17 Mar 2011

Charlottenburg Palace

The grand entrance and courtyard of the
baroque styled Charlottenburg palace in Berlin, Germany
Fortuna, Goddess of the personification of luck,
sits on top of the palace
During the 1690s, construction began on the central part of this baroque style palace in Berlin, Germany.  The palace began with the central structure and was intended to be a summer home for Sophie Charlotte, wife of Friedrich III.  Originally named Lietzenburg, upon Sophie's passing in 1705, Friedrich renamed it in her memory.  Over the next century, it remained the home of the royal Prussian family.

World War II brought great destruction to the palace, but luckily it was reconstructed to its former beauty.  The biggest change during the reconstruction was to the palace gardens.  Originally the garden was designed by Simeon Godeau in a baroque style, influenced by the gardens at Versailles.  Towards the end of the 18th century, the gardens were redesigned by Georg Steiner in an English style.  Upon the rebuilding after the war, the gardens were returned to their original baroque style.

At the top of the palace a statue of the goddess Fortuna was placed in 1711.  Fortuna was the Roman goddess of the personification of luck, both good and bad.  Today she still watches of the palace and surrounding grounds.

8 Mar 2011

Vancouver's Stanley Park

Boats docked by the Rowing Club
In 1888 Stanley Park was opened to the public by then Governor General, Lord Stanley of Preston.  As he said upon the opening (and is also commemorated with a plaque at the base of a statue of Lord Stanley), it was "to the use and enjoyment of people of all colours, creeds and customs for all time".  It still stands as a public park, taking up the large tip of the downtown peninsula in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The entire 9 kilometre circumference of the park is lined with a walking and bicycle path, known as the Sea Wall, which can get very busy during the summer or any winter day that sees a break in the Vancouver rain.  Along the wall, lay three of the cities more popular beaches: English Bay Beach, Second Beach and Third Beach, all with great views of the sunsetting on English Bay.

Within the park, you will find two bodies of water, Beaver Lake and Lost Lagoon.  Though it hasn't always been, Beaver Lake is now quite shallow.  Due to the build up of natural debris, the lake will one day be completely gone, given way to becoming part of the forest floor.  The Lake is almost completely covered with water lilies, which were introduced to the lake as a means of slowing its demise.

Overlooking Third Beach
Stanley Park is also home to a large number of wildlife, including, but not limited to: raccoons, skunks, squirrels, coyotes, turtles, fish, blue herons, eagles, swans, geese, ducks and many others.  Pacific Blue Herons nest in large numbers in the tall trees surrounding the park's tennis courts.  Each year there are between 150 to 200 nests within the trees.

Though mostly forested, the park does have several landscaped gardens, such as the Rose Garden, Rhododendron Walk, Shakespeare Garden and even a community garden.  There are many great family attractions in the park, as well, such as the miniature train (which also has a beautiful walking path that encircles the entire train route), the Vancouver Aquarium, a pitch and putt, a swimming pool, a few playgrounds, including a water park and horse-drawn tours of the park.  Recently the petting zoo that was located beside the miniature train has gone the way of the Stanley Park Zoo and closed for good.

Yellow rose in the Rose Garden of Stanley Park
After a morning of exploring the park, I would recommend finding a log to lean against on Third Beach with a copy of Pauline Johnson's Legends of Vancouver, a collection of short First Nations stories of Stanley Park and area as beautifully retold by Ms. Johnson.

If you are planning a trip to Vancouver and looking for a hotel close to Stanley Park, try The Sylvia Hotel.  It is located across the street from English Bay Beach.  Though not heavy on frills, its elegant charm and perfect location make it great place to stay.