Sisi – the last Empress of the Habsburg Empire

Allison Pataki‘s Sisi (The Accidental Empress and Empress on Her Own) is one of the most interesting and accurate historical novels I’ve read recently. The story engages you in Sisi’s life in a very big way. All her troubles and misfortunes, all her insecurities, eccentricities, the happiest moments of her life become part of you while you are reading Pataki’s novel. For me, this is a sign of a great literary achievement.

Empress Elisabeth's Hungarian coronation
Empress Elisabeth’s Hungarian coronation gown by Charles Frederick Worth;
Credit – Pinterest

The Accidental Empress shows a young girl who’s failing at finding her place in the strict and cold imperial court of the Habsburg Empire. The second book indeed shows Sisi as an empress on her own, troubled by so many things in her life, finding solace in riding and travelling the world. Sisi was an extraordinary woman, who started her life as a happy and free-spirited girl, whose spirit was slowly broken by the strict rules and protocol she was forced to obey in the court in Vienna. She was ill-prepared for her role as an Empress and too young to take on all the burden upon her shoulders. A 16-year old girl who was dreaming of her perfect prince, perfect love and life in a fairytale. However, the reality struck her hard, resulting in the melancholia that became her constant companion for the rest of her life.

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Portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1865;
Credit – Wikipedia

In the beginning, Sisi did try to fit in the role she was thrown in- she tried to be a good wife and a good empress, but the restricting rules came too much for her free spirit to bare. The interference of her mother-in-law in Sisi and Franz Joseph’s marriage was also something she was struggling to¬†fight. The real tragedy, though, came when Sisi lost her first daughter. The grief mixed with blame hit her so hard that she started believing what the others were telling her- that she was incapable to raise children. This resulted in her alienating herself from her other daughter Gisela– a gap that¬†was never overcome for the rest of Sisi’s life.

The birth of her first son, crown prince Rudolf, lifted Sisi’s spirits but her happiness didn’t last long; Rudolf, just like his sisters before him was taken away from Sisi to be raised by her much more capable mother-in-law archduchess Sophie. To add to the pain, Sisi found out her husband was accepting other women in his chambers while she was mourning the loss of their daughter. This, in my opinion, was the first pivotal moment in shaping Sisi’s personality in the years to come. This was the first time she abandoned her duties as a mother, wife, and empress and went on one of her many travels abroad.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria

Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Georg Raab, 1867; Credit – mimimatthews.com

I think Sisi is an example of why monarchies were abolished in so many countries at that time. Her luxurious life, her expensive travels, gorgeous gowns and hours-long beauty procedures were in a huge contrast with the way common people of the empire were living; poverty, suicide, and illness were the reality for many of them.

Sisi wasn’t an active politician, she was avoiding all her official duties as much as she could and was wasting a lot of money on her travels and hobbies. In my opinion, though, the biggest failure in her life was the one of a mother. The trauma of losing her first daughter and then being stripped of her other children made her selfish and estranged. The only child she was favouring was her last daughter Valerie, the only child she was allowed to raise herself. This is why Sisi became somewhat obsessed with her and completely abandoned her other two children.

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Archduchesses Gisela and Marie Valerie of Austria;
Credit – Pinterest

Gisela found the mother she needed in the face of Sophie, but Rudolf resembling Sisi not only by looks but by personality as well, needed his mother more than anyone else. He was the only child that was just like her- sensitive, fragile, visionary. This is why he was the most inappropriate heir to the great Habsburg throne. He lacked the stoicism and discipline of his father and just like his mother, remained misunderstood by the people around him.

Rudolf’s relationship with his father has been tense since an early age and with a mother who was always away, he found a confidant in his older sister Gisela. When she married and left Vienna, though, Rudolf’s downfall began. For me, this is when Sisi made her biggest mistake. She knew what her son was going through, she knew deep inside that she was the only person who could help him and yet, she did nothing to save him. She continued favouring Valerie over the others, which broke Rudolf even more; he was longing for his mother’s love and attention. No wonder the crown prince grew up to be unstable and broken, cruel at times, addicted to opiates, alcohol, and women. When Rudolf committed suicide the blame struck Sisi very hard and this is the stroke she never fully recovered from.

