My first Europe trip is over and I realize that I haven’t written much about it at all. The thousands of pictures I’ve taken lay jumbled in a series of digital folders, unsorted and unedited. It makes me feel a little bad because I saw so many incredible things and now those memories are slowly slipping away. So here goes a series of Europe recaps, mainly for myself so I can always remember.
First up: places of worship!
First, let me say that Europe has some of the most gorgeous churches on the planet. It’s just such an incredible feeling to be standing in the middle of a centuries old building, mouth agape, wondering how the hell humans built such huge, perfect, grand structures back then, and why buildings nowadays are so ugly even though we have more advanced technology.
But, it’s also easy to get church-fatigue in Europe. It’s a very real illness, you guys. In Europe, cathedrals are the major tourist attractions, and every city has a must see famous one. Some cities has a church on practically every corner (okay, actually I think it’s just Poland). After traveling through so many cities, it’s easy to just not care anymore about seeing the insides of yet another church.
But that said, there has been several churches that have left me breathless. Each are beautiful and unique in their own way. Yes, you would find that some of these are very… unique.
Go ahead… flip through these gorgeous churches! These images are all sliders with multiple pictures, so don’t miss any!
Saint Chapelle Cathedral – Paris, France
This is the first cathedral I fell in love with, and by the end of our trip, this one remains my favorite cathedral that I saw! But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that it’s just downhill from here. I promise some very interesting ones coming up!
I actually dedicated an entire post to it, which is something I don’t do very often. Even today, words still fail me as I try to describe how beautiful it is. So instead, I will use the same words I wrote then:
“15 windows rose 15 meters up to the sky, every single inch covered in the most stunning stained glass work I have ever seen! As I soaked it in, I started to feel happy tears prickling at the corners of the eyes. It was one of those moments – when standing in the center of the chapel, dwarfed by the gorgeous stained glass at all sides, light dancing behind them – I felt like crying from happiness.”
Matthias Church – Budapest, Hungary
This cathedral completely amazed me. At first glance, the entire interior was positively glowing in a brilliant gold. But soon, I realized that it’s because every square inch was covered in beautiful gold-toned wallpaper. I just walked around and around, trying to commit every amazing detail to memory. The exterior was gorgeous too with its whitewashed facade and red tile roof.
St. Stephens Cathedral – Vienna, Austria
I just talked about a Gothic cathedral with a tile roof with a colorful interior. This one here is a Gothic cathedral with a tile roof with a plain interior. But it’s anything from boring. it’s absolutely breathtaking both inside and out! The interior is made from all original stone. It’s neither gilded nor wallpapered. And it’s majestic.
Vitus Cathedral – Prague, Czech Republic
This is another Gothic cathedral… well, because they’re all over Europe. Okay, I have to admit something: cathedral fatigue has already set in by the time we got here, and my reaction to seeing it was somewhere along the lines of “oh look, another darn Gothic cathedral. Big deal.”
However, what I LOVED about it was the stained glass inside this cathedral. While Saint Chapelle in Paris was stunning because of the sheer volume & purple color of stained glass, this one takes the prize for the most beautiful, artistic, intricate designs. Each one is different and they are seriously works of art. The only way I know how to describe it is that there’s movement in the glass. Scroll through to take a look!
Wieliczka Salt Mine Cathedral – Wieliczka, Poland
This chapel was quite some work to get to, because it’s located deep beneath the earth in the chambers of a salt mine! To get to this, you need to descend 400 steps 200 feet down into the earth, and then walk another couple of kilometers or so through pine lined tunnels. But you’ll be rewarded with sights of an unbelievable underground mini-city, including lakes, ballrooms, salt statues, and what is probably the coolest chapel in the world – a cavernous room carved entirely out of salt rock. The most famous sculpture here is probably the famous The Last Supper carved out of salt rock.
And yes! Regular service is held here on Sundays. If you attend, you can enter the salt mine for free! Otherwise, you have to join a tour group to see it.
St. Mary’s Basilica – Krakow, Poland
Another reason to love Poland: they have some of the most opulent churches. This tall red brick cathedral is the commanding presence in Krakow’s Market Square. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but holy crap, it’s beautiful inside. The Polish really know how to build their cathedrals, each one more ornate than the other, with large amounts of gold and crazy color. This one has a HUGE gilded altar. One of the largest altars in the world.
It’s so incredible that I actually went there twice. A lot of places in Poland has a pesky photo fee you have to pay if you want to take photos. The first time, I stupidly left my camera’s memory disc at home. So I came back and paid the entrance and photo fees a second time in order to capture the beauty. It was definitely worth 2 visits in my opinion!
St. Elisabeth (Little Blue Church) – Bratislava, Slovakia
We were only in Bratislava on a day trip (don’t you love it when you can visit an entire new country in a day?), and honestly it was so forgettable. Like, I literally forgot I even went there until just now. But if there was one thing in Bratislava that stood out from the rest of the Eastern European capital cities, it was the Little Blue Church – a tiny little chapel that looks straight out of a fairy tale. I feel like the proper attire for entrance needs be a gingham dress with a white petticoat, pigtails, and a bonnet. Oh, and carrying a wicker picnic basket. It’s so damn cute.
This place was a little bit of a trek from the main town square. But it’s worth the trek. You get to walk through the quiet residential streets and pass by authentic local mom-and-pop type joints. It’s the non-touristy part of Brastislava and it ain’t pretty. But it’s real. And then you get to see this little fairy tale church.
Sedlec Ossuary – Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
This one definitely wins the top prize for the creepiest/most bizarre place of worship ever!!! Because ummmm… all the decorations are made of the bones of 40,000 deceased people?!
Once upon a time, the site was just a humble abbey cemetery. The story goes that when the Black Death hit in the 14th century, the land there became the most desirable burial location because it supposedly contained dirt brought back from the Holy Land. So thousands upon thousands of people were laid in mass graves, which was then unearthed when a church was built in the middle of the cemetery. A half-blind monk was given the task of organizing the bones, to which he said “I know! I will make decoration out of them!” Because, you know, that’s the most logical thing to do.
So behold! You get: a 4 giant stacks of human skulls, garlands, a crest, and giant goblets out of bone. And the centerpiece: a chandelier made out of every single bone in the human body.
Hagia Sophia, – Istanbul, Turkey
Is there anything as humbling as the Hagia Sophia?! It’s so ridiculously old (1500 years old to be exact) that it’s impossible not to be awed by the history and visions of all that has happened here within its hallowed walls. The Hagia Sophia held the title of the world’s largest church for 1000 years until the St. Peter’s Basilica was built in Rome. It blows my mind how humans back then can build things of this size. I especially loved the rings of low hanging lights over the vast floor. It looks absolutely divine. Just another reason why Istanbul is so magical. (About half of the interior was under construction… sigh, too bad.)
Tip: We went about 30 minutes before closing time. I would definitely recommend this, because as you can see, it was not crowded at all. Otherwise, it’s like a circus.
These are the cathedrals and tiny chapels that stood out the most in my mind during my summer tour of Europe. This is named “Volume I” because I am nowhere even close to seeing all of Europe. I hope to add to this collection when I make it back there again!!
What are you favorite European cathedrals? Why do they stick out in your mind?
This post is linked up with Pretty Mayhem for Pretty Travels. Come check out the other stylin’ globetrotters!