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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Podgorica

Podgorica




Podgorica is the capital and largest city of Montenegro. Podgorica's favourable position at the confluence of the Ribnica and Morača rivers and the meeting point of the fertile Zeta Plain and Bjelopavlići Valley has encouraged settlement. The city is close to winter ski centres in the north and seaside resorts on the Adriatic Sea.

The earliest human settlements were in prehistory: the oldest physical remains are from the late Stone Age. In the Illyrian age, the area between the Zeta and Bjelopavlići valleys was occupied by two Illyrian tribes, the Labeates and the Docleats. The population of the city was 8,000–10,000, in which all core urban issues were resolved. The high population density (in an area of about 10 km/6 mi radius) was made possible by the geographical position, favourable climate and economic conditions and by the defensive positions that were of great importance at that time.

From the 5th century, with the arrival of the first Slavic and Avar tribes and the beginning of the break-up of the Roman Empire, the area bore witness to many noteworthy events. With time, the fortifications ceased their function and new towns were built. Slavic groups in the area were in constant war with Byzantium and tended to establish a new state. The result was establishment of a new settlement that was probably named after the river Ribnica on whose banks it was built. The first mention of Ribnica is during the rule of the Serbian royal family of the Nemanjići. The importance of Ribnica was its position as crossroads in communications with the west. In occupying these areas, the Slavs created a new state and developed their own culture and art, acceptable to the mediaeval church and feudal class.

The name Podgorica was first mentioned in 1326 in a court document of the Kotor archives. The city was economically strong: trade routes between Dubrovnik and the State of Nemanjici, well developed at that time, were maintained via the road that led to Podgorica through Trebinje and Nikšić. As a busy crossroads, Podgorica was a vibrant regional centre of trade and communication. This boosted its development, economic power, military strength and strategic importance.

The Ottoman capture of Podgorica in 1474 interrupted its economic, cultural and artistic development. Podgorica became a kaza of the Sanjak of Scutari in 1479. The Ottomans built a large fortress in Podgorica and the existing settlement, with its highly developed merchant connections, became the main Ottoman defensive and attacking bastion in the region. At the beginning of 1474 there were informations about intention of Ottoman sultan to rebuild Podgorica and Baleč and settle them with 5,000 Turkish families in order to establish an additional obstacle for cooperation of Principality of Zeta and Venetian Shkodër. The fortified city, with towers, gates and defensive ramparts, enabled the Ottomans to resist all attacks. In 1864, Podgorica became a kaza of the Scutari Vilayet called Böğürtlen 'blackberry'. It was also known Burguriçe in Albanian.

The Berlin Congress in 1878 annexed Podgorica to Montenegro, marking the end of four centuries of Ottoman rule, and the beginning of a new era in the development of Podgorica and Montenegro. The city developed quickly and became a strong marketplace. The first forms of capital concentration were seen. In 1904, Zetska savings bank, the first significant financial institution, was formed. It would soon grow into Podgorička bank. Roads were built to all neighbouring towns and, in 1902, a tobacco plant became Podgorica's first significant commercial company.

World War I marked the end of dynamic development for Podgorica, by then the largest city in the newly proclaimed Kingdom of Montenegro. Podgorica was occupied, as was the rest of the country, by Austria-Hungary from 1916 to 1918. After the liberation by the allies in 1918, a controversial Podgorica Assembly was held at Podgorica Tobacco Monopoly building. The assembly marked the end of Montenegrin statehood, as Montenegro was merged with Serbia and incorporated in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Between the two world wars, the population of Podgorica was about 13,000.

Podgorica suffered heavily during World War II; the city was bombed over 70 times throughout the course of the war and razed to the ground, causing the deaths of over 4,100 people. The city was liberated on 19 December 1944. Under the name of Titograd, the city became the capital of the Socialist Republic of Montenegro on 13 July 1946. A period of unprecedented expansion followed, which marked the SFRY era: the population increased dramatically, the city was heavily industrialized, infrastructure was improved, and health, educational, and cultural institutions were founded. The city rapidly became the commercial, socio-economic and cultural centre of the country. The progress halted again when the break-up of SFRY began in the 1990s. The name of Podgorica was reinstated on 2 April 1992.

The destructive Yugoslav wars bypassed Montenegro, but the entire country was greatly affected economically. A period of severe economic stagnation lasted throughout the 1990s. The economy began to recover in the early years of the 21st century, when Podgorica began to emerge as a modern, pro-western city. Following the successful independence referendum in May 2006, Podgorica became the official capital of an independent state, boosting its status as a regional centre and raising its economic prospects.

While in Podgorica, one can enjoy the diversity of Montenegro's capital cafes and restaurants, check out the nightlife, or take a walk at some of the favourite picnic locations of Podgorica citizens - Mareza, Skadar Lake, or Gorica hill. While strolling through Podgorica center, you might find the shopping area interesting, as there is vast number of boutiques, just beware the counterfeits!

The currency in Montenegro is the Euro (€). ATMs are widespread in the city center and the new part of town. Upscale shops and restaurants will usually accept any major credit or debit cards.

Streets in the center of Podgorica are filled with boutiques, yet, one should be aware counterfeited clothes of world famous brands. Most of the premium clothing brands have their stores in new part of the city, chiefly Vectra-Maxim neighborhoods. The prices are on par with those in the region. There are a few shopping malls in Podgorica, most notably Delta City, a 48,000 sqm mall with over 70 stores, food court and a multiplex cinema, and Mall of Montenegro. There are also smaller malls, such as Palada andNikić Center.



                                                        Podgorica’s Top 5:
       
    1. The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ  is a cathedral of the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral of the Serbian Orthodox ChurchThe shrine is dedicated to the Resurrection of the Christ and it represents the largest Orthodox Christian shrine in Montenegro. It is located in part of Podgorica called Momišići. The construction of the Shrine begun in 1993 and it is still in progress. The founding stone was laid by the Russian patriarch Aleksey. The impressive architectural structure is dominated by golden crosses, which were a present and a donation from Russia.
    2. The Sahat Kula (Clock Tower) is a bit odd because it is essentially an old stone building surrounded by hideous Socialist-era apartment blocks and housing estates. There are some shops and stores around it, but in general this is not built up as a tourist site. It is an odd sort of clock tower, as it is square and does not appear to be connected to anything else - in Skopje, the same sort of Ottoman installation is found beside Hjuncar Mosque, which sort of makes sense. In all, Sahat Kula is most remarkable in that, if you are coming to Podgorica by train or bus and want to look around the city on foot, it is the first historic monument that you will see.
    3. Trg Republike or Square of the Republic  is the central town square of Podgorica. It is located in Nova Varoš (New Town), the administrative, as well as socio-cultural heart of the city. The city library "Radosav Ljumović" is located on the square, as well as the state gallery "Art". The square is bordered by Ulica Slobode (Freedom street) to the east, and Njegoševa ulica (Njegoš's street) to the west. Both Njegoševa and Slobode street are newly-renovated pedestrian zones - with Ulica Slobode also being a popular shopping street. Bokeška andVučedolska street create the square's northern and southern borders, respectively. A pedestrian passage connects the Republic Square to Podgorica's City Hall and the Montenegrin National Theatre building. Trg Republike was until 2006 known as Trg Ivana Milutinovića (Ivan Milutinović square) - a famous Montenegrin communist politician, military general and national hero. In 2006, the year of the Montenegrin independence, the square underwent a massive reconstruction. It was widened, paved, a big central fountain was constructed and the area was turned into a car-free zone. The square was decorated with colonnades, palm trees and water channels. The whole project cost around 2.5 million Euros. In late 2011 and early 2012, the square was the site of a series of anti-government protests, organized by several Montenegrin NGOs. The largest event occurred on March 18, 2012, with an estimated attendance of 20.000 people, according to the organizers (7.000 people, according to the Montenegrin police). The events were popularly dubbed the Montenegrin Spring by the media.
    4. The Millennium Bridge  is a cable-stayed bridge that spans the Morača River. The bridge was designed by the Slovenian company Ponting and Mladen Ulićević, a professor at Faculty of Civil Engineering in Podgorica. It was built by the Slovenian company Primorje, and opened on July 13, 2005, Montenegro's National Day. It quickly became one of the city's most prominent landmarks. The bridge is 140 metres long, and the pylon soars 57 m above the roadbed. Twelve cables support the roadway deck, while twenty-four more are attached to the counterweights, creating an imposing image. The construction of the bridge began in 2005, and the building cost was approximately 7 million euros. The roadway carries two lanes of traffic and a pedestrian walkway in each direction. The bridge connects the Boulevard of Ivan Crnojević in the city centre and July 13 street in the new part of city, thus relieving the other congested bridges connecting the city center with the densely populated districts over the Morača river.
    5. The Old Mosque Of Skender Čauš This mosque was built by Skender Čauš in the late 15th century. With the fortress mosque above the estuary of Ribnica and Morača named Mehmed Han’s Mosques, this was the only mosque in the Old City until 1582. It has been rebuilt many times. Major expansions took place in 1985. Mosque courtyard contains headquarters of the Islamic Community Board for Podgorica and Mešihat (highest religious and administrative organ) of Islamic Community in Montenegro.




