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The best libraries in Europe

They might be places you never thought of visiting, but the best libraries in large European cities actually have a lot to offer. Some of them have witnessed important historic events and others are famous for their contemporary architecture. So let's keep our voices down and discover the best libraries in Europe.

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Minsk, the great unknown.

Imagine, for example that we have a few free days to escape to any of our destinations Vueling. So why not visit Minsk?

The capital of Belarus is maybe one of the most unknown destinations that we could choose. However, it is a mesmerizing town, full of culture that will surprise almost everyone, quite sure!

Minsk is the cultural epicenter of the country. Its first theaters and libraries were built in the mid nineteenth century and today we find eleven theaters, museums sixteen, nine libraries - among which is found the National Library of Belarus- and a wide range of concert halls.

The best way to get around the city is using its modern metro, which was built in the 80s and that consists of two lines that connect the center with the periphery of Minsk. Or using a still current transport as trolleybus or tram to quietly contemplate the city and feel like the protagonist of a film set in the Cold War. Remember also that Minsk is considered one of the cleanest and safest cities in Europe.

For dining, Minsk has a strong influence both Ukrainian and Russian. Undoubtedly, the typical dish of the city are mushrooms combined with many sauces as you can imagine. Plus Borsch, beetroot soup served with a sour cream called smetana with pieces of meat. Special mention to typical local fish like herring, or the more expensive and luxurious product from sea world: caviar. On the other hand, the Vodka, the Bela-Cola and Kefir are the most common drinks.

Let's review some of the most emblematic places of the city, that you should visit if you are in the Belarusian capital city:

1.-Victory Square

Minsk's main square. Located in the city center and dedicated to the Great Patriotic War. It is the place where the most important events in the capital are celebrated, as well as parades and concerts. In the center there is an 40 meters high obelisk . It is prism-shaped and on the bottom there is an eternal flame in honor of the soldiers of the Soviet Army and the partisans of Belarus.

2.-National Museum of History and Culture

Issuing the largest collection of material and spiritual culture of the Belarusian people, from 40,000 BC to this day. There we can see from ancient manuscripts, archaeological finds, to costumes and heraldic collections.

3.-Cathedral of the Holy Spirit

Built between 1633 and 1642, it is one of the few historic buildings of the city. Currently works as an art gallery and includes a superb collection of Orthodox icons such as Mother of God, discovered in the sixteenth, that work is thought by San Lucas.

4.-Island of Tears

Across the river Svisloch we find a small island where stands a monument dedicated to Belarusians soldiers killed in Afghanistan. It consists of four altars with the names of the 771 soldiers engraved on them. According to tradition, the newlyweds of Minsk should visit the monument.

5.-National Library of Minsk

It is certainly one of the most modern architectural projects of the city. A building of 72 feet tall and 22 floors diamond-shaped, modernist and futurist. At night, becomes one of the most emblematic of the city thanks to its dramatic lighting.

6.-Museum of Great Patriotic War

Second World War Museum was the first museum to open during the course of the war commemorating the German-Soviet battle after the end of the Nazi occupation. Inside we can see from a model of concentration camp until a section devoted to the Belarusian resistance. 7.- Park Chelyuskinites The Amusement Park of Minsk. Its appeal lies in the essential conservation thereof, dated 1932 In addition to all kinds of attractions, you can also enjoy the beautiful botanical garden next to it.

Imagen de Monk - Ihar Mahaniok

Por Jordi Herrero

A place well worth discovering! Check out our flights here.

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In the Footsteps of Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc is one of those unforgettable historical figures with a passionate biography. Her life has spawned a myriad of books and films that attempt to uncover the secrets of that mysterious personage. Born into times of upheaval, against the backdrop of the Thirty Years’ War, she went from being a humble, illiterate countrywoman to leading an army of five thousand men, all prompted by her “visions”. It was God himself that talked to her and told her she had a mission to accomplish – to lead the French army and drive out the English in order to achieve the coronation of Charles VII of France. Quite a feat! This might seem outlandish to us now but, in the early 15th century, the role and power of religion were undisputed. Not for nothing were kings thus proclaimed “by the grace of God”. What’s more, the recipient of these visions was a brave and tenacious woman with powerful convictions.

Orleans, the City that Saw Her Triumph

One of the key moments in her life took place in Orleans, for which she was thenceforth known as the Maid of Orleans. On 8 May 1429 she accomplished one of her most extraordinary feats by liberating the city from the English, which marked the beginning of the reconquest of the occupied territories. To commemorate her victory, the Joan of Arc Festival is held in Orleans at this time  every year at which her momentous feat is re-enacted through mock battles, accompanied by a modern festival event, the Set Electro Festival, with various DJ performances.

During the siege of Orleans, our heroine lived in the house of Jacques Boucher, treasurer to the Duke of Orleans. Rebuilt in 1960, it is currently known as the House of Joan of Arc. The building features a multimedia room, and a research and documentation centre for those wishing to learn more about the Maid of Orleans and her passage through the city.

For the more scholarly researchers, the Joan of Arc Centre houses one of the largest libraries on the subject, enabling visitors to consult a host of period manuscripts and documents.

Rouen – the Tragic End

After her passage through Orleans, Joan of Arc sought to lay down her arms, as she had ceased to have visions, but she was entreated to return to the battlefield and ended up acquiescing. This time things did not go so well. After being defeated in a number of campaigns, in 1430 she was captured by the Burgundians, handed over to the English and taken to Rouen. Here commenced the most arduous episode in her life. After a lengthy inquisitorial procedure, she was accused of heresy and witchcraft and sentenced to be burned at the stake.

During her interrogation, she was incarcerated in the Dungeon or Joan of Arc Tower, part of the castle built by Philippe Auguste in 1204. Still standing, the castle is open to the public.

The Archiepiscopal Palace, an acclaimed specimen of medieval architecture and the setting for part of the legal process was recently converted into the Historial Jeanne d’Arc. Inaugurated in March 2015, it is now the largest area dedicated to the memory of Joan of Arc. Its 1,000m2 of floor space is endowed with the latest technologies for narrating and unveiling the history of our heroine and taking us back to the period she lived in.

Joan of Arc was executed on 30 May 1431 in the Place du Vieux Marché, now an essential place of pilgrimage. The Church of Joan of Arc was built in the square in 1979, designed by the architect, Louis Arretche, for a dual purpose – to honour St Joan of Arc and as a civilian memorial to the heroine. The church was built on the very spot where the saint was burned alive, and the exact location of her martyrdom is duly marked.

How to Get There

Both destinations are a train journey of just over an hour away from Paris. The Orleans train runs from the Gare Austerlitz, while the Rouen line starts at the Gare Saint-Lazare.

Live out the story of Joan of Arc – check out our flights to Paris here.

Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Photos by fidber, Roger Salz and Edhral


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