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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Montreux

Montreux




Montreux is a municipality in the district of Riviera-Pays-d'Enhaut in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland. It is located on Lake Geneva at the foot of the Alps.


The earliest settlement was a Late Bronze Age village at Baugy. Montreux lies on the north east shore of Lake Geneva at the fork in the Roman road from Italy over the Simplon Pass, where the roads to the Roman capital of Aventicum and the road into Gaul through Besançon separated. This made it an important settlement in the Roman era. A Roman villa from the 2nd-4th centuries and a 6th-7th century cemetery have been discovered.

In the 12th century, viticulture was introduced to the region, and the sunny slopes of the lake from Lavaux to Montreux became an important wine-growing region. Montreux is first mentioned in 1215 as Mustruel. In 1295, the Bishop of Sion sold the parish of Montreux to Girard of Oron. In 1317, it was split between the Lords of Oron (Le Châtelard) and the Counts of Savoy (Les Planches). A Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit administered estates and a hospital in Montreux starting in about 1309.

The region was subject to various princes, most notably the princes of Savoy from the south side of the lake. They unified the territory which comprises the present canton of Vaud and were generally popular sovereigns.

After the Burgundian Wars in the 15th century, the Swiss in Bern occupied the region without resistance, an indication of the weakness of the princes of Savoy. Under Bernese rule (1536–1798) it belonged to the bailiwick of Chillon (renamed in 1735 into the bailiwick of Vevey).


Rochers-de-Naye
The Reformation made the region around Montreux and Vevey an attractive haven for Huguenots from Italy, who brought their artisanal skills and set up workshops and businesses.

In 1798, Napoleon liberated the region from the Bernese. In the 19th century, the tourist industry became a major commercial outlet, with the grand hotels of Montreux attracting the rich and cultured from Europe and America.

Starting in the 19th Century there were three independent municipalities that shared a central authority. This county council was made up of four deputies from Le Châtelard, two from Les Planches and one from Veytaux. The church, the market hall of La Rouvenaz, the secondary school (the building was from 1872 and 1897) and the slaughter-house (1912) were all owned by the county council. Each municipality had its own taxes and a mayor. In 1962, the municipalities of Le Châtelard and Les Planches merged, while Veytaux remained independent.

Montreux boasts one of the most beautiful walks along the lake, stretching from Villeneuve all the way towards Vevey. The main square of the town, Place du Marché, features a statue of Freddie Mercury facing Lake Geneva. Some of the numerous small villages around Montreux include La Tour-de-Peilz, Clarens, Territet, and Villeneuve. The Château of Chillon provides a marvelous view of the entire Lake of Geneva and can be easily accessed via bus, walk or boat.

The Montreux Jazz Festival is held annually in early July on the Lake Geneva shoreline. It is the second largest annual music festival in the world after Canada's Montreal International Jazz Festival. Founded in 1967, the festival was first held at Montreux Casino. It lasted for three days and featured almost exclusively jazz artists. Originally a pure jazz festival, it opened up in the 1970s and today presents artists of nearly every imaginable music style. Jazz remains an important part of the festival. Today's festival lasts about two weeks and attracts an audience of more than 200,000 people.


Deep Purple's famous song "Smoke on the Water" tells of the events of 1971, when a Frank Zappa fan with a flare gun set the Montreux Casino on fire. The destroyed Casino was reopened in 1975.

The Dubliners song "Montreux Monto" on their album Live at Montreux was recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1976.

Montreux is the home of Mountain Studios, the recording studio used by several artists. "Bonzo's Montreux" by Led Zeppelin is named after the city where the drums session of John Bonham was recorded in 1976. In 1978, the band Queen bought the studio. It was then sold to Queen producer David Richards. In 2002, the Mountain Studios was converted into a bar as part of a complete renovation of the studio. David Richards has left Montreux to settle down somewhere else. 


Queen also appeared in 1984 and in 1986 at the Golden Rose Festival and Queen guitarist Brian May appeared in 2001 at the Jazz Festival. Montreux was also the subject of the 1995 Queen single "A Winter's Tale" on the album Made in Heaven, one of Freddie's last songs before his death on November 24, 1991. The album cover features the statue of Mercury beside the lake.

