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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Bordeaux

Bordeaux






Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France. Between 30,000 and 20,000 years ago the area of Bordeaux was inhabited by the Neanderthal, whose remains have been found at a famous cave known as Pair-non-Pair, near Bourg sur Gironde, just north of Bordeaux. In historical times, around 300 BC it was the settlement of a Celtic tribe, the Bituriges Vivisci, who named the town Burdigala, probably of Aquitainian origin. The name Bourde is still the name of a river south of the city. 


Pont De Pierre
The 18th century was the golden age of Bordeaux. Many downtown buildings (about 5,000), including those on the quays, are from this period. Victor Hugo found the town so beautiful he once said: "take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux". Baron Haussmann, a long-time prefect of Bordeaux, used Bordeaux's 18th century big-scale rebuilding as a model when he was asked by Emperor Napoleon III to transform a then still quasi-medieval Paris into a "modern" capital that would make France proud. 

The Bordeaux metropolitan area has a population of 1,105,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture of the Gironde department. Its inhabitants are called Bordelais.


Bordeaux is the world's major wine industry capital. It is home to the world's main wine fair, Vinexpo, while the wine economy in the metro area moves 14.5 billion euros each year. Bordeaux wine has been produced in the region since the 8th century. Both red and white wines are made in Bordeaux. Red Bordeaux is called claret in the United Kingdom. Red wines are generally made from a blend of grapes, and may be made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit verdot, Malbec, and, less commonly in recent years, Carménère. White Bordeaux is made from Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle. Sauternes is a subregion of Graves known for its intensely sweet, white, dessert wines such as Château d'Yquem.


Rue Sainte-Catherine

Bordeaux has many shopping options. In the heart of Bordeaux is Rue Sainte-Catherine, which is the main shopping street. This street is one of two main lines running through the historic part of the city. It cuts the center following a North-South axis linking the place de la Comédie where the Grand Theatre at the Place de la Victoire. The rue Sainte-Catherine and neighborhoods located to the West are very commercial areas. This pedestrian only shopping street has 1.2 kilometres (0.75 mi) of shops, restaurants and cafés; it is also one of the longest shopping streets in Europe. Rue Sainte-Catherine starts at Place de la Victoire and ends at Place de la Comédie by the Grand Théâtre. The shops become progressively more upmarket as one moves towards Place de la Comédie and the nearby Cours de l'Intendance is where one finds the more exclusive shops and boutiques.



                                                                             Bordeaux’s Top 5:
       
  1.  Bordeaux Cathedral.   A Roman Catholic cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of Bordeaux-Bazas. The cathedral was consecrated by Pope Urban II in 1096. Of the original Romanesque edifice, only a wall in the nave remains. The Royal Gate is from the early 13th century, while the rest of the construction is mostly from the 14th-15th centuries. The building is a national monument of France. In this church in 1137 the 15 year old Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Louis VII, a few months before she became Queen. A separate bell tower, the Tour Pey-Berland, is next to the cathedral.
  2. The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux. is the fine arts museum of the city, established in 1801 it is one of the largest art galleries of France outside Paris. The museum is housed in a dependency of the Palais Rohan in central Bordeaux. Its collections regroup paintings, sculptures and drawings. The painting collection is the largest one and its strong points are French and Dutch painting.
  3. The Église Sainte-Croix ("Church of the Holy Cross") A Roman Catholic abbey church, annexed to a Benedictine abbey founded in the 7th century,  was built in the late 11th-early 12th centuries. The façade is in Romanesque style. The church has a nave and four aisles, a transept with apses on each arm, and a polygonal apse. The nave is 39 m long, while the apse is 15.30 m high. The notable organ is from the 18th century. The church was restored by Paul Abadie in the 19th century. The former Benedictine abbey is now home to the École des beaux-arts de Bordeaux
  4. The Pont de pierre. or "Stone Bridge" in English,is a bridge which connects the left bank of the Garonne River (cours Victor Hugo) to the left bank quartier de la Bastide (Avenue Thiers). The first bridge over the Garonne River at Bordeaux, it was planned and designed during the First French Empire, under the orders of Napoleon I, but its construction took place during the Bourbon Restoration, from 1819 to 1822. During these three years, the builders were faced with many challenges because of the strong current at that point in the river. They used a diving bell borrowed from the British to stabilize the bridge's pillars. It has seventeen arches (number of letters in the name Napoléon Bonaparte). On the sides, each pile of bricks is capped by a white medallion in honor of the emperor. It also carries the coat of arms of the city (three intertwined crescents). It was the only bridge until the construction of pont Saint-Jean in 1965.
  5. Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux. is a Theatre, first inaugurated on 17 April 1780. It was in this theatre that the ballet La Fille Mal Gardée premiered in 1789, and where a young Marius Petipa staged some of his first ballets. The Theatre was designed by the architect Victor Louis (1731-1800), who was selected for the task by winning the famous Grand Prix de Rome. Louis was also famous for designing the galleries surrounding the gardens of the Palais Royal, and the Théâtre Français in Paris. The Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux was conceived as a temple of the Arts and Light, with a neo-classical facade endowed with a portico of 12 Corinthian style colossal columns which support an entablature on which stand 12 statues that represent the nine Muses and three goddesses (Juno, Venus and Minerva).


