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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Verrazano Narrows Bridge

The Verrazano Narrows Bridge is a double decked suspension bridge that connects boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York City at the Narrows, reach connecting the relatively protected upper bay with larger lower bay. The details of Verrazano Narrows Bridge are explained in world tour guides below. The bridge is named for Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano, the first known European navigator to enter New York Harbor and Hudson River, while crossing Narrows. It has a center span of 4,260 feet or 1,298 m and was largest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its completion in 1964, until it was surpassed by the Humber Bridge in United Kingdom in 1981. It now has the eighth longest center span in the world, and is the largest suspension bridge in the United States. Its massive towers can be seen throughout a good part of the New York metropolitan area, including from spots in all five boroughs of New York City.

Verrazano Narrows BridgeThe bridge furnishes a critical link in local and regional highway system. Since 1976, it has been starting point of New York City Marathon. The bridge marks gateway to New York Harbor all cruise ships and most container ships arriving at Port of New York and New Jersey must pass underneath the bridge and thus must be built to accommodate clearance under the bridge. This is most notable in case of the ocean liner RMS Queen Mary 2. The bridge is owned by New York City and operated by Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, an affiliate agency of Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Interstate 278 passes over the bridge connecting Staten Island Expressway with the Gowanus Expressway and the Belt Parkway. The Verrazano, along with the other three major Staten Island bridges, created a new way for commuters and travelers to reach Brooklyn, Long Island, and Manhattan by car from New Jersey.

The bridge was the last great public works project in New York City overseen by Robert Moses, the New York State Parks Commissioner and head of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, who had long desired the bridge as a means of completing the expressway system which was itself largely the result of his efforts. The bridge was also the last project designed by Chief Engineer Othmar Ammann, who had also designed most of the other major crossings of New York City, including the George Washington Bridge, the Bayonne Bridge, the Bronx Whitestone Bridge, the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, and the Throgs Neck Bridge. The plans to build the bridge caused considerable controversy in neighborhood of Bay Ridge, because many families had settled in homes in the area where bridge now stands and were forced to move.

Construction on the bridge began August 13, 1959, and the upper deck was opened on November 21, 1964 at a cost of $320 million. New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony, which was attended by over 5,000 people. The lower deck opened on June 28, 1969. The bridge took over the title of the longest suspension bridge in the world from 1964 until 1981, when it was eclipsed by the Humber Bridge in England. Fort Lafayette was an island coastal fortification in New York Harbor, built next to Fort Hamilton at the southern tip of what is now Bay Ridge. It was destroyed as part of the bridge's construction in 1960; the Brooklyn-side bridge pillars now occupy the fort's former foundation.

According to the US Department of Transportation each of the two towers contains 1,000,000 bolts and 3,000,000 rivets. The diameter of each of the four suspension cables is 36 inches. Each cable is composed of 26,108 wires amounting to a total of 143,000 miles or 230,136 km in length. Because of the height of the towers 693 ft and their distance apart 4,260 ft, the curvature of the Earth's surface had to be taken into account when designing the bridge the towers are 1+5⁄8 inches or 41.275 mm farther apart at their tops than at their bases. Because of thermal expansion/contraction of the steel cables, the bridge roadway is 12 feet or 3.66 m lower in summer than its winter elevation.

The bridge is affected by weather more than any other bridge in the city because of its size and isolated location close to the open ocean. It is occasionally closed either partially or entirely during strong wind and snow storms. The Queen Mary 2 was designed with a flatter funnel to pass under the bridge, and has 13 feet of clearance under the bridge during high tide. The bridge has fostered more traffic on the Outerbridge Crossing and the Goethals Bridge, both of which connect Staten Island with New Jersey. In 2009, all 262 of the mercury vapor fixtures in the bridge's necklace lighting were replaced with energy efficient light emitting diodes.

Verrazano Narrows BridgeVerrazano Narrows BridgeIn 2008 about 190,000 vehicles used the bridge per day on average. As of 2009 one way toll in cash is $11 per car or $5 per motorcycle. E-Z Pass users with New York State transponders pay $9.14 per car or $3.98 per motorcycle; out-of-state account holders get no discount. From 1964 to 1986, the toll was collected in both directions, until Staten Island residents concerned about pollution from idling vehicles called for one way tolls. However, as of 2009 the eastbound toll booths are still in place, requiring drivers to slow down. While the high cost of the toll between Brooklyn and Staten Island has always been an issue for residents, some favor the toll because they see it as a way to curb population growth on Staten Island. Each of the four bridges to the Island is tolled.

Beginning in 2009, eight of the unused Brooklyn-bound toll booths will be removed in a project to improve traffic flow at the toll plaza, three of the unused toll booths will be subsequently removed in 2009 during construction of second phase. Recently residents living on both ends of the bridge have lobbied for pedestrian access. In October 2003 Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to look into establishing the long-awaited pedestrian and bicycle access.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jungfrau Aletsch

Jungfrau Aletsch is located in south western Switzerland between the cantons of Berne and Valais. It is also called as Jungfrau Aletsch protected area and officially called as Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch. It is a mountainous region in the easternmost side of the Bernese Alps, containing the northern wall of Jungfrau and Eiger, and the largest glaciated area in western Eurasia, comprising the Aletsch Glacier. The Jungfrau-Aletsch protected area is the first World Natural Heritage site in the Alps, it was inscribed in 2001.

Jungfrau AletschThe Jungfrau Aletsch protected area is located in the Swiss Alps between the Bernese Oberland and north-eastern Valais, about 25 km south of Interlaken and 20 km north of Brig. The site covers the whole Aar massif from the Oeschinensee in the west to the Giselle in the east, including the basins of the Aletsch, Fiescher, Aar and Grindelwald glaciers. The culminating point is the Finsteraarhorn which, with its 4,270 metres, is also the highest mountain in the Bernese Alps. 8 other summits above 4,000 metres are located in the area: Aletschhorn, Jungfrau, Monch, Schreckhorn, Gross Fiescherhorn, Hinter Fiescherhorn, Grunhorn and Lauteraarhorn.

The summit ridge separating the cantons of Valais and Berne is the main watersheds of Europe. The principal valleys on the north side run due north below the precipitous 20 kilometer north wall of the Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger, thence to the Aar, a tributary of the Rhine which runs into the North Sea. The southern valleys drain into the southwest running valley of the Rhone which flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The climate of the region is strongly influenced by the height of the mountains. They form a barrier between the wet sub-oceanic climate of the north and the dryer climate of the south-facing Valais slopes. On the north side the rainfall exceeds 2,200 mm, most falling in summer, but on the south side it is only 1,000 mm, with more falling in winter. The Valais experiences a sub continental climate at low and medium altitudes and is markedly semi-arid. Mean annual temperatures range from -8.5°C at Jungfraujoch which is 3,500 m to 9.1°C at Brig.

The Jungfrau Aletsch site is almost untouched, except for trails and mountain huts. It is deeply glaciated. About half of the area is higher than 2,600m a few hundred metres lower than the limit between the glaciers accumulation and ablation zones. The total area covered by glacier is 35,000 ha, it constitutes the largest continuous area of ice in the Alps. The largest and longest glacier in the Alps, the Aletsch Glacier is 23 km long and has a maximum thickness of 900 metres at Konkordiaplatz. The protected site covers an area of 82,388 ha, comprising the 53,888 ha existing World Heritage Site plus extensions at both ends totaling 28,500 ha. 56% is within the Canton of Valais, 44% within the Canton of Berne.