    Hertz

    Monday, 30 July 2012

    Pisa

    Pisa




    Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa. Although Pisa is known worldwide for its leaning tower (the bell tower of the city's cathedral), the city of over 88,332 residents (around 200,000 with the metropolitan area) contains more than 20 other historic churches, several palaces and various bridges across the River Arno.

    Pisa lies at the junction of two rivers, the Arno and the Serchio, which form a laguna at the Tyrrhenian Sea. While the origin of the city had remained unknown for centuries, the Pelasgi, the Greeks, the Etruscans, and the Ligurians had variously been proposed as founders of the city (for example, a colony of the ancient city of Pisa, Greece). Archaeological remains from the 5th century BC confirmed the existence of a city at the sea, trading with Greeks and Gauls. The presence of an Etruscan necropolis, discovered during excavations in the Arena Garibaldi in 1991, confirmed its Etruscan origins.

    Ancient Roman authors referred to Pisa as an old city. Strabo referred Pisa's origins to the mythical Nestor, king of Pylos, after the fall of Troy. Virgil, in his Aeneid, states that Pisa was already a great center by the times described; the settlers from the Alpheus coast have been credited with the founding of the city in the 'Etruscan lands'. The Virgilian commentator Servius wrote that the Teuti, or Pelops, the king of the Pisaeans, founded the town thirteen centuries before the start of the common era.

    The maritime role of Pisa should have been already prominent if the ancient authorities ascribed to it the invention of the naval ram. Pisa took advantage of being the only port along the western coast from Genoa (then a small village) to Ostia. Pisa served as a base for Roman naval expeditions against Ligurians, Gauls and Carthaginians. In 180 BC, it became a Roman colony under Roman law, as Portus Pisanus. In 89 BC,Portus Pisanus became a municipium. 

    The power of Pisa as a mighty maritime nation began to grow and reached its apex in the 11th century when it acquired traditional fame as one of the four main historical Maritime Republics of Italy (Repubbliche Marinare).

    At that time, the city was a very important commercial centre and controlled a significant Mediterranean merchant fleet and navy. It expanded its powers in 1005 through the sack of Reggio Calabria in the south of Italy. Pisa was in continuous conflict with the Saracens, who had their bases in Corsica, for control of the Mediterranean. In 1017 Sardinian Giudicati were militarily supported by Pisa, in alliance with Genoa, to defeat the Saracen King Mugahid who had settled a logistic base in the north of Sardinia the year before. This victory gave Pisa supremacy in the Tyrrhenian Sea. When the Pisans subsequently ousted the Genoese from Sardinia, a new conflict and rivalry was born between these mighty marine republics. Between 1030 and 1035, Pisa went on to defeat several rival towns in Sicily and conquer Carthage in North Africa. In 1051–1052 the admiral Jacopo Ciurini conquered Corsica, provoking more resentment from the Genoese. In 1063 admiral Giovanni Orlando, coming to the aid of the Norman Roger I, took Palermo from the Saracen pirates. The gold treasure taken from the Saracens in Palermo allowed the Pisans to start the building of their cathedral and the other monuments which constitute the famous Piazza del Duomo.



    In 1060 Pisa had to engage in their first battle with Genoa. The Pisan victory helped to consolidate its position in the Mediterranean. Pope Gregory VII recognised in 1077 the new "Laws and customs of the sea" instituted by the Pisans, and emperor Henry IV granted them the right to name their own consuls, advised by a Council of Elders. This was simply a confirmation of the present situation, because in those years the marquis had already been excluded from power. In 1092 Pope Urban II awarded Pisa the supremacy over Corsica and Sardinia, and at the same time raising the town to the rank of archbishopric.

    The decline of Pisa as a significant naval power began on 6 August 1284, when the numerically superior fleet of Pisa, under the command of Albertino Morosini, was defeated by the brilliant tactics of the Genoese fleet, under the command of Benedetto Zaccaria and Oberto Doria, in the dramatic naval Battle of Meloria. This defeat ended the maritime power of Pisa and the town never fully recovered: in 1290 the Genoese destroyed forever the Porto Pisano (Pisa's Port), and covered the land with salt. The region around Pisa did not permit the city to recover from the loss of thousands of sailors from the Meloria, while Liguria guaranteed enough sailors to Genoa. Goods continued to be traded, albeit in reduced quantity, but the end came when the River Arno started to change course, preventing the galleys from reaching the city's port up the river. It seems also that nearby area became infested with malaria. Within 1324 also Sardinia was entirely lost in favour of the Aragonese.

    Pisa tried to build up its power in the course of the 14th century and even managed to defeat Florence in the Battle of Montecatini (1315), under the command of Uguccione della Faggiuola. Eventually, however, divided by internal struggles and weakened by the loss of its mercantile strength, Pisa was conquered by Florence in 1406. In 1409 Pisa was the seat of a council trying to set the question of the Great Schism. Furthermore in the 15th century, access to the sea became more and more difficult, as the port was silting up and was cut off from the sea. When in 1494 Charles VIII of France invaded the Italian states to claim the Kingdom of Naples, Pisa grabbed the opportunity to reclaim its independence as the Second Pisan Republic.

    Palazzo della Carovana
    But the new freedom did not last long. After fifteen years of battles and sieges, Pisa was reconquered in 1509 by the Florentine troops led by Antonio da Filicaja, Averardo Salviati and Niccolò Capponi. Its role of major port of Tuscany went to Livorno. Pisa acquired a mainly, though secondary, cultural role spurred by the presence of the University of Pisa, created in 1343. Its decline is clearly shown by its population, which has remained almost constant since the Middle Ages.

    Pisa was the birthplace of the important early physicist Galileo Galilei. It is still the seat of an archbishopric; it has become a light industrial centre and a railway hub. It suffered repeated destruction during World War II.


