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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Diocletians Palace in Croatia

Diocletians Palace is a building in Split, Croatia that was built by Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of fourth century AD. Diocletian built the massive palace in preparation for his retirement on 1 May 305 AD. It lies in a bay on the south side of a short peninsula running out from the Dalmatian coast four miles from Salona the capital of province of Dalmatia. The terrain slopes gently seaward and is typical karst consisting of low limestone ridges running east to west with marl in the clefts between them. The details of Diocletians Palace are explained in world tour guides below.

Diocletians PalaceThe Palace remained empty for several centuries after Romans abandoned the site. In 7th century nearby residents fled to walled palace to get away invading barbarians. Since then the palace has been occupied, with residents making their homes and businesses within the palace basement and directly in its walls. Today many restaurants and shops, and some homes, can still be found within walls. Diocletians palace was an inspiration for Adams new style of Neo classical architecture and the publication of measured drawings brought it into the design vocabulary of European architecture for the first time. A few decades later in 1782 the French painter Louis-Francois Cassas created drawings of palace which is published by Joseph Lavallee in 1802 in cronicles of his voyages.

The palace is today with main historical buildings in the centre of city of Split. Diocletians Palace far transcends local importance because of its degree of preservation. The Palace is one of the most famous and complete architectural and cultural features on the Croatian Adriatic coast. As the world's most complete remains of a Roman palace, it holds an outstanding place in Mediterranean, European and world heritage.

In November 1979 UNESCO in line with international convention on cultural and natural heritage adopted a proposal the historic city of Split built around the Palace should be included in register of World Cultural Heritage. In November 2006 the City Council decided to permit over twenty new buildings in the palace despite the fact that the palace had been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. It is said that this decision was politically motivated and largely due to lobbying by local property developers. Once the public in 2007 came aware of the project, they petitioned against the decision and won. No new buildings, shopping center or the underground garage was built.

The World Monuments Fund has been working on a conservation project at the palace, including surveying structural integrity and cleaning and restoring the stone and plasterwork, expected to be completed in 2009. Much restoration is still needed, including excavating the extensive basement which was buried during the bombardment by the allies in World War II. The palace is depicted on the reverse of the Croatian 500 kuna banknote issued in 1993.

The ground plan of the palace is an irregular rectangle with towers projecting from the western, northern, and eastern facades. It combines qualities of a luxurious villa with those of a military camp, with its huge gates and watchtowers. The palace is enclosed by walls, and at times, it housed over 9000 people. Subterranean portions of the palace feature barrel vaulted stonework. The southern facade rose directly from or very near to the sea, was unshielded. The elaborate architectural composition of the arcaded gallery on its upper floor differs from the more severe treatment of the three shore facades. A monumental gate in middle of each of these walls led to an enclosed courtyard. The southern sea gate was simpler in shape and dimensions than other three and it was originally intended either as emperors private access to sea or a service entrance for supplies.

Diocletians PalaceDiocletians PalaceThe design is derived from both villa and castrum types and this duality is also evident in the arrangement of the interior. The transverse road linking the eastern gate and western gate divided the complex into two halves. In the southern half were the more luxurious structures that is emperors apartments, both public and private and religious buildings. The emperors apartments formed a block along the sea front and were situated above a substructure because the sloping terrain demanded significant differences in level. Although for many centuries almost completely filled with refuse, most of the substructure is well preserved, and indicates the original shape and disposition of the rooms above.

The Palace is built of white local limestone and marble of high quality, most of which was from Brac marble quarries on the island of Brac of tuff taken from nearby river beds, and of brick made in Salonitan and other factories. Some material for decoration was imported Egyptian granite columns and sphinxes, fine marble for revetments and some capitals produced in workshops in the Proconnesos. Water for palace came from Jadro River near Salona. Along the road from Split to Salona impressive remains of original Roman aqueduct can still be seen. They were extensively restored in the 19th century.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Avala Tower in Serbia

The Avala Tower is a 204.5 m tall telecommunication tower located on Avala mountain near Belgrade, Serbia. It was destroyed in NATO attack of Serbia on 29 April 1999. On 21 December 2006 the renovation of Avala Tower started and tower was officially opened at a ceremony attended by highest state officials on 21 April 2010. It is at present tallest structure in Serbia and the Balkan region. The more details about Avala Tower is explained in world tour guides below.
The tower was designed by architects Ugljesa Bogdanovic, Slobodan Janjic and engineer Milan Krstic. Construction started on 14 October 1961 and was completed four years later in 1965. The tower weighed 4,000 tonnes. Between 102 m and 135 m there was an enclosed observation deck. It was the only tower in the world to have an equilateral triangle as its cross section, and one of very few towers not perched directly into the ground, but standing on its legs. The legs formed a tripod making it one of the small number of towers to be constructed in that manner.

The tower was surmounted by an antenna which was at first used for black and white television transmission. In 1971 the antenna was replaced by a new one for color TV transmission. The project which was of high risk was finished without any worker injuries or deaths which were unusual for a project of its size.

Avala Tower was destroyed on 29 April 1999 by NATO attack allegedly to put Radio Television of Serbia off the air. Radio Television Serbia broadcasting did not suffer as it was relying on a network of local TV stations which were obliged to relay its program throughout whole of Serbia. The tower was one of last buildings to be destroyed before end of NATO operation. A special bomb was used to destroy the tower. The blast was one of loudest explosions heard throughout Belgrade during NATO attack. Between date of its destruction and 11 September 2001 it was tallest building ever destroyed succeeding the Singer Building. As of 2001 it is third tallest building ever destroyed.

