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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Palais Garnier in Paris

The Palais Garnier, also known as the Opera de Paris or Opera Garnier, but more commonly as the Paris Opera, is a 2,200-seat opera house on the Place de l'Opera in Paris, France, which was the primary home of the Paris Opera from 1875 until 1989. A grand landmark designed by Charles Garnier in the Neo-Baroque style, it is regarded as one of the architectural masterpieces of its time. The building is located in the 9th arrondissement of Paris and is served by the metro station Opera and bus. The details of Palais Garnier in Paris is explained in world tour guides below.

Palais GarnierUpon its inauguration in 1875, the opera house was officially named the Academie Nationale de Musique Theatre de l’Opera. It retained this title until 1978 when it was re-named the Theatre National de l’Opera de Paris. After the opera company chose the Opera Bastille as their principal theatre upon its completion in 1989, the theatre was re-named as the Palais Garnier, though its more official name, the Academie Nationale de Musique, is still sprawled above the columns of its front façade. The Palais Garnier is still known by many people as the Paris Opera, as have all of the many theatres which have served as the principal venues of the Parisian Opera and Ballet since its founding.

The Palais Garnier was designed as part of the great Parisian reconstruction of the Second Empire initiated by Emperor Napoleon III, who chose the Baron Haussmann to supervise the reconstruction. In 1858 the Emperor authorized Haussmann to clear the required 12,000 square metres of land on which to build a second theatre for the world renowned Parisian Opera and Ballet companies. The construction of the opera house was plagued by numerous setbacks. One major problem which postponed the laying of the concrete foundation was the extremely swampy ground under which flowed a subterranean lake, requiring the water to be removed by eight months of continual pumping. More setbacks came as a result of the disastrous Franco-Prussian War, the subsequent fall of the Second French Empire, and the Paris Commune. During this time construction continued sporadically, and it was even rumoured that construction of the opera house might be abandoned.

On 1874 Garnier and his massive workforce completed the Palais Garnier, much to the celebration of Paris. The Palais Garnier was formally inaugurated on January 15, 1875 with a lavish gala performance. The ball consisted of the third act of Fromental Halevy's 1835 opera La Juive, along with excerpts from Giacomo Meyerbeer's 1836 opera Les Huguenots. The ballet company performed a Grand Divertissement staged by the Paris Opera’s Maitre de Ballet en Chef Louis Merante, which consisted of the celebrated scene Le Jardin Anime from Joseph Mazilier's 1867 revival of his ballet Le Corsaire, set to the music of Leo Delibes.

In 1969, the theatre was given new electrical facilities, and in 1978 part of the original Foyer de la Danse was converted into new rehearsal space for the Ballet Company by the architect Jean-Loup Roubert. In 1994, restoration work began on the theatre, which consisted of modernizing the stage machinery and electrical facilities, while restoring and preserving the opulent décor, as well as strengthening the frame and foundation of the building. This restoration was completed in 2007.

The Theatre de l'Acaemie Royale de Musique, the Palais Garnier consists of 11,000 square metres, seats an audience of roughly 2,200 under a central chandelier which weighs over six tons, and has a huge stage with room to accommodate up to 450 artists. The Palais is opulently decorated with elaborate multicolored marble friezes, columns, and lavish statuary, many of which portray the deities from Greek mythology. Between the columns of the theatre's front facade, there are bronze busts of many of the great composers, Mozart, Rossini, Daniel Auber, Beethoven, Meyerbeer, Fromental Halevy, Spontini, and Philippe Quinault.

Palais GarnierPalais GarnierThe interior consists of interweaving corridors, stairwells, alcoves and landings allowing the movement of large numbers of people and space for socializing during intermission. Rich with velvet, gold leaf, and cherubim and nymphs, the interior is characteristic of Baroque sumptuousness. The ceiling area, which surrounds the chandelier, was given a new painting in 1964 by Marc Chagall. This painting proved controversial, with many people feeling Chagall's work clashed with the style of the rest of the theatre.

The building became one of the most inspirational architectural prototypes for the next thirty years. Several buildings in Poland were based on the design of the Palais Garnier, and include the Juliusz Slowacki Theatre in Krakow, built in 1893, The Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Lviv, built between 1897 and 1900 and also the Warsaw Philharmony edifice in Warsaw, built between 1900 and 1901.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang or Louangphrabang is a city located in north central Laos, where the Nam Khan River meets the Mekong River about 425 km north of Vientiane. It is the capital of Luang Prabang Province. The current population of the city is about 103,000. The city was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. Until the communist takeover in 1975, it was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos. The city is also notable as a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is the famous tourist attraction and travel destination.

Luang PrabangThe main part of the city consists of four main roads located on a peninsula between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers. The city is well known for its numerous temples and monasteries. Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms. One of the major landmarks in the city is a large steep hill on which sits Wat Chom Si.

Muang Sua was the old name of Luang Prabang following its conquest in 698 A.D. by a Tai prince, Khun Lo, who seized his opportunity when Nan chao was engaged elsewhere. Khun Lo had been awarded the town by his father, Khun Borom, who is associated with the Lao legend of the creation of the world, which the Lao share with the Shan and other peoples of the region. Khun Lo established a dynasty whose fifteen rulers reigned over an independent Muang Sua for the better part of a century.

In the second half of the 8th century, Nan chao intervened frequently in the affairs of the principalities of the middle Mekong Valley, resulting in the occupation of Muang Sua in 709. Nan-chao princes or administrators replaced the aristocracy of Tai overlords. Dates of the occupation are not known, but it probably ended well before the northward expansion of the Khmer empire under Indravarman I and extended as far as the territories of Sipsong Panna on the upper Mekong.

In the meantime, the Khmers founded an outpost at Xay Fong near Vientiane, and Champa expanded again in southern Laos, maintaining its presence on the banks of the Mekong until 1070. Chanthaphanit and his son had long reigns, during which the town became known by the Tai name Xieng Dong Xieng Thong. Xieng Dong Xieng Thong experienced a brief period of Khmer suzerainty under Jayavarman VII from 1185 to 1191. By 1180 the Sipsong Panna had regained their independence from the Khmers, however, and in 1238 an internal uprising in the Khmer outpost of Sukhothai expelled the Khmer overlords. Xieng Dong Xieng Thong in 1353 became the capital of Lan Xang. The capital was moved in 1560 by King Setthathirath I to Vien Chang, which remains the capital today.

In 1707, Lan Xang fell apart and Luang Prabang became the capital of the independent Luang Prabang kingdom. When France annexed Laos, the French recognized Luang Prabang as the royal residence of Laos. Eventually, the ruler of Luang Prabang became synonymous with the figurehead of the French Protectorate of Laos. When Laos achieved independence, the king of Luang Prabang, Sisavang Vong, became the head of state for the Kingdom of Laos.

Luang Prabang has both natural and historical sites. Among the natural tourism sites, there are the Kuang Si Falls and Pak Ou Caves. Tourists may also ride elephants. At the end of the main street of Luang Prabang is a night market where stalls sell shirts, bracelets, tea suitable souvenirs. The Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum and the Wat Xieng Thong temple are among the most well known historical sites. Along with the magnificent wats a significant part of the old town's appeal are the many French provincial style houses.

Luang PrabangLuang Prabang
As China has recently allowed its citizens to travel more freely to Laos, the number of tourists in the area is expected to increase rapidly, creating pressure to modernize the tourist infrastructure, particularly catering to package tourism. Luang Prabang is served by Luang Prabang International Airport with non-stop flights to Laos Phongsaly, Vientiane, Xieng Khuang, Thailand Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Cambodia Siem Reap, Vietnam Ha Noi. Luang Prabang is linked by Route 13 with Vang Vieng and Vientiane, and by Route 1 with Muang Xay. Route 13 also connects the city to Cambodia.