    As a general rule, try not to eat near the Leaning Tower where prices are high and quality low. Head instead to the central area (5-10 minutes walking from Piazza dei Miracoli): you can find very good, cheap restaurants there. For example, there are excellent, friendly and reasonably priced cafeterias in the busy small vegetable market, Piazza delle Vettovaglie. Also Via San Martino, close to the south bank of the river, offers some places with good quality and low price.

    This said, near the Leaning Tower, in via Roma, there's a good Indian Restaurant, with a beautiful atmosphere and really good, though not always cheap, dishes. In Piazza dei Miracoli, there's a quite good restaurant-pizzeria, cheap enough, the Kinzica. In any case, don't miss Salza, in Borgo Stretto, with high prices but absolutely gorgeous chocolate, sweets and pastries of all kinds. Don't sit down inside, though, because you end up paying €10 for two coffees.

    During summer nights, everybody stays around the banks of the rivers, sipping drinks bought from the several bars in the area. A few very good wine bars are also available for colder, winter nights. 




                                                            Pisa’s Top 5:
         
    1. The Leaning Tower of Pisa  or simply theTower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa) is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt to one side. It is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa's Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) after the Cathedral and the Baptistry. The tower's tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure's weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed, and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized (and the tilt partially corrected) by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Construction of the tower occurred in three stages across 177 years. Work on the ground floor of the white marble campanile began on August 8, 1173, during a period of military success and prosperity. This ground floor is a blind arcade articulated by engaged columns with classical Corinthian capitals. The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the second floor in 1178. This was due to a mere three-metre foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil, a design that was flawed from the beginning.
    2. Palazzo della Carovana (also Palazzo dei Cavalieri) is a palace in Knights' Square, presently housing the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. It was built in 1562–1564 by Giorgio Vasari for the headquarters of the Knights of St. Stephen, as a renovation of the already existing Palazzo degli Anziani ("Palace of the Elders"). The name, meaning "Palace of the Convoy", derives from the three year period undertaken by the initiates of the Order for their training, called "la Carovana". The façade is characterized by a complex scheme with sgraffiti representing allegorical figures and zodiacal signs, designed by Vasari himself and sculpted by Tommaso di Battista del Verrocchio and Alessandro Forzori, coupled to busts and marble crests. The current paintings date however to the 19th-20th centuries.
    3. Pisa Cathedral The heart of the Piazza del Duomo is the Duomo, the medieval cathedral, entitled to Santa Maria Assunta (St. Mary of the Assumption). This is a five-naved cathedral with a three-naved transept. The church is known also as the Primatial, the archbishop of Pisa being a Primate since 1092. Construction was begun in 1064 by the architect Buscheto, and set the model for the distinctive Pisan Romanesque style of architecture. The mosaics of the interior, as well as the pointed arches, show a strong Byzantine influence. The façade, of grey marble and white stone set with discs of coloured marble, was built by a master named Rainaldo, as indicated by an inscription above the middle door: Rainaldus prudens operator. The massive bronze main doors were made in the workshops of Giambologna, replacing the original doors destroyed in a fire in 1595. The central door was in bronze and made around 1180 by Bonanno Pisano, while the other two were probably in wood. However worshippers never used the façade doors to enter, instead entering by way of the Porta di San Ranieri (St. Ranieri's Door), in front of the Leaning Tower, made in around 1180 by Bonanno Pisano.
    4. Santa Maria della Spina is a small Gothic church in the Italian city of Pisa. The church, erected in 1230, was originally known as Santa Maria di Pontenovo: the new name of Spina ("thorn") derives from the presence of a thorn allegedly part of the crown dressed by Christ on the Cross, brought here in 1333. In 1871 the church was dismantled and rebuilt on a higher level due to dangerous inflitration of water from the Arno river: the church was slightly altered in the process, however.  The church is one of the most outstanding Gothic edifices of Europe: it has a rectangular plant, with an external facing wholly composed of marble, laid in polychrome bands.
    5. The Campo Santo, also known as Camposanto Monumentale ("monumental cemetery") or Camposanto Vecchio ("old cemetery"), is a historical edifice at the northern edge of the Cathedral Square. "Campo Santo" can be literally translated as "holy field", because it is said to have been built around a shipload of sacred soil from Golgotha, brought back to Pisa from the Fourth Crusade by Ubaldo de' Lanfranchi, archbishop of Pisa in the 12th century. A legend claims that bodies buried in that ground will rot in just 24 hours. The burial ground lies over the ruins of the old baptistery of the church of Santa Reparata, the church that once stood where the cathedral now stands. The term "monumental" serves to differentiate it from the later-established urban cemetery in Pisa. The building was the fourth and last one to be raised in the Cathedral Square. It dates from a century after the bringing of the soil from Golgotha, and was erected over the earlier burial ground. The construction of this huge, oblong Gothic cloister was begun in 1278 by the architect Giovanni di Simone. He died in 1284 when Pisa suffered a defeat in the naval battle of Meloria against the Genoans. The cemetery was only completed in 1464.


      Santa Maria della Spina








    Sunday, 29 July 2012

    Porto

    Porto




    Porto, also known as Oporto, is the second-largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon, and one of the major urban areas in Southern Europe. 

    The history of Porto dates back to the 4th century, to the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. Celtic and Proto-Celtic ruins have been discovered in several areas, and their occupation has been dated to about 275 BC. During the Roman occupation, the city developed as an important commercial port, primarily in the trade between Olissipona (the modern Lisbon) and Bracara Augusta (the modern Braga).

    Porto fell under the control of the Moors during the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in AD 711. In 868, Vímara Peres, a Christian warlord from Gallaecia, and a vassal of the King of Asturias, Léon and Galicia, Alfonso III, was sent to reconquer and secure the lands from the Moors. This included the area from the Minho to the Douro River: the settlement of Portus Cale and the area that is today known as Vila Nova de Gaia. Portus Cale, later referred to as Portucale, was the origin for the modern name of Portugal. In 868 Count Vímara Peres established the First County of Portugal, or (Portuguese: Condado de Portucale), usually known as Condado Portucalense after reconquering the region north of Douro.

    In 1387, Porto was the site of the marriage of John I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt; this symbolized a long-standing military alliance between Portugal and England. The Portuguese-English alliance,(see the Treaty of Windsor (1386)) is the world's oldest recorded military alliance.

    In the 14th and the 15th centuries, Porto's shipyards contributed to the development of Portuguese shipbuilding. It was also from the port of Porto that, in 1415, Prince Henry the Navigator (son of John I of Portugal) embarked on the conquest of the Moorish port of Ceuta, in northern Morocco. This expedition by the King and his fleet, which counted amongst others Prince Henry, was followed by navigation and exploration along the western coast of Africa, initiating the Portuguese Age of Discovery. The nickname given to the people of Porto began in those days; Portuenses are to this day, colloquially, referred to as tripeiros (English: tripe peoples), referring to this period of history, when higher-quality cuts of meat were shipped from Porto with their sailors, while off-cuts and by-products, such as tripe, were left behind for the citizens of Porto: tripe remains a culturally important dish in modern day Porto.

    Wine, produced in the Douro valley, was already in the 13th century transported to Porto in barcos rabelos (flat sailing vessels). In 1703 the Methuen Treaty established the trade relations between Portugal and England. In 1717, a first English trading post was established in Porto. The production of port wine then gradually passed into the hands of a few English firms. To counter this English dominance, Prime Minister Marquis of Pombal established a Portuguese firm receiving the monopoly of the wines from the Douro valley. He demarcated the region for production of port, to ensure the wine's quality; this was the first attempt to control wine quality and production in Europe. The small winegrowers revolted against his strict policies on Shrove Tuesday, burning down the buildings of this firm. The revolt was called Revolta dos Borrachos (revolt of the drunks).

