Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mannekken Pis, Brussels and his girlfriend Jeanneke Pis!

Back to Belgium after a series of posts from Switzerland, Norway and Finland.

For no apparent reason, this little statue of a boy is made a famous tourist attraction in Brussels, Belgium. Almost everyone who visits Brussels will stop by at Mannekken Pis.

The term Mannekken Pis literally translates to "little boy peeing".  There is no official history as to if there was a small boy of historical importance, but there are many legends. The most popular one, according to our guide, goes as below

Sometime in 14th Century, city of Brussels was under attach by enemies, who laid a seize to the fort. Enemies were planning to blow off the fort entrance with explosives, but a little boy who stood on the fort wall and urinated on the explosive accidentally defused the trigger, thus saving the city.

There are few more legends, according to this wikipedia page but not impressive enough.

Apparently the statue has become pride of the city and its identity, just like how Copenhagen is associated with Little Mermaid. There have been several instances where statue was stolen and total chaos and unrest erupted in the city. Subsequently if the statue gets stolen Police would first replace it with a duplicate (to avoid public anger) and then set on to capture the thief.

The Mannekken Pis statue has over 1000 different style of clothing, often donated by people. Each day he can be seen in different costume.

You can occasionally see an old man moving around with a mobile version of Manneken Pis sprinkling water on tourists.

About two decades ago, Mannekken Pis has got a female counterpart- Jeanneke-Pis, located at the end of a small alley (Called Fidelity Alley) just a block away from where Mannekken Pis is located. Some say she is Mannekken's sister, others maintain she is his girlfriend. Upto you how you want to believe it as there no history for this. Some say that the statue of Jeanneke was set up by owner of a restaurant in the street, who was upset about poor number of customers visiting his restaurant, as it was in the end of a small alley where visibility and footfall was minimum. Having a tourist attraction close by will bring more people to the alley and hopefully some of them will visit his shop and give some business. After the Jeanneke Pis statue was installed in 1987, the alley did become popular and restaurant also got more customers. Owner has since sold his shop for decent profit.
Rumors are also floated that throwing money onto this statue will make you wishes come true. Jeanekken's statue is protected by iron grill to ensure that money stays inside and statue is prevented from theft and damage.
Not very fascinated by the statue or the 'legend' but that doesn't matter. Stop by this statue for a few minutes when in Brussels.

Other Brussels posts- Royal palace interiors * Hostel Louise review *

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Russian Orthodox Church of St Nicholas, Vilnius

Russian Orthodox church of St Nicholas was a small church I casually explored in Vilnius, capital city of Lithuania. It is very small but interiors are very different from other other churches I have seen.

The Russian Orthodox Church of St Nicholas is full 7 centuries old, though it received occasional renovation. This is one of the oldest Orthodox churches in the world (More about Orthodox concept here)
As I went inside, there was a signage that prohibited photography. It was not clear if photography is prohibited or flash alone is banned (many places allow photography without flash). So I asked a lady inside the church (she was manning a counter that sells stuff like candles and lamps that devotees purchase for use in religious practices) if I can click. She signaled 'Fine' and I took some pictures.

St Nicholas church is very small church, near the the Vilnius Town hall.  Worth few minutes I spent on it.

Other Lithuania posts- 9th Fort Kaunas *  Lithuanian Aviation Museum * Devils' Museum * 10 reasons why Lithuania makes ideal weekend getaway in Europe * Kaunas Castle

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square: Pictures

Indian Bloggers
Helsinki cathedral is located right behind Senate Square in Helsinki, Finland. Built in mid 19th century, many of Helsinki's important events have taken place around it. When I visited, right half of the cathedral was under renovation, hence covered.

 Helsinki Cathedral interiors

Senate square is walkable from Helsinki city centre. There is no need to take a taxi or tram. On once side is Helsinki university and on the other side is palace. Market Square is also walkable from Senate square area.
 Wikipedia has more detailed history of these places.

Similar- Rock church, Helsinki * Kamppi Chapel * Skywatch Helsinki

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Short Visit: Scenic town of Voss near Bergen, Norway

Deciding to visit Voss was not best of my decisions. I could have tried Norway in a Nutshell full day trip instead of just visiting Voss, if only I could plan better.

