Mihaela Lica-Butler is travel writer and travel public relations consultant by profession, lover of cultures and cuisine. She has built a fun career while chiming in on many topics, from relating the trials and tribulations of the people of Kosovo, to experiencing, first hand, the heroics of the Romanian soldiers serving for the UN. But she thrives in conveying her love for travel and places in written word, and she is happy to be a constant contributor for some of the world's best travel sites.
Kick off the holiday season with discounted rates at select Mamaison hotels during the Black Friday sale. Whether your visit is for a family vacation, business, or a romantic holiday getaway, indulge in savings of up to 35 percent off best available rates. The sale starts November 23, 2018 and ends November 26, 2018. It’s our best sale ever, with discounts of up to 35 % at Mamaison All-Suites Spa Hotel Pokrovka Moscow, Mamaison Hotel Andrassy Budapest, Mamaison Residence Izabella Budapest, Mamaison Hotel Le Regina Warsaw, Mamaison Residence Diana Warsaw, Mamaison Hotel Riverside Prague, and Mamaison Residence Sulekova Bratislava.
Take advantage of the Black Friday sale and book from November 23 to November 26 for a stay anytime from November 26, 2018 to March 2019. Please select your favorite Mamaison hotel, book and save:
Spaces like the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the Tretyakov Gallery, and the Moscow Museum of Modern Art attract thousands of visitors every day. However, art lovers have so much more to explore when they visit the cosmopolitan Russian capital.
A wealth of private art galleries bring international exhibitions in focus in front of the Russian public. Some focus on contemporary art, attempting to discover new talent, others take pride in exhibiting established names. Whatever you long to see, there’s always something for you in this short roundup.
Institute of Russian Realist Art (IRRA)
The Institute of Russian Realist Art is just what its name implies – an establishment where lovers of Russian art can appreciate the “public and social traditions of Russian artistic patronage,” as IRRA puts it. It was founded in 2011 around the private collection of Aleksei Ananyev. It expanded quickly, and today it boasts more than 500 works of Russian and Soviet art.
The permanent collection is housed inside a historic cotton-printing factory from the 19th century. The building was renovated and repurposed to safeguard works signed by the likes of Arkady Plastov, Sergey Gerasimov, Alexander Deineka, Yury Pimenov, Georgy Nissky, and Isaak Brodsky among many others.
Stella Art Foundation
Stella Kesaeva’s labor of love, Stella Art Foundation, is a contemporary space that aims to support young Russian artists. It promotes cultural exchange and organizes competitions to discover new Russian talent every year. Since 2010, the venue also hosts “Evenings at Skaryatiniskiy” poetry events curated by poet Lev Rubinstein.
K35 Art Gallery
K35 Art Gallery promotes both established Russian artists, as well as emerging talent, welcoming international names too. The gallery was founded in 2008 and since it hosted countless exhibitions and educational events like meetings with artists, Q&A with curators, art movies screenings, master classes, and more.
RuArts Gallery is a contemporary space founded in 2004 by Marianna Sardarova. It’s one of the largest galleries of its kind in Moscow and it enjoys a central location in the same district as The State Tretyakov Gallery. RuArts brought to Moscow expositions of world-renowned artists such as Spencer Tunick, Erwin Olaf, Nobuko Watabiki, Herve Ic, and Kimiko Yoshida. It currently represents Semeon Agroskin, Dmitri Aske, Sergey Anufriev, Sergei Borisov, Vita Buivid, Alexander Zakharov, Alexey Luka, Marat Morik, Misha Buryj, Tatiana Podmarkova, Dmitry Tsvetkov, Alina & Jeff Bliumis, Spencer Tunick, and Kimiko Yoshida.
Founded by Emelyan Zakharov and Dmitry Khankin in 2006, Triumph Gallery welcomes both Russian and international artists. Alexander Brodsky, Vladimir Dubossarsky, Alexander Vinogradov, Damien Hirst, Max Sher, and Tanatos Banionis, are among the most prestigious names whose works were exhibited at Triumph.
Bratislavský hrad, the iconic castle of Bratislava, is one of the most beautiful sights in the city. Safeguarding the city from the hills of the Little Carpathians, it houses the Slovak Parliament and collections of the Slovak National Museum.