    The invasion of the Napoleonic troops in Portugal under Marshal Soult also brought war to the city of Porto. On 29 March 1809, as the population fled from the advancing troops and tried to cross the river Douro over the Ponte das Barcas (a pontoon bridge), the bridge collapsed under the weight. This event is still remembered by a plate at the Ponte D. Luis I. 

    In 1822, a liberal constitution was accepted, partly through the efforts of the liberal assembly of Porto (Junta do Porto). When Miguel of Portugal took the Portuguese throne in 1828, he rejected this constitution and reigned as an absolutist monarch. Porto rebelled again and had to undergo a siege of eighteen months between 1832 and 1833 by the absolutist army. Porto is also called "Cidade Invicta" (English: Unvanquished City) after resisting the Miguelist siege. After the abdication of King Miguel, the liberal constitution was re-established.

    Known as the city of bridges, Porto built its first permanent bridge, the Ponte das Barcas (a pontoon bridge), in 1806. Three years later it was sabotaged. It was replaced by the Ponte D. Maria II, popularised under the name Ponte Pênsil (suspended bridge) and built between 1841–43; only its supporting pylons have remained.

    The Ponte D. Maria, a railway bridge, was inaugurated the 4th of November of that same year; it was considered a feat of wrought iron engineering and was designed by Gustave Eiffel, notable for his Parisian tower. The later Ponte Dom Luís I replaced the aforementioned Ponte Pênsil. This last bridge was made by Teophile Seyrig, a former partner of Eiffel. Seyrig won a governmental competition that took place in 1879. Building began in 1881 and the bridge was opened to the public on 31 October 1886.

    Unrest by Republicans led to a revolt in Porto on 31 January 1891. This would result ultimately in the creation of the Portuguese Republic in 1910.

    Porto is home to a number of dishes from traditional Portuguese cuisine. A typical dish from this city is Tripas à Moda do Porto (Tripe Porto style), which still can be found everywhere in the city today. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (Gomes de Sá Bacalhau) is another typical codfish dish born in Porto and popular in Portugal.

    The Francesinha - literally Frenchy, or more accurately little French (female) - is the most famous popular native snack food in Porto. It is a kind of sandwich with several meats covered with cheese and a special sauce made with beer and other ingredients.

    Port wine, an internationally renowned wine, is widely accepted as the city's dessert wine, especially being that the wine is made along the Douro River which runs through the city.

    At night everyone gravitates towards Rua Galeria de Paris and Rua Cândido dos Reis, two parallel streets downtown. Others descend to the Ribeira district for more bars and cafés, many of which have outdoor seating. Directly across the river in Cais de Gaia is also a number of pleasant cafés for a post-dinner drink, with the added bonus of floodlit city views and of the river bathed in the moonlight.
    There are also some big, cool clubs and live music venues, while an alternative and artistic crowd gathers at "Maus Habitos".








                                                            Porto’s Top 5:
         
    1. The Porto Cathedral, located in the historical centre, is one of the city's oldest monuments and one of the most important Romanesque monuments in Portugal. The current Cathedral of Porto underwent construction around 1110 under the patronage of Bishop Hugo and was completed in the 13th century, but there is evidence that the city has been a bishopric seat since the Suevi domination in the 5th-6th centuries. The cathedral is flanked by two square towers, each supported with two buttresses and crowned with a cupola. The façade lacks decoration and is rather architecturally heterogeneous. It shows a Baroque porch and a beautiful Romanesque rose window under a crenellated arch, giving the impression of a fortified church. The Romanesque nave is rather narrow and is covered by barrel vaulting. It is flanked by two aisles with a lower vault. The stone roof of the central aisle is supported by flying buttresses, making the building one of the first in Portugal to use this architectonic feature. This first Romanesque building has suffered many alterations but the general aspect of the façade has remained romanesque.
    2. The Clérigos Church is a Baroque church in the city of Porto. Its tall bell tower, the Torre dos Clérigos, can be seen from various points of the city and is one of its most characteristic symbols. The church was built for the Brotherhood of the Clérigos (Clergy) by Nicolau Nasoni, an Italian architect and painter who left an extense work in the north of Portugal during the 18th century.  Construction of the church began in 1732 and was finished around 1750, while the monumental divided stairway in front of the church was completed in the 1750s. The main façade of the church is heavily decorated with baroque motifs (such as garlands and shells) and an indented broken pediment. This was based on an early 17th century Roman scheme. The central frieze above the windows present symbols of worship and an incense boat. The lateral façades reveal the almost elliptic floorplan of the church nave.  The monumental tower of the church, located at the back of the building, was only built between 1754 and 1763. The baroque decoration here also shows influence from the Roman Baroque, while the whole design was inspired by Tuscan campaniles. The tower is 75.6 metres high, dominating the city. There are 225 steps to be climbed to reach the top of its six floors. This great structure has become the symbol of the city.
    3. The Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace) The palace was built in the 19th century by the city's Commercial Association (Associação Comercial) in Neoclassical style. It is located in the Infante D. Henrique Square in the historical centre of Porto, designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Palácio da Bolsa is located beside the St Francis Church of Porto, which was once part of the St Francis Convent, founded in the 13th century. In 1832, during the Liberal Wars, a fire destroyed the cloisters of the convent, sparing the church. In 1841, Queen Mary II donated the convent ruins to the merchants of the city, who decided to use the spot to build the seat of the Commercial Association. Building work began in 1842 following the plans of Porto architect Joaquim da Costa Lima Júnior, who designed a Neoclassical palace of Palladian influence, inspired by previous structures built in the city. Most of the palace was finished by 1850, but the decoration of the interior was only completed in 1910 and involved several different artists.
    4. The Episcopal Palace of Porto is the former residence of the bishops of Porto. The palace is located on a high elevation, near Porto Cathedral, and dominates the skyline of the city. It is part of the historical centre of Porto, designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The palace is an important example of late baroque and rococo civil architecture in the city. The original Episcopal Palace of Porto was built in the 12th or 13th century, as attested by some architectural vestiges like romanesque-style windows that exist inside the present building. In 1387, this mediaeval palace witnessed the marriage of John I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster. During the 16th and 17th centuries the palace was greatly enlarged, and an old drawing shows it to be composed of a series of buildings with towers, as was typical for the architecture of Portuguese manor houses of the period. The present palace, however, is the result of a radical rebuilding campaign carried out in the 18th century, which turned it into a baroque work.
    5. Liberdade Square  It is located in Santo Ildefonso parish, in the lower town (Baixa) area. The square is continuous on its north side with the Avenida dos Aliados, an important avenue of the city. The square has its origins in the beginning of the 18th century. It was in 1718 that a project for the urbanisation of the area begun, which resulted in the creation of new streets and an ample square, known as Praça Nova (New Square). The square was initially limited by the medieval walls of the city and by urban palaces, all of which are now lost. After 1788, the Order of the Lóios (a Portuguese religious order) built a convent on the south side of the square that replaced the medieval wall; the imposing Neoclassical façade of the convent, nowadays known as the Cardosas Palace (Palácio das Cardosas) is the oldest extant building of the square, dominating the south side of the square for over 200 years.