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Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria;
Credit ‚Äď Wikipedia

I believe Sisi loved Rudolf very much, but she never felt he was hers. He was taken away from her as a baby and being a crown prince, he was never allowed to accompany her on her travels or be part of her lifestyle. The two of them were deeply connected but never had the opportunity to develop this connection into a proper mother-son relationship. As a result, both their lives were ruined because Sisi was longing for Rudolf when he was a small boy and Rudolf was longing for his mother when he was a grown man. The two of them could have healed each other’s wounds but they never found the path to one another.

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Sisi and Franz Joseph; Credit – Pinterest

I feel I should dedicate a paragraph to Franz Joseph as well. He was a good person, with good intentions, who was always doing his duty. He was deeply in love with Sisi, but his duty and the empire would always come first. Franz was an epitome of an emperor- someone who gives himself in service to his empire and his people, someone who sacrifices his personal life, his wants and needs. Those qualities cost him his marriage and the love of his life, but this is how he was raised to be.

I deeply sympathize with Franz cause his life was very difficult, bound by duty, but he stood strong and bore all tragedies in his life with dignity. The moment I felt most difficult to read in both books was when Franz received the news of Sisi’s assassination. The way this strong man broke into tears was described so graphically that you can’t help but feel for him. His love for Sisi was very deep and very tender and never fade away.

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Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853; Credit ‚Äď Wikipedia

I personally like Sisi, she was a very charismatic woman who’s persona continues to fascinate people 119 years after her death. I believe she was a good person, with many imperfections indeed but with good intentions and a good heart. She was very sensitive and very fragile and her drama is that she remained misunderstood her whole life. Sisi is an inspirational woman and if you don’t learn from her actions, learn from her mistakes.

L.V.K.

We all have two lives. The second begins when you realize you only have one

I’m not too much into celebrities. I’m not one of those people who’d scream and jump and behave unnaturally when they see a famous person. I really don’t see what all the fuss is about (admit I stole that line from Loki in Thor: The Dark World). They are people like us and are no more special than any of us. Their job makes them popular and puts them in the public eye.

Especially people of art- actors and musicians above all- are exposed to the public most of the time. Being popular among audiences is a great privilege, but also, a huge responsibility. Famous people are role models whether they want it or not.

Nowadays, there’s this trend among young celebrities to provoke the public morally, mocking and devaluing principles, demonstrating ignorance about things that really matter. On the other hand, there are people, popular for their beliefs, careers, inventions and so on, who are charismatic and inspirational and who use their voice to bring change to the world. I dedicate this post to one such person.

Tom HiddlestonTom Hiddleston – image source: Markinternational.info

His name is Tom Hiddleston. Most of you would know him as Loki- Thor’s brother from the Thor movies. However, he’s much more than that. What I love about him is that he’s truly inspiring. I have to admit that like everyone else, I first noticed him in Thor (2011). But there was something about his performance that I really liked and found quite unique.

We all know Marvel movies are light and funny, made purely for the audience entertainment. They very much rely on special effects, epic costumes and make-up, but would not qualify for an Oscar nomination, if you know what I mean. Therefore, it is very difficult for a serious actor to really show their acting abilities in this type of movie. However, Tom Hiddleston did it. He created such an extraordinary character out of his Loki that everyone just fell in love with him.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Thor 3Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Thor: Ragnarök Рimage source: SlashFilm.com

After watching Thor, I took an interest in Tom Hiddleston and checked some of his interviews (my favourite is the one he gave for Popcorn Taxi). He is so educated (after all, he’s studied in Eton and Cambridge) and well-spoken, always so polite and exquisite in his manners- an epitome of a gentleman. Tom is a breath of fresh air.