Glaciers and barren rock constitute 80% of the area; 6% is forested, 5.2% is alpine meadow, and 8% is scrub. Altitude is the strongest factor influencing the distribution and diversity of the vegetation. Within the nominated area there are 1,800 species of vascular plants and 700 mosses. The growing period decreases with altitude, but there are 529 species of phanerogams and pteridophytes above the tree line. Broadleaf montane forest extends from 900m to 1,300m on north facing slopes. On south-facing slopes the same zone is approximately 200m higher. The subalpine zone lies between 1,300m to 2,000m, between the broadleaf and alpine zone. Characteristic species are the Swiss Pine or Pinus Cembra and the Norway Spruce or Picea abies on the north and south side respectively. An example of Pinus cembra forest is the Aletsch Forest above the Aletsch Glacier and near the tree line. It developed on the moraine of the glacier after its maximum extension in 1850. The zone directly above the tree line forms a girdle of moorland vegetation and Alpine grassland.

Jungfrau AletschJungfrau Aletsch
In Jungfrau Aletsch 1,250 species have been recorded on the site, including 271 vertebrates. In that 42 mammals, 99 birds, 8 reptiles, 4 amphibians, 7 fish, 97 molluscs plus 979 insects. As for the rest of the Alps, common species are the chamois, alpine ibex, red deer. Smaller mammals include the mountain hare, fox, ermine, marmot and the reintroduced lynx. Both the regions of the Bernese Oberland and Valais had been popular tourist destinations since the 19th century. The Jungfrau was first climbed in 1811 and the Finsteraarhorn in 1812. The first tourists came mostly in summer, but in the 1930s winter sports became also popular. On the north side visitors are only able to visit the site via the Jungfrau railway which leads to the Jungfraujoch. So the site is both exceptionally accessible to large nearby populations and rather inaccessible in itself.

The Jungfrau railway was built between 1870 and 1912, taking visitors from Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch, the saddle between the Monch and Jungfrau. On the south side the area of Riederalp Bettmeralp concentrates most of the visitors. Other inhabited regions on the margin are Kandersteg and the Lotschental and the Oberhasli. The network of foot-paths is well developed around the site but nonexistent inside, being inaccessible to walkers. The site can be accessed by experienced mountaineers and there is a series of 37 shelters and five mountain refuges with a total of 1,582 beds, managed by the Swiss Alpine Club. The Aletsch ecological centre in Riederalp run by Pro Natural functions as a visitor center.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle which is 4 miles or 6.5 km southeast of Maidstone, Kent, England, dates back to 1119, though a manor house stood on the same site from the 9th century. The castle and grounds lie to the east of the village of Leeds, Kent, which should not be confused with the far bigger and better-known city of Leeds in West Yorkshire. The travel destination and tourism attraction details of Leeds castle is explained in world tour guides below.

Leeds CastleBuilt in 1119 by Robert de Crevecoeur to replace the earlier Saxon manor of Esledes, the castle became a royal palace in 1278 for King Edward I of England and his queen, Eleanor of Castile. Major improvements were made during his time, including the barbican, made up of three parts, each with its own entrance, drawbridge, gateway and portcullis.

Richard II's first wife, Anne of Bohemia, spent the winter of 1381 at the castle on her way to be married to the king. In 1395, King Richard II received the French chronicler Jean Froissart there, as Froissart described in his Chronicles. Henry VIII transformed the castle for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and a painting commemorating his meeting with Francis I of France still hangs there. His daughter, Queen Elizabeth I was imprisoned in the castle for a time before her coronation. Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron was born at Leeds Castle. Consequently, there is a sundial at Fairfax, Virginia, telling the time in Leeds Castle, and a sundial at Leeds Castle telling the time in Virginia.

The castle escaped destruction during the English Civil War because its owners, the Culpeper family, sided with the Parliamentarians. The last private owner of the castle was the Hon. Olive, Lady Baillie, a daughter of Almeric Paget, 1st Baron Queen Borough, and his first wife, Pauline Payne Whitney, an American heiress. Lady Baillie bought the castle in 1926. She redecorated the interior, first working with the French architect and designer Armand-Albert Rateau and then, later, with the Paris decorator Stephane Boudin.


During WWII Lady Baillie hosted burned Commonwealth airmen at the castle as part of their recovery. Survivors remember the experience with fondness to this day. Upon her death in 1974, Lady Baillie left the castle to the Leeds Castle Foundation, a private charitable trust whose aim is to preserve the castle and grounds for the benefit of the public. The castle was opened to the public in 1976. On 17 July 1978, the castle was the site of a meeting between the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan in preparation for the Camp David Accords. This castle and its grounds are now a leisure destination in the county of Kent.

The castle grounds have an aviary, a maze, a grotto, a golf course and what may be the world's only museum of dog collars. The castle is available to host conferences. Also seasonal hot air balloon flights are available at Leeds Castle. The maze was constructed in 1988 using 2400 yew trees. To the disappointment of some who use the technique of solving a maze by keeping one hand on a wall while walking through as a wall follower, the method fails at the Leeds Castle Maze because not all walls are connected.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Visoki Decani Monastery

Visoki Decani Monastery is a major Serb Orthodox Christian monastery located in Kosovo which is 12 km or 7 mi south of the town of Pec. The monastic catholicon is the largest medieval church in the Balkans containing the most extensive preserved fresco decoration. The details of Visoki Decani are explained in world tour guides below.

Visoki Decani MonasteryThe monastery was established in a chestnut grove by Serbian King Stefan Uros III Decanski in 1327. Its original founding charter is dated to 1330. The following year the king died and was buried at the monastery, which henceforth became his popular shrine. Indeed, the epithet Decanski refers to the king's foundation of the monastery. The construction was continued by his son Emperor Stefan Uros IV Dusan until 1335, but the wall-painting was not completed until 1350.

Visoki Decani MonasteryThe monastic church dedicated to Christ Pantocrator and built from blocks of red-purple, light-yellow and onyx marble was constructed by builders working under a Franciscan monk, Vitus of Kotor. The church is distinguished by its imposing size and Romanesque and Early Gothic structure and design. Apart from the extensive and well preserved fresco cycles the interior features the original 14th-century stone templon, the throne of the hegumen and the carved wooden sarcophagus of the founder King Stefan.

On the Crucifixion fresco, painted in 1350, objects similar to UFOs can be found. They represent two comets that looks like space ships, with two men inside of them, and are often quoted by Ufologists.

Visoki Decani was declared Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1990, and it is protected by Republic of Serbia. In 2004, UNESCO listed the monastery on the World Heritage List, citing its frescoes as one of the most valued examples of the so-called Palaeologan renaissance in Byzantine painting and a valuable record of the life in the 14th century. In 2006, it was added to the List of World Heritage Sites in danger due to the potential for attacks by ethnic Albanian partisans it is protected by the United Nations KFOR.

On 30 March 2007 an explosion was heard near the monastery. The explosion was confirmed by Serbian and international sources in Kosovo. Bishop Teodosije, the prior of the Visoki Decani monastery, stated that the incident was a grenade attack on the monastery, with an objective of sending threatening messages to the monks and KFOR forces.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Calakmul

Calakmul is the name given to site of one of the largest ancient Maya cities ever uncovered. It is also called as Kalakmul. It is located in the 1,800,000 acre Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in the Mexican state of Campeche, deep in the jungles of the greater Peten Basin region, 30 km from the Guatemalan border. The details of Calakmul are explained in world tour guides below. Calakmul was rediscovered from air by biologist Cyrus L. Lundell of the Mexican Exploitation Chicle Company on December 29, 1931, the find was reported to Sylvanus G. Morley of the Carnegie Institute at Chichen Itza in March 1932. According to Lundell, who named the site, in Maya, ca means two, lak means adjacent, and mul signifies any artificial mound or pyramid, so Calakmul is the City of the Two Adjacent Pyramids.