      The Palácio da Bolsa









    Wednesday, 18 July 2012

    Odense

    Odense




    The city of Odense is the third largest city in Denmark. Odense City has a population of 168,798 (as of 1 January 2012) and is the main city of the island of Funen. The city is the seat of Odense Municipality, with a population of 191,610 (as of 1 January 2012), and was the seat of Odense County until 1970, and Funen County from 1970 until 1 January 2007, when Funen County became part of the Region of Southern Denmark. 

    Odense is roughly in the centre of Funen, which lies between the larger Zealand island & the Jutland peninsula. The first recorded reference to the city dates back to 988 AD in a letter from the German Kaiser Otto III.

    Some recent archaeological findings have indicated that a settlement has in fact been around since the Viking period. At that time, however, Odense was just the small centre of the Odin cult. In 1100, the first monastery, St. Knud's was established by English Benedictine monks.

    Up until the middle of the 17th century, Odense enjoyed the position as a main trading-centre for the people from the surrounding areas. Local produce & livestock were exported from the city. However, a war with Sweden in the 1600s weakened the city's economy. This economic downturn continued until 1803 when a canal linking Odense & the Baltic Sea was opened. This swiftly changed Odense into a port city & over the next 100 years Odense quickly developed into the modern industrial city which it is today.

    Odense is the birthplace of the world famous fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen & the city proudly displays statues, parades & monuments in his memory. Andersen was born on 2 April 1805, in a tiny house on Munkemøllestræde, quite close to the cathedral. During his lifetime, Andersen created many famous fairy-tales which today are internationally famous. For example 'The Little Mermaid', 'The Ugly Duckling' & 'The Snow Queen'.

    Odense (from Odins Vé, meaning "Odin's shrine", referring to the god Odin of Denmark's indigenous Norse mythology), is one of the oldest cities of Denmark and had its 1000th anniversary in 1988. To celebrate this, a forest named "the Thousand Year Forest" was cultivated. The shrine of Saint Canute in Saint Canute's Cathedral held great attraction for pilgrims throughout the Middle Ages.

    In the 16th century, the town was the meeting-place of several parliaments, and down to 1805 it was the seat of the provincial assembly of Funen. Odense's most famous landmark was Odinstårnet (The Odin Tower) constructed in 1935, as the second-tallest tower in Europe, only surpassed by the Eiffel Tower. Odinstårnet was blown up by a Danish Nazi group in 1944 and has never been rebuilt. However, a miniature model of it now stands in the residential area Odinsparken in the area where the original tower was.

    Until the beginning of the Danish industrial revolution, Odense was also the second-largest city in modern Denmark, but has in recent times been overtaken by Aarhus.

    Cafés and restaurants are brimming with goodies to tempt the taste buds. Odense has made great strides to meet demand for ingredients that just exude quality. Go to the market by Koncerthuset (the Concert Hall) on Wednesdays and Saturdays, or the Rosenbæk Gårdmarked market on Fridays/Saturdays, where the stalls outdo one another in proffering delicious goodies ranging from cheeses and wines to treats from the restaurants, butchers and growers of all kinds from every corner of Fyn. Explore Bazar Fyn and give vent to all the “vices” you have brought with you from the big wide world. You can get everything there, and it’s served in high spirits in Danish with a foreign accent.

    From Rosenbæk market, it’s not far to Brandts with its international art exhibitions, photographic art and media museum, cafés, shops and the little Tidens Samling museum, where you can get acquainted with fond memories in the shape of clothes, household appliances, knick-knacks and much more from when you were very young – or perhaps when your mother was very young! It’s open all year round, and you will find this to be the case everywhere in Odense. The town never closes. If you find yourselves in Odins Helligdom (Odin’s Sanctuary) in winter, you can put your skates on and outline a couple of figure eight son the rink near the old abbey at Gråbrødre Torv. See a play at the theatre, go to a concert in Odense Koncerthus or other music venues in the town, or go to WinterZOO and enjoy the heat with the animals of the Rain Forest. Elsewhere, the whole place is buzzing with shops, museums and tempting cafés where the staff knows what people want.





                                                            Odense’s Top 5:
         
    1. St. Canute's Cathedral, also known as Odense Cathedral, is named after the Danish king Canute the Saint, otherwise Canute IV. It is a fine example of Brick Gothic architecture. The church's most visited section is the crypt where the remains of Canute and his brother Benedict are on display. St. Canute's Church in one form or another has stood on Abbey Hill in Odense for over 900 years. The earliest known church on the present location was a travertine church which was reported under construction by Aelnoth of Canterbury, a Benedictine monk at the nearby St. Alban's Priory in 1095. The foundations of the travertine church can still be seen in the crypt of the present building. The church was built in Romanesque style with semi-circular arches supporting a flat timber ceiling.  The present church was constructed in several phases to replace the aging and inadequate stone church in about 1300 by Bishop Gisico (1287–1300). The new cathedral was built in Gothic style with its typical pointed arches and high vaulted ceilings. The building material of choice for the time was over-sized red brick which was cheaper and easier to work with than the porous stone available. Portions of the stone cathedral were taken down and the new building expanded around the old.
    2. Hans Christian Andersen Museum, A museum dedicated to the city's most famous son, author and poet Hans Christian Andersen, most famous for his fairy tales and in particular The Ugly Duckling and the Little Mermaid. Part of the museum is located in the house where Andersen was supposedly born (though he would never confirm it). The impressive collection is mainly documents from his life and times, period furniture, and many drawings and paper clippings he is famous for.
    3. Odense Zoo, One Denmark's biggest tourist attractions is the Odense zoo, covering almost 4 hectares on both sides the Odense River. The Oceanium opened in 2001, is the main show-piece featuring a tour though South America, including a very impressive aviary and indoor rain forest.
    4. Egeskov Castle,  One of Europe's best preserved Renaissance water castles, dating back from 1554, about 30 km south of Odense. The current owner, Count Ahlefeldt, has added numerous features, including a maze, walk-among- the treetops and a veteran auto museum, toy museum, kitchen garden, and more, all in a scenic park.
    5. Danish Railway Museum,  A museum dedicated to the Danish railways. Contains dozens of old trains, carriages & rail road memorabilia over 10.000m2. There is also a large model train landscape and a ride-on miniature railway and playground for the children. On public holidays and during the schools summer vacation the museum also arranges train rides in old vintage steam trains to various destinations on Funen - call ahead for dates and reservations.


      Egeskov Castle







    Tuesday, 17 July 2012

    Odessa

    Odessa




    Odessa is the third largest city in Ukraine, with a population of 1,003,705. The city is a major seaport located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea and the administrative centre of the Odessa Oblast.

    The site of Odessa was once occupied by an ancient Greek colony. Archaeological artifacts confirm links between the Odessa area and the eastern Mediterranean. In the Middle Ages successive rulers of the Odessa region included various nomadic tribes (Petchenegs, Cumans), the Golden Horde, the Crimean Khanate, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Ottoman Empire. Yedisan Crimean Tatars traded there in the 14th century.

    During the reign of Khan Hacı I Giray of Crimea (1441–1466), the Khanate was endangered by the Golden Horde and the Ottoman Turks and, in search of allies, the khan agreed to cede the area to Lithuania. The site of present-day Odessa was then a town known as Khadjibey (named for Hacı I Giray, and also spelled Kocibey in English, Hacıbey or Hocabey in Turkish, and Hacıbey in Crimean Tatar). It was part of the Dykra region. However, most of the rest of the area remained largely uninhabited in this period.