What inspires me is his passion for the things he loves, his excitement and positivity. This is a person who is truly happy because he enjoys the little things in life. He’s so passionate about his craft and gets so excited when he talks about it. He calls acting a ‘dimensional anthropology’. And indeed, every character he plays is so human, so complex, so real. I was really happy when one of his best performances – the one of Jonathan Pyne in The Night Manager – was awarded a Golden Globe.

Tom Hiddleston ElleTom Hiddleston – Elle Photoshoot 2014

Another thing I love about Tom Hiddleston is the fact he’s so wise beyond his age. In all the¬†interviews I’ve watched, he says something that is truly inspiring and motivational. Actually, when I’m feeling down, I tend to watch his interviews, because the way he speaks cheers me up and lifts my spirits. I’ve read a post by Martha Sorren some time ago, in which she describes his ability for motivational speech in a really good way – “not only are his words incredibly thoughtful and accurate, but they‚Äôre often phrased so elegantly that they seem to have been ripped from the stanzas of a particularly beautiful poem“.

The way he speaks and the meaning of what he says has a truly magical effect on people.¬†As you can see from the title, my favourite quote of his is ‘We all have two lives. The second begins when you realize you only have one‘. Actually, it’s a Confucius quote, but I love the context in which Tom used it and the way he interpreted it. The idea he puts behind those words is that you shouldn’t waste any time. You should live to the fullest, follow your dreams, don’t dwell on negativity because life’s too short. By the time you realize you only have one, it might be too late.

Tom Hiddleston Evening Standard Photoshoot 2013Tom Hiddleston – Evening Standard Photoshoot 2013

We live in a world full of tragedies and pain. This same world is also full of beauty and happiness. It’s up to us to decide which one to focus on. And it’s up to us to choose the people who lead us to one or the other.

You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything, or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.

L. V. K.

Game of Thrones’ Dragon Power: Ice vs Fire

For those of you who haven’t seen Game of Thrones Season 7 episode 6 yet, please note this post contains¬†SPOILERS.

Those of you who have seen the latest episode though, are probably mourning the death of Viserion. Yes, it was never confirmed the fallen dragon was indeed Viserion, but we can assume that it was him because 1) Danny was riding Drogon; 2) Rhaegal is named after Prince Rhaeger Targaryen, Jon Snow’s real father and there’s a popular fan theory that Jon is going to mount the dragon named after his father; and 3) Viserion was named after Prince Viserys and we know what he was- an evil, power-hungry mad-man who was ready to do anything to sit on the Iron Throne, so it’s only logical that the dragon named after him would be the one to die first (I’m not saying the other dragons will die too, I hope not, but you never know).

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So the first question that has been circulating around is why the Night King did not kill Drogon with Daenerys on him. He was much closer, he was static and he had no idea of the threat coming. On the other hand, Viserion was flying high above the wights and was burning them on the sight. Is that a plot hole, an illogical scene, bad writing or something else, I don’t know, but here are my theories:

  1. Drogon¬†was sitting with his back to the Night King. His backside is very thick with dragon flakes, so it was very likely that the Night King’s spear would have failed to kill him. Probably hurt him, but not kill him. The other thing I’m thinking of here is the Night King didn’t want to kill his enemies in that fight. He knows very well Jon Snow, Daenerys and her dragons are the real enemy and that they can unite Westeros in an attempt to stop the White Walkers from invading the continent. However, the Night King wanted them to escape, I believe he missed Drogon¬†intentionally when he threw the second spear. He wants a solid enemy south of the Wall and he has a clear plan in his head, one we are not aware of just yet.IMG_0771
  2. Viserion was flying high, breathing fire with his chest well-exposed, so the Night King knew he’d kill him the moment he pierces him.IMG_0823
  3. The Great War has not started yet- the White Walkers have not passed south of the Wall with their army yet, we don’t know if they’ll manage to. The Wall is built with protective spells against the dead so they cannot pass. This is why I believe the Night King needed a dragon of his own, as the dragon being a magical creature himself might be able to melt the wall down.