CalakmulCalakmul was a major Maya superpower within the northern Peten region of the Yucatan of southern Mexico. Calakmul administered a large domain marked by the extensive distribution of their emblem glyph of the snake head sign, to be read Kan. Calakmul was the seat of what has been dubbed the Serpent Head Polity. Calakmul itself is estimated to have had a population of 50,000 people and had governance, at times, to places as far away as 150 kms. There are 6,750 ancient structures identified at Calakmul the largest of which is the great pyramid at the site. Structure II is 55m high, making it the tallest of the Maya pyramids. Four tombs have been located within the pyramid. Like many temples or pyramids within Mesoamerica the pyramid at Calakmul increased in size by building upon the existing temple to reach its current size. The size of the central monumental architecture is approximately two square kilometers which is covered with dense residential structures is about twenty square kilometers.

Calakmul is one of the most structure-rich sites within the Maya region. The site contains 117 stelae, the largest total in the region. Most are in paired sets representing rulers and their wives. However, because these carved stelae were produced in soft limestone, most of these stelae have been eroded beyond interpretation. Also many elaborate murals were discovered at Calakmul. Strangely, these murals do not represent activities of the elite class. Rather, they depict elaborate market scenes of people preparing or consuming products such as atole, tamales, or tobacco as an ointment. Also items being sold were textiles and needles. These murals also have glyphs within them describing the actions occurring.

The most prominent figure in these murals is identified as Lady Nine Stone; she appears in many scenes. This brings a world of the Maya marketplace to vibrant life for archaeologists. Another highly beneficial resource to Maya archeological understanding at Calakmul is the ceramic remains. The composition of the ceramic materials identifies the region or more specifically the polity that produced them. Ceramics with the snake emblem glyph found at several sites also give more evidence to identify ties or control over that site by Calakmul.

CalakmulCalakmulCalakmul is located approximately 60 miles north of Tikal within the Peten, so they are relatively close to each other and inevitably were competing for the same resources. Calakmul acquired and influenced other outposts including many in the Tikal zone such as El Peru and Dos Pilas. Dos Pilas was originally created as an outpost for Tikal who implanted rulers from the royal lineage of the great city. Recently a hurricane ripped through the northern jungles of Guatemala and uncovered ten previously unknown glyph ridden stairs at the site of Dos Pilas, adding to the eight already known and deciphered steps of the hieroglyphic staircase #2, structure L5-49.

After a long period of inactivity following Morley's 1932 expedition, the city was explored by William Folan between 1984 and 1994, and is now the subject of a large-scale project of the National Institute of Anthropology and History under Ramon Carrasco.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Eureka Tower

Eureka Tower is a 300 metre skyscraper located in the Southbank precinct of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Construction began in August 2002 and the exterior completed on 1 June 2006. The plaza was finished in June 2006 and the building was officially opened on 11 October 2006. The project was designed by Melbourne architectural firm Fender Katsalidis Architects and was built by Grocon. The developer of the tower was Eureka Tower Pty Ltd, a joint venture consisting of Daniel Grollo, investor Tab Fried and one of the Tower architects Nonda Katsalidis. The details of Eureka Tower is explained in world tour guides below. It was the world tallest residential tower when measured to its highest floor, until surpassed by Ocean Heights and the HHHR Tower in Dubai. It is now the fourth tallest, after Q1 located on Queensland s Gold Coast and the two Dubai skyscrapers.

Eureka TowerEureka Tower is named after the Eureka Stockade, a rebellion during the Victorian gold rush in 1854. This has been incorporated into the design, with the building's gold crown representing the gold rush and a red stripe representing the blood spilt during the revolt. The blue glass cladding that covers most of the building represents the blue background of the stockade's flag and the white lines also represent the eureka stockade flag.

When measured either by the height of its roof, or by the height of its highest habitable floor, Eureka Tower was the tallest residential building in the world when completed. It is also currently the building with the most floors available for residential occupancy in the world. The building stands 297 metres in height, with 91 storeys above ground plus one basement level. It is one of only seven buildings in the world with 90 or more storeys and is the 50th tallest building in the world. It is also the second-tallest building in Australia and the tallest building in Melbourne. The single level basement and first 9 floors contain car parking. The building's proximity to the water table as well as the Yarra River made the construction of a basement car park uneconomical. There are a total of 84 floors of apartments with the remainder being used for building facilities and the observation deck.

According to the ranking system developed by the U.S.-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the Eureka Tower qualifies as the tallest building in one of the four categories in which heights are ranked, namely height to the floor of the highest occupied floor of the building. For comparison, the Q1 apartment tower on the Gold Coast has its highest habitable floor the observation deck, reaching a height of 235 m, some 62 m lower than Eureka Tower's highest habitable floor. Q1's highest penthouse apartment is 217 m whilst Eureka's penthouse is 278 m high. However, the spire attached to the top of Q1 exceeds the Eureka Tower in the other two categories, namely Height to the tip of spire, pinnacle, antenna, mast or flag pole in this case, spire and height to architectural top of the building.

The tower was built using reinforced concrete using a slipform method. Eureka Tower's lift core superseded the height of Rialto Towers on 9 November 2004. On 23 May 2006, the crane on top of the tower was dismantled by a smaller crane, which was dismantled by a smaller crane that could be taken down the service elevator. Eureka Tower has 24 carat gold plated glass windows on the top 10 floors of the building. Installation of the gold glass was completed in March 2006. Apartment owners and tenants had taken up residence in the building between Ground Level and Level 80 as of July 2006.

The Summit Levels contain only one apartment per floor: each apartment had an original price tag of A$7 million just for the empty space; purchasers were required to fit out the apartment at additional cost. On 11 October 2006, the tower was officially opened by then Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks. The Eureka Tower has been made to be able to withstand high winds and major earthquakes seeming they are the two riskiest events that the city faces. The tower is supposed to sway in the event of such things. The observation deck occupies the entire 88th floor of the Eureka Tower and is the highest public vantage point in a building in the Southern Hemisphere at 285 m, the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand having higher views. It opened to the public on 15 May 2007. An entry fee applies to access the Skydeck.

Eureka TowerEureka TowerThe Skydeck features thirty viewfinders that help visitors to pinpoint numerous significant landmarks around all parts of Melbourne, along with several free binoculars. There is a small outside area called The Terrace which is closed in high winds. There is also a glass cube called The Edge, which extends itself from the building to hang over the edge of the tower and add to the viewing experience. On 10 January 2005, Grocon, the firm building Eureka Tower, proposed adding a 53.8 m communications mast or observation tower. The proposal is currently before the local planning commission. This mast would be a significant structure, used for providing an adventure climb to the tip of the summit.