The road from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang is poorly maintained, remote, unlit, unmarked and extremely dangerous for the unfamiliar traveler, particularly in the wet season. Regular buses nonetheless do run, taking 14–16 hours. Route 13 from Vientiane, passing Vang Vieng, to Luang Prabang is paved, though the pavement is in poor condition at places. It is also relatively narrow, with sharp curves. There are no markings or lighting on the road. Several daily buses run from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, taking 9–11 hours. The Mekong River itself is also an important transportation link. Travelers from Chiang Khong can hire a barge to cross the river. Huay Xai, upriver near the Thai border, can be reached by slow boat in two days, typically with a stop at Pakbeng.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is a 102-story landmark Art Deco skyscraper in New York City at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street. Its name is derived from the nickname for the state of New York, The Empire State. It stood as the worlds tallest building for more than forty years, from its completion in 1931 until construction of the World Trade Centers North Tower was completed in 1972. Following the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, the Empire State Building once again became the tallest building in New York City and New York State.

Empire State BuildingThe Empire State Building has been named by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The building and its street floor interior are designated landmarks of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and confirmed by the New York City Board of Estimate. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986. In 2007, it was ranked number one on the List of America's Favorite Architecture according to the AIA. The building is owned and managed by W&H Properties.

The Empire State Building is the third tallest skyscraper in the Americas and the 15th tallest in the world. It is also the fourth tallest freestanding structure in the Americas. The Empire State building is currently undergoing a $120 million renovation in an effort to transform the building into a more energy efficient and eco-friendly structure. The site of the Empire State Building was first developed as the John Thomson Farm in the late 18th century. At the time, a stream ran across the site, emptying into Sunfish Pond, located a block away. Beginning in the late 19th century the block was occupied by Waldorf Astoria Hotel, frequented by The Four Hundred, the social elite of New York.

The Empire State Building was designed by William F. Lamb from the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, which produced the building drawings in just two weeks, using its earlier designs for the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the Carew Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio as a basis. The general contractors were The Starrett Brothers and Eken, and the project was financed primarily by John J. Raskob and Pierre S. du Pont. The construction company was chaired by Alfred E. Smith, a former Governor of New York and James Farley's General Builders Supply Corporation supplied the building materials. John W. Bowser was project construction superintendent.

The Empire State Building rises to 1,250 ft or 381 m at the 102nd floor, and including the 203 ft or 62 m pinnacle, its full height reaches 1,453 ft 89⁄16 in or 443.09 m. The building has 85 stories of commercial and office space representing 2,158,000 sq ft or 200,500 m2. It has an indoor and outdoor observation deck on the 86th floor. The remaining 16 stories represent the Art Deco tower, which is capped by a 102nd-floor observatory. Atop the tower is the 203 ft or 62 m pinnacle, much of which is covered by broadcast antennas, with a lightning rod at the very top.

The Empire State Building was the first building to have more than 100 floors. It has 6,500 windows and 73 elevators, and there are 1,860 steps from street level to the 103rd floor. It has a total floor area of 2,768,591 sq ft or 257,211 m2. The base of the Empire State Building is about 2 acres or 8,094 m2. The building houses 1,000 businesses, and has its own zip code, 10118. More than 21,000 employees work in the building each day, making the Empire State Building the second largest single office complex in America, after the Pentagon. The building was completed in one year and 45 days.

The Empire State Building has 73 elevators in all, including service elevators. It takes less than one minute by elevator to get to the 86th floor, where an observation deck is located. The building has 70 mi or 113 km of pipe, 2,500,000 ft or 760,000 m of electrical wire, and about 9,000 faucets. It is heated by low pressure steam despite its height, the building only requires between 2 and 3 psi or 14 and 21 kPa of steam pressure for heating. It weighs approximately 370,000 short tons or 340,000 t. The exterior of the building was built using Indiana limestone panels. The Empire State Building cost $40,948,900 to build.

Empire State BuildingEmpire State Building
The Empire State Building features an art deco design in New York. The modernistic stainless steel canopies of the entrances on 33rd and 34th Streets lead to two story-high corridors around the elevator core, crossed by stainless steel and glass-enclosed bridges at the second-floor level. The elevator core contains 67 elevators. The lobby is three stories high and features an aluminum relief of the skyscraper without the antenna, which was not added to the spire until 1952. The north corridor contains eight illuminated panels, created by Roy Sparkia and Renee Nemorov in 1963, depicting the building as the Eighth Wonder of the World, alongside the traditional seven.

The Empire State Building has one of the most popular outdoor observatories in the world, having been visited by over 110 million people. The 86th floor observation deck offers impressive 360 degree views of the city. There is a second observation deck on the 102nd floor that is open to public. It is completely enclosed and much smaller than the first one, it may be closed on high-traffic days. Tourists may pay to visit the observation deck on the 86th floor and an additional amount for the 102nd floor. There are five lines to enter the observation decks the sidewalk line, the lobby elevator line, the ticket purchase line, the second elevator line, and the line to get off the elevator and onto the observation deck. For an extra fee tourists can skip to the front of the line.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park is UNESCO World Heritage site in the Northern Territory of Australia. The details of Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park are explained in world tour guides below. It is located 1431 kilometres south of Darwin by road and 440 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs along the Stuart and Lasseter Highways. The park covers 1398 square kilometres and includes the features it is named after Uluru Ayers Rock and, 40 kilometres to its west, Kata Tjuta or Mount Olga and is serviced by flights from most Australian capital cities.

Uluru Kata Tjuta National ParkUluru is Australia most recognisable natural icon. The world renowned sandstone inselberg stands 348 metres high with most of its bulk below the ground. The aboriginals believe that the spirit that turned into Uluru was a turtle spirit. Kata Tjuta, meaning many heads, is a group of 36 rock domes that dates back 500 million years. Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta have great cultural significance for the Anangu traditional landowners, who lead walking tours to inform visitors about the local flora and fauna, bush foods and the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories of the area. Anangu are the traditional Aboriginal owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed in 1976, meaning that after many years Aboriginal law and land rights were finally recognised in Australian law. Nine years later in 1985 the Traditional Owners were presented with the Freehold Title deeds for the Park, who, in turn, leased the land back to the Australian Government through the Director of National Parks for 99 years. The Director is assisted by Parks Australia. Since hand-back, Anangu and Parks Australia staff have worked together to manage the Park. This process of working together is known as joint management. All management policy and programs aim to maintain Anangu culture and heritage conserve and protect the integrity of the ecological.

In 1987 Uluru National Park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage natural property. In 1993 the official name of the Park changed to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and the following year it was listed as a World Heritage cultural landscape. This dual World Heritage-listing means that it is one of the few properties in the world that is internationally recognised for both its natural and cultural values and represents years of work by Anangu to assert their role as custodians of their traditional lands. This international recognition is a significant victory for Anangu as it confirms the validity of Tjukurpa as being the primary tool for looking after country.

In 1995 Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park won the Picasso Gold Medal, the highest UNESCO award for outstanding efforts to preserve the landscape and Anangu culture and for setting new International standards for World Heritage management. It was awarded jointly to Parks Australia and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Board of Management. The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 was replaced in July 2000 by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The declaration of the Park was continued under the new Act.

On 24 May 1977 the Park became the first area declared under the Commonwealth National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975, under the name Uluru National Park, to be managed by the Director of National Parks. The Park was declared over an area of 132,550 hectares and included the subsoil to a depth of 1,000 metres. The declaration was amended on 21 October 1985 to include an additional area of 16 hectares. In 1993, at the request of Anangu and the Park Board of Management, the name of the Park was changed to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The park receives an average rainfall of 307.7 millimeters per year. Temperature extremes in the park have been recorded at 45°C or 113°F during the summer and -5°C or 23°F during winter nights. UV readings on most extreme summer days reach between 11 and 15. While the Central Australian environment may at first seem stark - a barren landscape supporting spectacular rock formations - closer inspection reveals it as a complex ecosystem, full of life.

Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park flora represents a large portion of plants found in Central Australia. A number of these species are considered rare and restricted in the Park or the immediate region. In Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park 46 species of native mammal are known to have been living in the Uluru region; there are currently 21 according to recent surveys. Anangu acknowledge that a decrease in the number has implications for the condition and health of the landscape. Moves are supported for the reintroduction of locally extinct animals such as mallee fowl, brushtail possum, rufous hare wallaby, or mala, bilby, burrowing bettong and the black footed rock wallaby.