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There have been other comments all over the net, condemning Jon’s decision to go beyond the Wall as stupid and illogical, again attributing it to bad writing and a rush to lead the story to an end. If you remember from Season 1, the White Walkers have been a threat since then. However, no one but the Brothers of the Night’s Watch was aware of their existence. Not even Ned Stark, the Warden of the North believed they existed anymore. FullSizeRenderThat is why the Night’s Watch recruiter Yoren was sent down to King’s Landing to present King Robert with a body part of the Wight they managed to defeat in Castle Black and convince him to send an army north. However, he arrived at a bad moment- when everything had already started to fall apart; King Robert died, Ned Stark was beheaded and the war for the Iron Throne started, leaving no room in anyone’s mind for the possibility of the existence of White Walkers beyond the Wall. Now, seasons later (in the world of Game of Thrones it would be years) the war is still going and still, no one believes the existence of the Walkers. Jon Snow understands he cannot defeat the Night King and his army alone. The North, no matter how strong it might be, is not enough. That is why Jon went on this suicidal mission with the desperate hope to achieve two main things – 1) to somehow capture a Wight and present him to Queen Cersei and this way convince her to fight the Night King and not Daenerys for the time being; and 2) to make Daenerys follow him to the Wall with her dragons and see the threat for herself. That is why I think the mission was not in vain, even if it was suicidal. But Jon’s gone on many¬†suicidal missions already – the Battle for the Wall, Hardhome, the Battle of the Bastards to name but a few – so going beyond the Wall to capture a Wight shouldn’t really be a surprise.

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From this moment a series of questions arise- will the White Walkers cross the Wall? What are they going to use Viserion for? Who’s stronger a fire dragon or an ice dragon? How can the army of the living defeat a White Walker Ice Dragon? Can fire kill Viserion now as it kills the other Wights? The last thing we saw was Jon and Daenerys heading down to King’s Landing to meet with Cersei and try to convince her to join her forces with them and fight the Night King. Even if she joins them, she’ll still be plotting to kill both of them as they are a direct threat to her power. The moment the truth about Jon’s parentage is revealed, he becomes the biggest enemy of both Cersei and Daenerys. Both of them are power hungry and want power for the sake of power. Even though Daenerys might think she has good intentions, she’s blinded by what she’s achieved so far. She’s not evil as Cersei is, but she’s become too arrogant and cannot accept someone else might be worthier than her to rule.

No matter what happens, I believe this season finale will be as epic as the previous one and it will give us a lot to look forward to.

L. V. K.

 

 

 

Still a Harry Potter fan… after all this time? Always!

There are books that affect you for months. There are books that affect you for years. And then there are books that affect you for life. Harry Potter is one such book.

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I, like many people from my generation, have grown up with Harry Potter. I was 11 when I started reading¬†Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s stone,¬†same age as Harry. Then at age 12, I continued with¬†The Chamber of Secrets,¬†then at 13, I was on¬†The Prisoner of Azkaban. And so on until I was 17, almost 18, doing my final year at school while reading¬†The Deathly Hallows.¬†I had a golden childhood and one of the reasons for that is a book, my love for which I keep until now.

I was convinced I didn’t like fantasy at all (a beautiful example of how well one ‘knows’ oneself), however, some of my favourite books and movies prove me wrong-¬†Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Mortal Instruments¬†to name but a few. What I realised I like most about fantasy, is it perfectly represents the world we live in, with its complexity, the fusion of good and bad, the everyday fight for survival. Maybe¬†I exaggerated the last bit slightly, but don’t we fight for a place in this world every day? Don’t we battle our inner demons every single day? Don’t we have a concept for our life we struggle to prove right? Every. Single. Day. Of our existence.

As most of you know, the Harry Potter series show the path of a small and lonely child through life. A child whose biggest challenges happen to be in the very early stages of his life. Stripped of his parents as a baby, raised by people who despise him, Harry turns out to be a decent young person nonetheless, unaware of the world he belongs to and his significance for its well-being. As Harry is growing up, the books evolve with him, showing that none of the characters is pure good or pure evil. Even Voldemort has his reasons to be what he is by the end of the story. Voldemort, Harry and Snape are my favourite characters in all the books, having had the most extraordinary life paths from all characters (Dumbledore is quite interesting as a character too, but his early life is not explored that much, which is why I rather see him as one-dimensional).