On 16 April 2006, a new proposal was announced that the construction company and developers were considering options for the building to have a skywalk that would take daring people up 350 metres high. The proposed structure may also house a communication tower. Skydeck 88 features 'The Edge' - a glass cube which projects 3 m out from the building with visitors inside, suspended almost 300 m above the ground. When you enter, the glass is opaque as the cube moves out over the edge of the building. Once fully extended over the edge, the glass becomes clear.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tioman Island

Tioman Island is a small island located 32 km off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia in the state of Pahang, and is some 39 km long and 12 km wide. It is locally known as Gunung Daik Bercabang Tiga. It has eight main villages, the largest and most populous being Kampung Tekek in the north. The travel and tourism details of Tioman Island are explained in world tour guides below.
Tioman IslandThe densely forested island is sparsely inhabited, and is surrounded by numerous coral reefs, making it a popular scuba diving spot. There are also a lot of resorts and chalets around the island. Its beaches were depicted in the 1958 movie, South Pacific as Bali Hai. In the 1970s, TIME Magazine selected Tioman as one of the world's most beautiful islands.

Apart from its diverse marine life, the inland rainforest area, encompassing approximately 12,383 hectares, in Tioman is a strictly enforced nature reserve. There are several protected species of mammals on the island, including the Binturong, Long-tailed Macaque, Slow Loris, Black Giant Squirrel, Red Giant Flying Squirrel, Mouse deer, Brush-tailed Porcupine, and Common Palm Civet, from a total of 45 species of mammals and 138 species of birds, including the majestic Frigatebird. Moreover, Tioman has species that are endemic to its shores. The soft-shelled turtle and the Tioman walking catfish are both unique and can be seen on rainforest walks.

The island is served by ferries from the Malaysian mainland, and a propeller plane service by Berjaya Air from the Seletar Airport in Singapore and Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Kuala Lumpur. Tioman has been used for thousands of years by fishermen as an important navigation point and a source of fresh water and wood. During the past thousand years, it has played host to Chinese, Arab, and European trading ships, and often porcelain shards can be found on beaches around the island.

In more recent history, Tioman played host to both the British and the Japanese during the Second World War, and the waters around the island are littered with war remains including HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales.

Tioman IslandTioman IslandAccording to legend, Tioman Island is the resting place of a beautiful dragon princess. Whilst flying from China to visit her prince in Singapore, this beautiful maiden stopped to seek solace in the crystal-clear waters of the South China Sea. Enraptured by the charms of the place, she decided to discontinue her journey. By taking the form of an island, she pledged to offer shelter and comfort to passing travelers.

Tioman Island lends its name to the state constituency of Tioman, comprising the island and part of the Rompin district including the town of Kuala Rompin. Its representative to the State Legislative Assembly is YB Mohd. Johari from Barisan Nasional. Its representative to the Malaysian Parliament is former MOSTI Minister Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis, also from Barisan Nasional.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Saint Isaac's Cathedral

Saint Isaac's Cathedral is a cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city and was the tallest Eastern Orthodox Church upon its completion subsequently surpassed only by the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. It is also called as Isaakievskiy Sobor. It is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great who had been born on the feast day of that saint. The details of Saint Isaac's Cathedral are explained in world tour guides below.

Saint Isaac's CathedralThe church on St Isaac's Square was ordered by Tsar Alexander I, to replace an earlier Rinaldiesque structure. A specially appointed commission examined several designs, including that of the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand, who had studied in the atelier of Napoleons designer, Charles Percier. Monferrands design was criticised by some members of the commission for the dry and allegedly boring rhythm of its four identical pedimented octastyle porticos. It was also suggested that despite gigantic dimensions, the edifice would look squat and not very impressive. The emperor, who favoured the ponderous Empire style of architecture, had to step in and solve the dispute in Monferrand's favour.

The cathedral took 40 years to construct, under Montferrands direction, from 1818 to 1858. Under the Soviet government, the building was abandoned, then turned into a museum of atheism. The dove sculpture was removed, and replaced by a Foucault pendulum. During World War II, the dome was painted over in gray to avoid attracting attention from enemy aircraft. On its top, in the skylight, a geodesical intersection point was placed, with the objective of aiding in the location of enemy cannon. With the fall of communism, the museum was removed and regular worship activity has resumed in the cathedral, but only in the left-hand side chapel. The main body of the cathedral is used for services on feast days only.

The severe neoclassical exterior expresses a traditional Russian-Byzantine formula: a Greek-cross groundplan with a large central dome and four subsidiary domes. It is similar to Andrea Palladio's Villa La Rotonda, with a full dome on a high drum substituted for the Villa's low central saucer dome. The design of the cathedral in general and the dome in particular later influenced the design of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. and the Cathedral in Helsinki.

The exterior, which barely hints at the riotously rich interior, is faced with gray and pink stone, and features a total of 112 red granite columns with Corinthian capitals, each hewn and erected as a single block: 48 at ground level, 24 on the rotunda of the uppermost dome, 8 on each of four side domes, and 2 framing each of four windows. The rotunda is encircled by a walkway accessible to tourists. 24 statues gaze down from the roof, and another 24 from the top of the rotunda. The cathedral bronze doors are covered in reliefs, patterned after the celebrated doors of the Battistero di San Giovanni Florence in Florence, designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Suspended underneath the peak of the dome is a sculpted dove representing the Holy Spirit. Internal features such as columns, pilasters, floor, and statue of Montferrand are composed of multicolored granites and marbles gathered from all parts of Russia. The iconostasis is framed by eight columns of semiprecious stone six of malachite and two smaller ones of lazurite. The four pediments are also richly sculpted.

Saint Isaac's Cathedral InteriorSaint Isaac's Cathedral DomeThe interior was originally decorated with scores of paintings by Carlo Brullo and other great Russian masters of the day. When these paintings began to deteriorate due to the cold, damp conditions inside the cathedral, Montferrand ordered them to be painstakingly reproduced as mosaics, a technique introduced in Russia by Mikhail Lomonosov. This work was never completed. William Handyside and other engineers used many technological innovations in the construction of the building. The massive portico columns were raised with the use of enormous wooden frameworks before the walls were erected.

The enormous building rests on 10,000 tree trunks that were sunk by an army of serfs into the marshy banks upon which the cathedral is situated. The dome was gilded by a technique similar to spraypainting the solution used included toxic mercury, the vapors of which caused the deaths of an unknown number of workers. Over a dozen gilded statues of angels, each six metres high, face each other across the interior of the rotunda. They were constructed using galvanoplastic technology, making them only millimeters thick and very lightweight. St. Isaac's Cathedral represents the first use of this technique in architecture.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rila Monastery

The Rila Monastery is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. It is also called as Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila or Rilski manastir. It is situated in the northwestern Rila Mountains, 117 km or 73 mi south of the capital Sofia in the deep valley of the Rilska River at an elevation of 1,147 m or 3,763 ft above sea level. The monastery is named after the famous Bulgaria saint and hermit Ivan of Rila. The details of Rila Monastery are explained in World tour guides below.

Rila MonasteryThe Rila Monastery is founded in the 10th century, the Rila Monastery is regarded as one of Bulgaria's most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments and it is a key tourist attraction for both Bulgaria and Southeastern Europe as a whole. The monastery is depicted on the reverse of the Bulgarian 1 lev banknote, issued in 1999. It is traditionally thought that the monastery was founded by the hermit St. Ivan of Rila, whose name it bears, during the rule of Tsar Peter I (927-968). The hermit actually lived in a cave without any material possessions not far from the monastery's location, while the complex was built by his students, who came to the mountains to receive their education.

The Rila Monastery has been supported and respected by the Bulgarian rulers. Large donations were made by almost every tsar of the Second Bulgarian Empire up until the Ottoman Conquest, making the monastery a cultural and spiritual centre of Bulgarian national consciousness that reached its apogee from the 12th to the 14th century. The Rila Monastery was reerected at its present place by a local feudal lord named Hrelyu Dragovola during the 14th century. The oldest buildings in the complex date from this period were the Tower of Hrelyu 1334–1335 and a small church just next to it is1343. The bishop's throne and the rich-engraved gates of the monastery also belong to the time. However, the arrival of the Ottomans in the end of the 14th century was followed by numerous raids and a destruction of the monastery in the middle of the 15th century.

The Rila Monastery was rebuilt in the end of the 15th century by three brothers from the region of Kyustendil, who moved Ivan of Rila's relics into the complex. The complex acted as a depository of Bulgarian language and culture in the ages of foreign rule. During the time of the Bulgarian National Revival, it was destroyed by fire in 1833 and then reconstructed between 1834 and 1862 with the help of wealthy Bulgarians from the whole country, under the famous architect Alexi Rilets. The erection of the residential buildings began in 1816, while a belfry was added to the Tower of Hrelyu in 1844. Neofit Rilski founded a school in the monastery during the period.

The monastery complex, regarded as one of the foremost masterpieces of Bulgarian National Revival architecture, was declared a national historical monument in 1976 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Since 1991 it has been entirely subordinate to the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. On 25 May 2002, Pope John Paul II, the Slavic Pope visited Rila monastery during his pilgrimage to Bulgaria. He was greeted by the Monastery's igumen, Bishop Ioan, who had been an observer at the Second Vatican Council. The whole complex occupies an area of 8,800 m² and is rectangular in form, centred around the inner yard 3,200 m², where the tower and the main church are situated.

Rila MonasteryRila MonasteryThe main church of the monastery was erected in the middle of the 19th century. Its architect is Pavel Ioanov, who worked on it from 1834 to 1837. The church has five domes, three altars and two side chapels, while one of the most precious items inside is the gold-plated iconostasis, famous for its wood-carving, the creation of which took five years to four handicraftsmen. The frescoes, finished in 1846, are the work of many masters from Bansko, Samokov and Razlog, including the famous brothers Zahari Zograf and Dimitar Zograf. The church is also home to many valuable icons, dating from the 14th to the 19th century.

The four-storey residential part of the complex consists of 300 chambers, four chapels, an abbot's room, a kitchen, a library housing 250 manuscripts and 9,000 old printed matters, and a donor's room. The exterior of the complex, with its high walls of stone and little windows, resembles a fortress more than a monastery. The museum of the Rila Monastery is particularly famous for housing Rafail's Cross, a wooden cross made from a whole piece of wood. It was whittled down by a monk named Rafail using fine burins and magnifying lenses to recreate 104 religious scenes and 650 miniature figures. Work on this piece of art lasted not less than 12 years before it was completed in 1802, when the monk lost his sight.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rion Antirion Bridge

The Rion Antirion Bridge which is officially the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge after the statesman, who first envisioned it, is the Worlds longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge. It crosses the Gulf of Corinth near Patras, linking the town of Rion on the Peloponnese to Antirion on mainland Greece. Its official name is the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge. Charilaos Trikoupis was a 19th century Greek prime minister, and suggested the idea of building a bridge between Rio and Antirrio however, the endeavour was too expensive at the time, when Greece was trying to get a late foot into the Industrial Revolution. The details of Rion Antirion Bridge is explained in world tour guides below.

Rion Antirion BridgeThe 2,880 m or 9,449 ft long bridge dramatically improves access to and from the Peloponnese, which could previously be reached only by ferry or via the isthmus of Corinth at its extreme east end. Its width is 28 m or 92 ft it has two vehicle lanes per direction, an emergency lane and a pedestrian walkway. Its five-span four-pylon cable-stayed portion of length 2,252 m or 7,388 ft is the world's second longest cable-stayed deck only the deck of the Millau Viaduct is longer at 2,460 m or 8,071 ft. However, as the latter is also supported by bearings at the pylons apart from cable stays, the Rio-Antirrio bridge deck might be considered the longest cable-stayed suspended deck.

This bridge is widely considered to be an engineering masterpiece owing to several solutions applied to span the difficult site. These difficulties include deep water, insecure materials for foundations, seismic activity, the probability of tsunamis, and the expansion of the Gulf of Corinth due to plate tectonics. The bridge was planned in the mid-1990s and was built by a French-Greek consortium led by the French group Vinci, and which includes the Greek companies Hellenic Technodomiki-TEV, J&P-Avax, Athena, Proodeftiki and Pantechniki.

The consortium operates the bridge under concession under its G.E.F.Y.R.A., Greek for bridge, French-Greek Carrier of Oversea Connection of Rio-Antirrio subsidiary. The lead architect was Berdj Mikaelian. Site preparation and dredging began in July 1998, and construction of the massive supporting pylons in 2000. With these complete in 2003, work began on the traffic decks and supporting cables. On May 21, 2004, the main construction was completed; only equipment sidewalks, railings, etc. and waterproofing remained to be installed. The bridge was finally inaugurated on August 7, 2004, a week before the opening of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. The total cost of the bridge was about € 630,000,000, funded by Greek state funds, the consortium and loans by the European Investment Bank. It was finished ahead of its original schedule, which had foreseen completion between September and November 2004, and within budget.

Due to the peculiar conditions of the straits, several unique engineering problems needed to be considered. The water depth reaches 65 m, the seabed is mostly of loose sediment, the seismic activity and possibility of tectonic movement is significant, and the Gulf of Corinth is expanding at a rate of about 30 mm a year. For these reasons, special construction techniques were applied. The piers are not buried into the seabed, but rather rest on a bed of gravel which was meticulously leveled to an even surface. During an earthquake, the piers should be allowed to move laterally on the seabed with the gravel bed absorbing the energy. The bridge parts are connected to the pylons using jacks and dampers to absorb movement; too rigid a connection would cause the bridge structure to fail in the event of an earthquake. It was also important that the bridge not have too much lateral leeway either so as not to damage the piers. There is provision for the gradual expansion of the strait over the bridges lifetime.

Rion Antirion BridgeRion Antirion BridgeOn 28 January 2005, six months after the opening of the bridge, one of the cable links of the bridge snapped from the top of the M3 pylon and came crashing down on the deck. Traffic was immediately halted. The first investigation claimed that a fire had broken out on the top of the M3 pylon, after a lightning strike in one of the cables. The cable was immediately restored and the bridge re-opened. A structural Health monitoring system was installed during construction on the bridge. It is still in place today and provides a 24/7 surveillance of the structure.

The system has more than 100 sensors, including 3D accelerometers on the deck, pylons, stay cables, and on the ground to characterize wind movements and seismic tremors. Strain gages and load cells on the stay cables and their gussets. Displacement sensors on the expansion joints to measure the thermal expansion of the deck. Water-level sensors on the pylon bases to detect infiltration. Temperature sensors in the deck to detect freezing conditions. Linear variable differential transducer or LVDT sensors on the stay cables to measure movement. Load cells on the restrainers for recalibration in the event of an earthquake. Two weather stations to measure wind intensity, direction, air temperature, and relative humidity. One of the specific element of the system is the ability to detect and specifically treat Earthquake events.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Piatra Craiului Mountains

The Piatra Craiului Mountains are a mountain range in the Southern Carpathians in Romania. In Romanian Piatra Craiului means Rock of the King. The Piatra Craiului mountains form a narrow and saw-like ridge, which is about 25 km long. The highest elevation in the massif is the Varful La Om with 2238 m. The details of Piatra Craiului Mountains are explained in world tour guides below.

