Social Icons


Friday, January 29, 2010

Elbe Sandstone Mountains

The Elbe Sandstone Mountains is a mountain range straddling the border between the state of Saxony in southeastern Germany and the northern Bohemian region of the Czech Republic, with about three by fourth of the area on the German side. The geology of mountains is sandstone. The mountains are also called as Saxon Switzerland and Bohemian Switzerland in both German and Czech. In both countries, the mountain range has been declared a national park. The name derives from the sandstone which was carved by erosion. The river Elbe breaks through the mountain range in a steep and narrow valley.

Elbe Sandstone MountainsThe range stretches on both sides of the Elbe from the Saxon town of Pirna in the northwest toward Bohemian Decin in the southeast. Its highest peak with 723 m or 2,372 ft is the Decinsky Snezník in Bohemian Switzerland on the left bank of the river in Bohemian Switzerland north of Decin. The Elbe Sandstone Mountains link the Ore Mountains in the west with the Lusatian Highlands range of the Sudetes in the east. Saxon Switzerland and the Zittau Hills of the Lusatian Mountains form the Saxon-Bohemian Chalk Sandstone Region.

The eroded sandstone of this region presently shapes the landscape which was the sea bottom millions of years ago. Large rivers rinsed sand and decomposition debris into the Cretaceous sea. Rough quartz sand, clay and fine marl sank and solidified themselves layer for layer. A compact sandstone plate developed, about 20 x 30 kilometres wide and up to 600 meters thick.

When the sea left approx 80 million years ago, the mountain forming decay began. At first bursts developed. From the north coming the Lusatian granite massif pushed itself gradually onto the sandstone plate. From the south the lifting mountains of the today’s Ore Mountains caused counter pressure which slanted the brittle sandstone plate and burst it. From the nearly right-angled break lines later the typical, cuboid-like fissure of the Elbe sandstone developed. It is a coveted building materiel, e.g. for the Church of Our Lady in Dresden.

Elbe River ValleyPravcicka BranaThe Elbe Sandstone mountains have been a popular destination for tourists for more than 200 years, and for climbers for more than 100 years. It is also a popular recreation area for the nearby Saxon capital Dresden. Places of interest include the Bastei cliffs near Rathen, the Konigstein Fortress, Pravcicka brana, the Schrammsteine, Pfaffenstein, and the valleys of the Kirnitzsch and Kamenice rivers. Pravcicka brana is a natural sandstone arch in the Czech part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains.There are some 14,000 climbing routes via which mountain climbers can conquer 1100 free-standing peaks. Visitors can experience the natural scenes on the asphalt Elbe cycle path, or on board a steam paddleboat that is part of the oldest fleet of its kind in the world.

The Elbe Sandstone Mountains have many amenities for treatment and rehabilitation. The region has a belief of many years. The discovery of ferrous and sulphurous sources in Bad Schandau in 1730 led to its growth as a health resort and the building of swimming baths.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Maiden Tower

The Maiden Tower is a tower in Old City, old town Baku, which is originally on the shore of the Caspian Sea. It is also called as Qiz Qalasi in Azerbaijani. Due to land recovery in the early 20th century the tower is now separated from the Caspian by a busy main road and public gardens.

Maiden TowerThe Maiden Tower is a noted landmark and one of Azerbaijan most distinctive national emblems. It is featured on Azeri currency notes and other official pieces of paper. It houses a museum and a gift shop. The view from the roof takes in the alleys and minarets of the Old City, the Baku Boulevard, the De Gaulle house and a wide vista of the Baku Bay. In recent years the brazier on the top has been lit during the nights of the Novrous festival.

It was constructed in the 12th century, or possibly earlier - its architectural style and construction sequence is obscure, and estimates for its age go back to an unlikely 2,500 years. It was built by the 12th century architect Masud ibn Davud, who was probably the father of the architect of Mardakan Round Tower. Its foundation are believed to be a Sasanid era Zoroastrian site.

Maiden TowerMaiden TowerThere are a number of challenging explanations for the name of the Maiden Tower. A legend concerning a maiden who threw herself off its top, to her death in the waves below. The fact that the tower has never been taken by force. Some believe that it was once a Watch Tower

The Maiden Tower is depicted on the obverse of the Azerbaijani 1 to 250 manat banknotes of 1992-2006, and of the 10 manat banknote issued since 2006. The excellent view of the Maiden tower and Caspian Sea is also viewed from the Sultan Inn in the Old City. In December 2000, the Old City of Baku the Maiden Tower became the first location in Azerbaijan classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is an inlet in the south west of New Zealand South Island, within Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. It has been judged the world's top tourist travel attraction in an international survey, and New Zealand most famous tourist destination. Rudyard Kipling had previously called it the eighth Wonder of the World. Milford Sound is named after Milford Haven in Wales, while the Cleddau River which flows into the sound is also named for its Welsh namesake.

Milford SoundMilford Sound runs 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman Sea and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres or 3,900 ft or more on either side. Among the peaks are the Elephant at 1,517 metres or 4,980 ft, said to resemble an elephant's head, and Lion Mountain, 1,302 metres or 4,270 ft, in the shape of a crouching lion. Lush rain forests cling precariously to these cliffs, while seals, penguins, and dolphins frequent the waters and whales can be seen sometimes. The annual rainfall of 6,813 mm on 182 days a year, a high level even for the West Coast, Milford Sound is known as the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand. Rainfall can reach 250 mm during a span of 24 hours. The rainfall creates dozens of temporary waterfalls cascading down the cliff faces, some reaching a thousand metres in length.