Every Christmas Montreux hosts an excellent Christmas market for several weeks over the holiday period. The main road through the town (Grand' Rue) and the lakeside path are lined with wooden chalets where you can find anything to buy from local wine (free tasting sometimes on offer) to chocolates (of course) and local crafts. The atmosphere is magical, your kids can visit Pere Noel (Father Christmas)and in 2006 they also had a ferris wheel and an ice skating rink to add to the fun. With all the regular shops also open you could do all your Christmas shopping in one trip and get some unique presents into the bargain. For the cheapest souvenirs in Montreux, check out the Kiosque Biblique, which is housed in a small wooden chalet next to the Eurotel. It's not always open because it's run by volunteers, but it always offers a friendly welcome to everyone and has lots of free Christian literature in many languages.




                                                        Montreux’s Top 5:
       
  1. Château de Chillon, A historic castle and the country's most visited place, on a small island in Lake Geneva only a few meters from the shore. It was built originally to allow the occupants to extract a toll from people and goods passing between Italy and the rest of Europe on the road north from the St. Bernard pass. The roadway here is wedged between the lake and the cliffs, so there was no way to get around Chillon. The Castle is more famous in modern times for having inspired Lord Byron's poem, The Prisoner of Chillon, based on the true story of François Bonivard, a political prisoner from Geneva who was released in 1536. Byron is said to have carved his name in one of the columns in the dungeon where Bonivard was detained during a few years. The castle is 45 minutes walk from Montreux along the lakeside, or 4 minutes by train.
  2. Casino Barrière  rolls out its red carpet, taking its visitors into a universe of escape, dreams and pleasure. As Switzerland’s first casino, it offers all the cards to spend an unforgettable evening: over 380 coin machines and 25 gaming tables for amusement, three restaurants to enjoy oneself in, two theme bars and some festive activities, and all in an enchanting atmosphere on the shores of Lake Geneva. The Casino also has three banquet and seminar rooms, able to welcome up to 1500 people, with an unbeatable view of the lake and Alps.
  3. Montreux Museum.  At the entrance of the old town, in the former village called Sâles, a group of winegrowers' houses dating from the 17th century accommodate the
    Musée de Montreux. Listed in the architectural inventory of the Lake Geneva Region, these adjacent buildings of the 17th century have preserved surprising architectural homogeneity. The Museum Society, founded in 1874, bought these buildings between 1914 and 1920 and presented the first collections of natural science and local farming implements. Today the rooms exhibit collections of numerous and varied objects: coins, cooper stamps, tools for planing and carpentry, traditional utensils, etc. Owing to a recent donation, a beautiful collection of over 2,100 thimbles, as well as countless objects in connection with lace and embroidery works have been incorporated into the museum collection. From the beginnings of history until the tourist age, the museum also proposes a presentation about four topics (history, farming, tourism and hotel business) showing the multiple aspects of the Montreux region.
  4. Marmots' Paradise. The mountains around Hauts-de-Montreux are threaded with forest trails, isolated villages, caves, grottos, and wildlife. Rochers-De-Naye itself is home to an odd little compound called "Marmots' Paradise" where marmots from all over the world live in an observable system of underground burrows.
  5. Lake Geneva Shoreline.  Taking advantage of the best part of the region’s micro climate, the city’s gardeners imbue the lake shore with colours and perfumes from the many types of exotic trees and flowers. A veritable Montreux speciality, their vegetal sculptures add a most original artistic touch to the whole lakeside area. These ephemeral works of art can be discovered from December to May along the seven-kilometre shoreline.




References: http://www.montreuxriviera.com/en/culture_leisure/must-sees




Bruges

Bruges



Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is located in the northwest of the country. The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO.

Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam, it is sometimes referred to as "The Venice of the North". Bruges has a significant economic importance thanks to its port. At one time, it was the "chief commercial city" of the world.


Very few traces of human activity in Bruges date from the Pre-Roman Gaul era. The first fortifications were built after Julius Caesar's conquest of the Menapii in the first century BC, to protect the coastal area against pirates. The Franks took over the whole region from the Gallo-Romans around the 4th century and administered it as the Pagus Flandrensis. The Viking incursions of the ninth century prompted Baldwin I, Count of Flanders to reinforce the Roman fortifications; trade soon resumed with England and Scandinavia.

Bruges received its city charter on July 27, 1128 and new walls and canals were built. Since about 1050, gradual silting had caused the city to lose its direct access to the sea. A storm in 1134, however, re-established this access, through the creation of a natural channel at the Zwin. The new sea arm stretched all the way to Damme, a city that became the commercial outpost for Bruges.

