Posts Tagged ‘center’

Trip to Balckhik Sea Resort City, Saint George Church Liturgy and The Palace Sea Garden of the Romanian Queen

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Balchik_Sea-Resort-Bulgaria_Aerial_photo-from-Black-Sea


Last Sunday 08.05.2016, we travelled with my beloved friend Elica on Opel Astra car (The so called Police Opel as this opel is well known in Bulgaria because it is the most used car by Police forces in Bulgaria. The distance  from Dobrich to Balchik Sea Town is very near (by car its only 31.5 km).
Nearby Balchik situated in 20-30 km, there are plenty of other uniquely beatiful Sea resorts, just to name a few Albena, Kranevo, Golden Sands, Kavarna.

From Balchik Seacoast it is visible Albena's remote shore, which is one of favourite tourist destination for Russian and one of the most famous tourist resort in Bulgaria are visible. What makes Balchik a great place to visit is also its unique and rich history, the city was inhibited more than 2500+ years ago, according to Herodotus in 585 – 550 year B.C.

Balchik-sea-resort-boats-near-coast

Balchik's history is very dramaticit was of the important sea cities to control by Thracians (during Thracian Empire) later by  Romans, conseqnently by Greeks in Byzantine times and since the creation of Bulgaria in year 681 by Bulgarians (during first and second Bulgarian Kingdom) and under Turkish Slavery 1396-1878 by Turks (during Ottoman Turkish Empire), then after the liberation again by Bulgarians, during the Balkan wars controlled by Romanians as part of Romania and finally since September 7 1940 after the restoration of Southern Dobrudzha region to Bulgaria again part of Re-United Bulgaria.

Once reaching Balchik, we attended Sunday Holy Liturgy in the Saint George majestic Church which on a first looks by its size gives the observer the impression of a small Eastern Cathedral Cathedral. On this date it was the Sunday of the Doubting Thomas the last day of the so called Bright week (the first week after Eastern Orthodox Pascha).

The service was amazingly beautiful with ac choire of only few ladies headed for my surprise by a non-Bulgarian (Belarusian) chorister lady Svetlana. The serving priest Father Stratia is a really tall and ascetic looking priest by the way he served the service and he prayed it was evident he possess a deep faith in God and perhaps a true heart relationship with Christ. The Church is full of icons and has a very unique iconostatis which by the words of the priest is the most unique Church iconostasis made by a Russian person and is the most unique and beatiful Church craftwork in the whole Dobrich region.

saint_George-Church-Eastern-Orthodox-Church-Seacity-Balchik

Saint George Eastern Orthodox Church Entrance – Balchik Sea City Resort, Bulgaria


The Russian influence in the Church is also evident by the many icons of well known Russian saints such as Saint John of Kronstadt, Saint Seraphim Seravski, Saint Xenia from Peterburg, Saint Matriona from Moscow, Saint King Vladimir etc. etc. Also it is very remembering experience in this Church the high number of different icons of saint George, many of which are well known and miracle making from Mount Athos (Fanailova) icon etc.

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Saint George Eastern Orthodox Church Alter – Balchik, Bulgaria

After the end of the Church service we had a walk through a piece of old stone strairs which are common for Balchik.

Balchik-old-city-stone-strairs

At the end of the service he blessed and wished a lot of "brightness and love" for the coming week and we went down from Balchik city center through a beautiful old stone stairs leading down to the Seacoast and Balchik's beach.

Balchik_cheap-caffeteria-sideview-to-black-sea-shore

We spend some time on the coffee waiting for Mitko and Samuil to drop by because we had agreed the previous day to travel by Mitko's Citroen C3 Pluriel (tutle sized car) from Balchik to Sofia.

Nearby the sea coast as in most of resorts there is a line with caffeterias and restaurands with a nice view facing the sea and a remote tiny mountain hights.
Balchik and the region is one of the most beautiful and green locations all around Dobrudja region with a beatiful plants, trees, herbs, woods. There are also few springs mineral drinable water in and nearby Balchik and the town is also famous for the healing mud center and many thermal springs of Tuzlata.

The temperature of the health water is 33 degrees centigrade; it is without color, low mineralized, and has excellent gustatory properties. The curative mud which comes from two firth lakes is dark brown, coarse-grained and has perfect physic-chemical properties. Near to the lakes there is a balneological center. Using the healing properties of the mug, good results have been reported on the treatment of gynecological, nervous diseases, diseases of the locomotory system and so on.

Balchik Tuzlata healing mud for recovering from and healing all kind of neurological, psycho-emotional and other diseases.

Balchik-Tuzlata-healing-mud-for-recovering-from-and-healing-of-all-kind-of-neurological-and-other-diseases

Perhaps the most famous and worthy thing to see in Balchik is Baclhik Palace (Dvoretz Balchik) which was constructed during 1926 – 1937  for the rest needs of the Romanian Queen during romanian control of the region in communist years of Bulgaria (1945 – 1989) and onwards it was reorganized to become one of the major and biggest Botanical garden in Bulgaria and is famous as Balchiks Botanical Garden exposing the largest collection of large cactuses in Bulgaria arranged in 1000 m2, the second biggest collection of Cactuses following after the one in Monaco.

Balchik-Botanical-garden-cactuses-second-largest-europe-collection-of-cactuses-in-Bulgaria

Few Cactuses shot – Balchik Botanical Garden Second Largest Botanical Garden in Europe

Balchik-Botanical-Garden-in-late-spring-Bulgaria-one-of-biggest-botanical-gardens-in-Europe

View to a Roman Catholic Chapel in Balchik Garden
 

The current Balchik Botanical garden has area of 65,000 m² and accommodates 2000 plant species belonging to 85 families and 200 genera a similar garden but smaller garden was build in Vrana's Bulgarian King Palace nearby Sofia

Balchik-sea-Botanical-Garden-and-a-queen-palace-one-of-most-beatiful-botanical-gardens-in-europe-and-world

The garden is absolutely unique to see mixing together architectural characteristics for Balkans and oriental motifs such as from Islam the garden was build by Italian architects Augustino and Americo and the overall arrangement of the Palace was made by a Swiss frorist.

Balchik-unique-one-world-best-botanical-gardens-Bulgaria

The main Palace building's extravagant minaret coexists with a Christian chapel, perfectly illustrating the queen's Bahá'í beliefs.

Balchik-heaven-like-botanical-garden-one-of-best-in-Europe

A virtual tour of Balchik Palace check is on the official site of Palace here


Dvorec-Balchik-Botanical-Garden-Islamic-Minare

Though Balchik is only about 10000 to 12000 of citizens it is the second largest town in Dobrich region, rich for historical reason in diverse culture and architecture.

Below is a small chunk of the many interesting old historical things the lover of beauty can enjoy.

Balchik_old_townhouse_1871_-_door_detail

Though it is a little in size it has obsiouly rich citizen spirituality as the city has 5 Churches 4 of which in active service.

