaulted kitchen. The palace chapel was built as a consequence of the 1st Duke's death - obtaining even greater importance:

    The most dominating feature is the Duke's gargantuan tomb and sarcophagus. It was designed by William Kent, and statues of the Duke and Duchess depicted as Caesar and Caesarina adorn the great sarcophagus. In 1744, year of the Duchess Sara -  the Duke's coffin was returned to Blenheim from its temporary resting place, Westminster Abbey, and husband and wife were interred together and the tomb erected and completed. Now Blenheim Estate had indeed become a pantheon and mausoleum. Successive Dukes and their wives are also interred in the vault beneath the chapel. Other members of family are interred in St. Martin's parish churchyard at Bladon, a short distance from the palace:

    The organ in the chapel was built circa 1853 by Robert Postill of York. it is notable as a rare unaltered example of this fine builder's work, tuning boldly and clearly into a generous acoustic.

    After lunch we were ready to explore the other half of the palace (see "Blenheim Palace - Part 2").

  • History | Myanmar > Yangon > Moseah Yeshua Synagogue
    Updated at May 22,2013

    Moseah Yeshua Synagogue (located at 85 26th St) was founded more than 100 years ago. It has a Sephardic Jewish traditional style. Nowadays there are less than 25 members in the local Burmese-Jewish community as most of the Jews had left the country.

    The Synagogue is well maintained by a man called Simon Samuel. Sometimes you need to call and ask him to open the synagogue as the gate is locked. Samuel will show you the guest book, some old historical photos, and might tell you a few stories about the history of the Jewish community in Yangon.

  • History | Netherlands > Hoorn
    Updated at May 22,2013

    The next morning we went on a trip to Hoorn, a small town 35 Km north of Amsterdam. Hoorn is a historic city, founded way back in the 8th century, and became a city in the 14th century. During Holland golden age Hoorn was one of the six bases of the Dutch East India Company, and today the old harbor is a favorite spot for all kinds of water sports.

    Rod Steen, the old city square, is where farmers from the area came to sell their products on the market. It’s a junction of six streets and alleys, and round it you will find old buildings like the town hall (1420), the Waag (1609) and the States College (1632). Today the market is held twice a week.

  • History | Netherlands > Amsterdam, The Netherlands > Anne Frank House, Prinsengracht, Grachtengordel-West, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Updated at May 22,2013

    We visited the house of Anne Frank, which is located in Prisengracht 263. This is the house where Anne’s family were hiding from the Nazis, and today hosts an exhibition about the holocaust and another exhibition on the subject of tolerance.

  • History | China > Beijing > The Palace Museum
    Updated at Jun 10,2013

    The Forbidden City in Beijing was the imperial palace of the Ming Dynasty, and kept that role till the end of the Qing Dynasty. It was the home of the emperors and their families, and served as a political center of the government. It is called “The forbidden City” because common citizens were not allowed in, and those who broke the rule were put to death.

    Today the Forbidden City functions as a museum, featuring the Qing imperial collection, close to 50 thousand paintings, a bronze collection from the early Shang Dynasty and much more. The Forbidden City consists of several dozen compounds, and almost 10,000. Most of the buildings are made of wood, with yellow tiles roof.

  • History | Germany > Kiel > Kiel Markt Platz - the Old Market >
    Updated at May 22,2013

    A nice square with splendid statues. The main attraction is St. Nikolay Church with biblical motifs, quaint atmosphere and its huge organ. Here is a statue of old Moses.

  • History | Germany > Lubeck > Altstadt > Heiligen-Geist-Hospice
    Updated at May 22,2013

    Ancient hospice from the 13th century. Built during the years 1276-1286 for the poors of Lubeck.

    The Hospice chapel is a large Gothic hall decorated with 13C and 14C frescoes and paintings: