Fontainebleau, the hidden gem – your alternative to the obligatory Versailles visit?

Though I have been visiting Paris many times, I have heard about the mystical place Fontainebleau, but never managed a visit!

While approx. 1 hour away by public transport from Paris, Fontainebleau remains a hidden gem and is barely crowded.


The little town feels magical, a laid-back place where time seems stuck. A perfect destination to escape the busy days of one’s big city life.

The main attractions of this cute little world heritage town are the Palace and Park of Fontainebleau.

While I am not most intrigued by French royalty, this castle has much to offer just by looking at its 800 years of history. 

With over 1500 rooms, it is the second-largest castle in France and extremely rich in history!

The Château de Fontainebleau is a royal and imperial castle of medieval, renaissance, and classical styles, and as Napoleon said, the Château de Fontainebleau remains a “true residence of kings, a house of centuries”.

Yet, Napoleon I himself:

“breathed new life in Fontainebleau after the Revolution. Visiting the château he restored, furnished and inhabited, you uncover the statesman, the military leader, the family man and the patron of arts.” There is also the only still-existing throne room of Napoleon.

Walking through the château, the zeitgeist of its past set me in awe. In comparison to Versailles, the castle is much fewer glamours and kitschy but more “practical” Hereby I want to showcase my favorite room of the palace which was the palatial library.


Palatial library

In addition, the palace and its surroundings are huge and I believe 1 day is not enough to study them with the care the place deserves: 130 hectares of parks, courtyards, and gardens of the Château de Fontainebleau Equally, I experienced the park to be truly magical and inviting to have a picnic, and do sports, amazing even some visitors have been picking mushrooms in the woodlands – many practical dimensions of a world heritage site 😀

The Fountainebleau forest with a surface area of state-owned woodland measures more than 22,000 hectares! Yet, I have to admit that I felt the cultural activities planned were barely targeted at a younger audience. Despite the presence of the Ranked #1 European Unicorn University INSEAD, we barely note “young faces.”

Talking to the receptionist in the visitor center, she reminded us about the importance of the awareness of world heritage.


Fountainebleau is the ideal place to daydream about the life of our ancestors and feel like being part of it at least for a day and coming back to the busy streets of Paris.

Yet, Fontainebleau is not an alternative to Versailles, but much different and an ideal gateway for a deep dive into french royal history, heritage, and nature.






Bordeaux, Port of the Moon – a city uncovering its “trade past”


The Tour de France continues in Bordeaux. A city that most people associate with one thing: wine! 

Yet my trip to Bordeaux was much more than exploring its wine culture. I was especially intrigued by:  How can urban spaces be used to commemorate the dark side of the past and educate the public/ visitors? 

But, to start with, I had the blast of meeting, exploring, and being hosted by a local, Eloise. She is a young world heritage ambassador for @opvm. Making her the best tour guide I could have asked for. Big thanks and shoutout to her and Moni for bringing us into contact.

 Certainly, Bordeaux has notoriously gained its appreciation as a world heritage city, namely of its harbor, “Port of the Moon.” Yet roughly 40% of the entire city’s area is covered as world heritage, marking the largest urban area inscribed by UNESCO within those incredibly breathtaking buildings (see photos: Miroir d’eau at the place de bourse)

miroir d´eau

The “innovative classical and neoclassical architectural trends” mark the beauty of the city center. The harbor has helped Bordeaux become infamous for its wine industry and as a global trading center for more than 800 years! Another must-see is the “Cité du Vin,” a high-tech museum teaching you about the history of wine 

Small villages nearby, such as Saint-Émilion, the Médoc, Canon Fronsac, Sauternes, and Graves, are ideal for exploring vineyards and learning how grapes become wine.

 Bordeaux’s glamour is often connoted by its wine. Its majestic buildings and grand buildings were heavily financed by the transatlantic slave trade, generating human tragedies.

The dark part of Bordeaux’s history remains problematic and is a difficult political issue. Even for the residents themselves, My guide says it is partly because of something people have been trying to escape from in the past or hiding behind the facade of being a glamorous wine city.

Yet, many, especially young people, have facilitated and lobbied for a shift towards a “just narrative” which also requires condemning what happened a few centuries ago.

“That story remained untold until recently,” argue the tour guides who aim to tell their visitors the dark and unspoken side of Bordeaux’s glorified past.

In 2019, some of Bordeaux’s streets, which were named after slave traders, have been modified “to add historical context” 

In addition, Bordeaux has created a “memorial route,” or exhibitions in the Musée d’Aquitaine.

Various statues and symbols mark Bordeaux’s public spaces, stimulating visitors’ thoughts and allowing them to listen to the untold stories of the then most vulnerable part of “society.”

One of my favorite statues was the one of:

Modeste Marthe Adélade Testas (1765-1870)

statues speaking for t

She was an Ethiopian slave, who was enslaved by Toulouse merchants and then transferred to the plants in the new world.

Despite the harsh conditions she must have undergone she became  105 years old! She was a popular figure and bequeathed land. Her grandson became Haiti’s first president. (Having tears in the eyes while writing this)

Another interesting encounter was at the embarquement gate of the spokesman of democracy, Thomas Jefferson, which marked the 5 days in Bordeaux of the wine-lover.

Undoubtedly, these statues/symbols do underline a certain political power and broadcast a particular message.

Given these interesting historic insides, Bordeaux has become one of my favorite cities: full of prehistory, the eclectic mix of architectural styles, and the feeling of liveliness and elegance. Only walking through the warm, quirky streets made me feel welcome in such an extremely beautiful city.

Every corner comes with its own beauty and uniqueness!




4 * PRAGUE: 27 – 30 Aug

Prague was the fourth stop of the trip: a marvelous and culturally rich city, with a peculiar story regarding war(s). Crossed by the Vlatva, it is known by its magnificent city center that depicts very coherently all the periods the city went through. From being the official residence of several Holy Roman Emperors, to witnessing the first signs of the Reformation and being a bubbly cultural hub in the late 19th century, the city has a vast number of heritage sites worth a visit.

[A view of Prague and of the Vlatva]


As WWII was beginning, Prague was the capital and major city of Czechoslovakia, a republic formed in 1918 that used to unite the modern day Czech Republic and Slovakia. Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia started even before the beginning of the war. In 1938, with the signing of the Munich Pact, a compromise between Germany and England, Sudetenland, a bordering region with strong affiliations to german culture, was annexed, in the hopes it would satisfy Nazis’ expansion intentions. However, in March of the following year, the rest of the country was occupied as well, as Hitler only gave two options to the at that time president Emil Hácha – occupation or total destruction.  

The capital of the Bohemia and Moravia Protectorate – as Nazis called it – lived years under terror during the full duration of the conflict. Even thought it was mainly spared of mass destruction due to shelling, as it was only bombed once by the end of the confrontations – and by accident! -, Prague witnessed profound transformations and the loss of important heritage sites, specially after 1941, under the rule of Reinhard Heydrich, also known as the Butcher of Prague

The Jewish Quarter was tremendously altered with the creation of one of the biggest ghettos created during WWII and the old town severely damaged as a consequence of the Prague Uprising, an attempt to liberate the city from the Nazis, only a couple of days before the cease of the conflict in Europe.


[The main square in the Old Town of Prague, classified by the UNESCO since 1992, and its famous Astronomical Clock]


The Historic Centre of Prague was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992 and it is a great example of urban coherence and quality, combining harmoniously medieval structures, baroque churches and Art Nouveau buildings. Nowadays, Prague is a city visited by copious amounts of visitors, having to cope with the challenges brought by mass tourism, but at the same time, it seems to have been able so far to keep an uniqueness that provokes amazement in each single neighborhood.


DAY 6: The City Centre

My first day in the Czech capital started with a walk through the old townStare Mesto – the medieval settlement from where the city later expanded. Starting at the main square, I admired the Old City Hall building, where the symbol of Prague – the Astronomical Clock lies. It was heavily damaged by the Nazis as a retaliation for the uprisers at the end of the conflict and it took a couple of years to be repaired. However, and even though several architectural competitions were held in the following decades, the plot where the damaged part of the building layed remains empty and the wall that faces the square, clearly cut, speaks of that disruption and that event in czech history. 