Saint_Nicholas_liberation-movement-Church-Balchik

Saint Nicolas Church built in Liberation of Bulgaria period

Sveta_Petka_Tarnovska-Church-in-Balchik


Another unique beatiful Eastern Orthodox Church to visit if you happen to be in Balchik is Saint Petka Tarnovska Church

Balchik is situated on a steep hills thus, the roads are а bit uneven like in mountains, one can see in city center also some builtiful 'bulgarian renesanse' buildings left from 19th century architecture in the famous for that time Austrian / Italian Architecture.

Bulgaria-Balchik-old_building-from-19th-century

As Balchik is small in size it is perfect for people who want to have rest in a cozy town and still have all conveniences of a beach resort. The overall feeling of being in Balchik is like in a small Italian sea town with the only difference that the prices of food and drinks in Balchik are quite affordable if compared to Western Europe resorts. A four people meal with some small drinks nearby see would be cheap like 40-50 euro.

Trip to Troyan Bulgaria and Troyan Monastery – Third monastery by size in Bulgaria

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Troan Monastery Church - Trip to Troyan Monastery from 16th century Bulgaria - 3rd monastery by size in Bulgaria
This weekend I went with my wife for a Trip To Troyan monastery from Sofia – bus ticket currently costs 12 lv (6 euro) and the distance is rawly 160 km.

Troyan is a remarkable mountain city situated in the center (heart) of Bulgaria, famous with being one of the main places where opposition and preparation for the Turkish Bulgarian war occured. Troyan monastery situated near Oreshaka village was one of the places where the idea of liberation of Bulgaria originated. Troyan was often visited by the remarkable revolutionaries and greatest Bulgarian heroes of all times like Vasil Levski and Hristo Botev.

Troyan Monastery - ancient orthodox monastery in Bulgaria from 16th century

Here in Troyan there was existing one of the many secret commitees in period (1869 – 1876) – Central Secret Revolutionary Committee (BRCK – as widely known in Bulgaria), creation of this commitee become reality thanks to the Deacon Vasil Levsky who saw there is no awakened Bulgarians to fight for national freedom.
Efforts of CSRC later lead to Liberation of Bulgarian from 500 years Bulgarians being under the yoke of Turkish Slavery.

Eco path in the steps of the Apostle of Freedom Vasil Levsky Bulgaria

Our first impressions from Troyan were quite negative, the bus station looks post communistic and a little bit like a horror movie, near the bus station there was a lot of criminal looking gipsies.
Just 5 minutes walk from there is a small beautiful park with children playground, what impressed me most in the park is a bush cutted in the form of ancient amphora and next to the park is the city center surrounded by a river Beli Osym, all from the city center you can see the beatiful mountains all around. There are two historical museums filled with archaelogical remains from early ages, national dresses, weapons from the Liberation war, explanation with chunks of history and Bulgarian national heroes connected to Troyan, there are beautiful expoisitions on how locals used to live through the ages museums, famous paintings original of local artistsBulgaria is a unique country, because of it combines outstanding nature and rich history remains of which is well preserved and standing firm testifying about the Bulgaria glorious past.

Entrance door of The Troyan Monastery - Troianska sveta obitel uspenie Bogorodichno

After taking a walk in the city center, we went to a local city bus station to take a bus to Oreshaka village – at the end of which is located Troyan Monastery. His Beuaitutide Patriarch Maxim who passed away 98 years old was born in Oreshaka village and become monk in Troyan monastery and was a brother of Troan monastery. Currently his holy body is buried in the monastery which is titled "The Dormition of the most Holy Theotokos".  One can feel the place is graceful even from reaching near Oreshaka village, the near view is also stunningly beautiful. The bus from Troyan has a bus stop right in front of the monastery and is cheap (costed only 1.90 lv per person 0.80 euro cents). Bus to the monastery travels 4 times a day, so it was convenient to reach the monastery.
Oreshaka and Troyan region is well famous since ancient times with its skillful craftsman and all kind of crafts developing.

Tryoan monastery mamut and lion - monuments from ancient God creation

Near the monastery there is small chapel from which the monastery started, the history of Troyan monastery, all revives around the miraculous icon of Holy Theotokos (Troeruchica – The Tree Handed Virgin).

Miracle making icon in Troyan Monastery Holy Virgin (Theotokos) Troeruchica - Tree Handed

The monastery story revives around this icon, a monk from holy Mount Athos was travelling to Vlashko (nowadays situated in Carpathians – Romania near border with Moldova), on his way he heard about a hermit with his pupil living near Oreshaka region and spend some time in fasting and prayer with the hermit local people heard about the miracle making icon and come from near and distant regions to venerate the Holy Virgin and pray. When the time come and he decided to move further in his trip to Vlashko he put the icon on his settled horse, made the sign of the cross and walked after few steps the horse stumbled and break his leg, in this event the monk understand it is not God's will to travel and he returned back to the hermit. After spending some time with the hermit, he settled again his horse but on exactly the same place the horse fall again – in that the monk understood this happens because the icon wants to stay on that place. The hermit offered to the monk that he stay there and they service God together, but traveling monk rejected, he venerated the holy icon for a last time and continued his travel to Vlashko. A small brotherhood formed by God's providence near the hermit and they decided to make a small wooden Church for Troeruchica and started servicing God there. This is how Troyan monastery started in the XVI century. The Glory of the Holy icon of Virgin Mary (Troeruchica) quickly spread all around enslaved Bulgarian lands and people come from all regions to pray to the Virgin to cure them, grant them good fortune, good health, solve spritual and family problems … The notes over the last 400 years shows that everyone that come with faith and prayed in front of the Virgin icon found confort, healing, numb started talking, deaf started hearing, paralytics walked.

Sveta_Bogorodica-Troeruchica-Holy-Theotokos-miracle-making-icon-Troyan

Monastery chronicles say that thanks to the Theotokos Troeruruchica in year 1837 the icon saved the locals from the black death which was taking its toll in the region, nobody that came to the monastery to ask for protection from the plague didn't suffered plague, everyone that decided to stay in the monastery during the plague survived, even though people from all around were coming to confess and take the sacraments, no one in the monastery wasn't infected by plague.

We arrived in Troyan Monastery around 16:30 and by arriving were hospitally accepted by our marriage godfather Galin and his sister Denica and were threated with fresh watermelon and even 50 grams of Bulgarian traditional drink Rakia. They're currently painting walls in the monastery dining room in 18:00 we had the blessing to attend the evening Church service. The service was deep and unique experience that moves you to the Kingdom of heaven. After the Church service we went to nearby Mehana Kaizer (Old Bulgarian Dining Inn – Krychma whole made to look in Old Bulgarian Style – there is plenty of traditional food to choose and food was super delicious 🙂

kaizer-krychma-traditional-inn-pub-near-Troyan-monastery

On Sunday 10.08.2014 we were for the Holy Liturgy service and after that we walked through the monastic Church and saw near the Church the bell tower and next to it the old monks monastic graveyard. We visited also the museum of the monastery which contains various religious use objects dating back from year 1700+, old  craftmen instruments, old icons, potirs, priest clothes, old coins from all around the world and Bulgaria. There was a lot of information about historical facts regarding the monastery brotherhood, as well as some chronicles and documents explaining participation of the monastery in the fight for national freedom of Bulgaria. The musem is made of two rooms one of which was the same room where the Apostle of Freedom Vasil Levsky – one can see there the exact hiding place which Vasil Levsky was using to sleep secretly – the hiding place looks like a normal wardrobe.