8cfa96157712b03e29979268aacb3dc3Voldemort, who is a product of love magic his mother performed on his muggle father, is not capable of feeling love for anyone for that sole reason. I think what J.K. Rowling is trying to say here is that love cannot be forced. You cannot force someone to love you, but you can force them to be with you nonetheless, and the result could be devastating. Voldemort grew up as a lonely, orphaned child with no one to count on in this world but himself. He was cruel from an early age, feeling that he was very different from those around him. The pivotal point in his behaviour, though, is when he finds out he’s a direct heir of Salazar Slytherin; this leads to him believing he’s greater than all muggles and certainly greater than most wizards. His vanity led him to do terrible things. He had a weak spot, though. It’s true he didn’t feel love for any living creature, but he did love one thing in particular-Hogwarts, the only home he ever knew. This is the one thing him, Snape and Harry have in common, the limitless love they have for Hogwarts.

We don’t know much about Snape until the very last book –¬†The Deathly Hallows¬†– where we find out that he loved unconditionally Harry’s mother Lily and he risked his life ever since she was killed to protect her son. Snape, just like Voldemort, had a muggle father who despised wizards and a wizard mother who despised him. The only happy moments in Snape’s early life were those spent with Lily. He, much like Voldemort, found his real home in Hogwarts and remained there for almost his entire life. Maybe those similarities with Voldemort’s life made Snape admire him and his ideology so much and if it wasn’t for Lily’s murder, he would probably have stayed with Voldemort, although, getting to know Snape in the last book, we seem to understand that deep inside he’s a decent man.

Harry, the last of the three to join Hogwarts, has had a difficult childhood as well. He also didn’t know love as a child but the huge difference between him and Snape and Voldemort is that he himself is a product of great love between his parents. It’s true he grew up with people who despised him, surrounded by people who didn’t understand him. Just like Voldemort, he wasn’t fitting in the muggle world, but he didn’t know why. His early life experiences should have made him an angry and bitter person but they didn’t because he was loved – by his parents, by his godfather, by Dumbledore- although he didn’t know that until he was exposed to the world he belonged to.

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Although it is a children’s book,¬†Harry Potter¬†teaches wisdom adults could also learn from. I think this book series is suitable for absolutely everyone- from a child to an old man. This is because a child lives inside each one of us and if we let them come out on the surface, we’ll be much happier. A child certainly lives inside me and she will always be friends with Harry!

L. V. K.

 

What are the best aspects in Astrology that determine a successful relationship

As I was browsing the net the other day, I came across a very interesting article on synastry. I don’t have too much knowledge on that part of astrology, as I normally use the services of a professional astrologer when I want to check my aspects with someone. However, this article caught my attention and made me do a bit of research on some of the most exciting aspects in astrology.

For me, the most important indicators in anyone’s chart are the Sun, the Moon, and the Ascendant. Therefore, the first thing to look out for is the Sun¬†and Moon signs and how they relate to each other in your synastry chart. The best variant is the conjunction- sun_moonmeaning the Sun and Moon to be positioned in the same sign (between 0¬į and 3¬į of each other), especially if it’s the man’s Sun and the woman’s Moon. This is one of the aspects that also determines a successful marriage, so it’s really good if you have it with your partner or love interest. Trine (120¬į with up to 4¬į orb)¬†and sextile (60¬į with an orb of up to 2¬į-3¬į)¬†are also good, but the conjunction here is the most powerful. A good aspect between the Sun and the Ascendant and/or the Moon and the Ascendant are also very positive and give a long-lasting and very harmonious relationship.

