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Five parks to inspire you in Compostela

Bad-minded gossip says that the city of Apostol is the biggest village in Galicia, which paradoxically is something that true-blood Santiago-dwellers take to be a compliment. And it is, because as a parameter for quality of life, there is greenery and vegetation on every corner of the ancient city, and it makes it special. Green clambers over the seven hills; it invades all of the stony gutters in the streets; it even dares to boldly play with the façade of the cathedral.

In "Huertas", the back garden of Obradoiro, urban and rural mix mimetically, without any kind of ego struggle. The city has lately succumbed to the unstoppable advance of the green element. Compostela has always had a kind of contest between the weight of its history and modernity. The presence of what is old is counteracted by ragingly modern avant-garde architecture, and has turned the great green spaces into a network of world level parks. More than a garden city, it is a garden with districts inside it.

Let's assume that the stone forest has overwhelmed you by its beauty, and you now want to meditate. We suggest taking a green route to see a unique side of Compostela. This would be my list of top Compostela parks.

1.-The Eternal Alameda Park. It is not new. It is the nineteenth-century park par excellence. At the foot of Porta Faxeira, and separating the old and new areas, it has been clothed in the history of the city since last century, when it was turned from a private estate into one of the most beautifully classical parks in the world. It has everything it needs to make you fall in love: hundred-year-old trees with their dry, twisted trunks; the Herradura walkway, also called the Cholesterol walk - for recovering from an excess of Galician food; the most beautiful views of all sides of the town; fountains; churches; wrought-iron benches from the turn of the century; and the bandstand that is essential for any provincial city worth its salt.

2.-Bonaval. Design and modernity near the old area: From a domesticated park, we go to a magical place that embraces the historical quarter. The old monastic garden of Santo Domingo always had a slightly esoteric side. Abandoned for years, its soft sloping terraces were taken by Siza and turned from a leafy park into a highly modern piece of design work. Meticulously pruned green areas, caves, an ancient graveyard integrated into the park, and magnificent views of the cathedral are all blended with the existing old stone structures and ruins. Water, cave and "strange" shapes make it modern, enigmatic and special.

3.-Banks of the Sarela. An enchanted forest in the centre of the town: two rivers cross Compostela, in the Barrio del Carmen. When eco-hiking became really fashionable, a decision was made to restore their abandoned banks and make the most beautiful urban-rural walk I have seen. The several kilometres of incessant water of the winding Sarela, babbling springs between wooden footbridges, stone bridges, thick forests and even abandoned tanning works make the place a natural, rustic garden - in the heart of the city.

4.-Belvís. Monastic splendour behind the old part of town: Belvis is a watercourse that was always considered a green backbone to the East of the historic quarter. And it was always abandoned. A passageway between Virxen da Cerca and the traditional Belvis, this park highlights the beautiful hills that surround this hollow. It is a real gift for your eyes: the splendid monasteries of Belvis and the Seminary at the top, the stony Santiago that rises up above, and an always silent and scenic park, whose maze is a perfect place to lose yourself.

5.-Vista Alegre Park. The park of surprises. The wealthy Simeón family opens its small palace and magnificent garden. You enter through the two old gates to the property that are always open, and the pink country-house has all the elements of the Galician country-house, such as the chapel, galleries, etc. If the garden were the prototype of any powerful family, special effort was put into dressing each of its corners with the most florid avant-garde architecture. The SGAE headquarters like the Flintstones' house; Casa Europa; Escola de Altos Estudios Musicales; the Natural History Museum. Four avant-garde structures that lend the finishing touch to a classical garden.

By Fran Camino

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Discover the Splendour of Potsdams Parks and Palaces

Potsdam, which lies south-west of Berlin, has a lot to offer visitors, notably its spectacular UFA Film Studio (currently known as the Babelsberg Studio) – the oldest and largest in Europe – the Einstein Tower, designed by architect Erich Mendelsohn, and the city’s unique Dutch Quarter. However, the standout feature of this city is its beautiful, splendid parks and palaces, which led some of them to be listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. We take you on a tour of these fabulous gems, some of which are worthy of the great Versailles itself.

Sanssouci Park – the Jewel in the Crown
Just over a half-an-hour’s ride on public transport from Berlin lies Sanssouci Park, featuring what for many might be termed the German Versailles, which draws thousands of visitors each year. The precinct houses a large number of parks and palaces, each of them more beautiful and surprising than the next. The artificer of this ensemble was Frederick the Great who, in his endeavour to find a place where he could get away from the pomp of the Berlin Court, hit upon this wonderful spot and commissioned what would become an idyllic retreat. The very name of the park is a statement of intent as it reveals the monarch’s penchant for French culture. It is derived from the French term,sans souci,meaning “without worries”.

Among the major landmarks in the park is the Sanssouci Palace, built from 1745 to 1747 and designed by the architect, Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff. Noteworthy areas in this crowning work of the Rococo are the Marble Hall, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, the delicately ornamented Music Room and the Library, which needless to say contains the works of such French writers as Voltaire, a friend of Frederick the Great, who was also a great admirer of his.

In addition to this fabulous summer palace, the park also features other equally unique landmarks commissioned by Frederick the Great and his successors. One such construction is the Chinese House (Chinesisches Haus), a clover-shaped pavilion of eastern inspiration, which was very much in vogue at the time, the Orangery (Orangerieschloss), with towers affording splendid views over the park, the New Palace (Neues Palais), commissioned by Frederick the Great to commemorate the end of the Seven Years’ War, and the Picture Gallery (Bildergalerie), boasting works by artists of the likes of Correggio, Rembrandt, Rubens, Anthony van Dyck and Antoine Watteau.