    Grand Theatre




                                                                                                                                








Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Budapest

Budapest





Budapest is the capital and largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. Budapest became a single city occupying both banks of the river Danube with a unification on 17 November 1873 of west-bank Buda and Óbuda with east-bank Pest.

The history of Budapest began with Aquincum, originally a Celtic settlement that became the Roman capital of Lower Pannonia. Hungarians arrived in the territory in the 9th century. Their first settlement was pillaged by the Mongols in 1241-42. The re-established town became one of the centres of Renaissance humanist culture in the 15th century. Following the Battle of Mohács and nearly 150 years of Ottoman rule, development of the region entered a new age of prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Budapest became a global city after the 1873 unification. It also became the second capital of Austria-Hungary, a great power that dissolved in 1918. Budapest was the focal point of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919.





Cited as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, its extensive World Heritage Site includes the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, Andrássy Avenue, Heroes' Square and the Millennium Underground Railway, the second oldest in the world. The city attracts about 2.7 million tourists a year.

St Stephens

Similarly to other Central European capitals, Budapest offers wonderful cultural experiences to visitors and locals alike. With an abundance of concert halls, churches, museums, cinemas and a bustling nightlife, the city is a popular destination all year round.

One of the reasons the Romans first colonized the area immediately to the west of the River Danube and established their regional capital at Aquincum (now part of Óbuda, in northern Budapest) is so that they could utilize and enjoy the thermal springs. There are still ruins visible today of the enormous baths that were built during that period. The new baths that were constructed during the Turkish period (1541–1686) served both bathing and medicinal purposes, and some of these are still in use to this day. Budapest gained its reputation as a city of spas in the 1920s, following the first realization of the economic potential of the thermal waters in drawing in visitors. Indeed, in 1934 Budapest was officially ranked as a "City of Spas". Today, the baths are mostly frequented by the older generation, as, with the exception of the “Magic Bath” and "Cinetrip" water discos, young people tend to prefer the lidos which are open in the summer. Construction of the Király Baths started in 1565, and most of the present-day building dates from the Turkish period, including most notably the fine cupola-topped pool. 

Buda Castle



                                                      Budapest’s Top 5:
The Parliament Building
       
  1. The Parliament Building.   Built between 1885 and 1904 the Parliament building soon became the symbol of the Hungarian capital. Not just because of its sheer size – nearly 18000 square metres – but because of its detailed decoration, inside splendour and eclectic diversity. It is the most expensive building ever built in Hungary. It has 691 rooms, 10 courtyards, 27 gates and 29 staircases. It also houses a public library with 500.000 volumes. The walls from outside are decorated by the statues of the most important historical figures of Hungary. Until the 19th century the Hungarian diet held its sessions on various places in the country, depending on which part was not under occupation or foreign rule. After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867, Hungary received more independence and it's own constitution. The establishment of a parliament building was also initiated. 
  2. St Stephen's Basilica. The church is named for Saint Stephen I of Hungary, the first King of Hungary (c. 975–1038), whose incorruptible right hand is housed in the reliquary. This is the most important church building in Hungary, one of the most significant tourist attractions and the third highest building in Hungary.  The architectural style is Neo-Classical; it has a Greek cross ground plan. The façade is anchored by two large bell towers. In the southern tower is Hungary's biggest bell, weighing over 9 tonnes
  3. Matthias Church. is a church located in the heart of Buda's Castle District. According to church tradition, it was originally built in Romanesque style in 1015. The current building was constructed in the florid late Gothic style in the second half of the 14th century and was extensively restored in the late 19th century. It was the second largest church of medieval Buda and the seventh largest church of medieval Hungarian Kingdom.
  4. Buda Castle.  is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest, first completed in 1265. In the past, it was also called Royal Palace and Royal Castle. Buda Castle was built on the southern tip of Castle Hill, bounded on the north by what is known as the Castle District (Várnegyed), famous for its Medieval, Baroque and 19th century houses, churches and public buildings. It is linked to Clark Ádám Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge by the Castle Hill Funicular.
  5. Hősök tere or Heroes' Square. is one of the major squares rich with historic and political connotations. Its iconic statue complex, the Millennium Memorial, was completed in 1900, the same year the square was named "Heroes' Square". It lies at the end of Andrássy Avenue (with which it comprises part of an extensive World Heritage site), next to City Park. During the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919 the Millennium Monument was completely covered by red textile and at the basement of the obelisk a new statue was erected: Marx with a worker and a peasant. The statues of Hungarian historic national heroes were toppled. The Hungarian national symbols were banned in the name of internationalism. Hősök tere is surrounded by two important buildings, Museum of Fine Arts on the left and Palace of Art (or more accurately Hall of Art) on the right. On the other side it faces Andrássy Avenue which has two buildings looking at the square — one is residential and the other one is the embassy of Serbia (former Yugoslavian embassy where Imre Nagy secured sanctuary in 1956). 