Bruges had a strategic location at the crossroads of the northern Hanseatic League trade and the southern trade routes. Bruges was already included in the circuit of the Flemish and French cloth fairs at the beginning of the 13th century, but when the old system of fairs broke down the entrepreneurs of Bruges innovated. They developed, or borrowed from Italy, new forms of merchant capitalism, whereby several merchants would share the risks and profits and pool their knowledge of markets. They employed new forms of economic exchange, including bills of exchange (i.e. promissory notes) and letters of credit. The city eagerly welcomed foreign traders, most notably the Portuguese pepper and spice traders.

With the reawakening of town life in the twelfth century, a wool market, a woollens weaving industry, and the market for cloth all profited from the shelter of city walls, where surpluses could be safely accumulated under the patronage of the counts of Flanders. The city's entrepreneurs reached out to make economic colonies of England and Scotland's wool-producing districts. English contacts brought Normandy grain and Gascon wines. Hanseatic ships filled the harbor, which had to be expanded beyond Damme to Sluys to accommodate the new cog-ships. In 1277, the first merchant fleet from Genoa appeared in the port of Bruges, first of the merchant colony that made Bruges the main link to the trade of the Mediterranean. This development opened not only the trade in spices from the Levant, but also advanced commercial and financial techniques and a flood of capital that soon took over the banking of Bruges.

Such wealth gave rise to social upheavals, which were for the most part harshly contained by the militia. In 1302, however, after the Bruges Matins (the nocturnal massacre of the French garrison in Bruges by the members of the local Flemish militia on 18 May 1302), the population joined forces with the Count of Flanders against the French, culminating in the victory at the Battle of the Golden Spurs, fought near Kortrijk on July 11. The statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, the leaders of the uprising, can still be seen on the Big Market square. The city maintained a militia as a permanent paramilitary body. It gained flexibility and high prestige by close ties to a guild of organized militia, comprising professionals and specialized units. Militia men bought and maintained their own weapons and armour, accoding to their family status and wealth.

At the end of the 14th century, Bruges became one of the Four Members, along with Franc of Bruges, Ghent and Ypres. Together they formed a parliament, however they frequently quarrelled amongst themselves.

In the 15th century, Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, set up court in Bruges, as well as Brussels and Lille, attracting a number of artists, bankers, and other prominent personalities from all over Europe. The weavers and spinners of Bruges were thought to be the best in the world, and the population of Bruges grew to 200,000 inhabitants at this time. This is also the time when Edward IV and Richard III of England spent time in exile here.

In the last half of the 19th century, Bruges became one of the world's first tourist destinations attracting wealthy British and French tourists. By 1909 it had in operation an association called 'Bruges Forward: Society to Improve Tourism.' After 1965 the original medieval city experienced a renaissance. Restorations of residential and commercial structures, historic monuments, and churches generated a surge in tourism and economic activity in the ancient downtown area. International tourism has boomed, and new efforts have resulted in Bruges being designated 'European Capital of Culture' in 2002. It attracts some 2 million tourists annually.

The port of Zeebrugge was built in 1907. The Germans used it for their U-boats in World War I. It was greatly expanded in the 1970s and early 1980s and has become one of Europe's most important and modern ports.

Restaurants are not always cheap or wonderfu in Bruges, although mussels and frites or fricadellen, frites with mayonnaise are outstanding here. Stay away from the central market place ("Grote Markt") and the Burg Square (e.g. the Tom Pouce Restaurant) when eating. Tourists are easy victims here. One tactic used by tourist traps is to present items (e.g. bread) as if they were free with your meal, then charge you exorbitantly for them. Even water may be charged at an exorbitant €6 for a small bottle.

You will, however, find great food if you wander off the beaten track. Find a street with more locals than tourists and ask somebody. The locals will be glad to help.