Scyth saint Nicolas near Troan Monastery Oreshaka Bulgaria - revolutionary city led to freedom of Bulgaria

After seeing the museum, we went to see the monastic Scyth – "Saint Nicola", which was used earlier by the monks, whenever they wanted to have period of seclusion to raise their spiritual life. The Scyth has a large Church in honor of Saint Nicolas, most likely this Church was visited by people from the village, in times when Christians in Bulgaria was forbidden to attend Church services by Turkish Empire – and this is why it was build in such a secluded place. Near the scyth is the grave of a famous rebel for Bulgarian Freedom, and there is a cave with a spring.

Graveyard and skeleton of haidut - rebel Velko fighter for Bulgarian freedom Schyth near Troyan Monastery

Then we walked back the road to Troan Monastery and near the monastery, we went to see workshop of a carpenter lady who makes wooden ornaments for Churches in the region and the monastery.

The lady give us some herbs as a blessing. We had the chance to also take the blessing from the current Abbot Biship Sionij who was earlier rector of Sofia's Seminary Saint "John of Rila".

Evening service and Holy Liturgy in Russian Church st. Nicolas and marriage preparations

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

St-nicolas-russian-church-sofia-bulgaria

Last Saturday evening I and my future wife Svetlana went to get train tickets (Sofia Dobrich), cause next week me and Svetlana will be travelling to Dobrich. Afterwards we went to Russian Church in center of Sofia – St. Nicolas for the evening service and confessed. The evening service was led by Archimandrite Philip who is currently Russian Church's prior.

archimandrite-Philip-russian-church-in-Bulgaria-prior

At the end of Church service there was an oilment, as always being on a Russian Holy Liturgy is astonishing experience. On Sunday morning 2nd February we were in Russian Church again for the Russian Liturgy and we took the holy sacraments as it is proper (according to Orthodox Church tradition the marrying couple should confess and receive the sacraments before marrying in Church). After Church service we went to Church crypt to venerate holy relics of Archimandrate Seraphim Sobolev. A big thing is happening in my life nowdays as I will have marriage this week  on Friday 7-th of February:)

We prepared so far almost everything for marriage. My parents helped with finding a marriage resturant and finding musicians for post marriage restaurant celebration. We also travelled to Asenovgrad to look for Svetlana's  wedding dress and we got one  I bough a marriage suit 2 weeks back and we ordered a marriage rings. There is already agreement with a priest father Vasilij – who will merry us in Church St. Trinity this Friday. Father Vasilij serves in Church "Dormition of Virgin Mary" in Kavarna . We choose father Vasilij to make the Marriage vows for the reason he is nativily Russian speaking (like Svetlana) plus the father is a good example of a true Christian priest. Today the parents of Svetlana (mama Vera and papa Alexander) arrived in the airport in Varna for the marriage (thanks God they had safe flight). Sunday night I send Svetlana to Train Station here in Sofia to make latest preparations for marriage. I will be travelling to Dobrich on Wednesday night 1 day before marriage. The rest of things happening around are not so interesting. In y job in HP work is complicated as usual. On my job I'm learning HPSM (HP Service Manager) and how to open new Changes in system and that's mostly my life these days. When I have time I'm playing OpenTyrian and a couple of nice arcade games on my ZTE Android mobile phone and reading some saint livings on mobile.
 

 

Trip to Eindhoven airport and city center – few city impressions on city Cathedrals and centre

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

at_Eindhoven

Today, for its my 3rd time I go to Eindhoven. My first time was when I flied from Sofia, Bulgaria to Eindhoven (Holland) Airport in September, second time I was there was December 22-nd as I had to go there to take my girlfriend Svetlana from the airport; today it was the first time as unfortunately her Belarusian visa was expiring and she had to travel back to Belarus.

We travelled with Svetla from Arnhem to Eindhoven, the whole trip takes about approximate 1 hour. There is no direct train from Anrnhem to Eindhoven; thus we had to change train in 's-Hertogenbsoch. The trip thanks God went smoothly and the train was late with only few minutes (something very unusual for trains here in Holland). About 12 o'clock we were in the Train station. The bus station allowing a number of bus lines travelling to different destinations of the city is located right infront of train station, just like in Arnhem, Nijmegen (and probably a lot of other Dutch cities). Dutch architects did obviously a very good job by designing such a good road architecture in Holland, along with the ability to travel through absolutely all country on bike, the train and bus architecture is designed very well too. The bus to Airport is arriving and departing every 7 minutes, so there was no need we wait for long time for the next bus to arrive. I had to pick-up a bus tickets from a special bus tickets sell-office. The bus per person costs 3.50 EURO as of time of writing this post – something to mention is I have memorybus ticket in 22 december 2012 from train-station to Airport was 3 EUR – 50 cents less. Actually a curious fact to mention from 22 dec 2012 is I went to take the bus very early in the morning and bus-tickets office (located on the right of the entrance of Train Station entrance), were closed. I went to buy a bus ticket from the driver (a kind lady) and she told me their ticketing system is not working so "everybody is for free :)". This was quite a fun, since here in Holland they're so advanced and high-tech and they put most of their "lives" in the hands of technology and suddenly something as important as a bus-ticketing system is off and everyone in bus travels for free – absolutely ridiculous story …

My whole impression from Eindhoven is not very different from other cities I've seen in holland. The architecture of most of the streets and houses is no different. The brown beautiful houses build of little blocks with plenty of beautiful outside house decorations, green grass etc. There is however an evident difference from Arnhem and Nijmegen as many of the company buildings  near the city center and on the way while in the bus to Airport were built in a very modernistic style. Something noticable was buildings belonging to the so famous Philips company as well as the Philips stadium. Few of the buildings were quite tall looking a bit like New York's sky-scrapers. On the way to train-station, the most noticable thing I've seen was the Evuliona modernistic building build in the shape of scifi movies UFO 🙂

Evoluion Eindhoven UFO like building one of the most notable buildings in Eindhoven - Symbol of Human knowledge evolution

The eindhoven's attraction Unidentified Flying Object futuristic building

The rest was just a lot of company buildings and industrial equipment or markets, the whole city as long as I saw it is very technological and industrial. I derive this conclusion as  I've seen buildings of many of the most famous world IT companies, as well as a lot of industrial vehicles on the way to train station. After I had to leave my dear Svetlanka on airport. I've took the bus back to the train station. BTW, the bus number as of time of writting which goes from Train Station to Airport and Airport to Train-Station is bus number 401. The bus looks a bit more modern than the usual bus-es I've seen in Arnhem and Nijmegen. One thing which is different also from the regular bus-es in many other cities and towns in Holland is the driver in the bus going to and from Airport to tr. station, refuses to sell you tickets, but instead one has to buy the ticket from a ticket selling machine, which is accepting debit and credit cards, as well as probably the Dutch OV Chipcard as well as supports buying by coins. The ticket selling machine is made to work complicated, as there are few ticket types one can choose using a touch-screen computer interface; I tried inserting 3.50 euro to buy ticket for myself but the machine is just spitting the money. It is good a lady I asked on how she bought helped me showing me I first have to select the ticket type from the touch-screen as the touch screen is very much on the left side of the ticket-selling machine and I was in a hurry I didn't even noticed it. I've seen other people having the same problem with the machine, wondering why it happens – so it might be a good idea the high-tech guys who constructed it to make ticket buying using a 3 or 5 simple buttons, through which one can select the ticket type. It will save people time as well as not confuse probably multitude of foreigners like me who came to holland and get a first impression that Holland's sophisticated IT structure is not working 🙂

