PHOTOGRAPHY | TRAVEL

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Visited Countries

Dark Grey: Countries I’ve Visited + Photo Essays | Grey: Visited | White: Not visited

STOCKHOLM

Stockholm, a picturesque city composed of 14 islands and often described as “the city that floats on water”. Stockholm is one of the most beautiful, calm and vibrant cities in Europe. One of the highlights of this city is Gamla-Stan, also known as the “Old City”. The architecture is simply overwhelming, with narrow cobbled streets and colorful buildings that look straight out of a fairytale.

HELSINKI

A short couple of days was all it took for Helsinki to steal my heart. The city’s innovative urban culture–meshing tradition and trends in its own special way and seamlessly combining cityscape with nature. The diverse landscapes of The Suomenlinna Fortress has many opportunities for exploration, while mainland Helsinki houses beautiful architecture gems.

LISBON

Lisbon is a calm, compact jewel of cobbled streets and tile-clad buildings on the Tagus estuary. The oldest part of the city, the warren streets that make up the Alfama, sits below the spectacularly sited Moorish Castelo de São Jorge. On the other side of the Ponte 25 de Abril lays Belém, the suburb from which Portugal’s great navigators set sail. Lisbon is a place to wander the narrow backstreets, stroll the beautiful waterfront and climb the many hills to take in the views.

SINTRA

Sintra is a delightful Portuguese town that is situated within the hills of the Serra de Sintra. Hidden within these pine covered hills are extravagant palaces, opulent mansions and the ruins of an ancient castle. The variety of fascinating historic buildings and enthralling attractions, combine to form a fantastic day trip from Lisbon. From Sintra, we venture onward to Cabo da Roca and see the westernmost point in mainland Europe.

DUBAI

Dubai is the largest and most populous of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. The city has become symbolic for its man-made islands, world’s largest shopping malls and architectural marvels, such as the Burj al Arab and the Burj Khalifa, from which you can enjoy the best views over Dubai and the Arabian Gulf. The city lies directly within the Arabian Desert, surrounded by sweeping red sand dunes and an abundance of native vegetation.

ABU DHABI

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is without a doubt a must-see when you visit Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. This iconic mosque was built in memory of Sheikh Zayed, the man who brought the United Arab Emirates together, spearheading its creation into the majestic nation it is today. The result is the largest and grandest mosque in the United Arab Emirates today, with its 100 meter-tall minarets and 82 snow-white marble domes.

NEW YORK

Senses are ablaze while exploring Manhattan’s bustling mass of skyscrapers and sidewalks. Discovering Wall Street, Times Square, observing the city in all its majesty from the very top floors of the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, and a quick trip over to Liberty Island to walk around the famous statue. Overall, experiencing New York City by helicopter is the best way to experience what makes this concrete jungle truly astounding.

COPENHAGEN

Denmark’s vibrant capital Copenhagen is a compact city with the historic charm of northern Europe. The city is packed with historic buildings lining its narrow cobbled streets, leafy boulevards, pastel colored waterfront townhouses, boats on the canals, New Nordic Cuisine and Scandinavian design everywhere. This all makes it no wonder this port city has consistently been known as one of the happiest places in the world.

MOSCOW

One of the world’s largest cities, Moscow is a true metropolis whose ancient neighborhoods are interspersed with newly built high-rises. The Kremlin and Red Square are at the heart of Moscow – both historically and geographically. Wander within the walls of the ancient fortress, marvel at the mind-boggling magnificence of St Basil’s Cathedral and explore the unique mix of Renaissance Russian architecture and Soviet era Stalinist architecture.

SAINT PETERSBURG

Saint Petersburg is chock full of palaces, historic canals, classical architecture and pastel colored facades. City of Czars, Saint Petersburg is often considered Russia’s cultural capital, which is no wonder with the sheer grandeur of sights such as the Hermitage and its Palace Square, Church of the Savior on Blood, St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Peter and Paul Fortress – the first structure to be built in St. Petersburg, and thus the birthplace of the city.

CHERNOBYL

A visit to Chernobyl and the radioactive ghost town of Pripyat offers a glimpse into a world locked far behind the Iron Curtain that no longer exists. The scenery on the dusty road from Kiev to Chernobyl morphs from industrial skylines to overgrown forests that surround the nuclear disaster zone. Walking through the abandoned towns and villages felt like I’ve landed in a fabled place that most will only ever see in history books.

BELARUS

Belarus is often called ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’ and promised to be a different world from the rest of Europe – the Soviet heritage is still visible and wandering around the country felt like a Soviet time warp. Memorials to the Great Patriotic War are everywhere, with Soviet flags, symbols and Lenin statues all over the country. The allotted five-day entry period gave me just enough time to visit the highlights of this fascinating country: Minsk, Nesvizh, Mir & Brest.

BELGRADE

The Serbian capital in the heart of the Balkans is proudly standing between the East and West, with its unique mixture of the both. Contemporary Belgrade is pretty picturesque. The white marble walls of the St. Sava Temple can be seen all over Belgrade, while the monumental Kalemegdan Fortress rises above the city on a ridge overlooking the confluence of the Sava and the Danube Rivers.