And, when you stay at Mamaison Residence Sulekova Bratislava you are less than 20 minutes on foot away from this famous landmark. Often, you can see it from your window in all its grandeur.
It has been there in times of greatest glory as well as oppression, witnessed struggles for power and conscience, survived wars and a devastating fire, and remained alive up to this day as a proud testimony of times long gone – a symbol of endurance, strength and indomitable will.
Reconstruction of the Bratislava Castle – Chancellery of the National Council of the Slovak Republic. May 2010.
One of the noteworthy things about the lovely turreted castle that looms over the Danube is that it’s the first-ever written mention of the city. It’s documented in the Annals of Salzburg in 907. But its history runs deeper. Here are some of the most intriguing highlights:
Due to its strategic position on the Danube, right in the heart of Europe, between the Carpathians and the Alps, this place was inhabited during the Eneolithic Period (about 2500 BC). As archeological finds attested, there was an acropolis of an oppidum here during the Celtic and Roman Period (450 BC – 5th Century AD). In fact, recent research unearthed a residential structure most likely erected by the master builders of the Roman Empire. Gold and silver coins discovered on the site further the thesis that the rulers of the castle at the time were sovereigns of significant influence.
After the arrival of the Slavs on the territory of Bratislava, the aspect of the oppidum changed. The new rulers of the land used some of the structures left behind by the Romans and the Celts, but also erected structures of their own: initially a massive castle with a wooden rampart, and later, in the IX century, a stone palace surrounded by dwellings and a basilica. The temple is the largest Great Moravian basilica on the territory of Slovakia.
During the Christian Kingdom of Hungary, in the High Middle Ages, the Hungarians destroyed the Slavic castle, but they understood the strategical significance of its position and begun constructing a new stone structure. They also modernized the rampart and erected the Church of the St. Savior with a chapter and a church school on the remains of the basilica.
Except for two of its towers, as it stands today, Bratislavský hrad dates from the time of King Sigismund (Holy Roman Emperor), when the castle was the center of the German-Czech-Hungarian Empire. Konrad von Erlingen supervised the construction of a massive Gothic palace, which was converted to a Renaissance castle by Italian builders at the order of emperor Ferdinand I. of Habsburg between 1552 and 1562. Consecutive works turned the building into a Baroque edifice, then a more modern rococo structure during the queen of the Kingdom of Hungary, Maria Theresa of Austria from 1740 onwards.
Napoleon’s troops bombarded the castle in 1809, and in 1811, the castle was destroyed by fire because of the negligence of garrison soldiers.
The castle laid in ruin until 1957. The reconstruction followed the Baroque blueprints, but also elements of the Gothic and Renaissance castle were brought back to life. It now stands in sparkling white, dominating the city, welcoming visitors with a wealth of information about the history of Bratislava. It is a must-see when you stay at Mamaison Residence Sulekova or simply when you visit the capital of Slovakia.
The Pisztory Palace is a historic landmark of Bratislava, just five minutes by car or fifteen minutes on foot from Mamaison Residence Sulekova.
Local pharmacist Felix Pisztory appointed architects and builders to erect the superb estate in the 1890s. It preserves many of its original features, including gilded frescoes on the ceiling and mosaic flooring in the staircase hall. Some of the crystal chandeliers are original too. A Gastach allegoric painting dating from 1895 is in excellent condition and can be admired inside the palace as well.
In 2016, the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU) conducted restoration works at the palace facades and the roof. Since 1963, the Pisztory Palace is a National Cultural Monument of the Slovak Republic.
During its time, the palace served as a private residence, as the German Embassy during World War II, and later as the home of the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Museum and the House of Slovaks Living Abroad. Since 2012 the Pisztory Palace it is a cultural center hosting a wide variety of events, including concerts, exhibitions, theater, and much more. The venue is available for hire for weddings, banquettes, and conferences.
In the left wing of the palace, there is a special community center designed to encourage participation of the more disadvantaged groups of population in a non-traditional artistic way, for example via theater, performance, and dance. The actors are recruited from homeless people, physically disabled, and people belonging to socially disadvantaged groups.