Uluru Kata Tjuta National ParkUluru Kata Tjuta National Park
The listing of Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park ensures the Park remains a world class destination for both its cultural and natural heritage. Visitors will continue to have a unique cultural experience at the Park and leave knowing that the Park is managed according to cultural practices that date back tens of thousands of years. Since listing the Park as World Heritage annual visitor numbers have risen to over 400,000 visitors in the year 2000. Increased tourism provides regional and national economic benefits. It also presents an ongoing challenge to balance conservation of cultural values and visitor needs.

The Park is open year round from sunrise to sunset. These times will vary depending on the season. Occasionally parts of the Park may be temporarily closed for cultural reasons. The park entrance fee for Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park is $25 per person 16 years of age and over. This fee is valid for 3 consecutive days and helps to maintain the Park. One quarter goes back to Anangu, the traditional owners, to help them maintain their families and the Mutitjulu community. The Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park Cultural Centre, located inside the Park on the main road to Uluru, provides an introduction to Tjukurpa, Anangu art, Anangu way of life, history, languages, wildlife and joint management of the Park.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Yasawa Island in Fiji

The Yasawa Island Group is an archipelago of about 20 volcanic islands in the Western Division of Fiji with an approximate total area of 135 square kilometers. The details of Yasawa Island are explained in world tour guides below. The Yasawa Island is developed as a famous tourist attraction and travel destination site.

Yasawa IslandsThe Yasawa volcanic group consists of six main islands and numerous smaller islets. The archipelago, which stretches in a north-easterly direction for more than 80 kilometers from a point 40 kilometers north-west of Lautoka, is volcanic in origin and very mountainous, with peaks ranging from 250 to 600 meters in height. The only safe passage for shipping is between Yasawa Island the largest in the archipelago, about 22 kilometers long and less than a kilometer wide and Round Island, 22 kilometers to the north-east.

Until 1987 it was the policy of the Fiji government that the Yasawa Group was closed to land based tourism. There has been a limited cruise operation since the 1950s, but passengers had to stay aboard their ships. Local residents benefited little from the passengers presence. Due to its freehold real estate status, three budget resorts were operating on Tavewa Island since the early 1980s.

Nanuya Levu, also known as Turtle Island, is one of Fiji most famous resorts. Areas of the Yasawas were the locales for the 1980 filming of the romance adventure film The Blue Lagoon. Richard Evanson purchased Nanuya Levu Island in 1970 and moved there in 1972. After the filming of The Blue Lagoon on Nanuya Levu, Mr. Evanson converted the bures established for the film crew into the Turtle Island resort.

Since the Fijian government lifted the restrictions on land based tourism in the Yasawa Group a number of resorts have been established there. Tourism is growing in importance. Permission is required to visit all islands in the group except Tavewa. The home of the Tui Yasawa, the Paramount Chief of the Yasawa Islands, is at Yasawa-i-Rara, on Yasawa Island, but the largest village is Nabukeru.

Yasawa IslandsYasawa Islands
The British navigator William Bligh was the first European to sight the Yasawas in 1789, following the mutiny on the HMS Bounty. Captain Barber in the HMS Arthur visited the islands in 1794, but they were not charted until 1840, when they were surveyed and charted by a United States expedition commanded by Charles Wilkes.

Throughout the 1800s, Tongan raiders bartered for, and sometimes stole, the sail mats for which the Yasawa Islanders were famous. The islands were largely ignored by the wider world until World War II, when the United States military used them as communications outposts.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Karlstejn Castle in Czech Republic

Karlstejn Castle is a large Gothic castle founded 1348 AD by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor elect and King of Bohemia. The details of Karlstejn Castle is explained in world tour guides below. The castle served as a place for safekeeping the Imperial Regalia as well as the Bohemian coronation jewels, holy relics and other royal treasures. Located about 30 km southwest of Prague above the village named Karlstejn, it is one of the most famous tourist attraction, travel destination and most frequently visited castles in the Czech Republic.

Karlstejn CastleThe construction works were directed by the later Karlstejn burgrave Vitus of Bitov, but there are no records of the builder himself. Some historian speculate that Matthias of Arras may be credited with being the architect, but he had already died by 1352. Instead, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV personally supervised the construction works and interior decoration. Construction was finished nearly twenty years later in 1365 when the heart of the treasury the Chapel of the Holy Cross situated in the Great tower was consecrated.

The outbreak of the Hussite Wars, the Imperial Regalia were evacuated in 1421 and brought via Hungary to Nuremberg. In 1422, during the siege of the castle, Hussite attackers used Biological warfare when Prince Sigismund Korybut used catapults to throw dead bodies and 2000 carriage loads of dung over the walls, apparently managing to spread infection among the defenders. Later, the Bohemian coronation jewels were moved to the castle and were kept there for almost two centuries, with some short-time breaks.

The castle underwent several reconstructions in late Gothic style after 1480, in Renaissance style in the last quarter of the 16th century. In 1487 the Big tower was damaged by fire and during the 16th century there were several adaptations. During the Thirty Years War in 1619, the coronation jewels and the archive were brought to Prague, and in 1620 the castle was turned over to Ferdinand II Holy Roman Emperor. After having been conquered in 1648 by Swedes, it fell in disrepair. Finally a neo Gothic reconstruction was carried out by Josef Mocker between 1887 and 1899 giving the castle its present look. The nearby village was founded during the construction of the castle and bore its name until it was renamed to Buda in the wake of the Hussite Wars. Renamed to Budnany in the 18th century, it was merged with Poucnik and called Karlstejn.

The castle was built upon a promontory from the south side of Knezi hora, divided from it by a narrow sag. The first gate, a square, two-storey tower with a tall hip roof, stood above a moat at the western slope of the promontory. It was connected with the rampart traverse by means of a small portal. The traverse was protected by battlement and divided by a covered bastion in the middle. The second gate led to the burgraviate courtyard. Drawbridges closed both entrances. The burgraviate formed the Karlstejn settlement, it was fortified with a two meters wide rampart, the well tower stood slightly lower. In the burgraviiates rampart a third gate was staved - the main entrance into the inner castle.

Karlstejn CastleKarlstejn CastleThe core of castle consisted of three parts placed on three levels differentiated terraces. On lowest terrace there stood the castle palace above it there was church tower and Bid tower stood the highest. The palace a single tract building about 12.5 m wide and 46 m long closed in the east by a simi cylinder tower had aside of the cellar dug in the rock the ground floor and two walled floors the third floor aunder the roof was built from half timbered work. The ground space was open to courtyard and rest was occupied by a granary. Three rooms formed the first floor, largest was the central room called White hall. The emperor inhabited the second floor of the palace the floor was divided into four rooms by self supporting partitions. A spiral staircase connected it with the third floor. The layout and equipement of the second and third floor was approximately same bedrooms on the eastern side, then the stateroom, a hall and the rooms in west.

The central area of the Big tower the chapel of the Holy Cross has no analogy in concept elsewhere in the world. In the safety of the chapeel behind four doors with nineteen locks to each key was guarded independently, the valuable documents of the state archive were kept along with the symbols of state power the crown jewels. Individual buildings of the castle are situated at different height levels expressing their importance. Dominating on the hilltop is the 60m high and separately fortified Great tower built upon massive walls 4-6 m of thickness that houses the Chapel of the Holy Cross. From there one can step down to the Marian tower, the five-storied Imperial palace and come to the Well tower and Burgrave's palace located at the lowest level.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Vladimir is a city in Russia, located on the Klyazma River, 200 kilometers or 124 mi to the east of Moscow along the M7 motorway. It is the administrative center of Vladimir Oblast. The details of Vladimir are explained in world tour guides below. Vladimir was one of the medieval capitals of Russia, and two of its cathedrals are a World Heritage Site which is the famous travel destination and tourist attraction. It is served by Vladimir Semyazino Airport, and during the Cold War Vladimir was host to Dobrynskoye air base.