                                                        Bruges’ Top 5:
       
  1. The Church of Our Lady dates mainly from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. Its tower, at 122.3 meters in height, remains the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world (the tallest being the St. Martin's Church in Landshut, Germany). In the choir space behind the high altar are the tombs of Charles the Bold, last Valois Duke of Burgundy, and his daughter, the duchess Mary. The gilded bronze effigies of both father and daughter repose at full length on polished slabs of black stone. Both are crowned, and Charles is represented in full armor and wearing the decoration of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The altarpiece of the large chapel in the southern aisle enshrines the most celebrated art treasure of the church—a white marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child created by Michelangelo around 1504. Probably meant originally for Siena Cathedral, it was purchased in Italy by two Brugean merchants, the brothers Jan and Alexander Mouscron, and in 1514 donated to its present home. The sculpture was twice recovered after being looted by foreign occupiers—French revolutionaries circa 1794 and Nazi Germany in 1944.
  2. The Belfry of Bruges, or Belfort, is a medieval bell tower in the historical centre of Bruges. One of the city's most prominent symbols, the belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other danger. A narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps, accessible by the public for an entry fee, leads to the top of the 83-metre-high building, which leans about a metre to the east. To the sides and back of the tower stands the former market hall, a rectangular building only 44 m broad but 84 m deep, with an inner courtyard. The belfry, accordingly, is also known as the Halletoren (tower of the halls).
  3. The Groeningemuseum is a municipal museum of Bruges. It houses a comprehensive survey of six centuries of Flemish and Belgian painting, from Jan van Eyck to Marcel Broodthaers. The museum's many highlights include its collection of "Flemish Primitive" art, works by a wide range of Renaissance and Baroque masters, as well as a selection of paintings from the 18th and 19th century neo-classical and realist periods, milestones of Belgian symbolism and modernism, masterpieces of Flemish expressionism and many items from the city's collection of post-war modern art.
  4. The Sint-Salvator Cathedral, the main church of the city, is one of the few buildings in Bruges that have survived the onslaught of the ages without damage. Nevertheless, it has undergone some changes and renovations. This church was not originally built to be a cathedral; it was granted the status in the 19th century. Since the 10th century the Sint-Salvator was a common parish church. At that time the St Donatian's Cathedral, which was located at the very heart of Bruges, opposite of the town hall, was the central religious building of the city. At the end of the 18th century the French occupiers of Bruges threw out the bishop of Bruges and destroyed the Sint-Donatius Church, which was his residence. In 1834, shortly after Belgium's independence in 1830, a new bishop was installed in Bruges and the Sint-Salvator church obtained the status of cathedral. However, the buildings external image did not resemble a cathedral back then: it was much smaller and less imposing than the nearby Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk and had to be adapted to its new role. Building a higher and more impressive tower was one of the viable options.
  5. The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a Roman Catholic minor basilica. Originally built in the 12th century as the chapel of the residence of the Count of Flanders, the church houses a venerated relic of the Holy Blood allegedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea and brought from the Holy Land by Thierry of Alsace, Count of Flanders. Built between 1134 and 1157, it was promoted to minor basilica in 1923. The 12th-century basilica is located in the Burg square and consists of a lower and upper chapel. The lower chapel dedicated to St. Basil the Great is a dark Romanesque structure that remains virtually unchanged. The venerated relic is in the upper chapel, which was rebuilt in the Gothic style during the 16th century and renovated multiple times during the 19th century in Gothic Revival style.







Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Alicante

Alicante



Alicante is a city in Spain, the capital of the province of Alicante and of the comarca of Alacantí, in the south of the Valencian Community. It is also a historic Mediterranean port. 

The area around Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years, with the first tribes of hunter gatherers moving down gradually from Central Europe between 5000 and 3000 BC. Some of the earliest settlements were made on the slopes of Mount Benacantil. By 1000 BC Greek and Phoenician traders had begun to visit the eastern coast of Spain, establishing small trading ports and introducing the native Iberian tribes to the alphabet, iron and the pottery wheel. By the 3rd century BC, the rival armies of Carthage and Rome began to invade and fight for control of the Iberian Peninsula. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca established the fortified settlement of Akra Leuka, meaning "White Mountain" or "White Point"), where Alicante stands today.

Although the Carthaginians conquered much of the land around Alicante, the Romans would eventually rule Hispania Tarraconensis for over 700 years. By the 5th century AD, Rome was in decline and the Roman predecessor town of Alicante, known as Lucentum (Latin), was more or less under the control of the Visigothic warlord Theudimer. However neither the Romans nor the Goths put up much resistance to the Arab conquest of Medina Laqant in the 8th century. The Moors ruled southern and eastern Spain until the 13th century reconquista (reconquest). Alicante was finally taken in 1246 by the Castilian king Alfonso X, but it passed soon and definitely to the Kingdom of Valencia in 1298 with King James II of Aragon. It gained the status of Royal Village (Vila Reial) with representation in the medieval Valencian Parliament.