The beauty of this landscape draws thousands of visitors each day, with over 550,000 in total per year. This makes the sound one of New Zealand's most-visited tourist spots, and also the most famous New Zealand tourist destination, even with its remote location and the long journey from the nearest population centres. Almost all tourists going to the sound also take one of the boat tours which usually last between 1–2 hours. They are offered by several companies, departing from the Milford Sound Visitors' Centre. There is also the option of extended overnight cruises on Milford Sound.

Milford Sound FallsMilford Sound ToweringTramping, canoeing and some other water sports are also possible. A small number of companies also provide overnight boat trips. There is otherwise only limited accommodation at the sound and only a very small percentage of tourists stay more than the day. An underwater tourist observatory found in one of the bays of the sound provides viewing of black coral, usually only found in much deeper waters. A dark surface layer of fresh water, stained by tannins from the surrounding forest, allows the corals to grow close to the surface here.In rainy and stormy days tourists can admire the play of the wind with the numerous waterfalls in Milford Sound. When meeting the cliff face the powerful wind often goes upward and waterfalls with a vertical drop get caught by wind, causing the water to go upwards.

Milford Sound is 295 km from Queenstown and 279 km from Invercargill which is four hours drive with most of the tour buses to the sound departing from Queenstown. Some tourists also arrive from the smaller tourism centre of Te Anau, 121 km away. There are also scenic flights by light aircraft and helicopter tours to and from Milford Sound Airport. The winding mountain road, while of high standards, is very prone to avalanches and closures during the winter. Today many shortcuts to Milford Sound from Queenstown have been mooted, including a gondola route, a new tunnel from Queenstown, or a monorail from near Lake Wakatipu to Te Anau Downs. All would reduce the current round-trip duration thus allowing tourism to be spread out over more of the day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle is a castle, which is a famous tourist attraction about 50 kilometers or 30 miles south of Stuttgart, Germany, considered home to the Hohenzollern family that came to power during the Middle Ages and ruled Prussia and Brandenburg until the end of World War I. The castle is located on top of Mount Hohenzollern at an elevation of 855 meters or 2,805 ft, above Hechingen and nearby Bisingen, both located at the foothills of the Swaziland Alb. It was originally constructed in the first part of the 11th century. It was completely destroyed after a 10-month siege in 1423 by the imperial cities of Swabia.

Hohenzollern Castle
A second, larger and sturdier castle was build from 1454 to 1461 and served as a shelter for the Swabian Hohenzollern family during wartime, including during the Thirty Years War. By the end of the 18th century, however, the castle was thought to have lost its strategic importance and gradually fell into disrepair, leading to the demolition of several dilapidated buildings. Today, only the chapel remains from the medieval castle.

The third version of the castle, was constructed by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV between 1846 and 1867, under the direction of Oberhofbaurat Stuhler, who based his design on English Neo-Gothic style as well as the castles in Loire. Because the castle was built to be just a family memorial, no member of the Hohenzollern family took house in this third castle until 1945, when it became house to the last Prussian Crown Prince Wilhelm. Prince Wilhelm and his wife Crown Princess Cecilie are buried there.

Among the historical artifacts of Prussian history contained in the castle today are the Crown of Wilhelm II and some of the personal effects of Frederick the Great and a letter from US President George Washington thanking Baron von Steuben, a scion of the House of Hohenzollern, for his service in the American Revolutionary War. The current castle is the work of the famous Berlin Architect Friedrich August Stuler, who in 1842 while still the student and heir of Karl Friedrich Schinkel were selected the Architect of King. The castle is built in Gothic Revival style. The impressive entryway is the work of Engineer Moritz Karl Ernst von Prittwitz who was the chief protection engineer in Prussia. The sculptures inside the castle are the work of Gustav Willgohs. The Hohenzollern Castle is a monument to the ideals of the German Romanticism movement and incorporated the idealized vision of what a medieval knight's castle should be

Construction began in 1850, and was funded entirely by the Brandenburg-Prussian and the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen lines of the Hohenzollern family. Seventeen years later construction was completed on October 3, 1867 under William IV's brother King William I. The castle was damaged in an earthquake on September 3, 1978 and was under repair until the mid-1990s. After the castle was rebuilt, it was not regularly occupied, rather it was used mostly as a show castle. Only the last Prussian Crown Prince William lived in the castle for several months, following his flight from Potsdam during the closing months of World War II. William and his wife Crown Princess Cecilie are both buried at the castle, as the family's estates in Brandenburg had been occupied by the Soviet Union.

Hohenzollern CastleHohenzollern CastleSince 1952 the castle has been filled with art and historical artifacts, from the collection of the Hohenzollern family and from the former Hollenzollern Museum in Schloss Monbijou. Two of the major pieces in the collection are the Prussian King's Crown and a uniform that belonged to Frederick the Great. From 1952 until 1991 the caskets of Frederick I and Frederick the Great were in the museum. Following the German reunification in 1991, the caskets were moved back to Potsdam.

Hohenzollern castle is still privately owned. Two thirds of the castle belongs to the Brandenburg-Prussian line of the Hohenzollern, while one third is owned by the Swabian line of the family. Since 1954 the castle has also been used by the Princess Kira of Prussia Foundation to provide a summer camp for needy children from Berlin. Hohenzollern castle has over 300,000 visitors per year, making it one of the most visited castles in Germany.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Petronas Towers

The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia are twin towers and were the worlds tallest buildings before being surpassed by Taipei 101. It is also known as the Petronas Twin Towers or just Twin Towers However, the towers are still the tallest twin buildings in the world. They were the world's tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004 if measured from the level of the main entrance to the structural top, the original height reference used by the international organization Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat from 1969 three additional height categories were introduced as the tower neared completion in 1996.