After Svetka check-in her laggage in around 12:40 and we had to say each other good buy in 13:10, she went inside the usual Airport Security check – metal detector scanner and I took the bus back to Eindhoven train-station. As the train station is located 3 minutes walk from the city center. I decided to take a quick look in the city center to see if there is something nice to see on centre – I was more interested to take a look at some Churches and my main idea was to see if I can find the Orthodox Church Parish of Saint Nectarios of Aegina as well as take a look at the Gothic style built Roman Catholic or Protestant Church buildings. About 10-15 minutes walk from train-station I've noticed two huge cathedrals. Both of them was heavily decorated with towers with the usual 3 enormous windows repeating pattern and the many other architectural patterns containing 3 elements (probably symbolizing) the Holy Trinity. What was new for me on both of the Cathedrals is the of Virgin Mary and Jesus or Saints? statues located on top of the Gothic Cathedrals. I checked the time schedule and it seemed both of cathedrals were functional, but only the second one I went to (St. Catherine) was opened.

Catharina kerk Roman Catholic city center church Cathedral Eindhoven

I've red the short history of the Cathedral and walked around it to check the wall paintings, statues, roman catholic crucifixes, the mosaics on the Church windows and generally the Church decoration. Many of the things in the Church seemed very unusual to me. The thing I most disliked was the ugly modern art reproductions mosaics of Jesus and various evangelica scenes. Though I'm happy I could have entered a Christian Church, I couldn't have not say how grotesque the crucifix means. There was a separate room in where it seemed people from the Church was doing something it looked a bit like an office. Though this was a still Church, for me it was somehow missing the light and feeling of spiritual deepness. There was an icon of Virgin Mary holding the most pure body of our Saviour Jesus Christ. One can clearly distinguish it is a Slavonic icon by the "МР ОУ" – abbreviation for Marry Mother of God.
I've red the Church story and it seems the earliest Church there is from the 12th century – meaning that it is possible an Orthodox Holy Liturgy was never served there.
A very short story of the Church is very similar to many of the Roman Catholic Cathedrals in Holland;

In short, Church building was taken from Roman Catholics and used by protestant in 16th / 17th century, just like with many other of the Roman Catholic Churches during the 16th – 18th century protestant reformation. In 19th century Catholics used it again, but then in 20th century it was almost completely destroyed during World War II, later rebuild and now again owned by Roman Catholics.

One thing to mention is though, I've only been in few Roman Catholic Cathedrals so far, it seems almost every one was keeping an Orthodox icon (usually Russian one), or an icon at least looking like Orthodox. Usually I would not be interested into entering a Roman Catholic Church, as we are prohibited to pray with them and I know about their errs in faith, however I know many of the Churches contain Holy Relics of saints / martyrs and bishops who preached and lived an extremely holy life, before the great schism thus I walk in Roman Catholic Churches with the hope and desire that the Church might contain Holy Relics of saint in their alter or somewhere kept and through that I might a blessing of the respective saint ….

After, walking out, I've walked through the city center, and most I saw was modernistic buildings shops and just few houses with more interesting oldish architecture. Some interesting building on city center is an Iglu shaped like called "Iglus".

Eindhoven Holland Iglus Massive Shopping Center Winkel in form of Escimos (Eskimo) Iglu

I didn't saw all of the city center but from what I've seen it seemed to me the city center of Eindhoven is less interesting to see than Arnhem and Nijmegen's. Eindhoven's city center looks modern and maybe this was main thing why I was not impressed.

Steentjeskerk church Eindhoven Holland architecture like Orthodox Church

I've seen one Church building, while traveling with the bus from Eindhoven Airport to Train-Station, and this building looked very much like Orthodox, also from the far the cross of it and the overall architecture looked very much Orthodox. I very much hoped it is an Orthodox so from Train Station walked about 20 minutes to the Church to check if it is not the Nectarios of Aegina Orthodox Church I mentioned earlier. The Steentjeskerk  Church was closed and on the main entrance doors. I've later found out the Church is not used for Roman Catholic Holy Liturgy since 1971.

It was quite striking to see shops selling souvenirs or something on the exact place where the Church entrance door used to be;  just 15 meters from the Church was a Coffee-Shop (i.e. a place here in Holland, where people go to Smoke Ganja, Mushrooms, alcohol and other light drugs ….

After checking on the Internet for the Steentjeskerk building is relatively new and had nothing to do ever with Orthodoxy. What however made me happy is it used to be dedicated to st. Anthony the Great – the saint who is considered as a father of Christian monks life.
The scenery right in front of my eyes was striking, I made a walk through the Church to see well its Architecture and in hope I can understand if it used to be Protestant or Roman Catholic. According to the Virgin Mary statue on top of Church I derived conclusion the Church used to be Roman Catholic. i've seen some text written somewhere on the back of the Church speaking the Church is used for some kind of exhibition. Even though the Church was not Orthodox, I felt sad for the poor Church being abandoned and being almost pranked with by allowing a place which was used for regular prayer to shop / exhibition …..

On the back of the Majestic Church, My amazement doubled when I saw a big mosque with a high Minaret (space ship rocket – as a friend likes to joke). The working Muslim Mosque built according to architecture norms of Muslims on the backstage of the unworking poort closed Roman Catholic Church turned to shop / exhibition was one of the saddest things I've seen. This whole scenery also explained, why Muslim faith is blooming and Europe it also explains, why Muslims are currently "taking over" Europe – just until recently the largest Christian continent.

 

My First hitch-hiking experience – travel notes on a hitch hiker trip from Dobrich to Pomorie Monastery

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

My first hitch hiking experience travel notes of a hitch hiker Dobrich Varna Pomorie Monastery

I've been 28 years old and for good or bad never travelled hitch hiking. Today however with a friend of mine Kimba thx God I lived to experience what it is like to stay on the road "begging" people to take you on their way to somewhere.

I always wanted to hitch-hike as a youngster but my restrictive controlling parents was too vigilant not to let me have my personal freedom and try hitch hiking. Now as I've grown "old" I have the freedom to do it and I'm glad I could. For sure it is better to do something you always wanted later than never 🙂

We took the "STOP" from a place few meters away from the "scratching sign" indicating the end of Dobrich city area – located about 4 / 5 km from Dobrich center. To come to the well known hitch-hiker's place (which my friend Kimba) knew pretty well since he travelled probably more than 20 times hitch-hiking.