    Heroes Square









Saturday, 25 February 2012

Bucharest

Bucharest





Bucharest is the capital city and the commercial centre of Romania. It is located in the southeast of the country, on the banks of the Dâmbovita River. The city was first mentioned in 1459 and became the capital of Romania in 1862. Since then, it has gone through a variety of changes and has become the centre of the Romanian mass media, cultural and arts scene. Its eclectic architecture, which is a mix of historical, Ceausescu-era and modern, also reflects the city's varied history. In the period between the two World Wars, the city's elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite gave Bucharest the nickname of the "Paris of the East" or "Little Paris". Although much of the historic center was damaged or destroyed by war, earthquakes and Nicolae Ceausescu's program of systematization, much survived, and in our days the city is experiencing an economic and cultural boom.



The Romanian Athenaeum


Bucharest is situated on the banks of the Dâmbovița River, which flows into the Argeș River, a tributary of the Danube. Several lakes – the most important of which are Lake Herăstrău, Lake Floreasca, Lake Tei, and Lake Colentina – stretch across the northern parts of the city, along the Colentina River, a tributary of the Dâmbovița. In addition, in the centre of the capital there is a small artificial lake – Lake Cișmigiu – surrounded by the Cișmigiu Gardens. The Cișmigiu Gardens have a rich history, being frequented by famous poets and writers. Opened in 1847 and based on the plans of German architect Carl F.W. Meyer, the gardens are currently the main recreational facility in the city centre.

Bucharest has a diverse and growing cultural scene, with cultural life exhibited in a number of various fields, including the visual arts, performing arts and nightlife. Unlike other parts of Romania, such as the Black Sea coast or Transylvania, Bucharest's cultural scene is much more eclectic, without a defined style, and instead incorporates various elements of Romanian and international culture. Bucharest has an eclectic mixture of elements from traditionally Romanian buildings to buildings that are influenced by French architects.

Arcul de Triumf

Traditional Romanian culture continues to have a major influence in arts such as theatre, film and music. Bucharest has two internationally-renowned ethnographic museums, the Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the open-air Village Museum. The Village Museum, in Herăstrău Park, contains 272 authentic buildings and peasant farms from all over Romania. The Museum of the Romanian Peasant was declared the European Museum of the Year in 1996, and displays a rich collection of textiles (especially costumes), icons, ceramics, and other artifacts of Romanian peasant life.

The Museum of Romanian History is another important museum in Bucharest, containing a collection of artefacts detailing Romanian history and culture from the prehistoric times, Dacian era, medieval times and the modern era.

Lipscani
Of the city's medieval architecture, most of what survived into modern times was destroyed by Communist systematization, numerous fires and military incursions. Still, some medieval and renaissance edifices remain, the most notable are in the Lipscani area. This precinct contains notable buildings such as Manuc's Inn and the ruins of the Curtea Veche (the Old Court), during the late Middle Ages this area was the heart of commerce in Bucharest. From the 1970s onwards, the area went through urban decline, and many historical buildings fell into disrepair. In 2005, the Lipscani area was entirely pedestrianised and is currently slowly undergoing restoration.

The city centre has also retained architecture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly the interwar period, which is often seen as the "golden age" of Bucharest architecture. During this time, the city grew significantly in size and wealth therefore seeking to emulate other large European capitals such as Paris. Much of the architecture of the time belongs to a remarkably strong Modern (rationalist) Architecture current, led by Horia Creanga and Marcel Iancu, which managed to literally change the face of the city.






                                                                            Bucharest’s Top 5:                                                             
The Palace of the Parliament
       
  1. The Palace of the Parliament. A multi-purpose building containing both chambers of the Romanian Parliament. According to theWorld Records Academy, the Palace is the world's largest civilian building, most expensive administrative building, and heaviest building. The Palace was designed and nearly completed by the Ceaușescu regime as the seat of political and administrative power. Nicolae Ceaușescu named it the House of the Republic, but most Romanians call it the People's House. Built on the site of a hill which was largely razed for this megaproject, the building anchors the west end of Bulevardul Unirii and Centrul Civic. Constructing the Palace and Centrul Civic required demolishing much of Bucharest's historic district, including 19 Orthodox Christian churches, six Jewish synagogues, three Protestant churches (plus eight relocated churches), and 30,000 residences. Construction began in 1983; the cornerstone was laid on 25 June 1984. While the building was intended to house all four major state institutions (in a similar manner to the UK Houses of Parliament), Ceausescu intended the palace to be his personal residence and the government was to operate within it.
  2. Arcul de Triumf is a triumphal arch located in the northern part of Bucharest, on the Kiseleff Road. The first, wooden, triumphal arch was built hurriedly, after Romania gained its independence in 1878, so that the victorious troops could march under it. Another temporary arch was built on the same site, in 1922, after World War I, which was demolished in 1935 to make way for the current triumphal arch, which was inaugurated in September 1936. The current arch has a height of 27 metres and was built after the plans of the architect Petre Antonescu. It has as its foundation a 25 x 11.50 metres rectangle. The sculptures with which the facades are decorated were created by famous Romanian sculptors such as Ion Jalea and Dimitrie Paciurea. Nowadays, military parades are held beneath the arch each 1 December, with the occasion of Romania's national day.
  3. The Memorial of Rebirth. Is a memorial that commemorates the struggles and victims of the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which overthrew Communism. The memorial complex was inaugurated in August 2005 in Revolution Square, where Romania's Communist-era dictator, Nicolae Ceauşescu, was publicly overthrown in December 1989. The memorial, designed by Alexandru Ghilduş, features as its centrepiece a 25-metre-high marble pillar reaching up to the sky, upon which a metal "crown" is placed. The pillar is surrounded by a 600 m² plaza covered by marble and granite. Its initial name was "Eternal Glory to the Heroes and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989" . The memorial's name alludes to Romania's rebirth as a nation after the collapse of Communism.
  4.  The Romanian Athenaeum. Is a significant landmark of the Romanian capital city. Opened in 1888, the ornate, domed, circular building is the city's main concert hall and home of the"George Enescu" Philharmonic and of the George Enescu annual international music festival. In 1865, cultural and scientific personalities such as Constantin Esarcu, V. A. Urechia, and Nicolae Creţulescu founded the Romanian Atheneum Cultural Society. To serve its purposes, the Romanian Athenaeum, a building dedicated to art and science, would be erected in Bucharest. The building was designed by the French architect Albert Galleron, built on a property that had belonged to the Văcărescu family and inaugurated in 1888, although work continued until 1897. A portion of the construction funds was raised by public subscription in a 28-year long effort, of which the slogan is still remembered today: "Donate one Leu for the Ateneu!"
  5. The National Museum of Art of Romania
    The National Museum of Art of Romania.  is located in the former royal palace in Revolution Square, completed in 1937. It features notable collections of medieval and modern Romanian art, as well as the international collection assembled by the Romanian royal family. The museum was damaged during the 1989 Romanian Revolution. In 2000, part of the museum reopened to the public, housing the modern Romanian collection and the international collection; the comprehensive Medieval art collection, which now features works salvaged from monasteries destroyed during the Ceauşescu era, reopened in spring 2002. There are also two halls that house temporary exhibits.    The international collection includes works by Old Masters such as Domenico Veneziano, El Greco, Tintoretto, Jan van Eyck, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens, and Rembrandt, plus a smattering of works by impressionists such as Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley. Among the most famous Old Master works in the collection are Jacopo Amigoni's portrait of the singer Farinelli, a Crucifixion by Antonello da Messina, and Alonso Cano's Christ at the Column.
References: http://www.bucuresti.ro/
                     http://www.bucharest-life.com/


Thursday, 23 February 2012

Berlin

Berlin







Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.49 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city and is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union. Located in northeastern Germany, it is the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg Metropolitan Region, which has 4.4 million residents from over 190 nations. Located in the European Plains, Berlin is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. Around one third of the city's area is composed of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes.


First documented in the 13th century, Berlin was the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia (1701–1918), the German Empire (1871–1918), the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) and the Third Reich (1933–1945). Berlin in the 1920s was the third largest municipality in the world. After World War II, the city became divided into East Berlin—the capital of East Germany—and West Berlin, a West German exclave surrounded by the Berlin Wall(1961–1989). Following German reunification in 1990, the city regained its status as the capital of Germany, hosting 147 foreign embassies. Berlin's history has left the city with a highly eclectic array of architecture and buildings. The city's appearance today is predominantly shaped by the key role it played in Germany's history in the 20th century. Each of the national governments based in Berlin initiated ambitious re-construction programmes, with each adding its own distinctive style to the city's architecture. Berlin was devastated by bombing raids during World War II, and many of the buildings that had remained after the war were demolished in the 1950s and 1960s in both West and East Berlin. Much of this demolition was initiated by municipal architecture programs to build new residential or business quarters and main roads.



Berlin Cathedral



Many of the well known buildings, examples of East Berlin’s attempt to compete with the Western side’s own in-your-face high-rises were erected during this time. The Hotel Stadt Berlin – a 123m high Hotel, the Haus des Lehrers (Teachers’ House); a venue for pedagogues which remained more of a representative façade than a real educational forum; The House of Travel with a slightly amusing ring to it given the notorious travel restrictions during the GDR and the publishing house building - today’s Berliner Verlag – offices of the Berlin daily, Berliner Zeitung.

In the 1970s, under Erich Honecker, Alexanderplatz became an experiment in socialist urban aesthetics. The honeycomb aluminium façade of the former “Centrum Warenhaus”, (Kaufhof Group today) was the largest department store in the GDR and is today a transformed department store designed by Josef Paul Kleihues.

Amongst the sights to look out for here are the 365 metre TV tower, Berlin´s highest construction topped by a globe (turned into a pink football during the 2006 World Cup Event) with a rotating viewing platform. The Brunnen der Völkerfreundschaft (Fountain of Friendship amongst Peoples) and the landmark World Time Clock erected in 1969 served as a popular meeting place. Berolina House by Peter Behrens is now a C&A branch and the Alexa shopping mall includes a multiplex cinema.