Petronas TowersPetronas TowersThe Petronas Towers were the tallest buildings in the world until Taipei 101 was completed in 2004, as measured to the top of their structural components spires, but not antennas. Spires are considered integral parts of the architectural design of buildings, to which changes would substantially change the appearance and design of the building, whereas antennas may be added or removed without such consequences. The Petronas Twin Towers remain the tallest twin buildings in the world.

The Petronas Towers was designed by Argentine architect Cesar Pelli, the Petronas Towers were completed in 1998 after a seven year build and became the tallest buildings in the world on the date of completion. They were built on the site of Kuala Lumpur's race track. Because of the depth of the bedrock, the buildings were built on the world's deepest foundations. The 120-meter foundations were built within 12 months by Bachy Soletanche, and required massive amounts of concrete.

The 88-floor towers are constructed largely of reinforced concrete, with a steel and glass facade designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art, a reflection of Malaysia's Muslim religion. Tower 1 was built by a Japanese consortium led by the Hazama Corporation while Tower 2 was built by Samsung C&T and Kukdong Engineering & Construction, both South Korean contractors. The sky bridge contract was completed by Kukdong Engineering & Construction.

Due to a lack of steel and the huge cost of importing steel, the towers were constructed on a cheaper radical design of super high-strength reinforced concrete. Supported by 23-by-23 meter concrete cores and an outer ring of widely spaced super columns, the towers use a sophisticated structural system that accommodates its slender profile and provides 560,000 square metres of column-free office space. Below the twin towers is Suria KLCC, a shopping mall, and Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, the home of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Other buildings spires to increase their height but have always been taller overall to the pinnacle when trying to claim the title. In the aftermath of the controversy, the rules governing official titles were partially overhauled, and a number of buildings re-classified structural antenna as architectural details to boost their height.

Petronas Towers SkyBridgePetronas Towers KLCC FountainviewThe towers feature a skybridge between the two towers on 41st and 42nd floors, which is the highest 2-story bridge in the world. It is not directly bolted to the main structure, but is instead designed to slide in and out of the towers to prevent it from breaking during high winds. The bridge is 170 m or 558 ft above the ground and 58 m or 190 ft long, weighing 750 tons. The same floor is also known as the podium, since visitors desiring to go to higher levels have to change elevators here. The skybridge is open to all visitors, but free passes limited to 1700 people per day must be obtained on a first-come, first-served basis. Visitors are only allowed on the 41st floor as the 42nd floor can only be used by the tenants of the building.

The main bank of Otis lifts is located in the centre of each tower. All main lifts are double-decker with the lower deck of the lift taking passengers to odd numbered floors and upper deck to even numbered floors. To reach an even-numbered floor from ground level, passengers must take an escalator to the upper deck of the elevator. The lifts contain a number of safety features. It is possible to evacuate people from a lift stuck between floors by manually driving one of the adjacent lifts next to it and opening a panel in the wall. It is then possible for people in the stuck lift to walk between elevator cars.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hungarian State Opera House

The Hungarian State Opera House is a neo-Renaissance opera house located in central Pest which is a part of Budapest on Andrassy ut. The Hungarian Opera House was designed by Miklos Ybl a main person of 19th century Hungarian architecture, the construction of the building lasted from 1875 to 1884 and was funded by the city of Budapest and by Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary. The Hungarian Royal Opera House opened to the public on September 27, 1884.

Hungarian Opera House
It is a luxuriously decorated building and is considered one of the architect's masterpieces. It was built in neo-Renaissance method, with elements of baroque. Decoration consist of paintings and statues by leading figures of Hungarian art of the time including Bertalan Szekely, Mor Than and Karoly Lotz. Although in size and capacity it is not among the best in beauty and the quality of acoustics the Budapest Opera House is considered to be amongst the first some opera houses in the world.

The auditorium holds 1261 seats. It is horseshoe shaped and according to measurments done in the 1970s by a group of worldwide engineers which has the 3rd finest acoustics in Europe after the Scala in Milan and the Paris Opera House. Although many opera houses have been built since, the Budapest Opera House is still among the best in terms of the acoustics. In front of the building are statues of Ferenc Erkel, composer of the Hungarian national anthem, and the first music director of the Opera House. He was also founder of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra. The other statue is of Franz Liszt, the best known Hungarian composer.

Hungarian Opera HouseHungarian Opera HouseEvery year the season starts from September to the end of June and besides opera concerts the Opera House is home to the Hungarian National Ballet. Many important artists were guests here including Gustav Mahler the composer who was director in Budapest from 1887 to 1891 and Otto Klemperer who was music director for three years from 1947 to 1950.

In the 1970s the state of the building provoked the Hungarian State to order a major reconstruction which started in 1980 and ended at 1984. The reopening was held exactly 100 years after the original opening, on the 27th of September 1984. The second house of the Hungarian State Opera is Erkel theatre. It is a much bigger building and it also hosts opera and ballet performances during the opera season. There are guided tours in the building in six languages such as English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Hungarian almost every day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Indonesia National Monument

The National Monument in Indonesia is a 422 ft or 128.7 m tower in Central Jakarta, which representing the fight for Indonesia independence. The construction of monument began in 1961 under the direction of President Sukarno and the monument was opened to the public in 1975. It is topped by a flame covered with gold foil.