I should have taken the train till Myrdal and visit FLAM train. Flamsbana or the Flam Railway is pegged as one of the most beautiful railway tracks in the world. But due to my poor planning and because tourist information centre was closed on Sunday, I couldn't plan my day 2 in Bergen well. The train to Myrdal will stop for full 20 minutes in Voss, which is good enough to take a quick walk around town and come back to station. But due to my poor planning I took ticket only till Voss- with a plan of checking out Voss and returning to Bergen.

Train Journey to Voss was through very scenic mountains and lakes around the mountains of Norway. I just had to keep my eyes open and look around.

As we approached Voss, I could see snow on the top of nearby peaks
 I had taken an early morning train that reached Voss at about 8 AM. The whole town of Voss was still asleep. There were not much to see in Voss. A church, a lake, few hotels and almost that's it.

Voss town centre
 Voss Lake
 A home in Voss
There was an information centre in Voss, but it was closed on Sundays. There was no free WiFi anywhere in Voss town, so I couldn't connect to net. Also it started raining heavily when I was walking around Voss, so I had to take shelter and wait for an hour or so. Eventually I went back to train station and took train back to Bergen. I assessed if I can cover Flam train, but it was cutting very close (1 hour to Myrdal, another hour to Flam and back plus train waiting time carried a risk of me missing my return flight). So the Flam trip had to wait.

There are few branded hotels in Voss by the lake and close to railway station. If you fancy spending a night with mountain on one side and lake on other side, do book a room there. If pressed for time, I suggest explore Voss during the 20 minute stopover of your train. 

Views of Geneva Lake, Switzerland from Train window!

Geneva lake is very huge and spreads way beyond Geneva city limits. I traveled from Geneva to Bern and back in train. During this journey, I got to see beautiful views of Geneva lake from the train itself and I put my camera to full use.

Below are some pictures of Switzerland country side along the banks of Geneva lake. Hope you like them.

Also see: Bern in 90 minutes  * Sunrise at Geneva lake * United Nations, Geneva at 5 AM

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Spicejet Sale-Tempting low fares- try now

After long time, SpiceJet has introduced some practical discount sale. The rates are not as low as ones that were sold in 2014- we had flown Chennai Goa return for Rs 1444 for two people all inclusive. Such low fares may not come back again.
Contextual image-Spicejet Bombardier ready to land in Mysore
Right now, SpiceJet Sale is on- tomorrow (28th Oct) is last day as per SpiceJet. Below are some sample fares you can expect. This is usually half of what it costs under normal circumstances, hence a decent bargain. Hence I am composing this post in a hurry, so that my readers can benefit.
Few weeks back Indigo sent a mailer announcing low fares, but when I checked Chennai-Cochin and back, it was coming to about 5.5k, about 2k more than spicejet sale.

But before you book on spicejet sale please note following:
1) Sale fares are valid for bookings between 1st Feb 2016 to 30 October 2016 only.
2) These are non refundable fares. You can change dates by paying a hefty date change fee + fare difference, which is going to cost you a bomb- so unless you are reasonably sure of being able to plan 6 to 12 months in advance and fly accordingly, or unless you are OK with the risk involved (losing 100% of the amount and not flying), don't book.
3) Additional Rs 100 to Rs 150 per person one way is applicable for online payment based on internet banking/credit card payment etc over and above the amount shown in first page.
4) Throughout the booking process spicejet will try to sell more services like insurance etc- be careful to uncheck services you don't want, to avoid paying more unknowingly- keep an eye on total amount as you navigate from one screen to next.
5) Book on spicejet website. Same rates are available on etc also, but there convenience fee is more, so you will be paying a few hundreds extra there. Also cancellation/modification is going to be a nightmare if a 3rd party is involved.
6) Sale is available on select dates and flights only, mostly direct flights. Sale is not applicable on destinations involving connecting flight, as far as I have noticed.
7) Sale is available for international destinations also- Colombo, Male, Dubai, Muscat etc. But though sale fares are cheaper, they are not too exciting (Ahemdabad-Muscat 10k, Chennai-Colombo 8k etc, which are only marginally lower than normal fares.
8) In some cases, the fares I saw in the evening today were a few hundred rupees cheaper than the price I saw in the afternoon.
I am not saying this is the final opportunity and you need to book now. Spicejet has completed 10 years early 2015 and is on the path to recovery and we should be expecting more sales from time to time. On their next sale, or for any other sales, above fares can work as a reference.

Happy flying.

Similar: Ryan Air- world's cheapest airline*  Comparison of 7 airlines in Europe * Air Costa experience *  KLM Royal Dutch - world's oldest operating airline * 10 bad habits air travelers should avoid