Alexanderplatz TV Tower


Berlin's nightlife is one of the most diverse and vibrant of its kind in Europe. Throughout the 1990s, people in their twenties from many countries, particularly those in Eastern and Central Europe, made Berlin's club scene the premier nightlife destination of Europe. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many historic buildings in Mitte, the former city center of East Berlin, were illegally occupied and re-built by young squatters and became a fertile ground for underground and counterculture gatherings. Berlin is notable for the length of its parties as clubs are not required to close at a fixed time on the weekends, and many parties last well into the morning, or all weekend. Berghain features the Panorama Bar, so named because the bar opens its shades at daybreak, allowing party-goers a panorama view of Berlin after dancing through the night.




                                                                             Berlin’s Top 5:
The Brandenburg Gate
       
  1. The Brandenburg Gate. One of Berlin’s most important monuments – a landmark and symbol all in one with over two hundred years of history. A former symbol of the divided city, it drew visitors who used to climb an observation platform in order to get a glimpse of the world behind the Iron Curtain, on the other side of the barren “death-strip” which separated east from west Berlin, geographically and politically. It was here that on June 12, 1987, Ronald Regan issued his stern command to his cold war adversary admonishing him with the words: “Mr. Gorbachov – tear down this wall!”. The speech delivered to West Berliners was also audible on the east side of the Gate and echoed President von Weizsacker’s words which translate as: “The German question is open as long as the Brandenburg Gate is closed.” When Germany was reunified following the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 the Brandenburg Gate quickly reinvented itself into the New Berlin’s symbol of unity. It was officially opened to traffic on December 22, 1989 and 100,000 people came to celebrate the occasion. Unfortunately this also resulted in severe damage to the monument which needed to be restored and was only officially reopened on October 3, 2002.
  2. The Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral).  Completed in 1905, is Berlin’s largest and most important Protestant church as well as the sepulchre of the Prussian Hohenzollern dynasty. This outstanding high-renaissance baroque monument has linked the Hohenzollerns to German Protestantism for centuries and undergone renewed phases of architectural renovation since the Middle Ages. First built in 1465 as a parish church on the Spree River it was only finally completed in 1905 under the last German Kaiser -Wilhelm II. Damaged during the Second World War it remained closed during the GDR years and reopened after restoration in 1993. The “old” Cathedral at the Lustgarten was initially constructed between 1747 and 1750 under Friedrich the Great (1740-1786) as a baroque church in accordance with Knobersdorff’s plans by Johann Bourmann. From 1817 to 1822 Karl Friedrich Schinkel redesigned it but the Cathedral retained its stylistic similarity to the high-renaissance baroque architecture of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Finally, official plans reconciling the different stages and stylistic developments were presented by Julius Rashdorff in 1885 to King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. When Wilhelm II ascended the throne in 1888 he authorised the demolition of the “old” Cathedral and the construction, began in 1893, of the much larger, imposing present Berliner Dom.
  3. Checkpoint Charlie. Along with Glienicker Brücke (Glienicker Bridge) was the best known border-crossing of Cold War days. The sign, which became a symbol of the division of Cold War Berlin and read like a dire warning to those about to venture beyond the Wall – YOU ARE NOW LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR – in English, Russian, French and German - stood here. It is today an iconic marker of territorial boundary and political division. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, it signified the border between West and East, Capitalism and Communism, freedom and confinement.
    The spot remains a must see sight in Berlin with huge historical and emotional resonance, even accounting for the fact that there is remarkably little left to recall the atmosphere of pre-1989 days. An enormous amount of debating went into deciding what should be left here and preserved for Berliners and visitors to see in the future.
  4. Alexanderplatz.  ‘Alex’ to Berliners, a cattle market in the Middle Ages, a military parade square and an exercise ground for nearby barracks until the mid 19th century - Alexanderplatz is the square named to honour Alexander I, Tsar of Russia, on his visit to Berlin in 1805. It was here that Alfred Döblin took the pulse of the cosmopolitan metropolis portrayed in his 1929 novel ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’ filmed by Fassbinder for a TV series as a portrait of the bustling city in the 1920s before the imminent Nazi takeover. Fast forward to more recent times, one million people congregated here, on 4 November 1989 to demonstrate against the GDR regime shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This was the largest anti-government demonstration in its history. Layer upon layer of Berlin’s urban history is located in Alexanderplatz, interweaving centuries of social, political, and architectural history and repeatedly the subject of public debate and urban design competitions. The transformation of Alexanderplatz into a modern transit junction and shopping area came about during the second half of the 19th century with developments such as the construction of the S-Bahn, Berlin’s surface rail network in 1882 and the underground railway from 1913. Devasted during the war the square gradually developed into the pedestrian zone during the 1960s becoming a popular if rather amorphous urban area.
  5. The Reichstag Building. Constructed to house the Reichstag, parliament of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Reichstag until 1933, when it was severely damaged in a fire. After the Second World War the Reichstag building fell into disuse as the parliament of the German Democratic Republic met in the Palace of the Republic in East Berlin and the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany met in the Bundeshaus in Bonn. The building was made safe against the elements and partially refurbished in the 1960s, but no attempt at full restoration was made until after the reunification of Germany on October 3, 1990, when it underwent reconstruction led by internationally renowned architect Norman Foster. After its completion in 1999, it became the meeting place of the modern German parliament, the Bundestag.  In today's usage, the German term Reichstag or Reichstagsgebäude (Reichstag building) refers to the building, while the term Bundestag refers to the institution.