The second most important aspect, in my opinion, is the Mars/Venus compatibility. Any of the major aspects here is quite positive- both the harmonious (conjunction, sextile, trine) and the challenging (square, opposition) ones. The conjunction or opposition give a lot of attraction and are an indicator of a very passionate relationship, especially if it’s the man’s Mars with the woman’s Venus sign. Here, I have to mention that the aspect between the two partners’ Venus’ as well as Mars’ signs is also important. A conjunction between your Venus signs is an indicator of a long-lasting and harmonious relationship, as both partners tend to express love and affection in the same way. A conjunction between your Mars signs is a very hot aspect as it gives a lot of passion and excellent sexual compatibility.

75d6a80d6048ebc2f57d07a9c887e132Any aspects between Venus and Pluto and Mars and Pluto make up for a very interesting relationship. Venus in any aspect (both harmonious and challenging) to Pluto indicates for very intense and deep feelings. In the case of Mars and Pluto, though, if the aspect is hard, this could add violence to the relationship. Similarly, an aspect between the Moon and Pluto and the Ascendant and Pluto brings on a lot of physical and emotional attraction as well as obsessiveness between the partners.

The ascendant in conjunction to Venus, Mars or Pluto, a conjunction between the Moon and Mars and between the Moon and Pluto are three aspects that indicate for a very passionate and sexual relationship that adds a pinch of psychological intensity to it.

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Jupiter is the planet of luck! Any positive aspects between Jupiter and the Sun, Moon, Ascendant, Venus or Mars brings a lot of harmony to the relationship. Any of those aspects involves a lot of (positive) energy exchange between the partners. For instance, Jupiter in conjunction to the Ascendant means you and your partner are natural friends. Mars in conjunction to Jupiter is a very lucky aspect and makes the couple very outgoing and positive and brings on friendly competition between the two partners. A positive aspect between Jupiter and the Sun or the Moon brings friendship along with the romantic relationship. The two partners are very supportive of each other and feel very lucky to be together.

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Other quite positive aspects are any harmonious aspects between the Sun and Venus (especially the conjunction), which create a sense of harmony where the individuals find a lot to like in each other Рand between Neptune and the Moon, where an intuitive communication and mutual understanding between the individuals is very common (e.g. saying the same words at the same time). Also, a positive aspect between the Ascendant and Mars gives a lot of mutual attraction to each other.

The above are just some of the best (in my opinion) aspects in a synastry chart, but they are also quite general. There are many other elements involved such as house positions, personal planets, asteroids etc. This article is to give you but a general idea if you and your partner or love interest have enough basis to build upon your relationship.

L.V. K. 

Nine Astonishing Places on Earth

Nature is an incredible thing. It’s so beautiful, so powerful, so divine. It gives life, it takes life. Unfortunately, nowadays we, people don’t¬†recognise the importance of nature in our lives. Moreover, we don’t respect it, we abuse its resources and what is sadder, we destroy it.

In today’s post, I decided to put together a list of some of the most astonishing places on Earth and show the beauty of our planet in all its glory.

Erta Ale, Ethiopia

Erta¬†Ale is one of the most beautiful volcanoes in the world and also one of the hottest places on earth. Known as the ‘smoking mountain‘ and also the ‘gateway to hell‘, Erta Ale is one of the last constantly active volcanoes. It’s quite special for the fact it¬†is a very rare combination of volcanoes and lava lakes.

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The last eruption of the volcano was in 2005.

Waitomo, Glow Worm Cave, New Zealand

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The name Waitomo comes from two MńĀori¬†words –¬†wai, water and tomo, hole or shaft. The beautiful glow in the cave comes from the glow worms known as Arachnocampa luminosa,¬†living inside the cave.

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The worms are the size of mosquitoes.

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Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

Torres del Paine National Park is located in Patagonia in southern Chile. This incredibly beautiful national park collects natural gems-¬†mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers. People from all over the world come to visit this beautiful place, which is one of Chile’s largest national parks.¬†Paine means “blue” in the native Tehuelche (Aonikenk) language and is pronounced PIE-nay.

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A paradise on earth. The bizarre mountains and the blue waters look like they’ve come straight off the pages of a fairytale book.