After the Indonesian government returned to Jakarta from Yogyakarta in 1950 next to the Dutch recognition of Indonesian independence, President Sukarno began the construction of a national monument equal to the Eiffel Tower on the square in front of the presidential palace. On 17 August 1954, a National Monument Committee was created and a drawing contest was held in 1955. This attracted 51 entries, only one design, by Frederich Silaban, met the criteria determined by the committee, which reflecting the character of Indonesia. Another competition was held in 1960, but once again, none of the 136 entries met the criteria. The chairman of the jury team asked Silaban to show to Sukarno. Sukarno not likes the design as he wanted the monument to be in the form of linga and yoni. Silaban was asked to design such a monument, but his design was for a monument that would have been unaffordable given the economic conditions at the time. Silaban refused to design a smaller monument, telling that construction be postponed until the Indonesian economy improved. Sukarno then asked the architect R.M. Soedarsono to carry on with the design. Soedarsono included the numbers 17, 8 and 45, representing the 17 August 1945 Proclamation of Indonesian Independence, in the dimensions of the monument.

Construction proceeded in three stages. The first period, from 1961/1962 - 1964/1965 began with the official start of construction on 17 August 1961 with Sukarno ceremonially driving in the first concrete pile. A total of 284 piles were used for the foundation block. A further 360 piles were driven in for the museum foundations, with work finished in March 1962. The walls of the museum in base were completed by October. Construction of the obelisk commenced and was finished in August 1963. Work in second stage, from 1966 to 1968 was delayed by shortages of funding and after the 30 September Movement coup attempt. In the final stage, from 1969-1976, the dioramas for the historical museum were added. Problems stayed once construction was complete, and work was required to solve problems with water leaking into the museum. The monument was officially opened to public on 12 July 1975. The location of the construction site was formerly known as Merdeka Square.

The monument consists of a 117.7m obelisk on a 45m square platform at a height of 17m, the goblet yard. The obelisk itself is clad with Italian marble. A lift inside carries visitors to the 11m by 11m viewing platform, at a height of 115m. There is a staircase for use in emergencies. It is topped by a 14.5 ton bronze Flame of Independence containing the lift engine, which is covered with 35kg or 50kg of gold foil. The obelisk and flame symbolize the Indonesia people's struggle for independence. Inside the base is the historical museum, a marble-lined room with 48 dioramas showing scenes from Indonesian history from prehistory until the New Order and the Independence Room, which contains symbols of Indonesian independence, including the Declaration of Independence in a glass case, and the Indonesia coat of arms.

A pond measuring 25m x 25m was intended to cold water for the air conditioning system in the monument as well as to enhance the beauty of the surrounding area. To the north of the monument, there is a statue of Indonesia national hero Prince Diponegoro by Italian sculptor Cobertaldo.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Belvedere Palace

The Belvedere palace is a baroque palace complex built by Prince Eugene of Savoy in the 3rd district of Vienna, south-east of the city centre. It houses the Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere museum. Prince Eugene bought a land in 1697 to create a large park.

Lower BelvedereIn 1714 work began to erect what is now called the Lower Belvedere, not as a palace but as a garden villa, with an orangerie, paintings gallery, and suitable living quarters. The architect was Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, one of the most important architects of the Austrian Baroque, who produced in the complex of buildings his masterwork. He was assisted by the Venetian sculptor Giovanni Stanetti, who had been brought to Vienna by Prince Eugene. The Lower Belvedere was finished in 1716. The ceiling of its central Marmorsaal or Marble Hall, painted by Martino Altomonte, celebrates Prince Eugene as a new Apollo, leader of the Muses. The room also contains an Apotheosis of Prince Eugene sculpted by Balthasar Permoser.

On the west lies a State Bedroom suitable for levees, a room with delicate grottesche in the manner of Jean Berain, painted by Jonas Drentwett, the marble-gallery stucco-decorations and figures by Domenico Parodi. The inner marble-room with ceiling-paintings by Giacomo del Po from 1720. The Donnersaal has ceiling frescos by Altomonte and feigned architecture by Gaetano Fanti in 1716. To the east is a State Dining Room.

The garden had beautiful scenery, enclosed by clipped hedging, even as the Belvedere was building, in the formal French manner with graveled walks and jeux d'eau by Dominique Girard, who had trained in the gardens of Versailles as a pupil of Andre Le Notre. Its great water basin in the upper parterre and the stairs and cascades peopled by nymphs and goddesses that links upper and lower parterres survive, but the patterned bedding has long been grassed over; it is currently being restored.

In 1720-1723, the Upper Belvedere was built, originally intended simply to provide a suitable end to the main garden axis. The architect was again Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt. Once again there is a central Marmorsaal the site of the signing of the Austrian State Treaty, that formed modern Austria, May 15, 1955 but the Schloss was soon enlarged to provide the main summer residence of Prince Eugene. Its painted ceilings are by Carlo Innocenzo Carlone, with an altarpiece in the chapel by Francesco Solimena.

Upper BelvedereMarble Hall Ceiling PaintingThe complex was sold in 1752 to Empress Maria Theresa of Austria by the prince's heiress. Maria Theresa first named the building Belvedere. Under the Habsburgs it was further extended. Since 1775, the Belvedere has housed the imperial picture gallery on behalf of Joseph II, and in 1806 the collection of Ambras Palace was moved to the Lower Belvedere as well. Both were transferred to the Museum of Art History or Kunsthistorisches Museum in 1890. The last to reside here was Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Since World War I, the Austrian Gallery museum resides in the Belvedere. The building suffered heavy damage during World War II. The Gold Cabinet burnt out and had to be reconstructed. The building is currently being given a facelift, with the beautiful restored garden already finished. The work is scheduled to be completed by 2008.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Punakha valley

Punakha valley is the organizational centre of Punakha Dzongkhag which is one of the 20 districts of Bhutan. Punakha was the capital of Bhutan and the seat of government until 1955, when the capital was moved to Thimphu. It is about 72 km away from Thimphu and it takes about 3 hours by car from the capital Thimphu. Unlike Thimphu it is quite warm in winter and hot in summer. It is located at an elevation of 1,200 metres above sea level and rice is grown as the main crop along the river valleys of two main rivers of Bhutan, the Pho Chu and Mo Chu. Dzongkha is widely spoken in this district.