Potsdam’s “New Garden”
In the north of Potsdam lies the Neuer Garten (New Garden), another large park of which the highlight is the Jungfernsee lake. A must-visit is the Marmorpalais (Marble Palace), the summer retreat of Friedrich Wilhelm II, featuring a stunningly ornamented interior which has left more than a few visitors awestruck. Also sited here is the Cecilienhof Palace, a rural palace in Tudor style. It went down in history as being the location of the Potsdam Conference, held during the last few months of World War II.

Reopening Babelsberg Park and Palace
After remaining closed for seven decades, Babelsberg Park and Palace is now decked out to welcome visitors. To mark this long-awaited reopening, from 29 April to 15 October an exhibition will be held as a tribute to Prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Pückler-Muskau, a landscape gardener and artificer, among others, of this park and these gardens. The exhibition will be sited in Babelsberg Palace. Built as of 1833 as the summer residence of future Emperor William I and his wife, Augusta, it was designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel according to the stylistic tenets of English Tudor. The large park, for its part, was designed by Peter Joseph Lenné, while in 1840 Prince Pückler-Muskau culminated the work by lending his own touch to the gardens.

Book your Vueling to Berlin and relish your tour of the marvels offered by the city of Potsdam.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Photos by Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg

 

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The 5 Must-See Parks in Madrid

1. El Retiro – the Most Popular of All

Stretching across 118 hectares, El Retiro Park is one of Madrid’s best known green areas. Close to the centre and readily accessible, it has long been a favourite among both Madrilenians and visitors to the city. Its origins go back to the period 1631–1640, when a second royal residence, known as the Palacio del Buen Retiro, was built on this site, the surrounding parkland being designated as a leisure area for the monarchs. Hardly anything has survived from those times as the palace was demolished after the Peninsula War in 1808. Following the revolution of 1868, the park was declared a public facility.

If you have a day to spend in El Retiro, you can fit in a stroll in search of Madrid’s purportedly oldest tree, have some refreshment at one of the kiosks, go for a boat ride on the Estanque Grande (Large Pond), see one of the scheduled exhibitions in the Velázquez Palace or the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace), soak up the lush vegetation, research the park’s history through its fountains and statues and discover one of the few sculptures of the Ángel Caído (Fallen Angel).

2. The Casa de Campo – Madrid’s Largest Public Park

This is the largest urban park in Spain, spread across 1,722 hectares. It was once a preserve of the Spanish Crown, for which it operated as a hunting area, among other things. With the proclamation of the Second Republic, the park was made over to the city of Madrid and turned into a public precinct.

The Casa de Campo is the perfect spot for doing such sports as cycling, running, hiking and football. It also has sports facilities for tennis and swimming, and you can go canoeing or sailing on its iconic lake.

But the park offers more than just sport, boasting a large number of leisure facilities: an amusement park, zoo, various fairgrounds, the Madrid Arena multi-purpose pavilion and the Venta del Batán. Another of the major attractions here is the cableway linking the Casa del Campo to the Parque del Oeste, affording magnificent views over the park and the city of Madrid.

3. The Regal Air of the Campo del Moro Gardens

Designated an “Art Historical Garden” in 1931, it stretches across 20 hectares, running from the west side of the Royal Palace to the Paseo de la Virgen del Puerto. Legend has it that, in 1109, the Almoravid leader, Ali ben Yusuf, camped in these grounds during his attempt at reconquering the former Alcázar Real, which accounts for the name of the gardens.

The Campo del Moro Gardens are one of three parklands belonging to the Royal Palace. Comparatively unknown by Madrilenians, they afford unique views of the palace. It is the perfect spot for strolling around and relaxing. Two sculptural groups are prominent in the park’s central hub – the Triton Fountain and the Fountain of the Shells. A curiosity is the House of Cork, a small, romantically inspired templet of a simplicity that contrasts with the rest of the area.

4. The Royal Botanical Gardens – Hallmark of the Enlightenment

Founded in 1755 by Ferdinand VI near the river Manzanares, in 1781 they were moved on the orders of Charles II to their current location on the Paseo del Prado, next door to the Prado Museum, then known as the Natural Science Museum.

The Royal Botanical Gardens reflect the spirit of the Enlightenment, the period in which they were designed. The gardens are laid out on three stepped terraces and feature plants from Europe, the Americas and the Pacific, numbering around 5,000 species in all. The grounds include a library which boasts a herbarium of over half a million sheets, and an archive with nearly 10,000 drawings. It was designated an “Artistic Garden” in 1942.

5. El Capricho – A Romantic Spot

Situated in the Alameda de Osuna, it is a veritable gem and yet comparatively unknown by local citizens. In 1985 it was listed as a Cultural Interest Site. The gardens were commissioned in 1784 by Doña María Josefa Pimentel, the Duchess of Osuna, and reflect the romanticist taste of the time, with English, French and Italian references. Sited in the gardens is a palace, a shrine, fountains, sculptural groups, ponds and a maze, all in a botanically rich setting. Several anti-aircraft shelters were built there during the Spanish Civil War, although the sole surviving vestiges are some air vents.

Ready to discover a “greener” Madrid? Check out our flights here.

 

Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by Naliade, Pablo Sanchez, Kus Cámara, M a n u e l

 

 

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Destinations for the November bank holiday weekend

There are lots of clichés about travelling in autumn: that it's low season, the weather's still mild, cities look nicer... But the truth is that it's an ideal time of year to take a break from your routine. Besides, there's a bank holiday weekend at the beginning of November, which means you can enjoy these wonderful places even more. Let us guide you with a few recommendations on places that are particularly charming at this time of year.

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