    The Reichstag Building


References: http://www.berlin.de





Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ankara

Ankara





Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the country's second largest city after Istanbul. Centrally located in Anatolia, Ankara is an important commercial and industrial city. It is the centre of the Turkish Government, and houses all foreign embassies. It is an important crossroads of trade, strategically located at the centre of Turkey's highway and railway networks, and serves as the marketing centre for the surrounding agricultural area. Ankara is a very old city with various Hittite, Phrygian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman archaeological sites. The hill which overlooks the city is crowned by the ruins of the old castle, which adds to the picturesqueness of the view, but only a few historic structures surrounding the old citadel have survived to the present day. 
The oldest settlements in and around the city centre of Ankara belonged to the Hatti's civilization which existed during the Bronze Age. The city grew significantly in size and importance under the Phrygians starting around 1000 BC, and experienced a large expansion following the mass migration from Gordion, (the capital of Phrygia), after an earthquake which severely damaged that city around that time. In Phrygian tradition, King Midas was venerated as the founder of Ancyra, but Pausanias mentions that the city was actually far older, which accords with present archaeological knowledge.


After Ankara became the capital of the newly founded Republic of Turkey, new development divided the city into an old section, called Ulus, and a new section, called Yenişehir. Ancient buildings reflecting Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman history and narrow winding streets mark the old section. The new section, now centered on Kızılay, has the trappings of a more modern city: wide streets, hotels, theaters, shopping malls, and high-rises.



Historically, the production of Mohair from the Angora goat; and Angora wool from the Angora rabbit; have been an important part of the city's economy. These fabrics have been exported from Ankara to Europe and other parts of the globe for centuries.

The Central Anatolia Region is one of the primary locations of grape and wine production in Turkey, and Ankara is particularly famous for its Kalecik Karası and Muscat grapes; and its Kavaklıdere wine, which is produced in the Kavaklıdere neighbourhood within the Çankaya district of the city. 



Atakule Observation Tower




Walking up the hill to the citadel gate, you find many interesting shops selling spices, dried fruits, nuts, and all kinds of produce; the selection is huge and very fresh. Modern shopping areas are mostly found in Kızılay, on Tunalı Hilmi Avenue, including the modern mall of Karum. Foreign visitors to Ankara usually like to visit the old shops in Çıkrıkçılar Yokuşu near Ulus, where myriad things ranging from traditional fabrics, hand-woven carpets and leather products can be found at bargain prices. Bakırcılar Çarşısı (Bazaar of Coppersmiths) is particularly popular, and many interesting items, not just of copper, can be found here like jewelry, carpets, costumes, antiques and embroidery. 






Anıtkabir


                                                                             Ankara’s Top 5:
Temple of Augustus and Rome
       
  1. Ankara Citadel. The foundations of the citadel or castle were laid by the Galatians on a prominent lava outcrop and the rest was completed by the Romans. The Byzantines and Seljuqs further made restorations and additions. The area around and inside the citadel, being the oldest part of Ankara, contains many fine examples of traditional architecture. There are also recreational areas to relax. Many restored traditional Turkish houses inside the citadel area have found new life as restaurants, serving local cuisine. The citadel was depicted in various Turkish banknotes during 1927–1952 and 1983–1989
  2. Temple of Augustus and Rome. The temple, also known as the Monumentum Ancyranum, was built between 25 BC - 20 BC following the conquest of Central Anatolia by the Roman Empire and the formation of the Roman province of Galatia, with Ancyra (modern Ankara) as its administrative capital. After the death of Augustus in 14 AD, a copy of the text of Res Gestae Divi Augusti was inscribed on the interior of the pronaos in Latin, whereas a Greek translation is also present on an exterior wall of the cella. The temple, on the ancient Acropolis of Ancyra, was enlarged by the Romans in the 2nd century. In the 5th century it was converted into a church by the Byzantines. It is located in the Ulus quarter of the city.
  3. Atakule. is a 125m (410 feet) high communications and observation tower located in the Çankaya district and is one of the primary landmarks of the city. As the district of Çankaya is itself on a hill, the tower can be spotted from almost anywhere in the city during clear days. The tower's design came from architect Ragıp Buluç and construction lasted from 1987 to 1989. The top section of the tower houses an open terrace and a revolving restaurant named Sevilla, which makes a full 360 degree rotation in one hour. On top of Sevilla is another restaurant, Dome, which is non-revolving and located directly under the cupola. Under the terrace is a café, named UFO. The bottom structures house a shopping mall and several indoor and outdoor restaurants.
  4. Anıtkabir.  Located on an imposing hill, in the Anıttepe quarter of the city, is where the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, stands. Completed in 1953, it is an impressive fusion of ancient and modern architectural styles. An adjacent museum houses a wax statue of Atatürk, his writings, letters and personal items, as well as an exhibition of photographs recording important moments in his life and during the establishment of the Republic
  5. Kocatepe Mosque, the largest mosque in the city. Located in the Kocatepe quarter, it was constructed between 1967 and 1987 in classical Ottoman style with four minarets. Its size and prominent location have made it a landmark for the city.