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Millions of tourists visit Torres del Paine every year. 76% of them are foreign, with European forming the biggest groups.

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Rainbow Mountains of Zhangye Danxia, China

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The Zhangye Danxia landform area is known as ‘the eye candy of Zhangye‘. No wonder where this nickname is coming from;¬†Zhangye Danxia is a unique combination of different colours,¬†which is so rare it almost seems magical.

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According to China Highlights,¬†Zhangye ‘s Danxia was formed by:

“the erosion of red sandstone, forming isolated peaks and steep stratified outcrops. Its special geological structure, combined with long-term desert conditions , freeze-thaw peeling, and wind and water erosion gave rise to its present appearance.”

Marieta Islands, Puerto Vallarta

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Playa del Amor, also known as the Hidden beach, is part of the Marieta Islands, located near the coast of Mexico. The big hole in the surface, reveals a hidden beach with crystal water and golden sands, looking straight to the cloudless sky.

The Marieta Islands have never been inhibited, which is making them an ideal destination for relaxing and getting in touch with Nature.

Trolltunga in Norway

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Trolltunga- this magnificent rocky ledge has always reminded me of Lion King (remember when Rafiki lifted little Simba above his head and presented him to the animal kingdom as the heir to the Lion throne). The beauty of the landscape is magnificent and breathtaking, showing Nature in all its glory.

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Trolltunga is rising 700 metres above lake Ringedalsvatnet.

Vaadhoo Island, Maldives

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No doubt, some of you have seen pictures of this incredible sight from Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives. At night, the beach looks like a mirror that reflects the star sky, also known as the sea of stars. This mesmerizing view is the work of a rare species of phytoplankton known as dinoflagellates.

Vaadhoo only has around 550 inhabitants.

Fjordlands National Park, South Island, New Zealand

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A fiord is defined as a u-shaped glacier-carved valley which has been flooded by the sea.There are 14 fiords that form the south-west corner of the South Island. According to a Maori folk tale, the fiords were created by a giant stonemason called Tute Rakiwhanoa, who hued out the steep sided valleys with his adzes. Rudyard Kipling calls the park the 8th wonder of the world.

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Prskalo Waterfall, Serbia

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The Prskalo waterfall is located in the Kuńćaj mountains in the eastern area of Serbia. The waterfall is 12-15 metres of height.

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L. V. K.

 

Game of Thrones- the beginning of an end

Game of Thrones season 6 grand finale hit us like a giant’s fist a couple of weeks ago.¬†We might be sad that we now have to wait nine months until the next season; however, season 6 has given us something no other Game of Thrones season has given us before- a clear path (clearer at least) on which the main storylines are going. Unlike the previous 3-4 seasons, the story is now not stuck in the middle of nowhere but rather is going into a direction which foresees the end of the show. Below, I’ll provide a summary (remember this is just my point of view and is not all question of actual facts) of the main characters, what happened to them in season 6 and what will most likely happen to them in the next seasons.

Cersei Lannister

cersei-lannisterCersei has finally sat on the Iron Throne. Her own path has been a long and not necessarily an easy or pleasant one but she made it- she got the power. No matter how badass, cruel and treacherous Cersei is, one cannot help but admire her strength, ambition and dedication to her family. Cersei’s downfall started with Joffrey’s death with her not seeing happy days until the very last episode of season 6. She’s lost her father, her daughter, her younger son, she’s been taken prisoner and humiliated by the Sparrows who forced her to go naked on the streets of Kings Landing, hearing the mocking laughter of the crowd. She’s been surrounded by enemies all the way through, so no wonder she’s gone mad. With the death of Tommen, she’s lost every¬†bit of humanity she’s ever had in herself. Many people argue this is when she’s gone mad when Qyburn presented her to King Tommen’s dead body; however, I think the last drop that spilt the glass for her was when Tommen terminated¬†the trial of combat practice in the Seven Kingdoms. This is when Cersei found herself into a trap, betrayed by her own son and unable to escape whatever punishment the Faith has prepared for her. And this is when something clicked into her head and when she was ready to do anything no matter the cost. Even the life of her last child didn’t matter anymore. Blasting the Sept of Baelor with wildfire and killing all her enemies, who were¬†waiting for her inside to tear her into pieces marked the beginning of her reign as the Mad Queen. Next season will be very interesting for her as we are expecting one of her brothers to finish her- Jaime who spoiled his honour once to stop the Mad King from doing what Cersei has done and is doing now; and Tyrion who hates Cersei in the guts and who’s now Hand of Queen Daenerys Targaryen. Tough times upon the Mad Queen, ay.