Piatra Craiului MountainsThe ridge is regarded as one of the most beautiful sights in the Carpathians. The two day north-south ridge trail is both challenging and rewarding. Starting at either Plaiul Foii in the north-west or Curmatura in the north-east, walkers climb up to the ridge before following a somewhat precarious path along the narrow spine. The descent at the southern end leads into a karst landscape of deep gorges and pitted slopes where water penetrating the rock has carved a series of caves.

The massif is bordered in the west by the Dambovita Valley which separates it from the Papusa massif; in the north-west the river Barsa and Curmatura Foii separates it from the Fagaras Mountains and in the east the Rucar-Bran Passage delimits it from the Bucegi and Leaota mountains. The southern border is the confluence of the valleys of Dambovita and Dambovicioara rivers, in the Podul Dambovitei depression.

The whole range is included in the national park Parcul National Piatra Craiului or Piatra Craiului National Park. The first protection of this area started in 1938 when 4.4 km² were declared as a Nature Reserve. The Law 5/2000 enlarged this area to 148 km². In 2003 the external limits and internal zoning were created. Since 1999 a park administration has existed and since 2005 a management plan has been in place.

In the national park area about 300 fungi species, 220 lichen species, 100 different mosses, 1100 species of superior plants a third of the number of all plant species found in Romania, 50 Carpathians endemic species and also two endemic species for Piatra Craiului can be found. There are also 2 endemic species of spiders, 270 butterflies species, amphibians and reptiles, 110 birds species, 17 bats species, chamois and other large herbivores and also many large carnivores like wolves, brown bears, lynx living in the national park.

Piatra Craiului MountainsPiatra Craiului MountainsZarnesti is the most important town for visiting the national park. It is also an ideal starting point for approaches in the northern part of the massif. This town lies at a distance of 28 km from the city of Brasov, by road, bus or railway. From Zarnesti, an 11 km long road makes the connection with the comfortable chalet "Plaiul Foii", which is a good starting point for climbing the ridge.

Also, from Zarnesti a forest road starts from the south-western part of the town, leading through the Zarnesti Gorges and further up to the ridge. In Zarnesti the office of the administration of the National Park can be found. A new visitor center has been built 1 km west of the town, but it is not currently open. The traditional villages Magura, Pestera, Ciocanu, and Sirnea are interesting starting points for the routes on the eastern slope and for getting in touch with the traditional Romanian way of life.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Durham Castle

Durham Castle is a Norman castle in the city of Durham, England, which has been wholly occupied since 1840 by University College, Durham. It is open to the general public to visit, but only through guided tours, since it is in use as a working castle and is home to over 100 students. The castle stands on top of a hill above the River Wear on Durham's peninsula, opposite Durham Cathedral. The details of Durham Castle are explained in world tour guides below.

Durham CastleThe castle was originally built in the 11th century as a projection of the Norman kings power in the north of England, as the population of England in the north remained wild and fickle following the disruption of the Norman Conquest in 1066. It is an excellent example of the early motte and bailey castles favoured by the Normans. The holder of the office of the Bishop of Durham was appointed by the King to exercise royal authority on his behalf: the Castle was his seat. It remained as Bishops palace for Bishops of Durham until the Bishops made Bishop Auckland their primary residence and castle was converted into a college. The castle has a vast Great Hall, created by Bishop Antony Bek in the early 14th century. It was the largest Great Hall in Britain until Bishop Richard Foxe shortened it at the end of the 15th century. However, it is still 14 m high and over 30 m long.

In 1837, the castle was donated to the newly formed University of Durham by Bishop Edward Maltby as accommodation for students. It was named University College. Architect Anthony Salvin rebuilt the dilapidated keep from the original plans. Opened in 1840, the castle still houses over 100 students, the majority of which are in the keep.

Students and staff of the college eat their meals in Bishop Beks Great Hall. The Great Hall's Undercroft, meanwhile, serves as the Junior Common Room, including its bar i.e. as the principal common room for the college's undergraduate members. The two chapels are still used, both for services and other purposes such as theatrical performances. Other facilities contained within the castle include the colleges library, the college offices, and the college's IT suite. During university vacations, the college offers rooms in the castle for conferences and as hotel accommodation. Access to the castle for the public is restricted to guided tours. Outside of these, only members of the college or vacation guests may visit the castle.

The college makes extensive use of the castle two chapels the Norman Chapel, built around 1078, and Tunstalls Chapel, built in 1540. The Norman Chapel is the oldest accessible part of the castle. Its architecture is Anglian in nature, possibly due to forced Anglian labour being used to build it. In the 15th century, its three windows were all but blocked up because of the expanded keep. It thus fell into disuse until 1841 when it was used as a corridor through which to access the keep. During the Second World War, it was used as a command and observation post for the Royal Air Force when its original use was recognised. It was re-consecrated shortly after the war and is still used for weekly services by the college.

Durham CastleDurham CastleTunstalls Chapel is the more heavily used of the chapels, being somewhat larger. Bishop Cosin and Bishop Crewe extended it in the late 17th century. At the back of the chapel, some of the seats are 16th-century misericords. These were designed such that a person standing for long periods of time could rest on a ledge of the upturned seat.

Durham Castle is jointly designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, a short distance across Palace Green. The following quotation is taken from the British government's nomination for the World Heritage List. Few buildings in England can boast a longer history of continuous occupation than Durham Castle. Founded soon after the Norman Conquest, the Castle has been rebuilt, extended and adapted to changing circumstances and uses over a period of 900 years.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Charlottenburg Palace

Charlottenburg Palace is the largest palace in Berlin and the only building in the city dating back to the time of the Hohenzollern family. It is also called as Schloss Charlottenburg. It is located in the Charlottenburg district of the Charlottenburg Wilmersdorf area. The details of Charlottenburg Palace are explained in World tour guides below. The Charlottenburg palace was built at the end of the 17th century and was greatly expanded during the 18th century. It includes much exotic internal decoration in baroque and rococo styles. A large formal garden surrounded by woodland was constructed behind the palace. In the grounds of the palace various buildings were erected, including a belvedere, a mausoleum, a theatre and a pavilion. During the Second World War the palace was badly damaged but has since been reconstructed. The palace, its gardens and the buildings in the grounds are major visitor attractions.

Charlottenburg PalaceThe original palace was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg in what was then the village of Lietzow. Originally named Lietzenburg, the palace was designed by Johann Arnold Nering in baroque style. It consisted of one wing and was built in 2½ storeys with a central cupola. The facade was decorated with Corinthian pilasters. On the top was a cornice on which were statues. At the rear in the centre of the palace were two oval halls, the upper one being a ceremonial hall and the lower giving access to the gardens. Nering died during the construction of the palace and the work was completed by Martin Grunberg and Andreas Schluter. The inauguration of the palace was celebrated on 11 July 1699, Fredericks 42nd birthday.