After several decades of being the battlefield where the Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragón clashed, Alicante became a major Mediterranean trading station exporting rice, wine, olive oil, oranges and wool. But between 1609 and 1614 King Felipe III expelled thousands of Moriscos who had remained in Valencia after the Reconquista, due to their cooperation with Barbary pirates who continually attacked coastal cities and caused much harm to trade. This act cost the region dearly; with so many skilled artisans and agricultural labourers gone, the feudal nobility found itself sliding into bankruptcy. Things got worse in the early 18th century; after the War of Spanish Succession, Alicante went into a long, slow decline, surviving through the 18th and 19th centuries by making shoes and growing agricultural produce such as oranges and almonds, and thanks to its fisheries. The end of the 19th century witnessed a sharp recovery of the local economy with increasing international trade and the growth of the city harbour leading to increased exports of several products (particularly during World War I when Spain was a neutral country).

During the early 20th century, Alicante was a minor capital that enjoyed the benefit of Spain's neutrality during World War I, and that provided new opportunities for the local industry and agriculture. The Rif War in the 1920s saw numerous alicantinos drafted to fight in the long and bloody campaigns in the former Spanish protectorate (Northern Morocco) against the Rif rebels. The political unrest of the late 1920s led to the victory of Republican candidates in local council elections throughout the country, and the abdication of King Alfonso XIII. The proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic was much celebrated in the city on 14 April 1931. The Spanish Civil War broke out on 17 July 1936. Alicante was the last city loyal to the Republican government to be occupied by dictator Franco's troops on 1 April 1939, and its harbour saw the last Republican government officials fleeing the country. Vicious air bombings were targeted on Alicante during the three years of civil conflict, most notably the bombing by the Italian Aviazione Legionaria of the Mercado de Abastos in 25 May 1938 in which more than 300 civilians perished.

The next 20 years under Franco's dictatorship were difficult for Alicante, as they were for the entire country. However, the late 1950s and early 1960s saw the onset of a lasting transformation of the city by the tourist industry. Large buildings and complexes rose in nearby Albufereta and Playa de San Juan, with the benign climate being the biggest draw to attract prospective buyers and tourists who kept the hotels reasonably busy. New construction benefited the whole economy, as the development of the tourism sector also spawned new businesses such as restaurants, bars and other tourist-oriented enterprises. Also, the old airfield at Rabasa was closed and air traffic moved to the new El Altet Airport, which made a more convenient and modern facility for charter flights bringing tourists from northern European countries.

When dictator Franco died in 1975, his successor Juan Carlos I played his part as the living symbol of the transition of Spain to a democratic constitutional monarchy. The governments of regional communities were given constitutional status as 'nationalities', and their governments were given more autonomy, including that of the Valencian region.

The port of Alicante has been reinventing itself since the industrial decline the city suffered in the 1980s (with most mercantile traffic lost to Valencia's harbour). In recent years, the Port Authority has established it as one of the most important ports in Spain for cruises, with 72 calls to port made by cruise ships in 2007 bringing some 80,000 passengers and 30,000 crew to the city each year. The moves to develop the port for more tourism have been welcomed by the city and its residents, but the latest plans to develop an industrial estate in the port have caused great controversy.

As with the rest of Spain food is a very important part of the local identity. In Alicante, breakfast is usually light, usually some sort of bread (e.g. toast) or piece of bakery. Traditionally, a hearty meal in the early afternoon is followed by a siesta as the heat builds. Many restaurants are then closed between 4-9pm. A light meal is taken once the sun goes down, often in the local taperia if you are a visitor. A lot of restaurants don't open before 9pm for dinner, so bear this in mind when planning your dinner schedule.

As elsewhere in the region, seafood and rice dominates, with paella in the frontline. In almost every restaurant, you will find a "menu of the day" or a similar special for €10, a three- or four-course meal with or without a drink. This is an excellent way to economise if you want to splash out later. Go around Calle Castaños (near the Theatre), Calle San Francisco and Calle Mayor (near Saint Nicholas Cathedral) for hubs of restaurants across the whole price range.

Alicante has its own regulatory wine council. Tinto Alicante and Moscatel Alicante are the most known varieties.

