Visiting Lyon: A treasured travelling experience

We spent eight unforgettable days in the French city of Lyon. Visiting the city was a great travelling experience. We, of course, made plans, what to visit, when and how, but things never turn out as planned. There were many interesting places to visit, places which were not included in our plans, because either they were overlooked in the travelling guides or they are ignored for a number of reasons.

Lyon houses about 60 modern art murals. The Canuts Wall or Le mur des Canuts is the largest one and it has got worldwide fame. The artwork Wall was created in 1987. It is dedicated to the Silk Weavers, populating this old area of the city. The Wall is known as the largest mural in Europe, with a painted surface of about 1200 square meters. The Mural tells the ordinary story of this city district, which is located next to the Croix-Rousse Hill.


Paul Bocuse Food Halls or Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, in original, is Lyon’s famous food market. It is a covered area where about 60 food producers gather to sell their traditional food. They are bakers, pastry chefs, market gardeners, butchers, fishers, caterers, wine merchants, to name just a few.

The Place des Jacobins is a beautiful square housing a stunning fountain. Beautiful buildings border the square. Here one can simply perceive a pleasant murmur made of the city sounds and of the fountain water.

We were lucky to benefit from a great sunny day while visiting one of the most famous city attraction, the Park de la Tête d’Or. Located in a privileged geographical point where the Rhône and the Saône embrace each other, Lyon surprises visitors with this beautiful large park in addition to its architectural, cultural and gastronomic treasures.

Lyon has also got a strong romantic touch with its plane trees. We heard that they are the most common trees in the region. We shortly found out that the South of France is well populated with plane trees.

Front doors, clocks, bridges & an astronomical clock

We also planned to carefully look at the front doors of the buildings as we heard that they are of a particular beauty. Made out of wood, iron or glass, they represent a specific style, which has developed over the past centuries. We were very impressed with the art of crafting these beautiful masterpieces.

One who notices the front doors cannot ignore the clocks either street-clocks or part of bell towers. Some of the restless clocks were crafted hundreds of years ago. Some of them were renovated throughout the centuries. These public clocks add a particular beauty to the buildings they decorate: churches, public buildings and railway stations.

Despite the fact that we all are equipped with modern devices on which we can read the time, the public clocks preserve the mark of an architectural style and of the time period when they were crafted.

The heart of the French city of Lyon is embraced by two rivers: the Sâone and the Rhône. The two rivers are crossed by 29 bridges (ponts) and footbridges (passerelles): 16 on the Rhône and 13 on the Saône. It is for the first time when I saw so many bridges and footbridges together, in such a small physical space. They have been there for centuries and they are always ready to connect people and streets to the heart of the city. We managed to see and picture nine bridges and footbridges.

We did not miss, of course, the St. John’s Cathedral or Cathédrale Saint-Jean in French. It took four centuries to build this Cathedral. Today the monument is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Cathedral houses a famous astronomical clock. The clock is the oldest in France and one of the oldest in the World. The clock was designed in the 14th century and restored several times.

Stained glass windows or eternal story tellers

The major discovery of our trip to Lyon, France, was the Saint-Nizier Church and its stunning stained glass windows. This was the first time when I managed to picture a set of stained glass windows at their best. I was lucky with the day light, so that I managed to capture their breath-taking beauty.

We did not search for each scene, to see who authored it and when. We just enjoyed the beautiful moments, moving the eyes from one window to another.

We also had the chance to discover another gorgeous stained glass window collection housed by the St. Bonaventure Church. We could not trace the stained glass window authors. They employed the mosaic techniques, so small pieces of glass are like puzzle pieces making the whole visual.

Churches & cathedrals

One of Lyon’s iconic ground-breaking attraction is the Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica, which is located on the top of the Fourvière Hill. The building is visible from almost all of the city corners. If the weather allows, Mont Blanc, the highest point in Europe, is visible from the Fourvière Hill. I heard that, symbolically, Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica belongs to all the Lyonnais, Lyon’s inhabitants.

Before arriving to the old district of Lyon, we noticed a small Church, which is located on the left bank of the Saône River. It is St. George Church. We crossed the river on the Paul Couturier Footbridge and we spent some time to find out more about the Church.

Built over 300 years, from the 12th to 15th century, the Saint-Jean Cathedral of Lyon is the iconic symbol of the Old city’s district. The monument features a gorgeous mixture of the Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles.