Friedrich crowned himself as King Friedrich I in Prussia in 1701. Two years previously he had appointed Johann Friedrich von Eosander as royal architect and sent him to study architectural developments in Italy and France, particularly the Palace of Versailles. On his return in 1702 Eosander began to extend the palace, starting with two side wings to enclose a large courtyard, and the main palace was extended on both sides. Sophie Charlotte died in 1705 and Friedrich named the palace and its estate Charlottenburg in her memory. The Orangery was built on west of the palace and the central area was extended with a large domed tower and a larger vestibule. On top of the dome was a gilded statue representing Fortune designed by Andreas Heidt. The Orangery was originally used to over winter rare plants. During the summer months, when over 500 orange citrus and sour orange trees decorated the baroque garden, the Orangery regularly was the gorgeous scene of courtly festivities.

Inside the palace was a room described as the eighth wonder of the world, the Amber Room, a room with its walls surfaced in decorative amber. It was designed by Andreas Schluter and its construction by the Danish amber craftsman Gottfried Wolfram started in 1701. Friedrich Wilhelm I gave the Amber Room to Tsar Peter the Great as a present in 1716. The palace was badly damaged in 1943 during the Second World War. The garden was designed in 1697 in baroque style by Simeon Godeau who had been influenced by Andre Le Notre, designer of the gardens at Versailles. Godeaus design consisted of geometric patterns, with avenues and moats, which separated the garden from its natural surroundings. Beyond the formal gardens was the Carp Pond. Towards the end of the 18th century a less formal, more natural-looking garden design became fashionable. In 1787 the Royal Gardener Georg Steiner redesigned the garden in the English landscape style for Friedrich Wilhelm II, the work being directed by Peter Joseph Lenne. After the Second World War the garden was restored to its previous baroque style.

The palace and grounds are a major visitor attraction. For an admission charge parts of the interior of the palace are open to visitors, including Old Palace and New Wing. The Old Palace contains many rooms with baroque decoration, and includes a room called Porcelain Cabinet which holds thousands of porcelain objects. The New Wing includes the opulent rococo State Apartments of Frederick the Great and the more modest Winter Chambers of Friedrich Wilhelm II. The formal and informal gardens are freely open to the public. For an admission charge the Mausoleum, the Belvedere and the Neue Pavilion are open to visitors. The Mausoleum contains the graves of, and memorials to, members of the Hohenzollern family.

Charlottenburg PalaceCharlottenburg PalaceA large equestrian statue of Friedrich Wilhelm I is present in the palace courtyard. This was designed by Andreas Schluter and made between 1696 and 1700. From 1703 it stood on the Langen Brucke but was moved to a place of safety in the Second World War. On its return after the war the barge carrying it sunk and it was not salvaged until 1949. In 1952 it was erected on its present site. To the south of the palace are two more museums, the Brohan Museum, which contains art nouveau and art deco articles, and the Sammlung Berggruen, which houses modern art, in particular works by Picasso and Klee.

The Great Orangery was reconstructed on the model of the baroque building which was destroyed during Second World War Today, it shines in its old brilliance again. The light flooded festival room provides a pleasant framework for cultural events, concerts and banquets. Over the centuries the Orangery of Charlottenburg Palace saw lots of illustrious personalities but not only in the past. For instance, Queen Elizabeth II and the Chinese Prime Minister were welcomed in the Orangery lately.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Commerzbank Tower

Commerzbank Tower is a skyscraper located in the city centre of Frankfurt, Germany. After it was completed in 1997 it ranked as the tallest building in Europe until 2005 when it was surpassed by the Triumph Palace in Moscow. The tower is only two metres taller than the MesseTurm which is also located in Frankfurt. The MesseTurm was the tallest building in Europe before the construction of the Commerzbank Tower. The details of Commerzbank Tower is explained in world tour guides below.

Commerzbank TowerWith a height of 259 metres or 850 ft, 56 stories, it provides 121,000 m² or 1.3 million sq.ft. of office space for the Commerzbank headquarters, including winter gardens and natural lighting and air circulation. The signal light on top of the tower gives the tower a total height of 300.1 metres or 985 ft.

In its immediate neighbourhood are other high rise buildings including the Eurotower which is the home of European Central Bank, the Maintower, the Silver Tower, the Japan Center and the Gallileo skyscraper. The area is commonly known as Bankenviertel. It is also called as banking district or financial district.

It was designed by Foster & Partners, with Arup and Krebs & Kiefer structural engineering, J. Roger Preston with P&A Petterson Ahrens mechanical engineering, Schad & Holzel electrical engineering. Construction of the building began in 1994 and took three years to complete. The building is illuminated at night by a yellow light scheme which was designed by Thomas Ende who was allowed to display this sequence as a result of a competition.

When the building was planned in the early 1990s Frankfurt's Green Party, who governed the city together with the Social Democratic Party, encouraged the Commerzbank to design a 'green' skyscraper. The result was the world's first so-called ecological skyscraper: besides the use of 'sky-gardens' environmental- friendly technologies were employed to reduce energy required for heating and cooling.

Commerzbank TowerCommerzbank TowerThe Commerzbank Tower is shaped as a 60 metres or 197 ft wide rounded equilateral triangle with a central, triangular atrium. At nine different levels, the atrium opens up to one of the three sides, forming large sky gardens. These open areas allow more natural light in the building, reducing the need for artificial lighting. At the same time it ensures offices in the buildings two other sides have a view of either the city or the garden.

In order to eliminate the need of supporting columns in the sky gardens, the building was constructed in steel instead of the conventional and cheaper concrete. It was the first skyscraper in Germany where steel was used as the main construction material. Commerzbank Tower appears in the Euro Contemporary tileset in SimCity 4 Deluxe or with Rush Hour. In 2007, Wrebbit released a 3D puzzle from the Towers Made To Scale Collection, which includes the Commerzbank Tower and the Messeturm in one box-set.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Muskau Park

The Muskau Park is the largest and one of the most famous English gardens of Germany and Poland. The Muskau Park is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in poland. It is also called as Muskauer Park, Furst Puckler Park and Park Muzakowski. The details of Muskau Park are explained in world tour guides below.

Muskau ParkMuskau Park is situated in the historic Upper Lusatia region, it covers 3.5 square kilometers or 1.4 sq mi of land in Poland and 2.1 km2 or 0.8 sq mi in Germany. The park extends on both sides of the Lusatian Neisse river, which constitutes the border between the countries. The 17.9 km2 or 6.9 sq mi buffer zone around the park encompassed the German town Bad Muskau in the West and Polish Lęknica in the East. While Muskau Castle is situated west of the Neisse, the heart of the park are the partially wooded raised areas on the east bank called The Park on Terraces.

On July 2, 2004, the UNESCO inscribed the park on the World Heritage List, as an exemplary example of cross border cultural collaboration between Poland and Germany. It was inscribed to the list on two criteria for breaking new ground in terms of development towards the ideal man made landscape, and its influence on the development of landscape architecture as a discipline.

A fortress on the Neisse river at Muskau was first mentioned as early as in the 13th under the rule of Margrave Henry III of Meissen. The founder of the adjacent park was Prince Hermann von Puckler Muskau, the author of the influential Hints on Landscape Gardening and owner of the state country of Muskau since 1811. After prolonged studies in England, in 1815 during the time when the northeastern part of Upper Lusatia fell to Prussia, he laid out the Park. As time went by, he established an international school of landscape management in Bad Muskau and outlined the construction of an extensive landscape park which would envelop the town in a way not done before on such a grand scale.