BRUTALIST BELGRADE

While cycling through the concrete district for a day, Novi Beograd felt unreal. The enormous scale of “Blokovi”, the fitting name given to the urban neighbourhoods of Novi Beograd, is difficult to exaggerate. Blokovi is a programmatic communist construction effort to provide housing, and create a showcase of mass-produced large scale brutal communist architecture.

BRATISLAVA

Nestled along the River Danube, Bratislava stages a contrast between modern and historic, with traces of the communist era still evident outside the city’s historic centre. The compact city offers beautiful architecture: There’s the quaint, albeit tiny, Staré Mesto (Old Town), the dominating hilltop Castle of Bratislava and the St. Michael’s Tower, one of the essential symbols of Bratislava.

VIENNA

In the heart of Europe, on the banks of Danube, lies one of the most beautiful European capitals. Once capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the historic city of Vienna retains memories of its past glories. Today’s cityscape is characterized by stunning Baroque architecture at every turn and imperial palaces where you can almost hear the music of the famous composers floating through the air.

TALLINN

Tallinn Old Town is one of the best preserved Hanseatic town centres in the world, and one of the oldest cities on the Baltic Sea. At the historical and medieval heart of the city is the hill of Toompea, covered in cobbled streets and filled with medieval limestone houses and alleyways. The best way to explore Tallinn was to get lost, finding myself drifting through centuries of history.

RIGA

Riga is the capital of Latvia, it is located on the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the river Daugava and is also the largest city of the Baltic Republics. You can sense Riga’s history while wandering the city, which is bounded by the river Daugava, the city canal and in its breathtaking range of architecture styles. Riga’s old town gives it its fairy tale appeal, with Gothic spires that dominate Rīga’s cityscape.

VILNIUS

Lithuania’s capital has an Old Town of rare authenticity: marvellously intact, its cobbled streets are lined with weather-worn period buildings that hide cafes, boutiques and dainty guesthouses. The historic Old Town is filled with Baroque, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture, and an abundance of green space.

BUDAPEST

Budapest is one of my favourite cities in Eastern Europe. The Hungarian capital is in fact two cities, Buda and Pest, divided by the Danube river. The best way to enjoy the city is a walk along the Danube, with views of Castle Hill, Fisherman’s Bastion, and home to the parliament of Hungary.

BALI

Bali is magical. As probably the most famous island in Indonesia, Bali blends spectacular mountain scenery and beautiful sandy white beaches with warm and friendly people, a vibrant culture and filled with over 1000 temples. It is no wonder the island is often called ‘The Island of the Gods’.

PARIS

Visiting Paris is always a good idea, even when you only have one day to bask in its charms. Its rich history, architectural wonders, remarkable museums, and picturesque landscapes are sure to make it every traveler’s dream destination.

DUBLIN

Dublin is the capital of Ireland and is the largest city in the country. The city center is small but lively and full of cobblestone streets and characteristic pubs. It includes main highlights such as Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse and the Temple Bar neighborhood. Thanks to its vibrancy, lovable accents, and incredible sights it’s no secret why Dublin is a top destination for travelers.

BELFAST

Belfast is Ireland’s second largest city, as well as the largest city and capital of Northern Ireland. The city is known the world over for one main reason – the Troubles. However, since the ceasefires in 1994 the city has regenerated itself. Belfast has an unmistakable grandeur, from the impressive Titanic Quarter to its magnificent buildings rich with historic architecture.

SOFIA

Sofia is a city packed with eclectic monuments and buildings. The Bulgarian capital is built upon ancient foundations of culture and history. Standing among the striking Stalinist-era architecture are ancient Byzantine masterpieces, built during the 500 years of Ottoman rule, as well as ruins of a Roman metropolis from nearly 2000 years ago, when the city was called ‘Serdika’.

SLOVENIA

Ljubljana’s Old Town at the foot of the hill, overlooked by Ljubljana Castle, is punctuated by Secessionist and Baroque buildings, connected by legend-laden bridges along the Ljubljanica River. A one-hour scenic drive from the Slovenian capital brings you to the crystal clear waters of Lake Bled, hidden away amongst the snow-capped Julian Alps.

MOROCCO

Marrakech, a heady blend of labyrinthal souks, colourful Medina streets, mysterious snake charmers performing at the Djemma El Fna and the enchanting sound of the call to prayer echoing around the medina. We continued our journey, through the High Atlas Region towards to the gateway of the Sahara: The ancient fortified ksar of Aït Ben Haddou.

PLOVDIV

Plovdiv is Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city and it is best loved for its enchanting old town, packed with cobbled streets and colourful 19th-century mansions. Plovdiv has a fair number of well-preserved Roman ruins, the most important of which is the Roman amphi theatre, built in the saddle between two hills overlooking the ancient city.

All content copyright 2019 Matthijs Kok
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