Punakha DzongPungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong or Punakha Dzong was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637-38. It is the winter home of Bhutan's Central Monastic Body led by HH the Je Khenpo. The Dzong houses the most sacred relics of the Southern Drukpa Kagyu school including the Rangjung Kasarpani, and the sacred remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Terton Padma Lingpa.

In 1907, Punakha Dzong was the site of the coronation of Ugyen Wangchuck or Deb Nagpo as the first King of Bhutan. Three years later, a treaty was signed at Punankha whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs. In 1987, the dzong was partially destroyed by fire.

Due to its location at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in the Punakha-Wangdue valley, the dzong is vulnerable to flash flooding caused by glacier lakes. According to a recent report, flash flood damage to Punakha Dzong occurred in 1957, 1960 and 1994. A covered wooden cantilever bridge crossing the Mo Chhu river was built together with the Dzong in the 17th century. This bridge was washed away by a flash flood in 1957 or 1958. In 2006 work started on a new covered wooden cantilever bridge of traditional construction with a free span of 55 meters which was completed in 2008.

Punakha DzongPunakha Dzong
Punakha valley is famous in Bhutan for rice farming. The red and white rice are grown beside the river valley of Pho and Mo Chu which is the most prominent rivers in Bhutan. Ritsha which means at the base of a hill is a classic village in Punakha. The village houses are made of crushed mud with stone foundations. Each house is only two storeys high. Surrounding the houses are the gardens and the rice fields. The gardens also usually have fruit bearing plants like oranges and papaya among the organic vegetables. In the recent years, the farming work is mechanized and power-tillers instead of bullocks are used to plough the fields and villagers have become relatively properous. This is a model rice growing village in western Bhutan.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mount Damavand

Mount Damavand is the biggest peak in Iran highest point in the Middle East and the biggest volcano in Asia. It has a special place in Persian mythology and folklore. It is also known as Donbavand which is located in the middle Alborz Range, adjacent to Vararu, Sesang, Gol-e Zard and Mianrud. It is a potentially active volcano, since there are fumaroles near the summit crater emitting sulfur, which were known to be active on July 6, 2007. The mountain is located near southern coast of Caspian Sea, in Amol County, Mazandaran, 66 kilometres or 41 miles northeast of Tehran.

Mount DamavandThe best place for mountain climbers is the new Iranian Mountain Federation Camp in Polour village, situated on the south of the mountain. There are nearly 16 known routes to the summit which have different complexities, very dangerous and require rock climbing. The most popular route is Southern Route which has step stamps, camp midway called Bargah Sevom Camp / Shelter at 4220 m or 13,845 ft. The longest route is the Northeastern and takes 2 days to reach the summit starting from downhill village of Nandal and a night stay at Takht-e Fereydoun elevation of 4300 m or 13,000 ft a two-story shelter. The western route is famous for its sunset view. Simorgh shelter in this route at 4100 m or about 13,500 ft is a newly constructed shelter with two stories. There is a frozen waterfall or Icefall in Persian name Abshar Yakhi about 12m tall and the elevation of 5100m is the highest fall in Iran and Middle East.

An anthropologist of Mazandaran Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department, Touba Osanlou, has said a proposal has been made by a group of Iran mountaineers to register the highest peak in the Middle East, Mount Damavand as a national heritage site. Mazandaran Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department has accepted the proposal, the Persian daily Jam-e Jam reported. Osanlou noted that the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization is presently in the process of renaming an upcoming ancient festivity after Mount Damavand.

Damavand is the symbol of Iranian resistance against despotism and foreign rule in Persian poetry and literature. In Zoroastrian texts and mythology, the three-headed dragon Azi Dahaka was chained within Mount Damavand, there to remain until the end of the world. In a later version of the same legend, the tyrant Zahhak was also chained in a cave somewhere in Mount Damavand after being defeated by Kaveh and Fereydun.

Mount Damavand Fumarole Emitting SulphurMount Damavand Volcanic CraterThe mountain is said to hold magical powers in the Shahnameh. Damavand has also been named in the Iranian legend of Arash as the location he fired his arrow to mark the Iran border. The famous poem Damavand by Mohammad Taqi Bahar is also one fine example of the mountain's significance in Persian literature.

Mt Damavand has some thermal springs Abe Garm Larijan with therapeutic qualities. These mineral hot springs are mainly located on the volcano's flanks and at the base, giving evidence of volcanic heat comparatively near the surface of the earth. The most important of these hot springs are located in Abe Garm Larijan in a village by the name Larijan in the district of Larijan in Lar Valley. The water from this spring is useful in the treatment of chronic wounds and skin diseases. Near these springs there are public baths with small pools for public use.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


The Burgtheater is also known as K.K. Theater an der Burg, until 1920 the K.K. Hofburgtheater, is the Austrian National Theatre in Vienna and one of the most important German language theatres in the world. The Burgtheater was created in 1741 and has become known as die Burg by the Viennese population, its theater company of more or less regular members has created a traditional style and speech typical of Burgtheater performances.