Saturday, 18 February 2012

Antwerp


Antwerp






Antwerp is the second largest city and municipality in Belgium as well as the capital of the province of Flanders and is
 renowned as being the diamond capital of the world. This cosmopolitan, down to earth city is full of fascinating architecture and historical institutions, complemented by a lively nightlife.There is evidence of occupation in Antwerp on the banks of the river ‘Scheldt’, as long ago as the 2nd and 3rd century A.D during the Roman era. Further excavations show that the site was inhabited again during 650 when Christianity arrived in Europe. Later on, the Vikings attacked the city in 836 resulting city inhabitants to migrate to ‘aanwerp’, an alluvial mound, where later the Steen castle was built. Today’s Antwerp has developed around this original location.


Brabo






















In the Golden era of 16th century, the city started maturing as the most economic and cultural hub in the world. After the decline of the Burgs in the 15th and 16th centuries, Antwerp became a major trading port. Ornate decorations, paintings, sculptures and silverware found in castles, churches and museums remind us of the glory of Antwerp’s rich heritage.








The city has always held an important 
place in the Benelux economic union. Next to being the second largest city it is also the second largest port in Europe behind Rotterdam, Netherlands, and is one of the 10 largest ports in the world.  Although Antwerp was formerly a fortified city, nothing remains of the former enceinte or of the old citadel defended by General Chassé in 1832, except for the Steen, which has been restored. Modern Antwerp's broad avenues mark the position of the original fortifications. After the establishment of Belgian independence, Antwerp was defended by the citadel and an enceinte around the city. In 1859, seventeen of the twenty-two fortresses constructed under Wellington's supervision in 1815–1818 were dismantled and the old citadel and enceinte were removed. A new enceinte 8 miles (13 km) long was constructed, and the villages of Berchem and Borgerhout, now boroughs of Antwerp, were absorbed within the city.

The people of Antwerp have always been known for their happy go lucky way of life. This could be because of their easy-going lifestyles and their liking of good food. Among all the European countries, Antwerpens are known to be the happiest people on earth. For this very reason many tourists are attracted to Antwerp, so that their trip turns out to be relaxing and enjoyable.

Antwerp has the old town feel to it and same can be said of its restaurants. The restaurants in the city serve up some of the best cuisine in Western Europe with traditional Flemish food topping the bill. But do not miss its ethnic restaurants which offer some fantastic varieties in terms of Turkish, Malaysian, Thai, Indian food.  Antwerp is also a renowned beer lover's destination. The street side bars, pubs and the avenues lined by new hot and happening pubs always get crowded by the youngsters. Dancing, drinking and merry making is the main menu in most of these nightspots.





                                                                          Antwerp’s Top 5:
Het Steen
       
  1. The Cathedral of Our Lady. (Dutch: Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal) is a Roman Catholic cathedral started in 1352 and, although the first stage of construction was ended in 1521, has never been 'completed'. In Gothic style, its architects were Jan and Pieter Appelmans. It contains a number of significant works by the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, as well as paintings by artists such as Otto van Veen, Jacob de Backer and Marten de Vos.  Where the cathedral now stands, there was a small chapel of Our Lady from the 9th to the 12th century, which acquired the status of parish church in 1124. The cathedral is on the list of World Heritage Sites.
  2. Het Steen. A medieval fortress built after the Viking incursions in the early Middle Ages as the first stone fortress of Antwerp, Het Steen is Antwerp's oldest building and used to be its oldest urban centre. Previously known as Antwerpen Burcht (fortress), Het Steen gained its current name in around 1520, after significant rebuilding under Charles V. The rebuilding led to its being known first as "'s Heeren Steen" (the King's stone castle), and later simply as "Het Steen" (the stone castle). The fortress made it possible to control the access to the Scheldt, the river on whose bank it stands. It was used as a prison between 1303 and 1827. The largest part of the fortress, including dozens of historic houses and the oldest church of the city, was demolished in the 19th century when the quays were straightened to stop the silting up of the Scheldt. The remaining building, heavily changed, contains a shipping museum, with some old canal barges displayed on the quay outside.
  3. St. James' Church. Built on the site of a hostel for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. The present building is the work of the Waghemakere family and Rombout Keldermans, in Brabantine Gothic style. The church contains the grave of Rubens in the eastern chapel.  In 1476 the chapel became a parish church so plans were made to replace the modest building with a large church. Fifteen years later, in 1491, construction of the late Gothic church started. It was not completed until 1656, when Baroque architecture was in vogue. Fortunately throughout all those years the architects closely followed the original Gothic design, hence the consistent Gothic exterior. The interior however is decorated in Baroque style.
  4. Antwerpen Central Station. is a major monument in Antwerp as it was the terminal for the oldest railway track in Belgium between Brussels and Antwerp via Mechelen. The architecture was designed by Louis Delacenserie in neo barque style with the help of marble, glass and stone. The platforms are sheltered by huge iron and glass domes. Its interiors can be compared to any European palace.
  5. The Brabo Statue. at the Grote Market is dedicated to Brabo who once saved the city from a giant named Antigoon, who used to chop off hands if travellers refused to pay toll for crossing the Scheldt River. It was Brabo who fought with giant and chopped off his hand and threw it in the river. The words ‘hand throwing’ when translated in dutch mean ‘Hantwerpen’, hence the city’s name ‘Antwerpen’. The statue holds a lot of symbolic value for Antwerp’s residents.