[The main square in Prague / The Old City Hall, partially destroyed during the Prague Uprising, that was never rebuilt]

Walking through the organic medieval street network in direction to the river, there was still time to visit the Rudolfinum, the building where Dvórak premiered his famous “Slavonic Dances” and that nowadays hosts the Czech Philharmonic. It is a prime example of the not-so-obvious destruction that WWII left on the city: as a strategical point for Nazis, Prague and its buildings were often occupied by passing troops that used major architectural landmarks of the city in a way that often didn’t respect its richness, massively altering and altering its interiors. The Rudolfinum, for instance, was an entertainment hall for Nazis, where they would recreate plays and concerts inside to create entertainment and raise the spirits of high ranked German officers, while war was erasing Europe. 


[The Rudolfinum, now house to the Czech Philharmonic]

DAY 7: Bombed by Mistake

On my second day in the city, my daily exploration started with a visit to Malá Strana – also known as the Lesser Town – on the opposite side of Old Prague; a neighborhood founded in the Middle Ages and that was historically home for many ethnic German and Italian inhabitants of Prague. There, I admired a couple of beautiful churches, passed by the famous Lennon Wall – where locals used to creatively express their frustrations during the communistic period – and ended in Pétrin, the big green area of the city. 


[The Lennon Wall, used as an anonymous complaints during the communist period / The remains of the old walls of the city in Pétrin]

Back to the Old Town, I crossed the iconic Charles Bridge, whose construction was initiated in 1357, to substitute a previous wooden structure, by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. The statuary that adorns it is now mainly commissions from the Baroque period but additions have been made throughout the centuries. Even if the bridge survived the war structurally, it still suffered some damage during the conflict, since Nazis, as they were forcefully leaving the city by the end of the war, made a barricade to the Old Tower bridge gateway to slow the progression of opposing troops.

In the afternoon, I was lucky enough to join a group of local historians and architects from the University of Prague for a walk, as well as Mounir, a syrian architect that is finishing his PhD in the city and that sadly knowns firsthand the devastating and long lasting consequences war can have on cities, their heritage and people.

[Walking through the southern part of the city to check bombed buildings and its current state]

We walked through the southern neighborhoodsNove Mesto -, to visited the area that was affected by one of the few bombings Prague witnessed during WWII, when Americans accidentally mistook Prague by Dresden. We passed by the worldly known futuristic Dancing House – a deconstructive building started in 1992 and designed by the star architect Frank Gehry – that was actually built in a plot that remained empty for a couple of decades due to this precise shelling. However, the most illustrative example of reconstruction in this part of town is the Emmaus Monastery, a gothic structure whose vaults were destroyed in the previously described event and that after a couple of reconstruction projects, the decision to add a new contemporary layer, representing its time, won in the 1960’s. Now, a Gothic foundation and a Modernistic tower co-exist in a somewhat harmonious way.


[The Dancing House / The Emmaus Monastery]

DAY 8: The Jewish Quarter

My third day in the city started with a really nice walk around town, with a local historian, Lukas, to observe newer projects that have been built in plots either destroyed during WWII or dismissed by the communist regime that followed, resulting in a very diverse approach to reconstruction and heritage preservation led after the conflict, varying, for example, depending on the location in the city or the typology of the building. 

In the afternoon, I dedicated the majority of my time to the Old Jewish Ghetto of Prague, situated in the northern part of the city. A true city inside a city, even if the area is not very big considering the thousands that inhabited it before WWII, and that for many reasons throughout the centuries were forced to concentrate and keep to this part of town. 

[The cemetery in the Jewish Quarter]

Nowadays, the neighborhood, completely included in the remaining urban system, hosts a significant minor number of jews, as many were deported and killed during the Nazi occupation of the country and many of those who survived decided not to come back. Nonetheless, the majority of the main structures that characterized the Josefov – also called like these to celebrate the Toleration Act, issued by Joseph II in 1781, granting the jews from Prague many rights – remain and have been carefully reconstructed and preserved. Among them, the synagogues – six in total – allow the visitors to have a glimpse of the rich history of the quarter, as some stand for centuries and date back to the medieval times, served as hubs for the sharing of fresh ideas or as a refuge for the jewish community during persecutions or pogroms. 


[The Ceremonial Hall / The view of the cemetery]

I had the opportunity to visit the majority of them and was touched by how each one of them plays a role in understanding the neighborhood, as some remain religious buildings and others were turned into museums or memorials.

DAY 9: The Hill Over Prague

To end my stay, my last day in Bohemia’s capital was dedicated to the Prazsky Hrad, a fortified structure dating back to early medieval times; a place of coronation for the Czech rulers and of surveillance during war and occupation.

The castle started being built in the 9th century and since then has been a seat of power for the king of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors and Czech presidents. It has been reconstructed countless times after fires and wars and nowadays is a complex structure combining many different architecture styles, even if the predominant one is the Gothic.


[The view from the castle’s hill / The ceiling inside the oldest rooms of the castle / The main entrance of St. Vitus Cathedral]

Next to it, one can also visit St. Vitus Cathedral. The current structure, built upon an older rotunda by Wenceslaus – a king and patron saint – dates back to the 14th century. It is a marvelous Gothic structure, whose completion only ended in the 20th century. Original elements coexist harmoniously with newer ones: for example, a new decorated window by Alfons Mucha, a famous Art Nouveau artist.

To finish the walk around the hill and overlooking the city, the southern gardens of the castle were a later add-on. Its current state results from a project from the 1920’s, by the famous slovenian architect Josip Plecnik, for the first czechoslovakian president, T. G. Masaryk.



 – Pinkas Synagogue –

Today a memorial, this synagogue speaks of the harsh chapter of history related to the Holocaust. Its walls are covered with all the names collected of deported Czech jews. Thousands died during WWII and in 1945, after the war, the jewish population of the city was reduced to less than a fourth. Apparently simple but impactful!

 – Spanish Synagogue – 

Before WWII, Prague had one of the biggest and liveliest jewish communities in Europe. The old ghetto had a couple of synagogues, being the last one to be built, the Spanish Synagogue, in the second half of the 19th century. Its Moorish Revival style is unique and speaks of the contemporary Jewish Enlightenment, which produced many famous books, marvelous music and works of art. During the historical Crystal Night, a pogrom in the prelude of WWII,  in 1938, that purposefully destroyed many synagogues and jewish property in diverse cities around Europe, and it served as well as a shelter for the jews of Prague.


[One of the walls in Pinkas Synagogue, where the names of deported jews are organized by family name and city of origin / The interiors of the Spanish Synagogue]

twenty – amsterdam – navigandum per hereditatem

Last day before Allegra’s departure! According to the plans we were supposed to go to Floriade, an international gardening exhibition held every ten years in the Netherlands in locations that change from edition to edition. Unfortunately, however, the plans were overturned by an unexpected setback. This morning Allegra woke up with a severe leg cramp and, after calling Gloria to her rescue, lost consciousness. The strangeness of the event startled us. Gloria immediately sought help by calling for help at the port. After we calmed down, we followed medical advice and went to the hospital.

In the emergency room, doctors did some assessment and concluded that it was syncope. Somewhat more reassured, we returned to the boat where we had a nice tomato pasta lunch. We then spent the afternoon quietly aboard Tethys and among Moses’ cuddles. We devoted ourselves to our creative project, listened to music and drank herbal teas. We relaxed and tried not to fret about what had happened in the morning.

It was a good time when we took stock of all the encounters, places, museums that filled our adventure. Here are some of our best memories!




nineteen – beemster – navigandum per hereditatem

The sky is blue, autumn is beginning to color the trees, and the sun is shining high. We could not have hoped for better weather for our rural adventure among the Beemster fields. We took a train with our bikes in order to ride back and forth. After few minutes cycling, we got in front of the old fort, which was once part of Amsterdam’s Defense Line. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been transformed into an eco-chic resort called Fort Resort Beemster. The former military building is now an oasis of hospitality and serenity, blending heritage with contemporary design.

The history of Beemster

We followed our cycle journey towards the information center where we found Jos Dings, former alderman at Beemster municipality. He kindly explained to us Beemster history and illustrated the changes in ancient maps. The Beemster polder represents unique landscapes, demonstrating the great skill of the Dutch in water management over the centuries. In the period before reclamation, water had broken many lives by destroying the dikes. Then a group of wealthy lords from the East India Company presented the plan to reclaim these territories. Historically a lake, the Beemster polder was first drained in 1609. The dam, however, did not withstand a storm surge. So land reclamation had to be resumed from the beginning. It was not completed until 1612, thanks to the use of 43 mills. Later water from the inner Schermeer Lake was also pumped and extracted. They employed 53 mills, resulting in the Schermer polder. Countryside at 3.5 m below sea level was transformed, cultivated and populated in the following centuries.The land, obtained by reclamation, was leased to farmers and cattle breeders. Wealthy merchants built imposing houses and country residences there. The project was architected in a geometric scheme. For a long time it was the windmills that had to ensure that the inhabitants did not run into danger and that the water levels were suitable for the cultivation of the land.


In the late 19th century the windmills were replaced by steam-powered pumping stations, and later still by diesel and electric pumps. Today the Beemster is divided into more than fifty sections, each with its own water level control. Farmers need a low water level under their land, while villagers want a high level to keep the piles under their houses from rotting. The ideal water level for livestock farmers is in the middle, while environmentalists have made their own demands. In the past, water was pumped out only to prevent flooding, but today, in times of drought, water is also pumped into the Beemster. This is possible because the IJsselmeer, the former Zuiderzee, now contains fresh quality water suitable for agriculture.
In 1999, the Beemster polder was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Currently, the Beemster does not consist solely of agricultural land. It includes pastures for dairy production, greenhouses for horticulture, orchards and 200 hectares reserved for tulip cultivation. Viewed from above, one notices the geometric pattern of pure squares of land, cut by canals.

Delicacies from Beemster

Not far from the information center was Beemster Church, where we found kind ladies who escorted us to the top of the steeple. From up there we admired a breathtaking view of such an unusually geometric passage. Once back down, we admired a hidden room in the church decorated with classic Dutch pottery with blue and white figures. The room contained the ancient footstools under which a small fire was placed to warm the bodies of the worshippers during winter prayers.
By now it was lunchtime and we gave in to the temptation to try the very famous beemster cheese. Beemster cheese is a hard cow’s milk cheese. Beemster is made in the same way as other hard cheeses such as Gouda. Beemster’s distinct flavor is due to the ingredients (milk from grass grown on sea-clay in a polder 4 meters below sea level), the fact that part of the production process (curd stirring) is done by hand, and the cheeses are ripened in changing conditions.

Refreshed and rested, we resumed our bicycle route passing through crops, pastures, pumpkin vendors and wonderful sloping-roofed houses. The roof of these houses is typically made of thatch. A totally environmentally friendly material, thatch gives the roofs high thermal insulation power, protecting them from even the heaviest rains. Over time, moreover, straw loses its original golden color to take on an elegant gray hue.


An artistic surprise

Later, we reached De Rijp, which has been called ’Holland’s most beautiful village’. Herring fishing and whaling brought prosperity in the 17th century, resulting in the construction of beautiful town halls, warehouses, houses, and churches.  Our tour among the mills and cows continued until we happened upon the old elementary school recently purchased and renovated by Wil van Blokland. She is an extraordinary artist who works primarily with ceramics. In this wonderful space she decided to create her studio and exhibition space where she welcomes artists from all over the world. Wil showed us her artwork that we were so strongly attracted to that we purchased small pieces from the porcelain potatoes collection. 

Ecstatic with this day full of new historical, naturalistic, and artistic discoveries, we set off home for a warm dinner on board!


eighteen – amsterdam – navigandum per hereditatem

Luckily, Tetide gave some technical problems in the Dutch capital, which is always a pleasure to visit for a few more days. The day was divided into mechanical attempts at repair by Gloria, who thanks to her technical skills knows where to put her hands, and museums and neighborhoods outside the center for Allegra.

Christians and Protestants

The first daily destination was Our Lord in the Attic Museum, a rare and well-preserved 17th-century canal house. Narrow corridors and stairs lead to historically decorated living quarters, kitchens, and bedsteads, culminating in the museum’s literal highlight: a complete church in the attic. Jan Hartman, a wealthy Catholic merchant, commissioned the attic church, which was dedicated in 1663.
A Protestant city government is in power while Hartman and his family live in the canal house. It is illegal to practice the Catholic faith in public. Former Catholic churches and monasteries have been confiscated and converted to Protestant worship. Catholics must seek alternatives and celebrate Mass in hidden house churches from now on. The city government tolerates this because the principle of freedom of conscience applies in the Republic of the Netherlands! Everyone is free to think and believe whatever they want behind the front door. This created an unusually tolerant environment in which different religious groups could coexist and work together in the city. The attic church has a seating capacity of 150 people. Worshippers enter the church through a small alley door called Heintje Hoekssteeg. They then ascend the stairs to the church in the attic. The Baroque altar is the crowning achievement of the attic church. It is flanked by two marbled columns adorned with putti holding lilies. The wooden carvings from the eighteenth century are actually candleholders. The pedestal of the left altar column serves a dual purpose: it folds out to reveal a mahogany pulpit, saving space.
Visiting Our Lord in the Attic Museum was an interesting experience not only to immerse us into an ancient reality, but also to understand the practical consequences of religious schism in The Netherlands. 


De Pijp, a bohémien district

The second stop was Albert Cuyp market, Amsterdam’s most famous and busiest market. It is located in the heart of the De Pijp district. Everything is for sale! Cuyp’s open-air market has retained its original atmosphere and is a great place to sample specialties of Dutch cuisine, such as raw herring sandwiches or fries covered in tasty dips, and to receive a glimpse of the 170 peoples living in Amsterdam thanks to the exotic and rare products for sale. Opened in 1905, the Cuyp market is open Monday through Saturday. The stalls, which line one after the other on both sides of Albert Cuyp street, have the cheapest prices in Amsterdam. The walk continued in the neighborhood of De Pijp. One of Amsterdam’s most vibrant and cosmopolitan areas, located right in the southern part of the Dutch capital. Born as a working-class neighborhood to alleviate the overpopulation of the Joordan district, De Pijp is now a melting pot of different cultures and nationalities.


Round and round 

After eating a sandwich in park in the district, Allegra went to another park: Vondelpark, which with its 45 hectares is Amsterdam’s main green lung. In 1864, some distinguished citizens, fascinated by the idea of having a park in which they could recreate or ride horses, decided to entrust the project to architect L. D. Zocher. Originally the park was located in a rather marginal area of the city, but today it is located in the center of town. In this immense green space there are more than 130 varieties of trees and plants but also carpets of English lawns, flowers, ponds with ducks and swans, bicycle paths, a music kiosk and a white pavilion that make Vondelpark one of the most charming and splendid places in all of Amsterdam. Allegra randomly bumped into a work by Pablo Picasso, the sculpture “Figure découpée l’Oiseau” in the shape of a bird found near the small lake. The Catalan artist decided to donate it to the city of Amsterdam in 1965 on the occasion of the park’s centenary.

The last district to visit was Oud West, a triangular area located west of centrum and surrounded by greenery. For sure, the most vibrant neighborhood: the main streets were full of special caffe, pubs and shops. Each of them was characterized by a unique identity. In addition to that, on the sidewalk there were many stalls offering painting activities for children, appetizers with oysters and champagne, handmade hats and live music. It was really magic because the perception was to pass by a very innovative and proactive district populated by Amsterdam inhabitants.
Amsterdam is magic and makes us fall in love with it !



“Bergen was long the biggest city in Scandinavia, and Bryggen was the city’s heart.”

My last stop was the one I had been looking forward to the most; the World Heritage City of Bergen in Norway. The 7 hour train ride from Oslo to Bergen is already incredible in itself, time flies while passing countless lakes, small villages and snowy mountains.

Bergen is the name of the city – located on the west coast of Norway. Bryggen, however, is the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is located within the city of Bergen. It is the old wharf of Bergen, part of the Hanseatic League (just like Visby!). It consists of around 62 wooden buildings that have been burned down and rebuild many times over the centuries, but the traditional patterns and methods remained… Bryggen was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979.

Bergen is known for its beautiful surroundings, its nickname being ‘the capital of the fjords’, so of course I did several incredible hikes in the area, each view was even more impressive than the last. One of the many possibilities is taking the Floybanen to go up to Floyen mountain and seeing the city of Bergen from above. Alternatively, it is also absolutely incredible to take a boat cruise and see the fjords from up close!

On my last day, I was lucky enough to meet Hege Agathe Bakke-Alisoy, who gave me a tour of the Bryggen site and explained its history throughout the years. We discussed the effects of climate change on cultural heritage as well as on the city as a whole, giving me several interesting examples of initiatives that are working on this subject.