    Khadjibey came under direct control of the Ottoman Empire after 1529 as part of a region known as Yedisan, and was administered in the Ottoman Silistra (Özi) Province. In the mid-18th century, the Ottomans rebuilt a fortress at Khadjibey (also was known Hocabey), which was named Yeni Dünya. Hocabey was a sanjak centre of Silistre Province.
    During the Russo-Turkish War of 1787–1792, on 25 September 1789, a detachment of Russian forces under Ivan Gudovich took Khadjibey and Yeni Dünya for the Russian Empire. One part of the troops came under command of a Spaniard in Russian service, Major General José de Ribas (known in Russia as Osip Mikhailovich Deribas), and the main street in Odessa today, Derybasivska Street, is named after him. Russia formally gained possession of the area as a result of the Treaty of Jassy (Iaşi) in 1792 and it became a part of the so-called Novorossiya ("New Russia").

    The city of Odessa, founded by order of Catherine the Great, Russian Empress, centres on the site of the Turkish fortress Khadzhibei, which was occupied by Russian Army in 1789. De Ribas and Franz de Volan recommended the area of Khadzhibei fortress as the site for the region's basic port: it had an ice-free harbor, breakwaters could be cheaply constructed and would render the harbor safe and it would have the capacity to accommodate large fleets. The Governor General of Novorossiya, Platon Zubov (one of Catherine's favorites) supported this proposal, and in 1794 Catherine approved the founding of the new port-city and invested the first money in constructing the city.

    However, adjacent to the new official locality, a Moldavian colony already existed, which by the end of 18th century was an independent settlement known under the name of Moldavanka. Some local historians consider that the settlement pre-dates Odessa by about thirty years and assert that the locality was founded by Moldavians who came to build the fortress of Yeni Dunia for the Ottomans and eventually settled in the area in the late 1760s, right next to the settlement of Khadjibey (since 1795 Odessa proper), on what later became the Prymorsky Boulevard. Another version posits that the settlement appeared after Odessa itself was founded, as a settlement of Moldavians, Greeks and Albanians fleeing the Ottoman yoke.
    Potemkin Stairs
    In their settlement, also known as Novaia Slobodka, the Moldavians owned relatively small plots on which they built village-style houses and cultivated vineyards and gardens. What became Mykhailovsky Square was the centre of this settlement and the site of its first Orthodox church, the Church of the Dormition, built in 1821 close to the seashore, as well as of a cemetery. Nearby stood the military barracks and the country houses (dacha) of the city's wealthy residents, including that of the Duc de Richelieu, appointed by Tsar Alexander I as Governor of Odessa in 1803.

    In the period from 1795 to 1814 the population of Odessa increased 15 times over and reached almost 20 thousand people. The first city plan was designed by the engineer F. Devollan in the late 18th century. Colonists of various ethnicities settled mainly in the area of the former colony, outside of the official boundaries, and as a consequence, in the first third of the 19th century, Moldavanka emerged as the dominant settlement. After planning by the official architects who designed buildings in Odessa's central district, such as the Italians Franz Karlowicz Boffo and Giovanni Torricelli, Moldovanka was included in the general city plan, though the original grid-like plan of Moldovankan streets, lanes and squares remained unchanged.

    The new city quickly became a major success. Its early growth owed much to the work of the Duc de Richelieu, who served as the city's governor between 1803 and 1814. Having fled the French Revolution, he had served in Catherine's army against the Turks. He is credited with designing the city and organizing its amenities and infrastructure, and is considered one of the founding fathers of Odessa, together with another Frenchman, Count Andrault de Langeron, who succeeded him in office. Richelieu is commemorated by a bronze statue, unveiled in 1828 to a design by Ivan Martos. His contributions to the city are mentioned by Mark Twain in his travelogue Innocents Abroad: "I mention this statue and this stairway because they have their story. Richelieu founded Odessa - watched over it with paternal care - labored with a fertile brain and a wise understanding for its best interests - spent his fortune freely to the same end - endowed it with a sound prosperity, and one which will yet make it one of the great cities of the Old World".

    In 1819 the city became a free port, a status it retained until 1859. It became home to an extremely diverse population of Albanians, Armenians, Azeris, Bulgarians, Crimean Tatars, Frenchmen, Germans (including Mennonites), Greeks, Italians, Jews, Poles, Romanians, Russians, Turks, Ukrainians, and traders representing many other nationalities (hence numerous "ethnic" names on the city's map, for example Frantsuzky(French) and Italiansky (Italian) Boulevards,Gretcheskaya (Greek), Yevreyskaya (Jewish),Arnautskaya (Albanian) Streets). Its cosmopolitan nature was documented by the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, who lived in internal exile in Odessa between 1823 and 1824. In his letters he wrote that Odessa was a city where "the air is filled with all Europe, French is spoken and there are European papers and magazines to read".

    Odessa's growth was interrupted by the Crimean War of 1853–1856, during which it was bombarded by British and French naval forces. It soon recovered and the growth in trade made Odessa Russia's largest grain-exporting port. In 1866 the city was linked by rail with Kiev and Kharkiv as well as with Iaşi in Romania.

    The city became the home of a large Jewish community during the 19th century, and by 1897 Jews were estimated to comprise some 37% of the population. They were, however, repeatedly subjected to severe persecution. Pogroms were carried out in 1821, 1859, 1871, 1881 and 1905. Many Odessan Jews fled abroad, particularly to Ottoman Palestine after 1882, and the city became an important base of support for Zionism.

    Opera and Ballet Theatre 
    In 1905 Odessa was the site of a workers' uprising supported by the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin and Lenin's Iskra. Sergei Eisenstein's famous motion picture The Battleship Potemkin commemorated the uprising and included a scene where hundreds of Odessan citizens were murdered on the great stone staircase (now popularly known as the "Potemkin Steps"), in one of the most famous scenes in motion picture history. At the top of the steps, which lead down to the port, stands a statue of the Duc de Richelieu. The actual massacre took place in streets nearby, not on the steps themselves, but the film caused many to visit Odessa to see the site of the "slaughter". The "Odessa Steps" continue to be a tourist attraction in Odessa. The film was made at Odessa's Cinema Factory, one of the oldest cinema studios in the former Soviet Union.

    During World War II, from 1941–1944, Odessa was subject to Romanian administration, as the city had been made part of Transnistria. Also during the war, the city suffered severe damage and had many casualties. Many parts of Odessa were damaged during both its siege and recapture on 10 April 1944, when the city was finally liberated by the Red Army. It was one of the first four Soviet cities to be awarded the title of "Hero City" in 1945, though some of the Odessans had a more favourable view of the Romanian occupation, in contrast with the Soviet official view that the period was exclusively a time of hardship, deprivation, oppression and suffering – claims embodied in public monuments and disseminated through the media to this day. Subsequent Soviet policies imprisoned and executed numerous Odessans (and deported most of the German and Tatar population) on account of collaboration with the occupiers.

    Following the Siege of Odessa, and the Axis occupation, approximately 25,000 Odessans were murdered in the outskirts of the city and over 35,000 deported. Most of the atrocities were committed during the first six months of the occupation which officially began on 17 October 1941, when 80% of the 210,000 Jews in the region were killed. After the Nazi forces began to lose ground on the Eastern Front, the Romanian administration changed its policy, refusing to deport the remaining Jewish population to extermination camps in German occupied Poland, and allowing Jews to work as hired labourers. As a result, despite the tragic events of 1941, the survival of the Jews in this area was higher than in other areas of occupied eastern Europe.