Lyon’s Old town district

Lyon’s medieval district – the Old Town or the Vieux Lyon, in French – is 2000 years old. The district is situated on the west bank of the Saône River. It is the place where one can easily discover the city inner heritage.

We have never seen such a place preserving so well the wealth of the Renaissance times in the four-five store buildings with indoor courtyards and beautiful stairs. We believe that the Old Lyon contributes to making the whole city a pleasant and unique place, which equally embeds both old and modern living styles.

Lyon’s Awesome Squares

As a tourist a city square is always a place where we can stop for a while, take a break and look around. This is a good moment to check a touristic guide, read more about that place and identify the monuments and buildings described in. Lyon’s inhabitants claim that their city houses more than 200 squares, docks and passageways. We managed to see eighteen of the most or less famous squares.

We would probably need to come back to Lyon to revisit certain places and discover some others which we could not visit this year.

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Lyon’s Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica

One of Lyon’s iconic ground-breaking attraction is the Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica, which is located on the top of the Fourvière Hill. The building is visible from almost all of the city corners. If the weather allows, Mont Blanc, the highest point in Europe, is visible from the Fourvière Hill. I heard that, symbolically, Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica belongs to all the Lyonnais, Lyon’s inhabitants.

The Basilica honours the Virgin Mary, who, according to local believes saved the French city of Lyon from the bubonic plague that occurred in 1643. Each December 8 the Lyon’s inhabitants light candles to honour the memory of the Virgin Mary. Nowadays the Fête des Lumières (the Festival of Lights) is organised each December to put the event in a wider context of modernity.

To get there we took the driverless metro and an old funicular, which has been climbing the Fourvière Hill for the past 150 years.

Once we arrived to the top of hill, the view of Lyon and of the rivers, the Saône and the Rhône has been spectacular.


The history of the Basilica goes back to the 12th century. Notre-Dame de Fourvière is a perfect example of Eclecticism. The architectural style combines the Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine architecture.

The Basilica interior is richly decorated with mosaics, stained glass windows and high columns. All of them are so well harmonised so that we could not stop from admiring each detail. All of them are truly breath-taking.

The Basilica stays on four impressive corner towers. Each tower measures 48 meters and bears a name, based on the four cardinal virtues: Force, Justice, Prudence and Temperance.

Some masterpieces housed by the Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica, which I captured with my camera:

Stained glass
Mary queen of the holy virgins by Poncet


Mary, Heavenly Queen
A suite of 6 stained-glass windows, by Georges Decôte, picturing aspects of the royalty of the Virgin Mary in Heaven

Mary throughout history


The 6 wall mosaics honours the Virgin Mary.

The cupolas
There are 3 cupolas picturing Mary and the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Lyon’s Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica Photo-Album

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Lyon’s Canuts Wall: How to turn an everyday street into an art gallery

The city of Lyon features about 60 modern art murals. The Canuts Wall – Le mur des Canuts – is the largest one and it has got worldwide fame, for a number of reasons.


The project initiators were art students, who wanted to encourage people to get closer to art. The project proves to strengthen Lyon’s local identity since Lyon’s visitors put the attraction on their agenda.


Lyon’s Canuts Wall was created in 1987. It is dedicated to the Silk Weavers, populating this old area of the city. The Wall is known as the largest mural in Europe, with a painted surface of about 1200 square meters. The Mural tells the ordinary story of this city district, which is located next to the Croix-Rousse Hill.

The painting covers an ordinary wall, which initially had no windows, but some small ventilation holes.

The Mural is very well executed, so one can get the illusion of real things and real people like a baker getting the bread out of the stove, businesspeople rushing to work, a child playing and a lot of plants.

The Wall pictures Lyon’s vibrant energy and humour.


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Notre-Dame de Fourvière, mândria orașului Lyon

Una dintre cele mai importante atracții ale orașului francez Lyon este Bazilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière, ce străjuiește împrejurimile de pe vârful dealului Fourvière. Clădirea este vizibilă din aproape toate colțurile orașului. Dacă vremea e bună, Mont Blanc, cel mai înalt punct din Europa, este vizibil de pe dealul Fourvière. Am înțeles că, simbolic, Bazilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière aparține locuitorilor din Lyon.