VladimirThe area occupied by the city of Vladimir has been inhabited by humans for approximately 25,000 years. Traditionally the founding date of Vladimir has been acknowledged as 1108, as the first mention of Vladimir in the Primary Chronicle appears under that year. This view attributes the founding of the city, and its name, to Vladimir Monomakh, who inherited the region as part of the Rostov-Suzdal principality in 1093. In 1958, the 850th anniversary of the city foundation was celebrated, with many monuments from the celebrations adorning the city squares.
In the 1990s, a new opinion developed that the city is older than this. Scholars reinterpreted certain passages in the Hypatian Codex, which mentions that the region was visited by Vladimir the Great, the father of Russian Orthodoxy, in 990, so as to move the city foundation date to that year. The defenders of the previously uncontested founding year of 1108 dispute the claims of those who support the new date, arguing that the new theory was fabricated in order to provide a reason to have a celebration in 1995.

The neighboring town of Suzdal, for instance, was mentioned in 1024, and yet its 12th century inhabitants alluded to Vladimir as a young town and treated its rulers with arrogance. In the words of a major chronicle, they said that the people of Vladimir were their kholops and scions. In the seniority conflicts of the 12th and early 13th centuries, Vladimir was repeatedly described as a young town compared to Suzdal and Rostov. The Charter of Vladimir, the basic law of the city passed in 2005, explicitly mentions 990 as the date of the city's foundation.

Scores of Russian, German, and Georgian masons worked on Vladimirs white stone cathedrals, towers, and palaces. Unlike any other northern buildings, their exterior was elaborately carved with the high relief stone sculptures. Only three of these edifices stand today: the Assumption Cathedral, the Cathedral of St. Demetrios, and the Golden Gate. During Andrei's reign, a royal palace in Bogolyubovo was built, as well as the world-famous Intercession Church on the Nerl, now considered one of the jewels of ancient Russian architecture. Andrei was assassinated at his palace at Bogolyubovo in 1175.

VladimirVladimir Golden GateVladimir was besieged by the Mongol Tatar hordes under Batu Khan and finally overrun on February 8, 1238. A great fire destroyed 32 limestone buildings on the first day alone, while the grand prince and all his family perished in a church where they sought refuge from the fire. The bishop of Vladimir managed to escape. After the Mongols, Vladimir never fully recovered, and even though the most important Rus prince was styled the Grand Prince of Vladimir and was the tax-collector of the Golden Horde.

Modern Vladimir is a part of the Golden ring of ancient Russian cities and a significant tourist center. Its three chief monuments White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal, inscribed by UNESCO on the World Heritage List. The magnificent five domed Assumption Cathedral was designed as a sepulcher of grand princes and dedicated to the holy icon Theotokos of Vladimir, which had been brought to the city by Andrew the Pious. The warrior like cathedral of St. Demetrius was built in 1194–1197 as a private chapel of Vsevolod the Big Nest in the courtyard of his palace and was consecrated to his holy patron, St. Demetrius. The Golden Gate, originally a tower over the city's main gate, was built in 1158–1164. Other incredible monuments of pre Mongol Russian architecture are scattered in the vicinity. For more information on them, see Suzdal, Yuriev Polsky, Bogolyubovo, and Kideksha.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls is waterfall of the Iguazu River located on the border of the Brazilian state of Parana and the Argentine province of Misprision. It is also called as Iguassu Falls, or Iguacu Falls. The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu. Their name comes from the Guarani or Tupi words and uasu. Legend has it that a god planned to marry a beautiful aborigine named Naipi, who fled with her mortal lover Taroba in a canoe. The first European to find the falls was the Spanish Conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541, after whom one of the falls in the Argentine side is named. The falls were rediscovered by Boselli at the end of the nineteenth century, and one of the Argentine falls is named after him.

Iguazu FallsIguazu Falls was short-listed as a candidate to be one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature by the New Seven Wonders of the World Foundation. As of February 2009 it was ranking fifth in Group F, the category for lake, rivers, and waterfalls. The waterfall system consists of 275 falls along 2.7 kilometers or 1.67 miles of the Iguazu River. Some of the individual falls are up to 82 meters or 269 ft in height, though the majority are about 64 metres or 210 ft. The Devil's Throat, a U-shaped, 82-meter-high, 150-meter-wide and 700-meter-long or 490 by 2300 feet cataract, and marks the border between Argentina and Brazil. Two thirds of the falls are within Argentine territory. About 900 meters of the 2.7-kilometer length does not have water flowing over it. The edge of the basalt cap recedes only 3 mm or 0.1 in per year. The water of the lower Iguazu collects in a canyon that drains into the Parana River at Argentina, shortly downstream from the Itaipu dam.

The falls can be reached from the two main towns on either side of the falls Foz do Iguacu in the Brazilian state of Parana, and Puerto Iguazu in the Argentine province of Misiones as well as from Ciudad del Este Paraguay on the other side of the Parana river from Foz do Iguacu. The falls are shared by the Iguazu National Park Argentina and Iguacu National Park. These parks were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1984 and 1987, respectively.

On the Brazilian side there is a long walkway along the canyon with an extension to the lower base of the Devils Throat. From Foz do Iguacu airport the park can be reached by taxi R$ 15-17 or bus no 120 to entrance of the park. There is an entrance fee to the park. Free frequent buses are provided to various points within the park. The park opens at 9 am and closes at 5.30 pm. The town of Foz do Iguacu is about 20 kms away and the airport is in between the park and the town.

The Argentine access is facilitated by the Rainforest Ecological Train, which brings visitors to different walkways. The Paseo Garganta del Diablo is a one-kilometer-long trail that brings the visitor directly over the falls of the Devil's Throat. Other walkways allow access to the elongated stretch of falls on the Argentine side and to the ferry that connects to the San Martin Island. The fall area provides opportunities for water sports and rock climbing.

Upon seeing Iguazu, the United States First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaimed Poor Niagara! Iguazu is also often compared with Southern Africa Victoria Falls which separates Zambia and Zimbabwe. Iguazu is wider, but because it is split into about 270 discrete falls and large islands, Victoria is the largest curtain of water in the world, at over 1,600 m or 5,249 ft wide and over 100 m or 328 ft in height. The only wider falls are extremely large rapid-like falls such as the Boyoma Falls. With the flooding of the Guaira Falls in 1982, Iguazu currently has the second greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world, after Niagara, with an average rate of 1746 m³/s.

The water falling over Iguazu in peak flow has a surface area of about 40 Ha or 1.3 million ft² whilst Victoria in peak flow has a surface area of over 55 ha or 1.8 million ft². By comparison, Niagara has a surface area of under 18.3 ha or 600,000 ft². Victoria's annual peak flow is also greater than Iguazus annual peak 9,100 m³/s versus 6,500 though in times of extreme flood the two have recorded very similar maximum water discharge. Niagaras average flow is about 2,400 m³/s, although an all-time peak of 8,269 has been recorded. Iguazu and Victoria fluctuate more greatly in their flow rate. Mist rises between 30 metres or 98 ft and 150 m or 492 ft from Iguazus Devils Throat, and over 300 m or 984 ft above Victoria.

Iguazu FallsIguazu FallsIguazu, however, affords better views and walkways and its shape allows for spectacular vistas. At one point a person can stand and be surrounded by 260 degrees of waterfalls. The Devils Throat has water pouring into it from three sides. Likewise, because Iguazu is split into many relatively small falls, one can view these a portion at a time. Victoria does not allow this, as it is essentially one waterfall that falls into a canyon and is too immense to appreciate at once.

As of July 24, 2006 a severe drought in South America had caused the river feeding the falls to become parched, reducing the amount of water flowing over the falls to 300 m³ or 80,000 gallons per second, down from the normal flow of 1,300 m³/s to 1,500 m³/s. By early December, the flow was spectacular again, according to visiting tourists. This was unusual, as normally dry periods last only a few weeks.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mont Ventoux

Mont Ventoux is a mountain in the Provence region of southern France, located some 20 km north-east of Carpentras, Vaucluse. The details of Mont Ventoux are explained in world tour guides below. On the north-side the mountain borders the Drome department. It is the largest mountain in the region and has been nicknamed the Giant of Provence or The Bald Mountain. Mont Ventoux is one of the famous travel destination and tourist attraction site. It has gained notoriety through its use in the Tour de France cycling race.
The wind speeds as high as 320 km/h 200 mph have been recorded. The wind blows at more than 90 km/h or more than 56 mph 240 days a year. The road over the mountain is often closed due to high winds. Especially the col de tempetes just before the summit is known for its strong winds. The real origins of the name are thought to trace back to the 1st or 2nd century AD, when it was named Vintur after a Gaulish god of the summits, or Ven Top, meaning snowy peak in the ancient Gallic language. In the 10th century, the names Mons Ventosus and Mons Ventorius appear.