Many positive things written about the way Bergen is setting an example for climate action globally, something that was confirmed in my conversation with the World Heritage Coordinator as well as other people working in the office of Bergen Kommune. It is something that has been taking centre stage in their decision-making and policies for several years, something that is taken very seriously. The City council of Bergen published the ‘Green Strategy: Climate and Energy Action Plan for Bergen’ in 2016, a very concrete and detailed action plan that you can read online,

Bergen might have been my favourite stop of the whole trip, its rich culture and beautiful fjords are unmatched! Definitely take your time when you visit this World Heritage City, a couple of days will not be enough for you 😊


From Visby and on my way to Bergen, I made a short stop in the city of Kongsberg, Norway. I stayed here for 2 days in a wonderful Airbnb!

Kongsberg (Viken County) is a historical mining town, just one and a half hours by train from Norway’s capital of Oslo. It is one of the only places where you could mine silver in Europe, operating from 1623 until 1958.

The mines are located in a beautiful park that is also great for hiking! My Airbnb host, Tale, was kind enough to give me a guided tour of the historical area – she knew everything there was to know about Kongsberg’s history and the old silver mines. We walked around for a few hours and even managed to sneak into Kongsberg Church, a beautiful and unusual building with a surprising theatre-like interior.

Even though I was only there for a short time, Kongsberg is definitely worth a visit!

seventeen – amsterdam – navigandum per hereditatem

Change of plan

Not every morning starts in the best way. Unfortunately, today’s day brought us some trouble right from the start. Our plan was to leave Amsterdam and head for Leiden by crossing the inner canals. To do this we would have had to leave at night because there are railroad bridges that open only at 3 and 4 a.m. Before leaving, however, it was necessary to take back and reassemble the engine component that had been fixed by the mechanic. Gloria immediately tried her hand at reassembling the parts and tried to access the engine to see if there were still water leaks. Unfortunately, a few drops still gushed out, but this time from the hose instead of the pump. Moreover, after a few attempts to start the engine, there was a strange noise of stuck gears and a burning smell. Immediately Gloria stopped the attempts and contacted an experienced mechanism from Italy who suggested step by step what to do to figure out the cause of the problem. The situation is more complicated than expected. Maybe it’s the batteries, maybe it’s the battery charger, or maybe it’s the starter motor. Hard to tell. 

The Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam

After a long and agitated morning, we understand that we had to wait and that we are unlikely to be able to sail in the next few days. We decide, therefore, to break away for a while, have lunch, and go for a walk around downtown. Our afternoon is once again absorbed in artistic discoveries, this time in the field of photography at the Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (FOAM). As soon as we started visiting we bumped into “Blessings from Mousganistan”, an exhibition by self-taught photographer Mous Lamrabat (Morocco, 1983). Lamrabat’s work is characterized by beauty and a sense of hope. His work is an exhilarating and occasionally confronting fusion of his diasporic life, employing beauty and humour to create powerful new narratives about sensitive issues such as racism, religion, and women’s rights. The artist conveys a message of love through a colorful and eclectic visual experience in Blessings from Mousganistan.


But the most interesting part was exhibited at the first floor. The group exhibition is entitled Foam Talent 2022 and presents the work of a new generation of artists. The 20 participating artists examine both the world around us and the one within – without fear of discomfort or pain. Climate change, political conflict, discrimination, displacement, and social justice issues are addressed in the works, which remind us that photography has the ability to capture the unspeakable. One of the artists that impressed us the most is Yushi Lii. Moving deftly between vulnerability and quiet violence, so the work of Yushi Li holds the viewer in its thrall. Her gaze falls ipon contemporary masculinity, desire and eroticism, as well as the often-unspoken awkwardness of a potentially sexual encounter. 

But what we liked the most was Kata Geibl’s masterpiece, “There Is Nothing New Under The Sun”. In this monograph she interrogates the rampant individualism that underpins our contemporary social, political and economic system and how capitalist ideology infiltrates our consciousness. She brings this to life by means of photographs, quotations, critical theory, personal essays and cultural references. The book invites the viewer on a journey of immense existential questioning as we confront what it means to be human in this moment. There are no easy answers, just an impulse to unsettle establishing narratives, expose the underlying ideology and metabolize the chaos all in the spirit of transformation.
Reading and looking at her images and words was a mental journey that we will not forget easily. He felt so lucky because we had a chance to take two of her photographs directly from the exhibition wall. 