Daenerys Targaryen 

DaenerysSeason 6 is my favourite in terms of Daenerys’ storyline. So much has happened to her in this one season than in whole 4¬†previously¬†(not counting season 1, which marks the beginning of her journey and reign). She’s found herself captured by the¬†khalasar of Khal Moro who wants to sell her into slavery, but upon learning that she is a Khaleesi and the widow of Khal Drogo, decided to send her to the Dosh Khaleen where she’s supposed to spend the rest of her days. In this situation again we find Daenerys stuck and very far from her main purpose, namely conquering Westeros with her army and dragons. However, like some of the other main protagonists in Game of Thrones, Daenerys has a powerful magic inside her that helps her defeat every obstacle that comes down her path. In this case, the Mother of Dragons used her ultimate weapon- fire- to get rid of all the mighty khals and join¬†the entire khalasar to her army. For me, this was one of the best scenes in season 6 and a reminder of Danny’s real power. In seasons 4 and 5 she seemed weak and completely lost, pressed against the wall by her enemies. After riding Drogon for the first time though, she’s been able to regain her power. At the end of season 6, we finally witnessed Daenerys collating all her strength and marching to Westeros with her three dragons by her side.¬†Varys has already secured allies for her in the Seven Kingdoms- Dorne and House Tyrell- both enemies to the Lannisters, meaning she already has supporters of her claim on the continent. In the next season, we’ll see Danny invading King’s Landing and securing her relations with other noble houses. Her most interesting meeting though will be with Jon Snow, her brother’s only living son. I do hope this meeting happens in season 7.

Jon Snow

the-game-of-thrones-season-6-trailer-has-us-more-convinced-than-ever-jon-snow-will-be-resurrected

It’s official now! Jon Snow is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. We’ve always known this, and yet it feels so satisfying when we got the official confirmation in the season finale with this beautiful transition from him as a baby, presented to Ned Stark by his sister in the Tower of Joy, to him as a grown man at the lord’s seat at Winterfell. Jon Snow’s always had very low self-esteem because he believed himself a bastard all his life. A son of a noble lord and yet never accepted¬†part of the¬†family, Jon’s always been reminded (especially by Catelyn) that he’s not worthy of the name Stark. He’s never known a motherly love and grew up to be lonely although he had the love of his half-brothers and half-sister (Sansa has never been close to Jon until their reunion in season 6). Taking the black was Jon’s attempt to find his place in this world and forget he is a bastard for once. He’s gone through a lot, climbing the ladder of success with him becoming the youngest Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch in history. However, not long after, he’s betrayed and killed by his own sworn brothers. This is when Jon Snow’s life as a bastard and a rejected son ends to be reborn (resurrected by Melisandre) as Jon Snow, King in the North and son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. In the next seasons, we expect him to have to deal with the treacherous Littlefinger and securing his position as King in the North. We also expect him to learn the truth of his parentage by Bran, who’s on his way back south of the Wall. I think we can also be brave to expect a Stark general reunion with Arya also being in Westeros, relatively close to Winterfell. As mentioned above, it will be extremely interesting for the audience, if Jon meets Daenerys who’s also on her way to Westeros and who happens to be Jon’s kin.

As you can see, a lot of great things ahead for Game of Thrones, which after two dull seasons (in my opinion) is back in the big game. Counting the hours desperately until season 7 airs in 2017.

L.V. K.