Mont Ventoux is geologically part of the Alps, is often considered to be separate from them, due to the lack of mountains of a similar height nearby. It stands alone to the north of the Luberon range, separated by the Monts de Vaucluse, and just to the east of the Dentelles de Montmirail, its foothills. The top of the mountain is bare limestone without vegetation or trees which make the mountains barren peak appear from a distance to be snow-capped all year round. Its isolated position overlooking the valley of the Rhone ensures that it dominates the entire region and can be seen from many miles away on a clear day. The view from the top is correspondingly superb.
Jean Buridan climbed the mountain early in the fourteenth century; Petrarch repeated the feat on April 26, 1336, and claimed to have been the first to climb the mountain since antiquity, which has been widely repeated since. The 15th century saw the construction of a chapel on the top, dedicated to the Holy Cross. In 1882, a meteorological station was constructed on the summit, though it is no longer in use. In the 1960s a 50m-high telecommunications mast was built.

Mont Ventoux was systematically stripped of trees from the 12th century onwards to serve the demands of the shipbuilders of the naval port of Toulon. Some areas have been reforested since 1860 with a variety of hardwood trees such as holm oaks and beeches. The mountain comprises the species boundary or ecotone between the flora and fauna of northern and southern France. Some species, including various types of spiders and butterflies, are unique to Mont Ventoux. It is a good place to spot the Short-toed Eagle. Its biological distinctiveness was recognised by UNESCO in 1990 when the Reserve de Biosphere du Mont Ventoux was created, protecting an area of 810 square kilometres or 200,150 acres on and around the mountain.

The mountain can be climbed by three routes by bicycle racing enthusiasts. South from Bedoin 1617 m over 21.8 km. This is the most famous and difficult ascent. North-west from Malaucene 1570 m over 21.5 km. About equal in difficulty as the Bedoin ascent, better sheltered against the wind. East from Sault 1210 m over 26 km. The easiest route. After Chalet Reynard the climb is the same as the Bedoin ascent. Every year there are amateur races to climb the mountain as quickly and often as possible in 24 hours, the Ventoux Masterseries and Les Cingles du Mont Ventoux. On May 16, 2006, Jean-Pascal Roux from Bedoin broke the record of climbs in 24 hours, with eleven climbs, all of them from Bedoin.

Mont Ventoux has become legendary as the scene of one of the most gruelling climbs in the Tour de France bicycle race, which has ascended the mountain fourteen times since 1951. The followed trail mostly passes through Bedoin. Its fame as a scene of great Tour dramas has made it a magnet for cyclists around the world. The mountain achieved worldwide notoriety when it claimed the life of British cyclist Tom Simpson, who died here on July 13, 1967 from heat exhaustion caused by a combination of factors including dehydration, amphetamines, and alcohol, although there is still speculation as to the exact cause of his death.

Mont VentouxMont VentouxThe race has finished at the summit of Mont Ventoux eight times. The finish line is at 1909 m, although in 1965, 1967, 1972 and 1974 the finish was lower, at 1895 m. In September 2008, it was announced by Claude Haut, the president of the Vaucluse province, that in 2009 the Tour de France would visit Mont Ventoux after a seven-year absence. Unusually, the riders climbed the Giant of Provence on the second-to-last day of the race, on July 25, 2009, prior to transferring to Paris for the traditional parade on the Champs-Elysees.

The climb by bike from Bedoin to Mont Ventoux is one of the toughest in professional cycling. Every climb has its own unique particulars. To get a detailed impression of this climb, the route has been measured accurately. The figure for the average gradients per kilometre can be found in many books and websites on cycling. The average gradient of the total climb and also the average gradients per kilometre differ slightly, depending on the source of the information. Accurate measurements result in an average gradient for the total climb of 7.43%, based on a horizontal distance of 21765 metres and an ascent height of 1617 metres. The actual distance ridden is 21825 metres.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Alcazar of Segovia

The Alcazar of Segovia is a stone fortification, located in the old city of Segovia, Spain. It is also literally called as Segovia Castle which is a famous tourist attraction and travel destination. The details of Alcazar of Segovia are explained in world tour guides below. Rising out on a rocky crag above the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Clamores near the Guadarrama mountains, it is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape - like the bow of a ship. The Alcazar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy since then.

Alcazar of SegoviaThe Alcazar of Segovia, like many fortifications in Spain, started off as an Arab fort. The first reference to this particular Alcazar was in 1120, around 32 years after the city of Segovia returned to Christian hands. However, archaeological evidence suggests that the site of this Alcazar was once used in Roman times as a fortification. This theory is further substantiated by the presence of Segovia's famous Roman Aqueduct.

The shape and form of the Alcazar was not known until the reign of King Alfonso VIII, however early documentation mentioned a wooden stockade fence. It can be concluded that prior to Alfonso VIII's reign, it was no more than a wooden fort built over the old Roman foundations. Alfonso VIII and his wife, Eleanor of Plantagenet made this Alcazar their principal residence and much work was carried out to erect the beginnings of the stone fortification we see today.

The Alcazar, throughout the Middle Ages, remained one of the favorite residences of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Castile and a key fortress in the defense of the kingdom. It was during this period a majority of the current building was constructed and the palace was extended on a large scale by the monarchs of the Trastamara dynasty. In 1258, parts of the Alcazar had to be rebuilt by King Alfonso X of Castile after a cave-in and soon after the Hall of Kings were built to house Parliament. However, the single largest contributor to the continuing construction of the Alcazar is King John II which built the New Tower.

In 1474, the Alcazar played a major role in the rise of Queen Isabella I of Castile. On the 12th December news of the King Henry IV's death in Madrid reached Segovia and Isabella immediately took refuge within the walls of this Alcazar where she received the support of Andres Cabrera and Segovias council. She was crowned the next day as Queen of Castile and Leon. It was also the site where she married Ferdinand II.

Alcazar of SegoviaAlcazar of Segovia Throne RoomThe next major renovation at the Alcazar was conducted by King Philip II after his marriage to Anna of Austria. He added the sharp slate spires to reflect the castles of central Europe. In 1587, architect Francisco de Morar completed the main garden and the School of Honor areas of the castle. The royal court eventually moved to Madrid and the Alcazar then served as a state prison for almost two centuries before King Charles III founded the Royal Artillery School in 1762. It served this function for almost a hundred years until March 6 1862 where a fire badly damaged the roofs and framework. It was only in 1882 that the building was slowly restored to its original state. In 1896, King Alfonso XIII ordered the Alcazar to be handed over to the Ministry of War as a military college.

Today, the Alcazar remains one of the most popular historical sights in Spain and is one of the three major attractions in Segovia. Notable rooms are the Hall of Ajimeces which houses many works of art, the Hall of the Throne and the Hall of Kings with a frieze representing all of the Spanish Kings and Queens starting from Pelagius of Asturias down to Juana la Loca after moving to El Palacio Real in Madrid, Spain.

Friday, April 16, 2010

30 St Mary Axe

30 St Mary Axe, also known as the Gherkin and the Swiss Re Building, is a skyscraper in Londons main financial district, the City of London, completed in December 2003 and opened at the end of May 2004. The details of 30 St Mary Axe is explained in world tour guides below. With 40 floors, it is 180 metres or 591 ft tall, and stands on the former site of the Baltic Exchange building, which was severely damaged on 10 April 1992 by the explosion of a bomb placed by the Provisional IRA. After the plans to build the Millennium Tower were dropped, the current building was designed by Norman Foster, his then business partner Ken Shuttleworth and Arup engineers, and was erected by Skanska in 2001–2003.

30 St Mary AxeThe building is on the former site of the Baltic Exchange building, the headquarters of a global marketplace for ship sales and shipping information. On 10 April 1992 the Provisional IRA detonated a bomb close to the Exchange, severely damaging the historic Exchange building and neighbouring structures. The UK government's statutory adviser on the historic environment, English Heritage, and the City of London governing body, the City of London Corporation, was keen that any redevelopment must restore the building's old façade onto St Mary Axe. The Exchange Hall was a celebrated fixture of the ship trading company.