Typical Dutch dinner

Once again, art has used its super powers to elevate our mood. So, happy and content, we returned to the boat, took a quick shower and then took our bikes back to the typical Dutch restaurant where some of Allegra’s university classmates were waiting for us. The restaurant’s name is ’t Zwaantje, instead of tablecloths there are thick Dutch carpets, there are copper pots hanging from the ceiling and dim lights reminiscent of candle lighting.
How nice to get together in such a typical setting! after sitting down at the table, we immediately began to tell the boys about our trip and adventures. Only after a while did we remember to order! We tried many different specialties such as “Saté van varkenshaas met pindasaus”, which is sate of pork tenderloin with peanut sauce, and “Kip in ’t pannetje”, which is chicken in a pan. And of course, we had a lot of Dutch fries!

sixteen – brussels – navigandum per hereditatem

Looking for Art Nouveau houses

One of the first things Anna, the lady who hosted us in Brussels, showed us was a wonderful book with beautiful illustrations of the city at the turn of the last century before splendid 18th-century buildings were demolished and when Art Nouveau was at its peak. Therefore, we could not resist following a short itinerary in search of some of the masterpieces of the artist and architect Horta. A forerunner of Art Nouveau, Horta revolutionized the way people conceived of dwelling buildings, broadening the architect’s task from the design of spaces, interior and exterior, to a conception that also included the study and implementation of lighting, furniture, wall decoration, even objects. According to the definition of one of his admirers, French architect Hector Guimard, Horta was an “artist architect” who conceived of the home as a “total” work of art, like a “shell” built around its owner. We were so curious that we read a lot of information while walking from one house to another.

«To each epoch, its art. To art, its freedom.» 

This motto, displayed on the frontage of J.M. Olbrich’s Secession House in Vienna in 1898, reflects the desire to which Art Nouveau was a response: the desire to break away from imitating styles of the past, to develop an art that reflected the sensitivities and way of life of a particular society, the extreme individuality of the artist dreaming of inventing an original language that would ensure the absolute harmony of life’s ornamentation. With its newly acquired wealth in commercial or industrial enterprises, the private home became the framework for an aesthetic experience for a new middle class. Art Nouveau was thus adopted by progressive individuals who sought to assert their modernity before it became widespread across all social classes or a passing fad. Images in decorative arts magazines and in commerce (department stores or magasins d’art) spread the word.

Our favorite house was Saint-Cyr house, one of the most extravagant Art Nouveau achievements. It was built by Victor Horta’s protégé, architect Gustave Strauven. Between 1901 and 1903, he built and designed this house for the painter George Saint-Cyr. The four-meter-wide narrow façade is rich in delicately crafted ironwork. The circular loggia surmounted by a wrought iron gable in Baroque style is one of the most stunning elements of the façade. The house has a fairy-tale atmosphere thanks to the architectural twist and ornamentation.


A coffee with the Italian Ambassador

After this amazing walking, we took the underground to get to the Italian Embassy in Brussels. We were so honored and grateful to be welcomed there. It was a great thrill to dialogue with Ambassador Francesco Genuardi, tell him about our project and answer his questions. In addition, we had the opportunity to ask more about his work and what it means to represent Italy in a country of central importance for European purposes, such as Belgium. The ambassador explained to us his role in connecting Belgian and Italian instances from both economic and political and cultural perspectives. We were positively impressed by his openness to citizenship and youth initiatives. 


It’s time to leave Belgium

Unfortunately, time ran out in Brussels and we had to head to the bus station where with some difficulty we found our Blablabus waiting for us to leave. Before reaching our destination, which is Amsterdam, we passed through Rotterdam, a city we did not know and were dazzled by as we peered out of the windows. During the long bus ride, we rested and used the time to post social content about the wonderful days in Belgium. 

Once we arrived in Amsterdam we ran into the doors to greet Moses the cat who patiently waited for us during these days away. Just enough time to unpack and then we got right to work preparing a small aperitif for Door Mariam and her boyfriend. Door Mariam studies in Groningen as Gloria and writes for the online newspaper Ukrant. Interested in our project she asked us for an interview. It was an in-depth and extremely pleasant conversation. It was an opportunity to focus on all the activities we had copied over the past weeks and reflect on them. After letting them taste some Italian amaro, we said our goodbyes and sank into bed to give ourselves a great rest!