Nightlife is concentrated in Old Town, called El Barrio or El Casco Antiguo, with dozens of bars and clubs along the narrow streets. Another focal point is the eastern rim of the marina, called Puerto, in and around the casino, where things start and end later.

The "Barrio" is the center of nightlife in Alicante, with bars like Dos Gringos, Mulligans, Carpe Diem, and Swing; there is never a dull night in this small Spanish city. Drinks are cheap, and shots are sometimes free. Pregame of "Botellon" on the castel or on the beach, then head over to the Barrio at around midnight. Then head over to swing or the puerto at 4am. A typical night should end at around 7 or 8am. (Note: "El botellon," literally, "the large bottle," is a custom among young people in Spain, in which they buy 2-litre bottles of soft drinks and mix into them hard liquor, and then stand or sit around drinking in parking lots and other public places. This is to avoid the high cost of drinks in some bars and clubs.)


There are market stalls along the Explanada d'Espanya selling beads, clothes, flags etc.

If you want to see how the locals shop, head into town down the Rambla de Méndez Núnez then turn West on the Avenue de Alfonso El Sabio, and you'll find the city's main market, the Mercado Central de Alicante(38°20'52.5"N 0°29'9.6"W). It is open until about 14:30 or so most days, the two levels sell all the fresh meat, seafood, cheeses, fruit and vegetables anyone could need. If you exit the market through the back, you'll find the flower sellers in a small outdoor square.





                                                        Alicante’s Top 5:
       
  1. The Co-cathedral of Saint Nicholas of Bari is a Roman Catholic co-cathedral. The church, part of the Diocese of Orihuela-Alicante is dedicated to Saint Nicholas and was elevated to the title of cathedral on 9 March 1959 by Pope John XXIII. This church was built between 1613 and 1662. It was designed between 1610 and 1615 by Agustín Bernardino, a student of Juan de Herrera, and was constructed over an ancient mosque. The cathedral has a Latin cross plan, though the transepts are quite short. flanking the nave are six interconnecting side chapels and an ambulatory around the apse. A blue dome rises 45 meters above the crossing. The chapel of Holy Communion, configured as a small Greek cross-planned temple, is considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of the Spanish Baroque. The external appearance of the cathedral is quite sober. The main facade located on the east side is of the Doric order, and the one built on the south side is of Ionic order.
  2. Tabarca, also known in Valencian as Nova Tabarca and Illa Plana, is an islet located in the Mediterranean Sea. Tabarca is the smallest permanently inhabited islet in Spain and it is currently known for its marine reserve. Despite being much more socially and economically related to the fishing port of Santa Pola, the tiny island of Tabarca is a part of the city of Alicante. Administratively, it is managed as a rural district of Alicante, jointly with el Palmeral, Aiguamarga and Urbanova. Tabarca was the last Spanish Mediterranean location where the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal successfully bred before it became extinct in this part of its range in the 1960s. This proves the high quality of the waters around the island in terms of marine ecology. Therefore waters around Tabarca were declared a Marine reserve in 1986, the first of its kind in Spain.
  3. The Basilica of Santa Maria is the oldest active church in Alicante. It was built in Gothic style between the 14th and 16th centuries over the remains of a mosque.
    The basilica is composed from a single nave with six side chapels located between the buttresses. In 2007, by request of the city of Alicante to the Holy See, the church was promoted to the rank of basilica.
  4. The Archaeological Museum of Alicante  is an archaeological museum in Alicante. The museum won the European Museum of the Year Award in 2004, a few years after significant expansion and reallocation to renovated buildings of the antique hospital of San Juan de Dios. The museum houses eight galleries that use multimedia to allow visitors to interact with the lives of past residents of the region.
  5. Santa Bárbara Castle is a fortification which stands on the Mount Benacantil (166 m).
    Bronze Age, Iberian, and Roman artifacts have been found on the slopes of the mountain, but the origins of the castle date to the 9th century at the time of Muslim control of the Iberian Peninsula. The Arab medieval geographer Al-Idrisi calls this mountain Banu-lQatil, and the toponym may derive from the words pinna (Arabic for "peak") and laqanti, adjectival form of Laqant, the Arabic name for Alicante. On 4 December 1248, the castle was captured by Castilian forces led by Alfonso of Castile, later King Alfonso X. It was named after Saint Barbara, on whose feast day the castle was captured. It was conquered by the Aragonese in 1296 during the reign of James II of Aragon, who ordered its reconstruction. Peter IV of Aragon, Charles I of Spain and Philip II of Spain would oversee further reconstructions. From the 18th century the military role of the castle has declined and it was used sometimes as a prison. The castle remained abandoned until 1963, when it was opened to the public. Lifts have been installed inside the mountain.