Bazilica a fost construită în onoarea Fecioarei Maria, care, după legendele locale, a salvat orașul Lyon de ciuma bubonică din 1643. La 8 decembrie în fiecare an locuitorii Lyon-ului aprind lumânări în memoria Fecioarei Maria. Fête des Lumières (Festivalul luminilor) este organizat în fiecare decembrie pentru a da o undă de modernitate evenimentului.

Pentru a ajunge pe deal am luat metroul automat, fără conductor, și un funicular vechi, care a tot urcat și coborât dealul Fourvière în ultimii 150 de ani. Odată ce am ajuns în vârful dealului, ne-am bucurat de imaginea panoramică spectaculoasă a Lyon-ului și a râurilor sale, Saône și Rhône.


Istoria Bazilicii merge înapoi în timp, până în secolul al XII-lea. Notre-Dame de Fourvière este un exemplu perfect al eclectismului. Stilul arhitectural combină arhitectura romană, gotică și bizantină.

Interiorul Bazilicii este bogat decorat cu mozaicuri, vitralii și coloane înalte. Acestea sunt atât de bine armonizate, încât fiecare detaliu îti taie respirația.

Bazilica se sprijină pe patru turnuri impresionante. Fiecare turn măsoară 48 de metri și poartă un nume, împrumutat de la cele patru virtuți cardinale: Forța, Justiția, Prudența și Cumpătarea.

Mai jos câteva din capodoperele adăpostite de Bazilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière, pe care le-am fotografiat.

Fecioara Maria, de Poncet


Maria, Regina cerească
O suită de 6 vitralii, realizată de Georges Decôte, care prezintă aspecte legate de viața Fecioarei Maria în Rai.

Fecioara Maria în istorie


Cele 6 mozaicuri de perete o slăvesc pe Fecioara Maria.

Există 3 cupole care reprezintă scene cu Fecioara Maria și Sfânta Treime: Tatăl, Fiul și Sfânt Duh.

Notre-Dame de Fourvière, din Lyon :Album photo

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Back to school turns 15 this year

I accepted my colleagues’ invitation to take part in the “Back to School” programme this autumn. I will therefore visit two schools: my former school in Tătăranu, the Romanian village where I grew up, and the school where I used to teach for about 22 years in Focșani, Romania.

This invitation was the reason of going back in time and checking a collection of news article and other pieces of content I saved during the years when I managed the “Back to School” programme at European Schoolnet, my former working place.

15 years of school visits

The “Back to School” initiative was born in 2002. We were asked by our former management team to come up with an activity idea to bring face-to-face public figures and classes to exchange ideas on EU related subjects.

Year by year this activity became popular among teachers and public figures. In addition to the emotional link of the guest with her or his former school, there was a strong need of students to meet public figures. The students wanted to question the guests directly and experience idea exchanges live on the latest developments in the field of EU policies.

There were teaching communities fearing to welcome politicians to their schools, as the political campaigns were banned in schools, especially during the years of elections.

Despite this fear, our team was able to come up with an attractive school programme. For a number of years I developed a twin guide, for both teachers and guests, with concrete “Dos and don’ts” and relevant suggestions on how to increase both informational and pedagogical values of a school visit.

There was a timid start of the initiative in 2002 and 2003. Year by year, famous guests adopted the idea as an effective way to encourage young people to speak out and express their views on what matters most to them. Key European and national public figures joined the initiative: European Commissioners, state presidents, prime ministers, members of the European and national parliaments, writers, singers, composers, to name a few.


Screen caption of a popular online activity bringing together students’ self-elongated portraits, to holding their hands online

Based on the emotional link with the former school, a guest found a common ground to share ideas and thoughts with young people.

Because of an increased popularity, many institutions adopted the exchange model and encouraged their staff to take part in the “Back to School” activity. The European Commission supported the initiative by encouraging its own staff to get involved while spending their holidays in their home countries. A strong promoter of the action was Margot Wallström, a former EU Commissioner.

The first body that officially adopted the Back to School initiative, at a larger scale, was the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union. About 200 Germans, national and EU staff went back to their schools between January and June 2007. From 2007 on, each country holding the rotational presidency of the Council of the EU integrated the Back to School action into their presidency programme.

I am glad to see that our idea was turned into an ongoing activity that become popular among institutions and schools.