23 August 2000, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott granted planning permission to construct a building much larger than the old Exchange on the site. The site was special because it needed development, was not on any of the sight lines, and it had housed the Baltic Exchange. The plan for the site was to reconstruct the Baltic Exchange. GMW Architects proposed building a new rectangular building surrounding a restored exchange the square shape would have the type of large floor plan that banks liked. Eventually, the planners realised that the exchange was not recoverable, forcing them to relax their building constraints they hinted that an architecturally significant building might pass favourably with city authorities.

The building was constructed by Skanska, completed in December 2003 and opened on 28 April 2004. The primary occupant of the building is Swiss Re, a global reinsurance company, who had the building commissioned as the head office for their UK operation. As owners, their company name lends itself to another nickname for the building, variants on Swiss Re Tower, although this has never been an official title. The building uses energy saving methods which allow it to use half the power a similar tower would typically consume. Gaps in each floor create six shafts that serve as a natural ventilation system for the entire building even though required firebreaks on every sixth floor interrupt the chimney. The shafts create a giant double glazing effect air is sandwiched between two layers of glazing and insulates the office space inside.

Architects limit double glazing in residential houses to avoid the inefficient convection of heat, but the Swiss Re tower exploits this effect. The shafts pull warm air out of the building during the summer and warm the building in the winter using passive solar heating. The shafts also allow sunlight to pass through the building, making the work environment more pleasing, and keeping the lighting costs down. The primary methods for controlling wind-excited sways are to increase the stiffness, or increase damping with tuned/active mass dampers. Despite its overall curved glass shape, there is only one piece of curved glass on the building the lens-shaped cap at the very top.

On the buildings top level the 40th floor, there is a bar for tenants and their guests featuring a 360° view of London. A restaurant operates on the 39th floor, and private dining rooms on the 38th. Whereas most buildings have extensive lift equipment on the roof of the building, this was not possible for the Gherkin, since a bar had been planned for the 40th floor. The architects dealt with this by having the main lift only reach the 34th floor, and then having a push from below lift to the 39th floor. There is a marble stairwell and a disabled persons lift which leads the visitor up to the bar in the dome.

30 St Mary Axe30 St Mary AxeThe building is visible over long distances from the north, for instance, it can be seen from the M11 motorway some 32 kilometres or 20 miles away, while to the west it can be seen from the statue of George III in Windsor Great Park. The Gherkin can also be seen from the London Eye. On 25 April 2005, the press reported that a glass panel two thirds up the 590 ft or 180 m tower had fallen to the plaza beneath on 18 April. The plaza was sealed off, but the building remained open. A temporary covered walkway, extending across the plaza to the building's reception, was erected to protect visitors. Engineers examined the other 744 glass panels on the building. The cost of repair was covered by main contractor Skanska and curtainwall supplier Schmidlin.

In December 2005, a survey of the world's largest firms of architects published in 2006 BD World Architecture 200 voted the tower as the most admired new building in the world. In September 2006, the building was put up for sale with a price tag of GB£600 million. Potential buyers included British Land, Land Securities, Prudential, ING and the Abu Dhabi royal family. On 21 February 2007, IVG Immobilien AG and UK investment firm Evans Randall completed their joint purchase of the building for GB£630 million, making it Britains most expensive office block.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Borobudur Temple

Borobudur is a ninth century Mahayana Buddhist monument in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The monument comprises six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupa. The monument is a shrine to Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path circumambulating the monument while ascending to the top through the three levels of Buddhist cosmology, namely Kamadhatu, Rupadhatu and Arupadhatu. During the journey the monument guides the pilgrims through a system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the wall and the balustrades.

BorobudurEvidence suggests Borobudur was abandoned following the fourteenth century decline of Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms in Java, and the Javanese conversion to Islam. Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparked in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the then British ruler of Java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, following which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Borobudur is still used for pilgrimage once a year Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, and Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction.

In Indonesian, ancient temples are known as candi thus Borobudur Temple is locally known as Candi Borobudur. The term candi is also used more loosely to describe any ancient structure, for example gates and bathing structures. The origins of the name Borobudur however are unclear, although the original names of most ancient Indonesian temples are no longer known. The name Borobudur was first written in Sir Thomas Raffles' book on Javan history. Raffles wrote about a monument called borobudur, but there are no older documents suggesting the same name.

Borobudur Temple is 40 kilometers or 25 miles northwest of Yogyakarta. Borobudur is located in an elevated area between two twin volcanoes, Sundoro-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi, and two rivers, the Progo and the Elo. According to local myth, the area known as Kedu Plain is a Javanese sacred place and has been dubbed the garden of Java due to its high agricultural fertility. There are other Buddhist and Hindu temples including the Prambanan temples compound. During the restoration in the early 1900s, it was discovered that three Buddhist temples in the region, Borobudur, Pawon and Mendut, are lined in one straight line position. The three temples have similar architecture and ornamentation derived from the same time period, which suggests that ritual relationship between the three temples, in order to have formed a sacred unity, must have existed, although exact ritual process is yet unknown.

Borobudur was built on a bedrock hill, 265 m or 869 ft above sea level and 15 m or 49 ft above the floor of the dried out paleolake. The lakes existence was the subject of intense discussion among archaeologists in the twentieth century; Borobudur was thought to have been built on a lake shore or even floated on a lake. here is no written record of who built Borobudur or of its intended purpose. The construction time has been estimated by comparison between carved reliefs on the temple's hidden foot and the inscriptions commonly used in royal charters during the eight and ninth centuries. Borobudur was likely founded around 800 AD. This corresponds to the period between 760 - 830 AD, the peak of the Sailendra dynasty in central Java, when it was under the influence of the Srivijayan Empire. The construction has been estimated to have taken 75 years and been completed during the reign of Samaratungga in 825.

The major 1973 renovation funded by UNESCO, Borobudur is once again used as a place of worship and pilgrimage. Once a year, during the full moon in May or June, Buddhists in Indonesia observe Vesak day commemorating the birth, death, and the time when Siddhārtha Gautama attained the highest wisdom to become the Buddha Shakyamuni. Vesak is an official national holiday in Indonesia and the ceremony is centered at the three Buddhist temples by walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur.

The monument is the single most visited tourist attraction in Indonesia. In 1974, 260,000 tourists of whom 36,000 were foreigners visited the monument. The figure hiked into 2.5 million visitors annually in that 80% were domestic tourists in the mid 1990s, before the country's economy crisis. Tourism development, however, has been criticized for not including the local community on which occasional local conflict has arisen. In 2003, residents and small businesses around Borobudur organized several meetings and poetry protests, objecting to a provincial government plan to build a three-story mall complex, dubbed the Java World.

Borobudur is built as a single large stupa, and when viewed from above takes the form of a giant tantric Buddhist mandala, simultaneously representing the Buddhist cosmology and the nature of mind. The foundation is a square, approximately 118 meters or 387 ft on each side. It has nine platforms, of which the lower six are square and the upper three are circular. The upper platform features seventy-two small stupas surrounding one large central stupa. Each stupa is bell-shaped and pierced by numerous decorative openings. Statues of the Buddha sit inside the pierced enclosures.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nymphenburg Palace

The Nymphenburg Palace is a Baroque palace in Munich, Bavaria, Germany is a famous tourist aattraction and travel destination site. The palace was the main summer residence of the rulers of Bavaria. It is also called as Nymph's Castle. More details of Nymphenburg Palace is explained in world tour guides below. The palace was commissioned by the prince-electoral couple Ferdinand Maria and Henriette Adelaide of Savoy to the designs of the Italian architect Agostino Barelli in 1664 after the birth of their son Maximilian II Emanuel. The central pavilion was completed in 1675.