In 2004 Radio Television Serbia commenced a series of fund-raising events in order to collect money to construct the building once again at the same place it was destroyed. In 2005, clearing of the site where the tower was destroyed began and on 21 December 2006 the construction of a new Avala Tower commenced. An agreement regarding its construction was signed by Dusan Basara director of construction sector of Ratko Mitrovic Company which will be in charge of the construction of the tower and general director of RTS Aleksandar Tijanic.

Initially completion of new tower was expected in August 2008, but construction works were severely delayed. The opening date was pushed back to 29 April, the tenth anniversary of its destruction. Radio Television Serbia reported on 23 October 2009 that the tower has been completed.

Many fund raising events have been held for collection of funds so a new tower can be constructed. One of first was a match between Serbian grand slam winning tennis players Ana Ivanovic and Novak Dokovic. All the proceeds went to Avala Tower fund. Ceca Raznatovic a Serbian folk singer held a concert on 15 June 2006 with all the proceeds going to Avala Tower fund. Radio Television Serbia ran commercials for donations to rebuild the tower. According to a December 2006 report when it was announced that construction of a new Avala Tower would commence that same month over €1 million was collected through fund-raising and donations.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Carcassonne in France

Carcassonne is a fortified French town in the Aude department which is the prefecture in the former province of Languedoc. It is separated into the fortified Cite de Carcassonne and the more expansive lower city, the ville basse. The folk etymology involving a chatelaine named Carcas a ruse ending a siege and the joyous ringing of bells though memorialized in a neo Gothic sculpture of Mme. Carcas on a column near the Narbonne Gate is of modern invention. The fortress, which was thoroughly restored in 1853 by the theorist and architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.

CarcassonneCarcassonne became strategically identified when Romans fortified hilltop around 100 BC and eventually made it colonia of Julia Carsaco later Carcasum. The main part of lower courses of northern ramparts dates from Gallo Roman times. In 462 Romans officially ceded Septimania to Visigothic king Theodoric II who had held Carcassonne since 453 he built more fortifications at Carcassonne which was a frontier post on northern marches traces of them still stand. Theodoric is thought to have begun predecessor of basilica that is now dedicated to Saint Nazaire. In 508 Visigoths successfully foiled attacks by the Frankish king Clovis. Saracens from Barcelona took Carcassonne in 725 but King Pepin Short drove them away in 759-60 though he took most of south of France he was unable to penetrate impregnable fortress of Carcassonne.

The medieval fiefdom county of Carcassonne controlled city and its environs. It was often united with County of Razes. The origins of Carcassonne as a county probably lie in local representatives of Visigoths but first count known by name is Bello of time of Charlemagne. Bello founded a dynasty Bellonids which would rule many honores in Septimania and Catalonia for three centuries. In 1067 Carcassonne became property of Raimond Bernard Trencavel viscount of Albi and Nimes through his marriage with Ermengard, sister of last count of Carcassonne. In following centuries Trencavel family allied in succession either with counts of Barcelona or of Toulouse. They built Chateau Comtal and Basilica of Saint Nazaire. In 1096 Pope Urban II blessed foundation stones of new cathedral a Catholic bastion against Cathars.

Carcassonne became famous in its role in Albigensian Crusades when city was a stronghold of Occitan Cathars. In August 1209 crusading army of Simon de Montfort forced its citizens to surrender. After capturing Raymond-Roger de Trencavel imprisoning him and allowing him to die Montfort made himself new viscount. He added to fortifications. Carcassonne became a border citadel between France and the kingdom of Aragon.

Carcassonne was struck from roster of official fortifications under Napoleon and Restoration, and fortified cite of Carcassonne fell into such disrepair that French government decided that it should be demolished. A decree to that effect that was made official in 1849 caused an uproar. The antiquary and mayor of Carcassonne Jean Pierre Cros Mayrevieille and writer Prosper Merimee first inspector of ancient monuments led a campaign to preserve the fortress as a historical monument. Later in the year the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc already at work restoring the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire was commissioned to renovate the place.

In 1853 works began with west and southwest walling followed by towers of Porte Narbonnaise and principal entrance to cite. The fortifications were consolidated here and there but chief attention was paid to restoring roofing of towers and ramparts where Viollet-le-Duc ordered the destruction of structures that had encroached against the walls, some of them of considerable age. Viollet-le-Duc left copious notes and drawings at his death in 1879 when his pupil Paul Boeswillwald and later architect Nodet continued rehabilitation of Carcassonne.

CarcassonneCarcassonneThe restoration was strongly criticized during Viollet-le-Ducs lifetime. Fresh from work in north of France he made error of using slates and restoring roofs as pointed cones where local practice was traditionally of tile roofing and low slopes in a snow free environment. Viollet-le-Ducs achievement at Carcassonne is agreed to be a work of genius though not of strictest authenticity. Fortification consists of a double ring of ramparts and 53 towers. Another bridge Pont Marengo crosses Canal du Midi and provides access to railway station. Lac de la Cavayere has been created as a recreational lake and is about five minutes from the city centre.

The newer part of city on other side of Aude River manufactures shoes, rubber and textiles. It is also center of a major AOC wine growing region. A major part of its income comes from tourism connected to fortifications and from boat cruising on Canal du Midi. Carcassonne receives about 3 million visitors annually. In late 1990s Carcassonne airport started taking budget flights to and from European airports and by 2009 had regular flight connections with Bournemouth, Cork, Dublin, Edinburgh, Frankfurt-Hahn, Stansted, Liverpool, East Midlands and Charleroi.