My latest Back to School experience in Romania, in 2017


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“Întoarcerea la școală” împlinește 15 ani

Am acceptat invitația colegilor mei de a participa în programul “Întoarcerea la școală” sau “Ïnapoi la școală (Back to School, în original) în această toamnă. Prin urmare, voi vizita două școli: fosta mea școală din Tătăranu, satul românesc unde am crescut, și “Duiliu Zamfirescu”, școala la care am predat timp de 22 de ani în Focșani, România.

Această invitație a fost motivul pentru care am călătorit în timp și am revăzut o colecție de articole de știri și alte materiale pe care le-am salvat pe un suport electronic în anii când am condus programul “Înapoi la școală” la European Schoolnet, fostul meu loc de muncă.

15 ani de “Înapoi la școală”

Inițiativa “Înapoi la școală” s-a conturat prin 2002. Am fost rugați de fosta noastră echipă de conducere să propunem o activitate care să aducă personalități și elevi față-în-față pentru a schimba idei pe subiecte UE.


Una din primele mele participări în programul “Back to School”, într-o școală belgiană, în 2006

An de an această activitate a devenit populară în rândul profesorilor și personalităților publice. În plus față de legătura emoțională a oaspetelui cu fosta sa școală, a existat o dorintă a elevilor de a se întâlni cu personalităti publice. Elevii doreau să pună întrebări directe invitaților și să trăiască pe viu schimburile de idei cu acestia. Ultimele evoluții din domeniul politicilor UE erau si sunt de mare interes în mediul scolar.

Comunitățile didactice din multe tări s-au temut să primească politicieni în școli, deoarece campaniile politice erau interzise în școli, mai ales în anii în care aveau loc alegeri.

În ciuda acestei temeri, echipa noastră a reușit să propună un program școlar atractiv. Timp de câțiva ani am publicat si actualizat două ghiduri, unul pentru profesorii care găzduiau vizitele, și un al doilea pentru oaspeți. Ghidurile cuprindeau sugestii concrete, relevante pentru valorificarea dimensiunilor informaționale și pedagogice ale vizitelor.

Initiativa a debutat timid în 2002 și 2003. Anual, oaspeți celebri au adoptat ideea ca o modalitate eficientă de a încuraja tinerii să vorbească și să-și exprime opiniile cu privire la ceea ce contează cel mai mult pentru ei în zilele noastre. Au participat personalități cheie europene și naționale importante: comisari europeni, președinți de stat, prim-miniștri, membri ai parlamentelor europene și naționale, scriitori, cântăreți, compozitori si multe alte categorii.

Bazându-se pe legătura emoțională cu fosta școală, oaspetii au avut ocazia să împărtășească idei și gânduri cu tinerii.

Datorită popularității crescute, multe instituții au adoptat modelul și au încurajat personalul să participe la activitatea “Înapoi la școală”. Comisia Europeană a sprijinit inițiativa prin încurajarea personalului său să viziteze fosta lor scoala pe durata concediilor în țările lor de origine. Un promotor puternic al acțiunii a fost Margot Wallström, fostă comisar UE.

Primul organism care a adoptat oficial inițiativa “Înapoi la școală”, la scară mai largă, a fost Președinția germană a Consiliului Uniunii Europene. Aproximativ 200 de germani, personal din administratia națională și UE, au vizitat fostele lor școli în perioada ianuarie-iunie 2007.

Mai multe despre această actiune în articolele viitoare de pe acest blog.

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Maastricht’s Saint Servatius, the oldest preserved church

Dutch people claim that Saint Servatius Basilica, or Sint-Servaasbasiliek in Dutch, is the oldest preserved church in the Netherlands. And I believe them.

The church is named after Servatius, who died at Maastricht in 384. Servatius was an Armenian missionary who became the bishop of Tongeren, which is today a city between Maastricht and Liège, in Belgium.

The Church recently gained the title of Basilica and is the most interesting building of the 12th century on the River of Meuse.

The building mainly features a Romanesque architectural style, with half-circular arches. It looks massive, with solid walls and impressive piers.

The Basilica has a central portal with stone decorations, which enhance a stunning façade.


The Basilica is a national monument and measures 85 with 42.5 m. The tower is 56 m high.

The construction of the Basilica took place in three time periods between the 10th and 12th century. A number of Gothic and Baroque elements were introduced between the 13th and 18th century.

A number of lateral chapels, richly decorated with paintings, religious objects and stained glass windows, impress the visitors.

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