The works involved remodelling the Baroque Old Castle actually a former castle gate - and the construction of a Gothic chapel, an English cottage, several bridges, and an orangery designed by Friedrich Ludwig Persius. Puckler reconstructed the medieval fortress as the New Castle, the compositional centre of the park, with a network of paths radiating from it and a pleasure ground influenced by the ideas of Humphry Repton, whose son John Adey worked at Muskau from 1822.

Muskau ParkMuskau ParkThe extensions went on until 1845, when Puckler due to his enormous debts was constrained to sell the patrimony. The next year it was acquired by Prince Frederick of the Netherlands, who employed Eduard Petzold, Pucklers disciple and a well-known landscape gardener, to complete his design. Upon his death in 1881, he was followed by his daughter Princess Marie, who sold the estates to the Arnim noble family.

During the Battle of Berlin, both castles were levelled and all four bridges across the Neisse were razed. The Arnims were dispossessed by the Soviet Military Administration in Germany and since the implementation of the Oder Neisse line in 1945, the park has been divided by the state border between Poland and Germany, with two thirds of it on the Polish side. Not before the 1960s the Communist authorities slowly accepted the legacy of the Junker Prince Puckler. The Old Castle was rebuilt by the East German administration in 1965-72, while the New Castle and the bridges are still being restored.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bourges Cathedral in France

Bourges Cathedral is a cathedral dedicated to Saint Stephen, located in Bourges, France. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Bourges. It is also called as Cathedrale Saint-Etienne de Bourges. The details of Bourges Cathedral are explained in world tour guides below.

Bourges CathedralThe site occupied by the present cathedral was once the northeastern corner of the Gallo-Roman walled city has been the site of the cities main church since Carolingian times and probably since the foundation of the bishopric in the 3rd century. The present Cathedral was built as a replacement for a mid 11th century structure, traces of which survive in the crypt. The date when construction began is unknown, although a document of 1195 recording expenditure on rebuilding works suggests that construction was already underway by that date. The fact that the east end protrudes beyond the line of the Gallo-Roman walls and that royal permission to demolish those walls was only granted in 1183 shows that work on the foundations cannot have started before that date.

The main phase of construction is therefore roughly contemporaneous with Chartres Cathedral begun in 1194, some 200 km to the northwest. As with most Early- and High-Gothic cathedrals, the identity of the architect or master-mason is unknown. The choir was in use by 1214 and the nave was finished by 1255. The building was finally consecrated in 1324. Most of the west facade was finished by 1270, though work on the towers proceeded more slowly, partly due to the unfavourable rock strata beneath the site. Structural problems with the South tower led to the building of the adjoining buttress tower in the mid-14th century. The North tower was completed around the end of the 15th century but collapsed in 1506, destroying the Northern portion of the facade in the process. The North tower and its portal were subsequently rebuilt in a more contemporary style.

The cathedral suffered far less than some of its peers during the French Wars of Religion and in the Revolution. Its location meant it was also relatively safe from the ravages of both World Wars. The cathedral was added to the list of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1992. The cathedral's nave is 15m wide by 37m high; its arcade is 20m high; the inner aisle is 21.3m and the outer aisle is 9.3m high. The use of flying buttresses was employed to help the structure of the building. However, since this was a fairly new technique, one can easily see the walls were still made quite thick to take the force.

Bourges is notable for the unity of its design, seen in no other cathedral of the High Gothic era. It features two distinct horseshoe aisles that wrap around a central nave and choir. The inner aisle has a higher vault than the outer aisle, a feature which was copied at Toledo Cathedral and in the choir at Le Mans. Each ambulatory or aisle has its own portal at the west end. The five portal entrance necessitated more careful design to create a more coherent facade. This also eliminated the usual cross-shaped transept design. The gallery is absent instead the inner aisle has been raised. This gives the cathedral a pyramidal shape under the buttresses. The flying buttresses are very structurally efficient as the steep angle channels the thrust from the nave vaults and from wind loading more directly to the outer buttress piers.

Bourges CathedralBourges CathedralThe Great Tower is a copy of one found at the Louvre and symbolizes royal power. The statues on the facade smile at the tympanum of the Last Judgment, welcoming the Judgment of Christ. The Romanesque carved portals from about 1160-70, probably intended for the facade of the earlier cathedral, have been reused on the south and north doors. The profuse ornamentation is reminiscent of Burgundian work.

Bourges Cathedral retains almost all its original ambulatory glass apart from the axial chapel, dating from about 1215. The iconography used in many of these windows uses typology such as Old Testament episodes prefiguring events in the life of Christ and symbolism such as the pelican who pecks her breast to feed her young on her own blood and the lioness who licks the malformed cub into shape to communicate theological messages. Other windows show the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, the story of Dives and Lazarus, and the Apocalypse.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Belize Barrier Reef

The Belize Barrier Reef is a series of coral reefs straddling the coast of Belizeroughly 300 meters or 1,000 ft offshore in the north and 40 kilometers or 25 mi in the south within the country limits. The Belize Barrier Reef is a 300 kilometers or 186 mi long section of the 900 kilometers or 560 mi long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is continuous from Cancun on the northeast tip of the Yucatan Peninsula through the Riviera Maya up to Honduras. It is the second largest coral reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, popular for scuba diving and snorkeling. It is Belize top tourist destination, attracting almost half of its 260,000 visitors, and vital to its fishing industry. The details of Belize Barrier Reef are explained in world tour guides below.

Belize Barrier ReefCharles Darwin described it as the most remarkable reef in the West Indies in 1842. A large portion of the reef is protected by the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which includes seven marine reserves, 450 cays, and three atolls. It totals 960 km² or 370 miles² in area, including Glovers Reef Marine Reserve, Great Blue Hole, Half Moon Caye, Natural Monument and Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Cayes include Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker, Caye Chapel, St. Georges Caye, English Caye, Rendezvous Caye, Gladden Caye, Ranguana Caye, Long Caye, Maho Caye, Blackbird Caye, Three Coner Caye, Northern Caye and Sandbore Caye.

Because of its exceptional natural beauty, significant on going ecological and biological processes, and the fact that it contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, the Reserve System has been designated as a World Heritage Site since 1996.

Despite these protective measures, the reef is under threat from oceanic pollution as well as uncontrolled tourism, shipping, and fishing. The main threats are considered to be hurricanes along with global warming and the resulting increase in ocean temperatures, which cause coral bleaching. It is claimed by scientists that over 40% of Belize's coral reef has been damaged since 1998.

The Belize Barrier Reef has been affected by two mass-bleaching events. The first mass bleaching occurred in 1995, with an estimated mortality of 10% of coral colonies, according to a report by the Coastal Zone Management Institute in Belize. In 1997 and 1998, a second mass-bleaching event occurred, coinciding with devastation effected by hurricane Mitch. Biologists observed a 48% reduction in live coral cover across the Belize reef system.

Brain coral in Belize Barrier ReefBelize Barrier ReefUsually, it is hard to distinguish whether the reason for coral bleaching is human activities or natural reasons such as storms or bacterial fluctuations. But in the case of the Belize Barrier Reef, many factors which make the distinction difficult don’t apply. Human population in this area is much sparser than the corresponding areas near other coral reefs, so the human activity and pollution are much lower compared to other coral reefs and the Belize reef system is in a much more enclosed area.

When coral bleaching occurs, a large part of the coral dies, and the remaining part of the ecosystem begins the process of repairing the damage. But the chances of recovery are low, as corals that are bleached become much more vulnerable to disease. Disease often kills more corals than the bleaching event itself. With continuous bleaching, the coral reef will have little to no chance of recovery.