To reach the hitch-hiker place we walked about 1 hour which in the early morning (07:50 to 09:00) came to be quite refreshing.
About 09:00 we started doing the well know hitch hiker gesture to beg traveller to take us 🙂

It felt quite unconfortable and a bit like begging to be on the road waiting for somebody to pick you up on the other hand it felt very challenging as it seemed to be a good "exercice" to raise up self-confidence. We were lucky and we didn't met any drivers to mock us with gestures or car beep. Besides that we only had to wait less than 20 minutes (probably 18 mins) until a car stop and ask her for our direction.
The driver seemed had to travel close to Aksakovo (a small village like town 1 km far from beginning of Varna and just few km away from the city center).

He pick us up and as we go he happened to be a familiar person which I've seen many times in the (International College Albena) where I previously studied.
The guy happened to be a merried for the librarian of the college. We had a nice chat in his car about Bulgaria before in communism and now and who is doing what (which I guess is quite normal) for hitch-hikers. As he drived a very funny scene appeared as we saw a donkey leading a cart full of wood running on the road. Now you might wonder what would be funny of a rural donkey with a cart full of wood, well the cart didn't have any person leading it. It seemed the donkey run away scared by a truck or a noise so the person leading the cart either fall somewhere on the road or the donkey had untight itself and took the direction to its home place 🙂

… Our hitch-hiking plan was to travel from Dobrich to Varna (if possible or the closest village or suburb), then we aimed to take a bus from Varna or somewhere nearby to the city center and from the city center to Travel to the so called (Asparuh's bridge / (Asparuhovia Most) – which is a common hitch-hike waiting and pick-up destination).

As we were left in Aksakovo by the driver, we were lucky to have a close bus stop near us. We went to the bus stop and we only had to wait about 8 minutes until the next bus driving to Varna city center arrived. We pick up a bus number 207 and travelled 'safely' to the city center (on the price of 1 lv per ticket). So our overall travelling for both of us instead of 10 lv (5 lv per person bus tick) costed only 2 lv 🙂 Along with the low price for travelling the hitch-hiking was also very healthy as we had a long walk to the place to depart from and after that had a small walk to pick up the bus to Varna. We made a mistake to not go out of the 207 bus near Varna city center Cathedral but two stops earlier, so we also had a small 15 minutes walking to the Cathedral. As we were not sure which bus we need to take to go to Asparuhov's bridge, we asked few people on the city center. We were told we need to pick bus number 2 or 17 (IIRC).

Eventually as we're waiting near the bus station where the bus-es leading to Asparuhovo stopped, we came to meet a taxi driver driving people to Asparuhovo on the price of a bus ticket (1 lv). In 5 minutes time, again obviously by God's might intervention the driver was able to collect 2 more people so he offered that we all immediately travel. The taxi-st left us on a place a bit after Asparuhovo's bridge which was the common place for hitch-hikers. We had to climb a little hill like place and walk a bit on the highway on (the car damage and wreck area). Very near us was a police car waiting to catch violators of speed limits. I didn't know about this very moment that Hitch-Hiking in Bulgaria is considered illegal!, happily I found this sad fact not by the police man but from Kliment (Kimba). The policeman did not stop us as we found a way to walk through a place which is bit far from them. Kimba choose a place and we started doing the hitch-hiker "PLEASE STOP AND TAKE US" gesture once again (actually the as Kimba was a professional in hitch-hiking he was mostly doing the hitch-hike sign.

There we had to wait about 40 minutes or so until, a good man with a small bus carrying some paper palettes stop and took us.
Thanks God he had to travel to Jambol to deliver the palettes so his travel route passed by near Bourgas (and respectively Pomorie). We had a an intimaditing chat with the person by which I found out he seem to be having many money issues and a lot of debts (just like many of the people in BG nowdays). Unfortunately he shared that just like a lot of us the common people in Bulgaria he is underpaid and often even though he works extra in Saturdays and Sundays it is almost impossible for him to pay his rent, food and family expenss …..

As the conversation progressed, he asked us where are we going if we're going to find a work and I told him we're going to be guests and pilgrims to Pomorie Monastery and in the mean time help the monks if there is work to be done….

It was a pleasure for me to meet such an honest bulgarian middle aged man, which also was good enough to pick us up. The time passed quite quickly as we shared some of common living joys and griefs. The bus quickly approached pomorie so we left us and we split. As I was thankful to the guy and felt pity for his bad life misfortunes and I wished in my mind that God bless, help him and return him for the good deed he done to pick us up.

We were now only 2 km from Pomorie entrance so to the monastery we had to walk only about 4 or 5 more kilometers. On the gas (oil) station, where we were left a fun story happaned as the computers counting the gasoline stopped working. People who filled the car tanks with Gasoline had to wait until someone comes and fixes the computer, neither nobody can purchase anything from the station (a snacks, a coffee, even a bottle of water) was impossible to buy. We stayed on this little station (Petrol) located just 2 km from Pomorie for 20 or 25 minutes and in this time this people who couldn't pay for the gasoline had to just hang up there loosing their time waiting for someone to fix the BUGGED PC ,,,

This scene has once again confirmed my theory that computerization is not always necessery a good think and the over-computerization of everything as the trend is nowdays could create a lot of time lags in many places and often create a great havoc if systems somehow reject working as planned ….

Anyways to be sure which way to walk to Pomorie Monastery we had to consult few local people. Nicely the road leading to Pomoriiski Manastir was easy we just had to walk straight and then turn right. Actually the monastery bell tower is visible on the way so it is not likely that anyone walking straight will not notice the tower which is taller than other one or two stage housed highed buildings.

We came to the monastery and by Gods grace as we asked previously the abbot for a blessing to come to the monastery, they were expecting us.
Immediately one of the persons serving in the monastery gave us a room. I asked for the abbot and we found him in his Abbot place and gave us a blessing. That's the over of my first and hopefully not last great hitch-hiking adventere. The moral from my trip is:
 

To sum it up, if you never tried stopping on a highway give it a try! 🙂

  • hitch-hiking is a great must experience in a life-time thing;
  • Obviously we were lucky and it is always a great think to travel with an Abbot blessing
  • Hitch-hiking in Bulgaria is illegal, so there is thrill in doing it 🙂
  • hitch-hiking could be a very healthy initiative
  • Hitch-hiking is a great raise up and experience new random people self-confidence exercise 🙂

How to digital watermark to a picture – Protect pic with copyright image or text with composite, convert and Phatch on GNU / Linux

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Watermarking is a technique to identify a physical or non-physical object with its owner (creator). First watermarks in history originates from very ancient times.

There are two basic types of Watermark types:

I. Physical Watermarks (classical)

II. Digital Watermarks

Historically Classical Watermarks, were mostly important. As we tend to use more and more visible and we switch to use of more invisible stuff, nowdays the importance and use of digital watermarks is steadily raising.

You have most likely already seen pictures from websites which contain a copyright holder message stamp or website logo on it.
As you could imagine the picture watermark is placed in order to prevent pictures from being re-used in another internet space ,without the picture copyright holder explicit permission…

Watermarks have entered most if not all areas of our life, but we often don't recognize they're there / rarely think about them.
Few of the many "physical watermarks" we use daily are:
 

  • paper money watermark (to protect against anti money forgery)
  • bank debit / credit cards stamps near the card chip
  • postcards paper stamps

There are too many different kind of "physical watermarks" and since this is not the accent of this article, I will continue straight to explaiin a bit on Digital (picture) watermarks and how to watermark images with ImageMagick image editting command line suit.