Nymphenburg PalaceStarting in 1701, Max Emanuel, the heir to Bavaria, a souvereign electorate of the Holy Roman Empire, conducted a systematic extension of the palace. Two pavilions were added each in the south and north of Barelli's palace by Enrico Zucalli and Giovanni Antonio Viscardi. Later the south section of the palace was further extended to form the court stables. As a balance the orangerie was added to the north. Finally a grand circle the Schlossrondell with baroque mansions the so called Kavaliershauschen cavaliers lodges was erected under Max Emanuel's son Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII Albert.

Joseph Effner redesigned the facade of the center pavilion in French baroque style with pilasters in 1716. In 1826 Leo von Klenze removed its gables with the electoral coat of arms and created an attic decoration directly under the roof instead. With the Treaty of Nymphenburg concluded in July 1741, Charles Albert allied with France and Spain against Austria. For a long time, the palace was the favourite summer residence of the rulers of Bavaria. King Max I Joseph died there in 1825, and his great-grandson King Ludwig II was born there in 1845.

Today, Nymphenburg is open to the public, but also continues to be a home and chancery for the head of the house of Wittelsbach, currently Franz, Duke of Bavaria. palace, together with its park, is now one of the most famous sights of Munich. The baroque facades comprise an overall with of about 700 metres. The Steinerner Saal or Stone Hall, with ceiling frescoes by Johann Baptist Zimmermann and F. Zimmermann and decorations by François de Cuvillies, is an impressive sight. Acting as a grand hall, it occupies over three floors of the central pavilion of the palace. Some rooms still show their original baroque decoration while others were later redesigned in rococo or neoclassical style. The former small dining room in the south pavilion today houses the Gallery of Beauties of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. This pavilion houses also the birthroom of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.

Nymphenburg PalaceNymphenburg PalaceThe 200-hectare or 490-acre park, once an Italian garden in 1671, which was enlarged and rearranged in French style by Dominique Girard, a pupil of Le Notre, was finally redone in the English manner in early 19th century by Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell, on behalf of prince-elector Karl-Theodor also the creator of the English Garden, Munich's green lung, bigger than Central Park and probably one of the worlds biggest inner city parks. He preserved the main elements of the Baroque garden. The park is bisected by a long canal along the principle axis which leads from the palace to the marble cascade in the west. Two lakes are situated on both sides of the canal. The Dorfchen was created under Maximilian III Joseph as Petit hameau. The Salettl a cottage with its little garden nearby close to the former menagerie served as attraction for the children of Maximilian IV Joseph.

The castle as well as the park are important economic factors for the city of Munich. The main building alone has more than 300,000 visitors per year. Nymphenburg Palace lies ahead the Munich Residence and Schleissheim Palace. It is possible to visit the palace by taking the tram number 17 towards Amalienburgstrasse. This line passes through the city centre, including Stachus and the main train station. It takes approximately 20 minutes to get from the city center to the palace by tram. The palace and its park were some of the main filming locations of Alain Resnais 1961 movie Last Year at Marienbad. The Dressage Facility for the equestrian events of the 1972 Summer Olympics was created in the Nymphenburg park.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is a Georgian Orthodox cathedral located in the historical town of Mtskheta, Georgia, 20 km or 12.5 miles northwest of the nation's capital of Tbilisi. The detail of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is explained in world tour guides below. Svetitskhoveli known as the burial site of Christs mantle, has long been the principal Georgian church and remains one of the most venerated places of worship to this day. It presently functions as the seat of the archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi, who is at the same time Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral
The current cathedral was built in the 11th century by the Georgian architect Arsakisdze, though the site itself is even older dating back to the early 4th century and is surrounded by a number of legends associated primarily with the early Christian traditions. It is the second largest church building in the country, after the recently consecrated Tbilisi Sameba Cathedral, and is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other historical monuments of Mtskheta. The original church was built in IV century A.D. during the reign of Mirian III of Kartli in Iberia. St. Nino is said to have chosen the confluence of the Mtkvari in Kura and Aragvi rivers as the place of the first Georgian Church.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, originally built in the 4th century, has been damaged several times during history, notably by the invasions of Arabs, Persians, and Timur and latterly during Russian subjugation and the Soviet period. The building has also been damaged by earthquakes. During the restoration of 1970-71 which was presided over by V. Tsintsadze, the base of the basilica built in the late 5th century by King Vakhtang Gorgasali after St. Ninos original church was found. During the early years of Georgian church building, the basilica was the dominant type of the Georgian church architecture before the cross-dome style emerged.

In the 11th century, the present Svetitskhoveli Cathedral was rebuilt from 1010 to 1029 in the Cross-Dome style by the architect Arsukidze, at the invitation of the Catholicon Melkisedek of Georgia. The king of Georgia for that time was Giorgi II or George II. The cathedral is surrounded by a defensive wall, built of stone and brick during the reign of King Erekle II or Heraclius in 1787. The top storey was designed for military purposes and has gun emplacements.

The entrance to the Cathedral from the wall is located to the south. The wall has eight towers six of them are cylindrical and two of them are square. Archaeological expeditions in 1963 found the house of Patriarch of the 11th century at the southern part of the wall. Inside the church yard, the remains of the two-story castle of Patriarch Anton II were found.

The base of the three-storey basilica, supposed to have been built by Vakhtang Gorgasali after St.Ninos original church, has been found by archaeologists during the restoration of 1970-71. The architecture of the present Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, which dates from around 1020, is based on the cross-dome style of church architecture, which emerged in Georgia in the early Middle Ages and became the principle style after the political unification of Georgia by Bagrat III 978-1014. The characteristic of this style is that the dome is placed across all four sides of church.

The basic stone used for the Cathedral is a sandy yellow with trimmings, while around the apse window a red stone is used. The green stone used in the drum of the cupola is from the 17th century. The curved blind arcading throughout is unaltered from the 11th century. A large window occupies most of the western top side of the church. The decoration shows the Christ sitting and two angels at the both sides. The original sculpture on the wall has not survived, but was restored several times, most recently in the 19th century.

Svetitskhoveli CathedralSvetitskhoveli Cathedral
The interior walls are painted with frescoes, most of which have not survived in their original state. The walls are decorated with many Christian Orthodox icons, most of which are not original. The large figure of Jesus at the altar was painted by Russian artist in the 19th century. The majority of the icons here date to the 20th century. Two bull heads are incorporated into the east facade, surviving from the fifth-century church, and testimony of the folk influence on Christian iconography in that early period.

Svetitskhoveli was not only the site of the coronation of the Georgian kings but also served as their burial place. Ten are known to have been buried here, although only six tombs have been found, all before the altar. The tomb of King Vakhtang Gorgasali can be identified by his the small candle fortress standing before it. King Erekle II's tomb is identifiable by the sword and shield upon it. His son, George XII was the last king of Georgia and his marble tomb is next to his father. Also in front of the altar are tombs of David VI, George VIII, Luarsab I and various members of the Bagrationi royal family including Tamar, the first wife of George XI, whose epitaph dating from 1684 is written both in Georgian and Arabic script.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Shark Bay

Shark Bay is a world heritage site in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia. The details of Shark Bay are explained below in world tour guides. It is an area centered approximately 800 kilometres north of Perth, on the westernmost point of Australia. It is a famous tourist attraction and travel destination in Australia. An expedition led by Dirk Hartog happened upon the area in 1616, becoming the second group of Europeans known to have visited Australia. Shark Bay was named by William Dampier, in 1699.

Shark BayThe area has a population of fewer than 1,000 people and a coastline of over 1,500 kilometers. The half dozen small communities making up this population occupy less than 1% of the total area. The World Heritage status of the region was created and negotiated in the 1990s. The bay itself covers an area of 10,000 km², with an average depth of 10 metres. It is divided by shallow banks and has many peninsulas and islands. The coastline is over 1,500 km long. It is located in the transition zone between three major climatic regions and between two major botanical provinces.

Dirk Hartog Island is of major historic significance due to early explorers landing upon it. In 1616 Dirk Hartog landed at Inscription Point on the north end of Dirk Hartog Island and marked his discovery with a plate, which he inscribed with the date and nailed to a post. This plate was then replaced by a later explorer and returned to Holland. It is now kept in the National Museum of Holland. A replica can be found in the Shark Bay Discovery Centre in Denham.