Intrepid Travel

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Zadar

Zadar



Zadar is a city in Croatia on the Adriatic Sea. It is the centre of Zadar County and the wider northern Dalmatian region. Zadar is a historical center of Dalmatia as well as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Zadar.


The district of present day Zadar has been populated since prehistoric times. The earliest evidence of human life comes from the Late Stone Age, while numerous settlements have been dated as early as the Neolithic. Before the Illyrians, the area was inhabited by an ancient Mediterranean people of a pre-Indo-European culture. They assimilated with the Indo-Europeans who settled between the 4th and 2nd millennium BC into a new ethnical unity, that of the Liburnians. Zadar was a Liburnian settlement, laid out in the 9th century BC, built on a small stone islet and embankments where the old city stands and tied to the mainland by the overflown narrow isthmus, which created a natural port in its northern strait.

The people of Zadar, the Iadasinoi, were first mentioned in 384 BC as the allies of the natives of Hvar and the leaders of an eastern Adriatic coast coalition in the fight against the Greek colonizers. An expedition of 10,000 men in 300 ships sailed out from Zadar and laid siege to the Greek colony Pharos in the island of Hvar, but the Syracusan fleet of Dionysus was alerted and attacked the siege fleet. The naval victory went to the Greeks which allowed them relatively safer further colonization in the southern Adriatic.

In 441 and 447 Dalmatia was ravaged by the Huns, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, in 481 Dalmatia became part of the Ostrogothic kingdom, which, besides Italy, already included the more northerly parts of Illyricum, i.e. Pannonia and Noricum.

In the 5th century, under the rule of the Ostrogothic Kingdom, Zadar became poor with many civic buildings turning into ruins due to its advanced age. About the same time (6th century) it was hit by an earthquake, which destroyed entire complexes of monumental Roman architecture, whose parts would later serve as material for building houses. This caused a loss of population and created demographic changes in the city, then gradually repopulated by the inhabitants from its hinterland. However, during six decades of Gothic rule, the Goths saved those old Roman Municipal institutions that were still in function, while religious life in Dalmatia even intensified in the last years, so that there was a need for the foundation of additional bishoprics.


In 536 the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great started a military campaign to reconquer the territories of the former Western Empire and in 553 Zadar passed to the Byzantine Empire. In 568 Dalmatia was devastated by an Avar invasion; although further waves of attacks by Avar and Slav tribes kept up the pressure, it was the only city which survived due to its protective belt of inland plains. The Dalmatian capital Salona was captured and destroyed in the 40s of the 7th century, so Zadar became the new seat of the Byzantine archonty of Dalmatia, territorially reduced to a few coastal cities with their agers and municipal lands at the coast and the islands nearby. The prior of Zadar had jurisdiction over all Byzantine Dalmatia, so Zadar enjoyed metropolitan status at the eastern Adriatic coast. At this time rebuilding began to take place in the city.

After the fall of Venice in 1797 and with the Treaty of Campo Formio, Zadar came under the Austrian crown and was united with the rest of Croatia. In 1806 it was briefly given to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, until in 1809 it was added to the French Illyrian Provinces. In 1813, all of Dalmatia was reconquered and brought back under the control of the Austrian Empire. During this time, it maintained its position as the capital of Dalmatia.

During the 19th century, the conflict between Zadar's Italian and Croatian communities grew in intensity and changed its nature. Until the beginning of the century it had been of moderate intensity and mainly of a class nature (under Venetian rule the Italians were employed in the most profitable activities, such as trade and administration). With the development of the modern concept of national identity across Europe, national conflicts start to mark the political life of Zadar.

In 1915 Italy entered World War I under the provisions set in the Treaty of London. In exchange for its participation with the Triple Entente and in the event of victory, Italy was to obtain the following territory in northern Dalmatia, including Zara, Sebenico and most of the Dalmatian islands, except Krk and Rab. At the end of the war, Italian military forces invaded Dalmatia and seized control of Zara, with Admiral Enrico Millo being proclaimed the governor of Dalmatia. Famous Italian nationalist Gabriele d'Annunzio supported the seizure of Dalmatia, and proceeded to Zara in an Italian warship in December 1918.