Just like with physical watermarks, there are different kinds of digital watermarks. There are:
 

  • Picture (Images) digital watermarks
  • – Steganography

  • Video watermarks
  • Audio stream digital watermarks
  • Visual digital watermarks
  • – Visible area of text or picture over another text picture or video

  • Invisible digital watermarks
  • – digital information (files) metadata with watermark content etc.

The topic of watermarking is quite wide, so I will stop here and focus on the main idea of this article – to show how to place digital watermark on graphic image or collection of pictures.

The most straightway non-interactive way to do picture watermarking is with ImageMagick's composite command line tool. This little handy tool is capable of creating watermarks in single and multiple pictures.

If you prefer to have a simple text as a watermark, then you should use imagick's convert cmd.

1. Putting a watermark of picture in the right bottom corner

$ composite -gravity southeast -dissolve 100 \
watermark_picture.png image-to-watermark.png \
output-watermarked-image.png

Snoopy Writting pc freak watermark picture text watermark on the right bottom corner with composite

2. Placing watermark to picture in the bottom right corner

$ composite -gravity northeast -dissolve 80 \
watermark_picture.png image-to-watermark.png \
output-watermarked-image.png

Snoopy Writting pc freak picture text watermark on the right bottom corner with composite

3. Watermarking picture in the bottom left corner

$ composite -gravity southwest -dissolve 90 \
watermark_picture.png image-to-watermark.png \
output-watermarked-image.png

Snoopy writting watermarking picture on the bottom left corner imagemagick (composite)

4. Watermarking picture in the top left corner

$ composite -gravity northwest -dissolve 100 \
watermark_picture.png image-to-watermark.jpg \
output-watermarked-image.jpg

As you see from above example, composite even accept mixing up input / output between PNG and JPEG pictures 🙂

Output Watermarked Image picture on top left corner with pc-freak logo image Imagick composite

5. Put a watermark in the image center

$ composite -gravity center -dissolve 100 \
watermark_picture.png image-to-watermark.png \
output-watermarked-image.png

position watermark on the picture middle (center) composite output picture

6. Sealing image with custom text / Text Watermarking a picture

a) Writting text watermark to an image centered in "footer"

$ convert image-to-watermark.png -pointsize 20 \
-draw "gravity south fill black text 0,12 \
'hip0s Watermark'" output-watermarked-image.jpg

This will place a watermark in position 0,12, meaning the text will be added in the bottom center of the watermarked image.

Watermarking a picture sealing with custom text image imagick composite pic

-pointsize 20 defines the text font size. hip0s Watermark is the actual text that will be stamped.

b) Writting image watermark with font type customization (Arial Tahoma etc.):

To list all available fonts ready to be used by convert, type:

$ convert -list font
$ convert -list font |grep -i arial
Font: Arial-Black-Regular
family: Arial Black
glyphs: /usr/share/fonts/truetype/msttcorefonts/Arial_Black.ttf
Font: Arial-Bold
family: Arial
glyphs: /usr/share/fonts/truetype/msttcorefonts/Arial_Bold.ttf
Font: Arial-Bold-Italic
family: Arial
glyphs: /usr/share/fonts/truetype/msttcorefonts/arialbi.ttf
Font: Arial-Italic
family: Arial
glyphs: /usr/share/fonts/truetype/msttcorefonts/ariali.ttf
Font: Arial-Regular
family: Arial
glyphs: /usr/share/fonts/truetype/msttcorefonts/Arial.ttf

$ convert -list type
Bilevel
ColorSeparation
ColorSeparationMatte
Grayscale
GrayscaleMatte
Optimize
Palette
PaletteBilevelMatte
PaletteMatte
TrueColorMatte
TrueColor

On my system, I have 392 of fonts installed, to check the number of installed fonts ready for use by convert I used:

$ convert -list font|grep -i 'font:'|wc -l
392

To only check exact fonts names usable in convert:

$ convert -list font|grep -i 'font:'

To use the red marked Arial-Regular for font of the text picture timestamp issue;

$ convert watermark_picture.jpg -font Arial-Regular \
-pointsize 20 -draw "gravity south fill black text 0,12 'hip0s Watermark'" \
output-watermarked-image.jpg

Watermark and with Arial-Regular font image magick convert screenshot dog type writter

c) Using external font with convert to place image text watermark

Lets say you would like to use an external font (arhangai.ttf) not listed in convert -font list usable fonts:

$ convert image-to-watermark.png -pointsize 20 \
-font /usr/share/fonts/truetype/arhangai/arhangai.ttf \
-draw "gravity south fill black text 0,12 \
'hip0s Watermark'" output-watermarked-image_7.png

Talking about fonts, if you would like to add some external, nice free-fonts (ttf) files to your current logged in user, exec:

hipo@noah:~$ cd ~/fonts
hipo@noah:/fonts$ for i in \
$(lynx -dump http://www.webpagepublicity.com/free-fonts.html|grep -i .ttf|grep -i http|awk '{ print $2 }'); \
do wget -r -l2 -nd -Nc $i;
done

This will add 85 new nice looking fonts. Putting fonts in .fonts/ directory, are red while fonts are looked up by applications installed on respective the server or desktop GNU / Linux systems. Any font put there is ready to be used across all ImageMagick command line tools, as well as will be added across the list of possible fonts to use in GIMP and the rest of gui editors installed on the system.

According to the (watermark) texts font size passed to convert on some pictures the text written will exceed the picture dimensions and only partially some of the text intended as watermark will be visible.
If you encounter the exceed picture text problem, take few minutes and play with fonts sizes until you have a good font size to fit the approximate dimensions of the (expected minimum / maximum – horizontal and vertical) stamped picture dimensions.

For the sake of clarity, here is a list with arguments used in above, composite and convert examples.
 

  • composite — The ImageMagick command that combines two images.
  • -dissolve 80 — The number after the option determines the brightness of the watermark.  100 is full strength.
  • -gravity southeast — Determines the placement of watermark.
    Possible options are; north, west, south, east, northwest, northeast, southeast, southwest, center
  • watermark_picture.png — The watermark image is the first argument.
  • image-to-watermark.jpg — The second argument is the original image to be watermarked.
  • output-watermarked-image.jpg — The third argument is the new composite image to be created.
    N. B. !  If you don't specify a new file, be careful, the original file will be overwritten.

As ImageMagick is cross platform graphic editting suit – it runs on both *nix (Linux,BSD) and Windows. I have tested it on Linux, only but on FreeBSD and other BSDs it should work without any problem.
The composite and convert above examples should be easily rewritten to run on achieve watarmarking on MS Windows too.

7. Watermarking multiple pictures in a directory

To watermark multiple pictures within a directory use, a short bash loop in combination with either convert or composite could be used:

$ cd your-directory/
$ for i in *; do
convert $i -pointsize 20 -draw "gravity south fill black text 0,12 'hip0s Watermark'" output-watermarked-image.jpg
done

convert and composite also support wildcards like '*.JPG, *.PNG', but I'm not sure if this syntax can be used for mass picture marking?

