After breakfast we took a mini-bus taxi to the seaside town of Jurmala, which was another bargain at only 15 Lats. It was a sunny morning and we walked through some houses in various states of disrepair and renovation towards the beach. The houses were fascinating, mostly made of timber and in contrasting styles that suggested that the owners had had fun building them in a competitive way each determined to eclipse the efforts of their neighbours.
These were once grand seaside villas accommodating only the most wealthy Russians who used to like to come here for their summer holidays and we were relieved to see that thankfully many were being restored, rather than being demolished to make way for modern structures. The town has an official list of four hundred and fourteen historical buildings under protection, as well as three thousand five hundred wooden structures. Sadly, we were told that every so often there is an unexplained fire, the historic building disappears only to be removed by a modern building.
In 2007 we took a train ride from Salzburg to the nearby village of Hallstatt. I liked it immediately. The village was thoroughly charming and I was straight away prepared to accept its claim of being the most attractive village in Austria
The village is set on piles driven into the lake with an intricate system of intersecting timber ramps, butresses and ascending terraces like hanging gardens creating an air of mystery and the eeriness of mirage, a village that seems to be almost lost in the middle-mist of folklore and fable. The mountain flanks rise sheer from the lake, leaving no room for a road and all but the smallest of vehicles are prohibited from entering the centre of the village.
We walked through streets with houses sometimes built into the mountain, sometimes hanging on to the mountain and at other times on top of the mountain and on the other side they were built right up to the edge of the lake.
The Moscow Metro is the world’s second most heavily used metro system after the Tokyo’s twin subway. It has nearly three hundred kilometres of track, twelve lines, and one hundred and eighty stations.
Whilst visitors to London would be unlikely to consider the ‘Tube’ to be a tourist attraction in Moscow the Metro is a ‘must visit’ place and not just for getting around the city because each station has a unique design using elaborate decorations and materials from all over the country, including granite, quartzite, limestone, twenty kinds of marble, semiprecious stones and are decorated with plus bronze sculptures, majolica panels, stainless steel columns, glittering chandeliers, bas-relief friezes, stained-glass panels, murals, and mosaics.