BurgtheaterThe Burgtheater was created on 14 March 1741 by Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa of Austria to be a theatre next to her palace, and her son, Emperor Joseph II called it the German National Theatre in 1776. Three Mozart operas premiered there: Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail in1782, Le nozze di Figaro in 1786 and Cosi fan tutte in 1790. Beginning in 1794, the theatre was called the K.K. Hoftheater nachst der Burg. Beethoven's 1st Symphony premiered there on April 2, 1800.

The theatre was moved to a new building at the Ringstraße on 14 October 1888 designed by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer. In 1943, under Nazi rule, a notoriously extreme production of The Merchant of Venice was staged at the Burgtheater with Werner Krauss as Shylock, one of several theater and film roles by this actor pandering to antisemitic stereotypes.

Burgtheater Main EntranceBurgtheater Side ViewOn March 12, 1945 the Burgtheater was largely destroyed in a bombing raid, and, one month later, on April 12, 1945, the Burgtheater was further damaged by a fire of unknown origin. After the war, the theatre was restored between 1953-1955. The classic Burgtheater style and the Burgtheater-German language were trend-setting for German language theaters.

With many debut performances of plays written by Thomas Bernhard, Elfriede Jelinek, Peter Handke, Peter Turrini and George Tabori, Claus Peymann managed to affirm the Burgtheater's reputation as one of Europe's foremost stages. Particularly deserving artists may be designated honorable members. Their names are engraved in marble at the bottom end of the ceremonial stairs at the side of the theater facing the Volksgarten. Members of honor are: Annemarie Duringer, Wolfgang Gasser, Heinrich Schweiger, Gusti Wolf, and Michael Heltau.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Herrenchiemsee is a complex of royal buildings on Herreninsel, an island in the middle of Chiemsee, Bavaria's biggest lake, 60 km south east of Munich. Together with the neighbouring island of Frauenchiemsee and the uninhabited Krautinsel it forms the municipality of Chiemsee. The Augustine Monastery Herrenchiemsee, later changed into the Old Palace or Altes Schloss, and Herrenchiemsee Palace, also known as the New Palace or Neues Schloss, are the most famous of these buildings and the largest of King Ludwig II of Bavaria's palaces.

HerrenchiemseeHerrenchiemsee Benedictine Abbey was established about 765 at the northern peak of the Herreninsel by Duke Tassilo III of Bavaria. In 969 Emperor Otto I granted to the Archbishops of Salzburg, who about 1130 re-established Herrenchiemsee as a monastery of Canons Regular living under the Augustinian rule. With approval of Pope Innocent III, Prince-Bishop Eberhard von Regensberg in 1215 made the monastery church the cathedral of a diocese in its own right.

The incomplete New Palace was designed by Christian Jank, Franz Seitz, and Georg Dollman and built between 1878 and 1885. Between 1863 and 1886 a total of 16,579,674 Marks was spent constructing Herrenchiemsee. An 1890 '20 Mark' gold coin contained 0.2304 troy ounce / 7.171 g of gold. Therefore, 16,579,674 Marks would equate to 190,998 oz of gold.

Herrenchiemsee Front PalaceHerrenchiemsee FountainLudwig only had the opportunity to live within the Palace for a few days in September 1885. After his death in the following year, all construction works discontinued and the building was opened for the public. In 1923 Crown Prince Rupprecht gave the palace to the State of Bavaria. Unlike the medieval design of Neuschwanstein Castle begun in 1869, the New Palace is, in a sense, a Neo-Baroque monument to Ludwig's adoration of King Louis XIV of France. In the great hall of mirrors of the palace the ceiling is painted with 25 tableaux showing Louis XIV at his best.

It was to have been an equivalent to the Palace of Versailles, but only the central portion was built before the king died in 1886, thereafter construction works discontinued leaving 50 of the 70 rooms of the palace incomplete. With a length of 98 m or 322 ft and 23 arches the Hall of Mirrors is bigger than the Versailles equivalent. The dining room features an elevator table and a huge chandelier of Meissen porcelain, the biggest in the world. The building also benefits from nearly two centuries of technological progress and the only running water was outside in fountains. King Ludwig's copy has more modern facilities including a central heating system and a large heated bathtub. Also, unlike Versailles, it was built on an island and is now only accessible by a small ferry thereby Herrenchiemsee always remained slightly in the shadow of Neuschwanstein.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tobago Island

Tobago is the famous tourist attraction of the two main islands that make up the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. It is located in the southern Caribbean Sea, northeast of the island of Trinidad and southeast of Grenada. The island lies outside the hurricane belt. Tobago has a land area of approximately 42 kilometres / 26 Miles long and 10 kilometres / 6 miles wide. The population is 54,084 in the year 2000. Trinidad is multiethnic, the population of Tobago is primarily of African descent, although with a growing proportion of Trinidadians of East Indian descent and Europeans mostly Germans and Scandinavians.

Tobago beachTobago is mostly mountainous and of volcanic origin. The southwest of the island is plane and consists largely of coralline limestone. The hilly spine of the island, the Main Ridge. The highest point in Tobago is the 550 metre / 1804 ft Pigeon Peak near Speyside. Tobago is divided into seven parishes - Saint Andrew, Saint David, Saint George, Saint John, Saint Mary, Saint Patrick and Saint Paul. The climate is tropical, and the island lies just south of the Atlantic hurricane belt. Average rainfall varies between 3800 mm on the Main Ridge to less than 1250 mm in the south-west of the island. There are two seasons: a wet season between June and December, and a dry season between January and May.

Tobago's economy is tightly linked with Trinidad, and is based on liquefied natural gas, petrochemicals, and steel. The principal economic forces specific to Tobago are tourism and government spending. Conventional beach and water-sports tourism is largely focussed in the south-west around the airport and the coastal strip. However, ecotourism is growing in significance, and much of it is focussed on the large area of protected forest in the centre and north of the main island and on Little Tobago, a small island off the north east tip of the main island.