8. Adding watermark and doing other various advanced Image Edit, Convert and Compose stuff with Phatch GUI program

Another program that is capable to put watermarks on pictures and besides that doing a number of routine graphic manipulation operations achievable with expert Image manipulation programs like GIMP / Inkscape is PHATCH = PHOTO & BATCH

Phatch is swiss army knife for doing web design or or graphics design on Linux.

Phatch is really great and easy to use program. Tt makes putting basic designer effects on pictures with no requirement for any design skills.
With Phatch you can become a designer for a day literally 😉

If you haven't used it yet, make sure you try it!
Below, are two screenshots of Phatch running on my Debian G* / Linux

Phatch Linux Debian Squeeze Screenshot

Phatch Linux Debian Squeeze Screenshot Watermark effect

Phatch is installable via apt on Debian and Ubuntu Linux. It has also a phatch-cli tools, which are a possible substitute to ImageMagick's composite / convert tools.

On deb based distros install Phatch with:

noah:~# apt-get --yes install phatch phatch-cli

In Phatch it is also possible, to create a combination of filters to be later applied to an image file or a group of image files all in a directory. The program capabilities are really outstanding, it is pure joy to work with it.

Using Phatch GUI interface is hard to comprehend in the beginning, I needed few minutes until I can get the idea how to use it. Anyhow once you know the basics, its very easy to use onwards.

Phatch currently can perform the following actions:
 

  • Auto Contrast – Maximize image contrast
  • Border – Crop or add border to all sides
  • Brightness – Adjust brightness from black to white
  • Canvas – Crop the image or enlarge canvas without resizing the image
  • Colorize – Colorize grayscale image
  • Common – Copies the most common pixel value
  • Contrast – Adjust from grey to black & white
  • Convert Mode – Convert the color mode of an image (grayscale, RGB, RGBA or CMYK)
  • Effect – Blur, Sharpen, Emboss, Smooth, ..
  • Equalize – Equalize the image histogram
  • Fit – Downsize and crop image with fixed ratio
  • Grayscale – Fade all colours to gray
  • Invert – Invert the colors of the image (negative)
  • Maximum – Copies the maximum pixel value
  • Median – Copies the median pixel value
  • Minimum – Copies the minimum pixel value
  • Offset – Offset by distance and wrap around
  • Posterize – Reduce the number of bits of colour channel
  • Rank – Copies the rank'th pixel value
  • Rotate – Rotate with random angle
  • Round – Round or crossed corners with variable radius and corners
  • Saturation – Adjust saturation from grayscale to high
  • Save – Save an image with variable compression in different types
  • Scale – Scale an image with different resample filters.
  • Shadow – Drop a blurred shadow under a photo with variable position, blur and color
  • Solarize – Invert all pixel values above threshold
  • Text – Write text at a given position
  • Transpose – Flip or rotate an image by 90 degrees
  • Watermark – Apply a watermark image with variable placement (offset, scaling, tiling) and opacity

Most of the function / effects Phatch in the up list works fine as I tested them to get to know the program.
The only effect that didn't worked for me is Blender effect.
Trying to apply the Blending effect I got error:

Can not apply action Blender:
'dict' object has no attribute 'rfind'

dict object has not attribiture rfind error screenshot my linux

Its really a pity blender filter don't work. I've seen on Phatch's website some pictures showing the blender effect in action and it looks really awesome.

In attempt to work around the err, I tried downloading Phatch's latest release and running it with python interpreter but it didn't work out …
I tried also to install some packages to the system that somehow seemed to be related to blenderversatile 3D modeller/renderer program but this worked neither.
I suspect Phatch blender effect is not working on Ubuntu too as I've red complains in some Ubuntu forums.
If someone succeeding making blend effect work please let me know how?

Interesting feature of Phatch is the program support for applying its predefined filters using a cli interface.
The syntax for phatch cli, should be something like:

phatch -console action_list.phatch

Where action_list.phatch is a Phatch predefined filter. Anyways I didn't manage to figure out how to use the program CLI. I'll be glad to hear if someone succeeded in using the program console, if so please share with me how?

9. Adding Watermark to pictures with GIMP

To add a watermark text or picture in GIMP, there are plenty of ways but is more time consuming by both Phatch or convert, composite..
There is a script in gimp plugin registry site – watermark.scm which adds watermarking capability to GIMP

On my system this script was installed with the deb package gimp-data-extras. To apply the plugin on a pic, I used GIMP menus:

Filters -> Eg -> Copyright Placer

GIMP Copyright Holder plugin Watermark Screenshot

If someone knows about better or quicker ways to do watermarking, please share 🙂

Improve default picture viewing on Slackware Linux with XFCE as Desktop environment

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Default XFce picture viewer on Slackware Linux is GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). Though GIMP is great for picture editting, it is rather strange why Patrick Volkerding compiled XFCE to use GIMP as a default picture viewer? The downsides of GIMP being default picture viewing program for Slackware's XFCE are the same like Xubuntu's XFCE risterroro, you can't switch easily pictures back and forward with some keyboard keys (left, right arrow keys, backspace or space etc.). Besides that another disadvantage of using GIMP are;
a) picture opening time in GIMP loading is significantly higher if compared to a simple picture viewer program like Gnome's default, eye of the gnomeeog.

b) GIMP is more CPU intensive and puts high load on each picture opening

A default Slackware install comes with two good picture viewing programs substitute for GIMP:
 

  • Gwenview

    Gwenview on Slackware Linux picture screenshot XFCE

  •  
  • Geeqie
  • Geeqie Slackware Linux Screenshot XFCE

    Both of the programs support picture changing, so if you open a picture you can switch to the other ones in the same directory as the first opened one.
    I personally liked more Gwenview because it has more intutive picture switching controls. With it you can switch with keyboard keys space and backspace

    To change GIMP's default PNG, JPEG opening I had with mouse right button over a pic and in properties change, Open With: program.

    XFCE4 Slackware Linux picture file properties window

    If you're curious about the picture on on all screenshots, this is Church – Saint George (situated in the city center of Dobrich, Bulgaria).
    St. Georgi / St. George Church is built in 1842 and is the oldest Orthodox Church in Dobrich.
    In the Crimean War (1853-1856) the church was burned down and was restored to its present form in 1864.

    gpicview is another cool picture viewing program, I like. Unfortunately on Slackware, there is no prebuild package and the only option is either to convert it with alien from deb package or to download source and compile as usual with ./configure && make && make install .
    Downloading and compiling from source went just fine on Slackware Linux 13.37gpicview has more modern looking interface, than gwenview and geeqie. and is great for people who want to be in pace with desktop fashion 🙂

The Legend of the Christmas Tree and Why do we put Christmas trees at home in Christmas time? :)

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Why we put Pine tree / Fir in Christmas origins of Christmas tree / Legends for the Christmas Tree
 

Christmas has just passed away. As a Christian I was curious what is the reason in so many Christian countries, we decorate Pine trees and I did a quick research on the topic. In this small article, I'll present my findings.

