Budapest, Hungary

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Street-performing violin-guitar duo in Budapest, Hungary

We don’t give enough attention into the sounds of a place; it may be the most underrated of the five senses. For most of us–tourists and locals alike–it’s all about the magnificent views, pretty buildings, smells of the food cooking, the taste of the perfect pizza or verre du vin, perhaps even the feel of the cobblestones underfoot. Out in the countryside, sounds get a little more attention–namely, birds chirping, cicadas buzzing, wind blowing. Not only do sounds add flavour to a city, but they change our perspective of the view–without us even noticing! And one of the most positive influences on a city–when it comes to sounds–are those of street performers. Street artists don’t get enough credit. They hold the power to add character and completely change the way we think about a place. Could you imagine Las Ramblas in Barcelona without people in costume, artists painting your caricature, people singing and dancing to Spanish music? Could you imagine the streets of Paris or Lyon without someone playing French ballads on an accordion? Or Vienna without it’s constant stream of Oscar-worthy musicians and singers? Budapest without these lovely musicians in the Castle District? They exist in every city–and yet, we hardly pay them any attention. We enjoy their music as we walk by, perhaps smile for a moment before continuing on without even a thought to reach for our wallets. Yet, normal city sounds (car motors, airplanes over head, people shouting, machines humming, etc) aren’t very ‘beautiful;’ and all those barely-noticed artists, musicians and performers who do make beautiful or–at least interesting–music and performances are left to become obscure starving artists….now how is that fair? So the next time you’re downtown and someone’s performance makes you stop and watch or listen, be nice and toss in a few coins.

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Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain

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Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain

Didn’t immediately recognise this to be Spain? Look closely at the paintings themselves; there, you’ll see the artist’s rendition of the famed Sagrada Familia, the  magnificent and unmatched final creation of Antoni Gaudi – itself, a work of art! Barcelona is full of art. On La Ramblas – Barcelona’s main street – you’ll find not only painter’s stands like this one, but street performers wearing intricate costumes, performing mini theatrics, dancing to original routines, singing known and unknown songs – and more. But it’s more than that: Barcelona as a city is a Work Of Art. The Block of Discord is a great example – an entire city block dedicated to “bizarre” buildings, snuggled right into the city centre. Let’s not forget the famous artist Pablo Picasso, who spent much of his life in this city, and considered the Catalan capital his “true home.” And of course, we have Gaudi’s masterpieces, all of which clearly escaped from the Candyland board game: Parc Guell, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, not to mention the Sagrada Familia (a work of art STILL under construction). Let’s face it, the Spanish city is more than an urban centre – it is a dramatic nod to the arts, and an artistic creation in itself! In the words of Picasso himself: “Every child is born an artist, the problem is how to remain one.” The world would do well to remember that!

Statue of Cumil, Bratislava, Slovakia

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Statue of Cumil, Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava occasionally manages to makes the Danube travel itinerary, as its comfortably in between Vienna and Budapest. However, it’s still rather undiscovered in a way that Vienna is not. Smaller than Prague, Budapest or Vienna, Bratislava still has plenty of gems.  Walking through the middle of Bratislava’s Old Town, one suddenly comes across this unusual statue peeping out of a manhole. Only dating back to 1995, “Cumil” (as called by the locals) remains a mystery as to why there is a man in a raincoat popping out of a manhole. Regardless of his intentions, he’s amusing for both locals and tourists alike–and always a fun photo-op for all ages!