The garden of the Pisztory Palace is an impressive sight. Restored in 2012, it is carefully landscaped and enhanced with all kinds of medicinal plants and herbs to honor the memory of its first owner, pharmacist Felix Pisztory.
As from December 2016, the Pisztory Palace on Štefániková Street is incorporated in the network of Old Town cultural centers.
You’ll reach the Warsaw Zoo in less than ten minutes by car when you stay at Mamaison Hotel Le Regina. It is one of the city’s most cherished attractions, not only for its role as an animal sanctuary but also for its significant part in World War II when the zookeepers defied the Nazis by saving the lives of hundreds of Jews. Between 1940 and 1944 Jan and Antonina Zabinski hid around 300 Jews in the “house under a wacky star” – their home at the zoo. Antonina and Jan Żabiński were honored with the Righteous Among the Nations title by the Yad Vashem Institute in Israel on 7 October 1965.
The unpublished diary of Antonina Żabińska, Ludzie i zwierzęta (People and Animals), was the inspiration for a 2007 non-fiction novel by poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman, titled The Zookeeper’s Wife. Consequently, the book hit the screens as a motion picture in 2017 starring Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Daniel Brühl, and Michael McElhatton.
Amongst the people who found shelter at the Warsaw Zoological Garden were: Magdalena Gross, Maurycy Paweł Fraenkel, Rachel Auerbach, Regina and Samuel Kenigswein, Eugenia Sylkes, Marceli Lewi-Łebkowski with family, Marysia Aszer, Joanna Kramsztyk, Eleonora Tenenbaum, the Kellers with child, Irena Mayzel, Lewy the Solicitor, Kinszerbaum and Dr Anzelm, according to the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews “Polish Righteous – Recalling Forgotten History” project.
The zoo was bombed in 1939 and many animals died, including apes, an elephant, and a giraffe. After the surrender of Warsaw to the Germans, the Nazis transferred some of the most valuable animals to the Schorfeide reserve in Germany, then shot the other animals. The zoo was closed and it only reopened in 1949.
Today, the Warsaw Zoo is one of the busiest and most popular in Europe. It cares for over 4200 animals and welcomes over 1,000,000 visitors annually.
Warsaw Zoo Today
Visitors can admire all kinds of animals at the Warsaw Zoo:
meerkats sharing a facility with giraffes and bongo antelopes as they would live in nature
gorillas – including Azizi, the leader of the band
Mendoza, a magnificent and majestic condor
sloths, like Paavo and his companion Amy
Cocoro, one of the largest toucans in the world
Cuba and other Indian rhinoceros
Hugo the hippopotamus
Leon, the magnificent elephant and his herd
Lucy the chimpanzee and her family
Beata the black jaguar, and many other animals
While walking around the zoo, you can not miss the beautiful bronze sculptures depicting animals. They are accompanied by descriptive labels in the Braille and sound as part of the educational path for the blind and visually impaired.
There are 13 gastronomic outlets operating seasonally in the Warsaw Zoo so you will have plenty to choose if you are hungry. Plus, the zoo has its own restaurant, Tembo, and a bar, Belwederek.
The zoo is open daily from 9:00. More information, in Polish, on the official website.
For more attractions in Warsaw when you stay at a Mamaison hotel, see this link.
The Sacré Coeur Park is an oasis of green in walking distance from Mamaison Riverside Hotel Prague – about twenty minutes on foot or two minutes by car. It is a picturesque site that occupies the site of a garden landscaped in 1872 on the grounds of a former vineyard. The park, as it stands today, was developed in 2004.
The Church of St Elizabeth of Hungary is Bratislava’s most appealing art nouveau building.
The Church of St. Elizabeth, also known as the Little Blue Church of Bratislava, is Bratislava’s most appealing art nouveau building. Journalists around the world describe it as pretty as a wedding cake. And it is.
The only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to Polish Vodka, the new Polish Vodka Museum (Muzeum Polskiej Wódki) opened June 12, 2018, at the Koneser Praga Centre (Centrum Praskim Koneser). The museum aims to present vodka’s unique history, but also its role in the Polish lifestyle and culture.
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