Observing the Christmas Pine Tree tradition has been quite ancient and probably according to many sources dates back to the XIIth century.
The first written records of a Christmas tree are of an anonymous Frenchman who visited Strasbourg, Germany in 1601. His description of the decoratd pine tree says like "wafers and golden sugar-twists (Barley sugar), roses cut out of many-colored paper, apples, gold foil and sweets."

Later in the 1800s, the local German Christmas pine tree tradition was spread across America by German emmigrants.
In UK the Pine tree decorating tradition appeard in 1841, where a royalty (Prince Albert) decorated his castle (Winston Castle).

A little later after the Queen Victoria adopted the pine tree, United Kingdom citizens started to decorate pine trees for themselves, folliwng the highly regarded Queen.
Usually the pine tree has historically been decorated with gifts as well as an Bright star is put atop.

One of the Christian interpretations for the Christmas tree is that it represents the same Cross (tree) on which Christ was crucifixed. Then after Christ's resurrection because of (or through that) tree, the humanity received the Lord big spiritual blessings. These blessings are represented by the gifts decorated on the Fir tree. The pine tree itself is in Christianity a reference for the symbol of Salvation that we received came from the Holy Cross, where our saviour was crucified.

The Fir is decorated with lights to represent the joy and the lights of Christmas (that burns in our hearts), the star atop the tree is a reminder of the Star that rised in the East during the night of Christ's birth as we read in the gospels.

Roman Catholic Church Christmas Pine Trees
Decorating Pine trees is commonly observed mostly in Roman Catholic Church and often followed by some protestant denominations and less used in Orthodox Church (though this is changing nowdays).

In Eastern Europe, the Christmas tree appeared quite Legends about the Christmas Fir Treelate and the whole concept was unknown in the Orthodox Christian countries, just until the end of the 19th century.

With the recent severe globalization the pine tree was silenty adopted in almost all parts of the world, including even communist countries and even sometimes in muslim ones.
Enormous Fir Tree in Tarnovo city hill Bulgaria

Unfortunately, the relation between the Fir tree and our Christian faith is little known today and with the years to come it will be less and less associated with Christianity.

Here are few interesting legends which I found explaining, some of the possible roots of the Christmas tree decoration:

Legends about the Christmas Fir Tree

1. Legend of the Pine Tree Saving the Holy Family

When the Holy family was pursued by Herod's soldiers, many plants offered to provide them with shelter.
One such plant was the Pine tree. With Mary too weary to travel any longer, the family stopped at the edge of a forest to rest.
A gnarled old Pine which had grown hollow with the years invited them to rest within its trunk.
Then, it closed its branches down upon them, keeping the family safe until the soldiers had passed.
Upon leaving, the Christ Child blessed the Pine and the imprint of his tiny hand was left forever in the tree's fruit… the Pine cone.
If a cone is cut lengthwise, the hand may still be seen.

2. Pine tree and Easter Legend
 

Pine tree on cones on Easter forms Cross shape

There is a legend that pine trees "know" when it's Easter.
The pine trees start their new growth in the weeks before Easter.
If you look at the tops of the pine trees two weeks before Easter you'll see the yellow shoots.
As the days get closer to Easter Sunday, the tallest shoot will branch off and form a cross.
By the time Easter Sunday comes around, you will see that most of the pine trees will have small yellow crosses on all of the tallest shoots.
This really happens we live where there are lots of pines,
and each year this actually happens, it is amazing to watch,
and the process of the new growth appears as crosses on the ends
of each branch.

I've not personally observed that, but according to people who live in pine tree forest areas this is a fact.

3. Legend about M. Luther and the Pine tree

Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant religion, was taking a stroll through the woods late one night.
The sky was clear and many stars were shining through the branches of the trees,
giving the impression of twinkling lights.
Luther was so captivated and inspired by the beautiful brilliance of the sight
that he cut down a small evergreen and brought it home.
He recreated the stars by placing candles upon the tree's branches to imitate
their radiance and presented it to his children.

This story explains why, the pine tree become so wide spread initially in the "western world", as it gives some connection between the Pine tree and Protestant Christianity.

4. The Children Legend of the Fir Tree (Kids Story)

On the night of the Christ Child's birth, all living creatures, both flora and fauna, traveled to Bethlehem bearing gifts.
The Olive tree, for example, brought its fruit and the Palm tree its dates.
But the little Fir tree had no gift and was so tired that it was unable to resist when the larger trees pushed it into the background and hid it from view.
But then, a nearby Angel took pity and commanded a cluster of stars to descend and rest upon its delicate boughs.
When the Baby Jesus beheld this lovely lighted tree, he smiled and blessed it,
declaring henceforth that Fir trees should always be filled with lights at
Christmastime to please little children.
When Christianity first came to Northern Europe, three personages representing
virtues were dispatched from Heaven to place lights on the original Christmas tree.
These personages were Faith, Hope and Charity.
Their search was long, since they were required to find a tree as high as hope, as great as love and as sweet as charity.
In addition, the tree had to bear the sign of the cross on every bough.
Their search finally ended in the forests of the North where they found the Fir.
Lit by the radiance of the stars, it became the first Christmas tree.
The triangular design of the Fir has also been usedto describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.
Eventually, converts began to revere the Fir as God's Tree…as they had once revered the Oak.
By the Twelfth Century it was being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmastime
in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity.

5. The Paradise Tree Legend

A very old and delightful European custom centers around decorating a Fir tree with apples and small white wafers which represents the Holy Eucharist.
These wafers were later replaced by small pieces of pastry cut into the shapes of stars, angels, hearts, flowers and bells.
Eventually additional pastries were introduced bearing the shapes of men, birds, roosters and other animals.

During the middle Ages, around the Eleventh century, religious theater was born.
One of the most popular plays …
The German mystery play concerned Adam and Eve and their fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden, represented by a Fir tree hung with apples.
This tree was symbolic of both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Discernment of Good and Evil, which stood in the center of Paradise.
The play ended with the prophecy of a coming Saviour. For this reason, it was often enacted during Advent.

The one piece of scenery, the "Paradeisbaum" or "Paradise Tree" become a popular object and was often set up in churches.
Eventually it also found its way in private homes and became symbol of the Saviour.
Since the tree was representative not only to Paradise and the fall of man, but also the premise of salvation.
It was hung not merely with apples, but with bread of wafers (Holy Eucharist) and often sweet to represent the sweetness of redemption.
In some areas of Bavaria, fir branches and little trees decorated with lights, apples and tinsel are still called "Paradeis".

According to some other Christian legends, it was a Fir tree that grew as the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
When Eve plucked its fruit, the foliage and flowers shrank to nothing but needles.
Only on the night of Nativity would the Fir tree bloom again a moment marked perhaps by the Christmas tree we Christians use.

Of course these are just legends and as with every legend there is plenty of romantism included.
Nevertheless I consider most legends similar to proverbs contain deep truth and contain truthful facts. Moreover knowing the legends of our forefathers connect us to who and what we are and from antropological point of view is precious knowledge, we should try to sustain and spread to our children.