    Central Station


Thursday, 16 February 2012

Athens


Athens





The capital and largest city of Greece, Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state. A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum, it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the then known European continent.


The city that now hosts more than 4,5 million people, was constructed around the Acropolis walls. Today it is the political, social, cultural, financial and commercial centre of Greece. Cheap flights make it affordable and easy to reach Athens for vacation or business.

The core of the historical centre is the Plaka neighborhood (at the eastern side of the Acropolis), which has been inhabited since antiquity. Stroll through the narrow labyrinthine streets lined with houses and mansions from the time of the Turkish occupation and the Neoclassical period (19th c.), where you will discover endless picturesque tavernas, cafés, bars, as well as shops selling souvenirs and traditional Greek products.

Continuing from Plaka you arrive at Monastiraki, a characteristic area of “old” Athens, with narrow streets and small buildings where the city’s traditional bazaar (Yousouroum) is held. Close to it is the Psyrri area, a traditional neighborhood which during the past few years has evolved into one of the most important “centres” of the town’s nightlife, with scores of bars, tavernas, ouzeris, clubs, etc.  

Plaka
No matter how you feel about fish, meat and vegetables you won't find a more lively place than the Central market on Athinas Street. Whatever time of day you arrive, a walk through the market will probably change how you feel about shopping and may make you wish you had an apartment with a kitchen so you could join in. The restaurants in the meat market can't be beaten for good food at a cheap price at any time of the day or night. And if that is not enough the Market is also the beginning of Athens Chinatown and Eolou Street, the pedestrian shopping district. 

A must do excursion out of the city is the Temple of Poseidon, God of the Sea, which boasts not only the carved grafitti of Lord Byron but one of the best sunsets after Santorini. Less than an hour away from Athens, o
n a hill overlooking the sea at the very tip of the Attiki Peninsula on a spot that could not be more perfect for an ancient site of worship. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon, take in meal or a drink and  watch the sunset at one of Greece's most romantic locations.




                                                                 Athens’s Top 5:
       
  1. The Parthenon.  The temple on the Acropolis, dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their virgin patron. Its construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the height of its power. It was completed in 438 BC, although decorations of the Parthenon continued until 432 BC. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered the culmination of the development of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are considered some of the high points of Greek art. The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece and of Athenian democracy and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments
  2. The Temple of Hephaestus. Also known as the Hephaisteion or earlier as the Theseion, is the best-preserved ancient Greek temple; it remains standing largely as built. It is a Doric peripteral temple, and is located at the north-west side of the Agora of Athens, on top of the Agoraios Kolonos hill. From the 7th century until 1834, it served as the Greek Orthodox church of St. George Akamates.
  3. The Temple of Olympian Zeus. Also known as the Olympieion or Columns of the Olympian Zeus, is a colossal ruined temple that was dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC during the rule of the Athenian tyrants, who envisaged building the greatest temple in the ancient world, but it was not completed until the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD some 638 years after the project had begun. During the Roman periods it was renowned as the largest temple in Greece and housed one of the largest cult statues in the ancient world. The temple's glory was short-lived, as it fell into disuse after being pillaged in a barbarian invasion in the 3rd century AD. It was probably never repaired and was reduced to ruins thereafter. In the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the temple was extensively quarried for building materials to supply building projects elsewhere in the city. Despite this, substantial remains remain visible today and it continues to be a major tourist attraction.
  4. The National Archaeological Museum. Houses some of the most important artifacts from a variety of archaeological locations around Greece from prehistory to late antiquity. It is considered one of the great museums in the world and contains the richest collection of artifacts from Greek antiquity worldwide. The first national archaeological museum in Greece was established by prime minister of Greece Ioannis Kapodistrias in Aigina in 1829. Since then the archaeological collection has been moved to a number of exhibition places until 1858, when an international architectural competition was announced for the location and the architectural design of the new museum. The current location was proposed and the construction of the museum's building began in 1866 and was completed in 1889 using funds from the Greek Government, the Greek Archaeological Society and the society of Mycenae.
  5. Zappeion Hall. A building in the National Gardens of Athens, generally used for meetings and ceremonies, both official and private. In 1869, the Greek Parliament allocated 80,000 square metres (860,000 sq ft) of public land between the Palace Gardens and the ancient Temple of Olympian Zeus, and also passed a law on 30 November 1869, "for the building works of the Olympic Games", as the Zappeion was the first building to be erected specifically for the revival of the Olympic Games in the modern world. The Zappeion was used during the 1896 Summer Olympics as the main fencing hall. A decade later, at the 1906 Summer Olympics, it was used as the Olympic Village. A number of historical events have taken place at the Zappeion, including the signing of the documents formalizing Greece's accession to the European Union on 1 January 1981, which took place in the building's marble-clad, peristyle main atrium. The Zappeion is currently being used as a Conference and Exhibition Center for both public and private purposes.


    Zappeion Hall

References: http://www.greece-athens.com/
                    http://www.visitgreece.gr/en/main_cities/athens 
                    http://www.athensguide.com