Bernier and Dorre islands in the north west corner of the Heritage area are locations of some last remaining habitats of some Australian mammals threatened with extinction. They are used, as well and numerous smaller islands throughout the marine park, to release threatened species that are being bred at Project Eden in Francois Peron National Park. These islands are feral-free and so provide a safe haven of pristine environment on which to restore species that are threatened on the mainland.

The Australian Wildlife Conservatory is guardians of Faure Island off Monkey Mia. Seasonally, turtles come here to nest and in conjunction with DEC studies can be conducted on this sheltered island. Shark Bay is an area of major zoological importance. It is home to about 10,000 dugongs or sea cows, around 10% of the world's population, and there are many Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, particularly at Monkey Mia.

The area supports 26 threatened Australian mammal species, over 230 species of bird, and nearly 150 species of reptile. It is an important breeding and nursery ground for fish, crustaceans, and coelenterates. There are over 323 fish species, with many sharks and rays. Some Bottlenose Dolphins in Shark Bay exhibit the only known case of tool use in marine mammals or outside of sea otters they protect their nose with a sponge while foraging for food in the sandy sea bottom.

Shark Bay has the largest known area of seagrass, with seagrass meadows covering over 4000 km² of the bay. It includes the 1030 km² Wooramel Seagrass Bank, the largest seagrass bank in the world. Shark Bay also contains the largest number of seagrass species ever recorded in one place; twelve species have been found, with up to nine occurring together in some places. The seagrasses are a vital part of the complex environment of the bay. Over thousands of years, sediment and shell fragments have accumulated in the seagrasses to form vast expanses of seagrass beds. This has raised the sea floor, making the bay shallower. Seagrasses are the basis of the food chain in Shark Bay, providing home and shelter to various marine species and attracting the dugong population.

In Shark Bay's hot, dry climate, evaporation greatly exceeds the annual precipitation rate. Thus, the seawater in the shallow bays becomes very salt concentrated, or 'hypersaline'. Seagrasses also restict the tidal flow of waters through the bay area, preventing the ocean tides from diluting the sea water. The water of the bay is 1.5x to 2x more salty than the surrounding ocean waters.

Shark BayShark Bay RoadAt Hamelin Pool in the south of the bay, living microbes are building stromatolites that are over 3000 years old. The Hamelin Pool contains the most diverse and abundant examples of stromatolite forms in the world. Shark Bay was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1991. The site covers an area of 23,000 square kilometres. It includes many protected areas and conservation reserves, including Shark Bay Marine Park, Francois Peron National Park, Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve, Zuytdorp Nature Reserve and numerous protected islands.

Denham and Useless Loop both fall within the boundary of the site but are specifically excluded from it. Shark Bay was the first to be classified on the Australian World Heritage list. Facilities around the world heritage area, provided by the Shire of Shark Bay and DEC, include a new Discovery Centre in Denham which provides interactive displays and comprehensive information about the features of the region.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Schloss Eggenberg

Schloss Eggenberg in Graz is the most significant Baroque palace complex in Styria. It is also called as Eggenberg Palace which is the famous tourist attraction and travel destination. The details of Schloss Eggenberg is explained in world tour guides today. With its preserved accouterments, the extensive scenic gardens as well as some additional collections from the Universal Museum Joanneum housed in the palace and park, Schloss Eggenberg counts among the most valuable cultural assets of Austria. With its construction and accouterment history, it exhibits the vicissitude and patronage of the one-time mightiest dynasty in Styria, the House of Eggenberg.

Schloss EggenbergThe palace lies on the western edge of the Styrian capital of Graz. The northern corner of the palace grounds features the Planetary Garden and Lapidarium of Roman stonework as well as the entrance to the new Archeological Museum, which houses the Cult Wagon of Strettweg. The numismatic collection, located in the former rooms of Balthasar Eggenberger, owner of the imperial minting license and operations in the Late Middle Ages, and the show collection of the Alte Galerie, a collection of medieval through early modern period artworks spanning 5 centuries of European art history are also housed in the palace itself.

At first glance Schloss Eggenberg presents itself as a uniform, new construction of the 17th century. In 1666, Johann Seyfried von Eggenberg, grandson of Hans Ulrich, developed palace according to splendor and grandeur of Baroque style. In 1673 the residence entered limelight as Archduchess Claudia Felicitas of Tyrol was a guest in palace on occasion of her wedding in Graz to Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. Under Prince Johann Seyfried, the comprehensive cycle of ceiling coverings of approximately 600 paintings in the rooms of piano nobile was accomplished in just 7 years. Hans Adam Weissenkircher began his service as court painter of princely Eggenberger court in 1678 finished the painting cycle of main festival hall, famous Planetary Room, in 1684/85. With this, the first phase of accouterment work on Schloss Eggenberg was completed.

The building and the garden underwent their second major phase of ornamentation, this time in complete accordance with the tastes of the Rococo in between 1754 and 1762 . The accouterment of the piano nobile was modernized. The Planetary Room and the entire cycle of ceiling paintings remained almost unchanged. Thus the works limited themselves to wall decorations, stoves and pieces of furniture. In keeping with the taste of the times, three East Asian cabinets were introduced and the state rooms received new wall coverings. The most extensive change was probably the demolition of the Eggenberger palace theater, in the place of which a baroque palace church was established.

The third phase of the changes came during the 19th century and was limited to the living quarters on the 1st storey or 2nd floor of the palace. The piano nobile remained untouched and unused for a full century. The primary focus of attention of this period was the total transformation of the Baroque formal garden into a romantic landscape garden after the English fashion. The entire complex remained in the possession of the Herberstein family up to 1939. Shortly before the war, Schloss Eggenberg was acquired with the park by the state of Styria. The oldest museum in Austria, the Joanneum, which was established on November 26th, 1811 by Archduke Johann of Austria, took over management of the palace and park.

Schloss Eggenberg relies on the Gregorian calendar as a basis for this constructed universe. The palace has 365 exterior windows, one for each day of the year. Of these, 52 are on the 24 rooms of the piano nobile representing the weeks of one year. The 2nd storey contains 24 state rooms in a ring shaped arrangement which symbolize the hours in a single day. Every floor in the building bares exactly 31 rooms counting the maximum number of days in a calendar month. The 52 windows of the piano nobile with the 8 windows of the Planetary Room make a total of 60, representing both the number of seconds in a minute and the minutes in an hour.

The various owners and builder-owners have always looked at the palace and at the surrounding gardens as corresponding elements. Every succeeding generation has carried significant alterations. The largest expansion of the garden occurred after the completion of the house. In the last third of the 17th century the garden was generously extended around the building. It followed the pattern of the strictly subdivided Italian garden, with parterres, bosquet areas, fountains, aviaries and pheasant gardens.Johann Leopold Count Herberstein allowed the whole arrangement to be reshaped into a French garden. As early as the 1770’s, the Eggenberg Gardens were an attraction open to the Grazer public.

Schloss EggenbergSchloss Eggenberg
The early 20th century saw a dwindling of interest in the palace gardens and the Eggenberg Schloss Park no longer employed a gardener. This had the unfortunate consequences of singular elements of the garden being torn-out and, over the course of decades, the rest being overgrown; the entire arrangement thus becoming more or less a simple city park. Additionally, the peacocks from the Graz Peacock Garden formerly located between the inner city and the city park have found a new home in the Eggenberg Schloss Park. The species are of both the white variety and the more common Indian blue peacock.

In the north corner of the grounds, an enclosed, separate garden went through such diverse transformations and uses over the course of palace history that in end it was discernible only by the spatial structure. Schloss Eggenberg enters the 21st century with the opening of a newly constructed subterranean showroom adjoined to the Lapidarium to house the Joanneums Pre and Early History archaeological Collections in autumn of 2009 to be ready for the Joanneums bicentennial celebration in 2011. In 2002, the Austrian Mint honored the importance of Schloss Eggenberg, by using it as the main motif of one of its most popular silver euro commemorative coins: the 10 euro Eggenberg Palace commemorative coin. The reverse side shows an image of Johannes Kepler, a personal acquaintance of Eggenberg who taught at the former Protestant school in Graz. His first major work, Mysterium Cosmographicum describing the Copernican system, written while he was still in Graz, likely had an impact on the symbolism of the design of the palace.