    City Hall
    There are lots of cafes and restaurants in modern day Odessa, with more and more opening each year. The prices are quite affordable, if you come from the west. Some restaurants can be of course very expensive, so take a look at the menu before ordering. In the warmer times of the year you can find lots of outdoor sitting areas in the cafes, with blankets usually available to keep you warm in the evening.
    The 'fast food' on the street is tasty and if you don't speak Russian or read Cyrillic is much more accessible as you can just point at what it is you want. Menus are usually only in Russian, but you may try to ask for an English menu for you (ask in Russian for "menu po angliyski"). If they don't have one, either have an idea of what you want before you sit down or be prepared to randomly pick something from the menu. It's possible that waitresses can also speak basic English, try to ask for recommendations.

    Food from street vendors, especially at the open air markets, should be approached with the same caution as you would display anywhere. It can be fantastic, or not. There are many supermarkets in Odessa that have high quality foods that you can buy as an alternative. There are several McDonald's restaurants in the city (str. Deribasovskaya 23, Privokzalnaya square 1a).

    Generally, if you're looking for a place to eat, try to pick one in the city center that looks nice but not too expensive. There are lots of places for what could be called "middle class" with enjoyable atmosphere and good food, but random picking can of course lead to bad food and bad service.

    The beer served in the south of Ukraine is outstanding and goes excellently with the hearty food. In the words of one not so impartial citizen of Central Europe who visited the country, 'Hey, this is as good as Czech beer!?!'  There are several breweries in the area nearby Odessa, but they are usually not very popular in the restaurants. However, there is a small restaurant-brewery right in the "City Garden" near Deribasovskya, their beer is rather good and they have an English menu. Just look for a sign that says Hausbrauerei (German for Home Brewery) and tell them you just want to have a drink at the bar unless you want to have dinner there of course.

    Long-lasting traditions of wine production in neighbouring Moldova and Crimea make Odessa an excellent place for wine lovers. Must taste: Negro de Purcari, Pino and famous sweet Kagor from Moldova, Massandra Portwine and Muscat from Crimea.

    In the big supermarkets and in shops with alcoholic drink specialization you can find a full assortment of alcoholic drinks from beer to absinthe and from local brands to world famous brands.

    In non-alcoholic drinks here is a large quantity of various brands (foreign: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Fanta, Sprite, BonAqua etc.; national: Obolon', Bon-Boisson, Prem'era, Kuyal'nik, etc.; local: Kristall, Green Star, Dana, etc.).

    The nightlife of Odessa is concentrated in the 'Arkadia' district, some 8 km away from the city center. Beware of the taxi drivers who are waiting for you when you leave Arkadia at night, their tariffs are super-high and they can be rude and intimidating. Call a taxi or walk 500 metres further where you can negotiate a much lower price. 





                                                            Odessa’s Top 5:
         
    1. Odessa Cathedral, aka Odessa Transfiguration Church, is the largest Orthodox Church in Odessa, laid down in 1794, consecrated in 1808, destroyed in 1936, re-consecrated after the restoration in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2010. Orthodox Cathedral is located in the center of Cathedral Square, next to the building of the temple there is a monument to Prince Vorontsov and the fountain-monument in honor of the city water supply. After the consecration of Odessa in 1794, it was decided to build a church in honor of Nicholas Miracle-man at the Cathedral Square. The first stone was laid in 1795, it was planned to spend 2 years for construction, but the consecration of the church was held only in 1808. At the same time cathedral got its name: the main altar was consecrated in the name of the Transfiguration, the right one - in the name of Saint Nicholas of Myra, and the left one - in the name of Saint Spiridon.
    2. The Potemkin Stairs, is a giant stairway. The stairs are considered a formal entrance into the city from the direction of the sea and are the best known symbol of Odessa. Officially known today as the Primorsky Stairs, they were originally known as the Boulevard steps, the Giant Staircase, or the Richelieu steps. The top step is 12.5 metres (41 ft) wide, and the lowest step is 21.7 metres (70.8 ft) wide. The staircase is 27 metres (88.5 ft) high, and extends for 142 metres (465.9 ft), but it gives the illusion of greater length. The stairs were designed to create an optical illusion. A person looking down the stairs sees only the landings, and the steps are invisible, but a person looking up sees only steps, and the landings are invisible. A secondary illusion creates false perspective since the stairs are wider at the bottom than at the top. Looking up the stairs makes them seem longer than they are and looking down the stairs makes them seem not so long.
    3. Odessa City Hall occupies the Neoclassical building on Seaside Boulevard, built to a design by Francesco Boffo and Gregorio Toricelli in 1828-34. In front of the hall is a monument of Alexander Pushkin who spent 13 months in Odessa. Every half-hour, the clock above the entrance chimes the melody "Odessa my town" (the same tune greeting incoming trains at the Odessa Train Station). This is from the operetta "White Acacia" by the Soviet composer Isaac Dunayevsky. In the building of modern Odessa City Hall was Stock exchnage in the past. Odessa City Hall is located on the cross of Primorskiy Boulevard, Chaikovskogo Lane and Pushkinskaya Street. In front of Odessa City Hall building is a small square, called “Dumaskaya” with a monument to Pushkin, canon extracted from French Fregate "Tiger" sank in battle with Russian troups during the Crimean War.
    4. Odessa Opera & Ballet Theatre. A grand Renaissance-era theatre finished in 1887 which still hosts a range of performances. The theatre is regarded as one of the world’s finest. The first opera house was opened in 1810 and destroyed by fire in 1873. The modern building was constructed by Fellner and Helmer in neo-baroque. Its luxurious hall follows rococo style. It is said that thanks to its unique acoustics even a whisper from the stage can be heard in any part of the hall. The most recent renovation of the theater was completed in 2007. The theatre was projected along the lines of Dresden's famous Semperoper built in 1878, with its non traditional foyer following the curvatures of the auditorium.
    5. Luzanovka Beach is one of the more 'genuine' beaches in Odessa in the sense that it does not offer the quality and array of services that most central Odessa beaches such as Arkadia and Lanzheron do. While this can be seen in negative light, consider that this Odessa beach is intended for the large population concentration located at an Odessa area called 'Poselek Kotovskovo'. While Luzanovka has a number of quality restaurants and nightclubs do not expect to receive Western quality service or to find many English speakers as the tourist are virtually entirely absent from this area. However, if looking for a different feel from one of Odessa's less developed beach fronts, this may just be the perfect option. Located just fifteen minutes away from the center, making it easy to get it by way of Taxi or public transportation.








    Wednesday, 4 July 2012

    Orléans

    Orléans




    Orléans is a city in north-central France, about 130 kilometres (81 mi) southwest of Paris. It is the capital of the Loiret department and of the Centre region. Orléans is located on the Loire River where the river curves south towards the Massif Central.


    Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the Carnutes tribe where the Druids held their annual assembly. It was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, then rebuilt under the Roman Empire. The emperor Aurelian rebuilt the city, renaming it Aurelianum, or Aureliana Civitas, "city of Aurelian" (cité d'Aurélien), which evolved into Orléans.

    Accompanying the Vandals, the Alans crossed the Loire in 408. One of their groups, under Goar, joined the Roman forces of Flavius Aetius to fight Attila when he invaded Gaul in 451, taking part in the Battle of Châlons under their king Sangiban. Installed in Orléans and along the Loire, they were unruly (killing the town's senators when they felt they had been paid too slowly or too little) and resented by the local inhabitants. Many inhabitants around the present city have names bearing witness to the Alan presence – Allaines.