Tourism is concentrated in southwest of island, around Crown Point, Store Bay, Pigeon Point and Buccoo Reef. This area has large expanses of sand and is dominated by resort type developments. Tobago has many idyllic beaches especially those at Castara, Bloody Bay, and Englishman's Bay. Tobago is linked to the world through the Crown Point International Airport and the Scarborough harbour. Domestic flights connect Tobago with Trinidad, and international flights connect with the Caribbean and Europe. There is also a daily fast ferry service between Port of Spain and Scarborough. This island was also the filming location for the Walt Disney movie The Swiss Family Robinson. Tobago is the site of the famous mystery tombstone.

Hawksbill TurtleTobago is also a popular diving location, since it is the most southerly of the Caribbean islands which have coral communities. Trinidad, which is further south, has no significant coral because of low salinity and high silt content, the result of its position close to the mouth of Venezuela's Orinoco River. Scuba diving on Tobago tends to be centred at Speyside, almost diametrically across the island from the airport.

The island has some of the best diving sites in the Caribbean. There are three wrecks located around its shores, but the one usually considered the best is the Maverick Ferry, which used to travel between Trinidad and Tobago. The ferry is 350 feet long and has been sunk in 30 metres / 100 feet just off Rocky Point, Mt. Irvine. The top of the wreck is at 15 metre / 50 feet. The wreck has an abundance of marine life, including a 4-foot jewfish, a member of the grouper family. The wreck was purposely sunk for divers, and so all the doors and windows were removed. The waters around the island are home to many species of tropical fish, rays, sharks, and turtles.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle is a Bavarian palace built in nineteenth century on a rocky hill next to Hohenschwangau and Fussen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as homage to Richard Wagner, the King's inspiring muse. The photos of the interior is not allowed, it is the most photographed building in Germany and is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. Ludwig himself named it Neue Hohenschwangau and the name Neuschwanstein was coined after his death.

Neuschwanstein CastleThe reclusive Ludwig did not allow visitors to his castles, which he intended as personal refuges, but after his death in 1886 the castle was opened to the public. More than 50 million people have visited the Neuschwanstein Castle. About 1.3 million people visit annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer. The palace has appeared in several movies, and was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle at both Disneyland Park and Hong Kong Disneyland. The Free State of Bavaria has spent more than 14.5 million Euros on Neuschwanstein preservation, restoration and tourist services since 1990.

The foundation stone of the building was laid September 5, 1869. Neuschwanstein was designed by Christian Jank, a theatrical set designer, rather than an architect, which says much regarding Ludwig's intentions and explains much of the fantastical nature of the resulting building. The architectural expertise, vital to a building in such a perilous site, was provided first by the Munich court architect Eduard Riedel and later by Georg Dollmann, son-in-law of Leo von Klenze.

Neuschwanstein CastleNeuschwanstein CastleThe palace was originally called New Hohenschwangau Castle until the king's death, when it was renamed Neuschwanstein, the castle of the Swan Knight Lohengrin, of Wagner's opera of the same name. In origin, the palace has been the Schwanstein, the seat of the knights of Schwangau, whose emblem had been the swan.

The palace comprises a gatehouse, a Tower, the Knight's House with a square tower, and a Palas, or citadel, with two towers to the Western end. The effect of the whole is highly theatrical, both externally and internally. The king's influence is apparent throughout, and he took a keen personal interest in the design and decoration.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Aoraki / Mount Cook

Aoraki /Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand, reaching a height of 3,754 metres / 12,316 ft. It lies in the Southern Alps, the mountain range which runs the length of the South Island. It is one of popular tourist destination and it is also a favourite challenge for mountain climbers. Aoraki/Mt Cook consists of three summits lying slightly south and east of the main divide, the Low Peak, Middle Peak and High Peak, with the Tasman Glacier to the east and the Hooker Glacier to the west.

The mountain is in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, which was gazetted in 1953 and it is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The park contains more than 140 peaks standing over 2,000 metres / 6,600 ft and 72 named glaciers, which cover 40 percent of the park's 700 square kilometres / 170,000 acres. The settlement of Mount Cook Village which is also called as The Hermitage is a tourist centre and base camp for the mountain. It is 7 km from the end of the Tasman Glacier and 12 km south of Aoraki/Mount Cook's summit.

Aoraki means "Cloud Piercer" in the Ngai Tahu dialect of the Maori language. Historically, the Maori name has been spelt Aorangi in the "canonical" Maori form.The mountain was known to Maori centuries before, the first European known to see Aoraki/Mount Cook was Abel Tasman, on December 13, 1642 during his first Pacific voyage. The English name of Mount Cook was given to the mountain in 1851 by Captain John Lort Stokes to honour Captain James Cook who first surveyed and circumnavigated the islands of New Zealand in 1770. Captain Cook did not sight the mountain during his exploration.

The Southern Alps on the South Island were formed by tectonic uplifting and pressure as the Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates collided along the island's western coast. The uplifting continues, raising Aoraki/Mount Cook an average of 7 millimetres / 0.28 in each year. However, erosive forces are also powerful shapers of the mountains. The severe weather is due to the mountain's jutting into powerful westerly winds of the Roaring Forties which run around approximately 45°S latitude, south of both Africa and Australia. The Southern Alps are the first obstacle the winds encounter after South Africa and Australia, having moved east across the Southern Ocean.