    In the Merovingian era, the city was capital of the kingdom of Orléans following Clovis I's division of the kingdom, then under the Capetians it became the capital of a county then duchy held in appanage by the house of Valois-Orléans. The Valois-Orléans family later acceded to the throne of France via Louis XII then Francis I. In 1108, one of the few consecrations of a French monarch to occur outside of Reims occurred at Orléans, when Louis VI the Fat was consecrated in Orléans cathedral by Daimbert, archbishop of Sens.

    The city was always a strategic point on the Loire, for it was sited at the river's most northerly point, and thus its closest point to Paris. There were few bridges over the dangerous river Loire, and Orléans had one of them, and so became – with Rouen and Paris – one of medieval France's three richest cities.

    On the south bank the "châtelet des Tourelles" protected access to the bridge. This was the site of the battle on 8 May 1429 which allowed Joan of Arc to enter and liberate the city from the Plantagenets during the Hundred Years' War, with the help of the royal generals Dunois and Florent d'Amiot – lliers. The city's inhabitants have continued to remain faithful and grateful to her to this day, calling her "la pucelle d'Orléans" (the maid of Orléans), offering her a middle-class house in the city, and contributing to her ransom when she was taken prisoner (though this ransom was sequestered by Charles VII and Joan was only 19 when she was burned at the stake on 30 May 1431 in the city of Rouen).

    Once the Hundred Years' War was over, the city recovered its former prosperity. The bridge brought in tolls and taxes, as did the merchants passing through the city. King Louis XI also greatly contributed to its prosperity, revitalising agriculture in the surrounding area (particularly the exceptionally fertile land around Beauce) and relaunching saffron farming at Pithiviers. Later, during the Renaissance, the city benefited from it becoming fashionable for rich châtelains to travel along the val-de-Loire (a fashion begun by the king himself, whose royal domains included the nearby Chambord, Amboise, Blois, and Chenonceau).

    The University of Orléans also contributed to the city's prestige. Specializing in law, it was highly regarded throughout Europe. John Calvin was received and accommodated there (during which time he wrote part of his reforming theses) and in return Henry VIII of England (who had drawn on Calvin's work in his separation from Rome) offered to fund a scholarship at the University. Many other Protestants were sheltered by the city. Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known by his pseudonym Molière, also studied law at the University, but was expelled for attending a carnival contrary to University rules.

    Joan of Arc's House
    From 13 December 1560 to 31 January 1561, the French States-General met here. This was just after the death of Francis II of France, the eldest son of Catherine de Médicis and Henry II, on 5 December 1560 in the Hôtel Groslot in Orléans, with his queen Mary at his side.

    When France colonised America, the territory it conquered was immense, including the whole Mississippi River (whose first European name was the River Colbert), from its mouth to its source at the borders of Canada. Its capital was named "la Nouvelle-Orléans" in honour of Louis XV's regent, the duke of Orléans, and was settled with French inhabitants against the threat from British troops to the north-east.

    The Dukes of Orléans hardly ever visited their city since, as brothers or cousins of the king, they took such a major role in court life that they could hardly ever leave. Officially their castle was that at Blois. The duchy of Orléans was the largest of the French duchies, starting at Arpajon, continuing to Chartres, Vendôme, Blois, Vierzon, and Montargis. The duke's son bore the title duke of Chartres. Inheritances from great families and marriage alliances allowed them to accumulate huge wealth, and one of them – Philippe Égalité is sometimes said to have been the richest man in the world at the time. His son, Louis-Philippe I, inherited the Penthièvre and Condé family fortunes.

    1852 saw the creation of the "Compagnies ferroviaires Paris-Orléans" and its famous gare d'Orsay in Paris. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the city again became strategically important thanks to its geographical position, and was occupied by the Prussians on 13 October that year. The armée de la Loire was formed under the orders of général d'Aurelle de Paladines and based itself not far from Orléans at Beauce.

    During the Second World War, the German army made the Orléans Fleury-les-Aubrais railway station one of their central logistical rail hubs. The Pont Georges V was renamed "pont des Tourelles". A transit camp for deportees was built at Beaune-la-Rolande. During the Liberation, the American Air Force heavily bombed the city and the train station, causing much damage. The city was one of the first to be rebuilt after the war: the reconstruction plan and city improvement initiated by Jean Kérisel and Jean Royer was adopted as early as 1943 and work began as early as the start of 1945. This reconstruction in part identically reproduced what had been lost, such as Royale and its arcades, but also used innovative prefabrication techniques, such as îlot 4 under the direction of the architect Pol Abraham.

    The big city of former times is today an average-sized city of 250,000 inhabitants. It is still using its strategically central position less than an hour from the French capital to attract businesses interested in reducing transport costs.




                                                            Orleans’s Top 5:
         
    1. Orléans Cathedral (Cathédrale Sainte-Croix d'Orléans) is a Gothic catholic cathedral in the city of Orléans. It is the seat of the Bishop of Orléans and it was built from 1278 to 1329 and 1601-1829 (after partial destruction in 1568). The cathedral is probably most famous for its association with Joan of Arc. The French heroine attended evening Mass in this cathedral on May 2, 1429, while in the city to lift the siege. The cathedral's stained glass windows now depict the story of Joan of Arc.
    2. Joan of Arc's House.  Based in the house where Joan of Arc lived during the Siege of Orleans in 1429, Centre Jeanne d'Arc has been presenting permanent collections and temporary exhibitions on mediaeval history and art since 1976. It uses Joan’s life to explore themes relating to schooling, illumination, stained glass windows, conflict, religious life, daily life and architecture from that time. It offers a great way to tackle the history of the Middle Ages through a symbolic figure. This timber house was owned by Jacques Boucher, the Duke of Orleans’s treasurer, who gave Joan of Arc a place to stay just after she liberated the city in 1429.
    3. The Musée des beaux-arts d'Orléans Founded in 1797, it is one of France's oldest provincial museums. Its collections cover the period from the 15th to 20th centuries. The museum owns 2,000 paintings (Correggio, Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni, Sebastiano Ricci, Diego Velázquez, Anthony ban Dyck, Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, Hubert Robert, Eugène Delacroix (Head of a Woman), Gustave Courbet, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso), 700 sculptures (Baccio Bandinelli, Auguste Rodin), more than 1,200 pieces of decorative arts, 10,000 drawings, 50,000 prints and the second largest collection of pastels in France after that in the Louvre. 
    4. Orléans Temple. The Protestant religion took shape in France in the middle of the 16th century. A lot of Protestant churches were then built after the Edict of Nantes, at the dawn of the 16th century. The one for the city of Orléans was built on Bionne commune, situated 8km from the administrative centre of Loiret. The revocation of the edict did not allow the monument to be preserved: it was therefore destroyed. After the Revolution, the Protestant faith was authorised again, but people had to wait until 1830 for the rebuilding of a new church in Orléans to be considered. This church, circular in design, was built by François Narcisse Pagot.
    5. The Royal Château de Chambord at Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, approximately 35 miles outside Orleans, is one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world because of its very distinct French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. The building, which was never completed, was constructed by King François I in part to be near to his mistress the Comtesse de Thoury, Claude Rohan, wife of Julien de Clermont, a member of a very important family of France, whose domaine, the château de Muides, was adjacent. Her arms figure in the carved decor of the château. On 6 September 1519 François Pombriant was ordered to begin construction of Château Chambord. The work was interrupted by the Italian War of 1521–1526, and work was slowed by dwindling royal funds and difficulties in laying the structure's foundations. By 1524, the walls were barely above ground level. Building resumed in September 1526, at which point 1,800 workers were employed building the château. At the time of the death of François in 1547, the work had cost 444,070 livres.




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