The height of Aoraki/Mount Cook was established in 1881 by G. J. Roberts and in 1889 by T. N. Brodrick. Their measurements agreed closely at 12,349 feet / 3,764 m. The height was reduced by 10 metres / 33 ft when approximately 10 million cubic metres of rock and on 14 December 1991 ice fell off the northern peak.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beyazıt Tower

Beyazıt Tower is an 85 metre tall fire-watch tower situated in the courtyard of Istanbul University's main campus on Beyazıt Square which is known as the Forum Tauri in the Roman period in Istanbul, Turkey, on top of one of the seven hills which Constantine the Great had built the city, following the model of Rome.Beyazıt Tower was ordered by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II and designed by Senekerim Balyan who built it of stone in 1828 on the place of the original wooden Beyazıt Tower which was destroyed in a fire and was constructed earlier by the architect's brother, Krikor Balyan.

Beyazit TowersThe first fire-watch tower in Beyazıt was built of timber in 1749, but it was burnt down during the 1756 Great Fire of Cibali. It was replaced by another timber tower on the same location, which was destroyed following the riots stirred by Sultan Mahmud II decision to dissolve the Janissary Corps in 1826. The same year, another wooden tower was erected on the plot, designed and built by the palace architect Krikor Balyan, which was again set on fire by adherents of the Janissaries. Finally, the current tower, made of stone, was built in 1828 by Senekerim Balyan in Ottoman Baroque style.

The stone tower originally had a single floor of around 50 m² at the top for fire watching, which was reached through a wooden staircase of 180 steps. This watch room has 13 round arched windows. Initially, the tower had a timber roof in the form of a cone. In 1849, three floors in octagonal plan with round windows were added on the top section: one for signaling, one for signal baskets and the last one for flags. The smaller diameter of the highest three floors makes space for a terrace at the second floor. In 1889, an iron pole of 13 meters was erected on the roof. The tower was partly damaged by the earthquake of 1889 and was subsequently restored. At present, the tower has a stone roof and a wooden staircase of 256 steps.

Fire was an important threat for Istanbul and caused numerous wide scale disasters, largely because most houses in the Old City's historic quarters were made of timber. Beyazıt Tower, Galata Tower and Icadiye Fire Tower on Vanikoy Hill were used for spotting fire threats, as they commanded long distance views of the city from above. The entire Old City Yedikule, Topkapı, Kocamustafapasa, Fatih, Beyazıt, the cross-section of the Golden Horn districts Fener, Balat, Eminonu and those of the Bosphorus Tophane, Besiktas, Ortakoy, the entrance of the Sea of Marmara Uskudar, Kadikoy and even the Princes Islands towards the southeast of the city were within the range of watch sight from Beyazıt Tower.

Istanbul University on Beyazit TowersRoman Byzantine Remains next to Beyazit TowersFire was signaled at daytime by lowering baskets and at night by lighting colored lamps. The number of the baskets or the number and the color of the lamps indicated the location, i.e. in which district of Istanbul the fire outbroke. As a response, the Watch Tower of Icadiye on the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus then fired 7 volleys to inform the citizens of the fire. 20 fire fighters were stationed in the Beyazıt Tower until 1923. In 1997, the structure underwent a thorough restoration.

Beyazıt Tower is still in use today as a watch-tower as well as for signaling weather forecast and maritime navigation information to the ships on the Golden Horn at night. The tower lost its importance with the development of advanced communications technology. Recently, two firefighters in three shifts are stationed in the tower for guarding purposes only. Since 1972, special permission is required to enter the tower.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Red Square

Red Square is the most famous city square in Moscow, and arguably one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world. The square separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and currently the official residence of the President of Russia, from a historic merchant quarter known as Kitai-gorod. As major streets of Moscow radiate from here in all directions, being promoted to major highways outside the city, Red Square is often considered the central square of Moscow and of all Russia.

Red SquareThe rich history of Red Square is reflected in many artworks, including paintings by Vasily Surikov, Konstantin Yuon and others. The square was meant to serve as Moscow's main marketplace. It was also used for various public ceremonies and proclamations, and occasionally as the site of coronation for Russia's czars. The square has been gradually built up since that point and has been used for official ceremonies by all Russian governments since it was established.

The name Red Square derives neither from the colour of the bricks around it which, in fact, were whitewashed at certain points in history nor from the link between the colour red and communism. The name came about because the Russian word красная (krasnaya) means red or beautiful. This word, with the meaning beautiful, was originally applied to Saint Basil's Cathedral and was subsequently transferred to the nearby square. It is believed that the square acquired its current name in the 17th century. Several ancient Russian towns, such as Suzdal, Yelets, and Pereslavl-Zalessky, have their main square named Krasnaya ploshchad, namesake of Moscow's Red Square.

Kazan CathedralState Historical MuseumThe buildings surrounding the Square are all significant in some respect. Lenin's Mausoleum, for example, contains the embalmed body of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. Nearby to the south is the elaborate brightly-domed Saint Basil's Cathedral and the palaces and cathedrals of the Kremlin.On the eastern side of the square is the GUM department store, and next to it the restored Kazan Cathedral. The northern side is occupied by the State Historical Museum, whose outlines echo those of Kremlin towers. The Iberian Gate and Chapel have been rebuilt to the northwest.

The only sculptured monument on the square is a bronze statue of Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky, who helped to clear Moscow from the Polish invaders in 1612, during the Times of Trouble. Nearby is the so-called Lobnoye Mesto, a circular platform where public ceremonies used to take place. Both the Minin and Pozharskiy statue and the Lobnoye Mesto were once located more centrally in Red Square but were moved to their current locations to facilitate the large military parades of the Soviet era. The square itself is around 330 meters or 1100 ft long and 70 meters or 230 ft wide.