During 1918, political life in Zara intensified. The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy led to the renewal of national conflicts in the city. With the arrival of an Italian army of occupation in the city on 4 November 1918, the Italian faction gradually assumed control, a process which was completed on 5 December when it took over the governorship. With the Treaty of Versailles (10 January 1920) Italian claims on Dalmatia contained in the Treaty of London were nullified, but later on the agreements between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes set in the Treaty of Rapallo (12 November 1920) gave Zara with other small local territories to Italy. 

Germany, with limited Italian assistance, invaded the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941. Zadar held a force of 9,000 that after limited fighting reached Šibenik and Split on April 15, a mere 2 days before surrender, with civilians having previously been evacuated to Ancona and Pula. Occupying Mostar and Dubrovnik, on April 17 they met invading troops that had started out from Italian-occupied Albania. On April 17 the Yugoslav government surrendered, faced with the Wehrmacht's overwhelming superiority.

Within a few weeks, Benito Mussolini required the newly formed Nazi puppet-state, the so-called Independent State of Croatia (NDH) to hand over almost all of Dalmatia (including Split) to fascist Italy under the Treaty of Rome.

The city became the centre of a new Italian territorial entity, called Governorship of Dalmatia, including the provinces of Zadar, Split and Kotor.

After Mussolini was removed from power on 25 July 1943 and arrested, the government of Pietro Badoglio signed an armistice with the Allies on 3 September 1943, which was made public only on 8 September 1943, and the Italian army collapsed. However, just four days later on 12 September 1943, "Il Duce", was rescued by a German military raid from his secret prison on the Gran Sasso mountain, and formed the Nazi-puppet Italian Social Republic in the north of the Country. The NDH proclaimed the Treaty of Rome to be void and occupied Dalmatia with German support. The Germans entered Zadar first, and on September 10 the German 114th Jäger Division took over. This avoided a temporary liberation by Partisans, as was the case in Split and Šibenik where several Italian fascist government officials were killed by an angry crowd.

The city was prevented from joining the NDH on the grounds that Zadar itself was not subject to the conditions of the Treaty of Rome. Despite this, the NDH's leader Ante Pavelić designated Zadar as the capital of the Sidraga-Ravni Kotari County, although its administrator was prevented from entering the city. Zadar remained under the local administration of the Italian Social Republic. Zadar was bombed by the Allies, with serious civilian casualties. Many died in the carpet bombings, and many landmarks and centuries old works of art were destroyed. A significant number of civilians fled the city.

In late October 1944 the German army and a significant amount of the civilian population abandoned the city. On October 31, 1944, the Partisans seized the city, until then a part of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic. Formally, the city remained under Italian sovereignty until September 15, 1947 (Paris Peace Treaties). The Italian exodus from the city continued and in a few years was almost total. The last stroke to the Italian presence was made by the local administration in October 1953, when the last Italian schools were closed and the students forced to move, in one day, into Croatian schools, putting an end to the Romance identity of the city. Today the Italian community counts only a few hundreds people, gathered into a local community (Comunita' degli Italiani di Zara).

In the early 1990s the Yugoslav wars broke out. Zadar became a part of the new Republic of Croatia. Its economy suffered greatly at this time not only because of the war but also due to the shadowy and controversial privatization process, which caused most of its prosperous companies to go under.

During the Croatian War of Independence, Krajina rebels and the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) (at the time under Slobodan Milošević's control) converged on the city and subjected it to artillery bombardment during Operation Coast-91 in which they tried to take control of northern Dalmatia. Along with other Croatian towns in the area, Zadar was shelled sporadically for several years, resulting in damage to buildings and homes as well as UNESCO protected sites. A number of nearby towns and villages were also attacked, the most brutal being the Škabrnja massacre in which 86 people were killed.

Connections with Zagreb were severed for over a year. The only link between the north and south of the country was via the island of Pag. The siege of the city lasted from 1991 until January 1993 when Zadar and the surrounding area came under the control of Croatian forces and the bridge link with the rest of Croatia was reestablished in Operation Maslenica. Attacks on the city continued until the end of the war in 1995.





                                                       Zadar’s Top 5:
       
  1. The Cathedral of St. Anastasia is a Roman Catholic cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese of Zadar, and the largest church in all of Dalmatia. The church's origins date back to a Christian basilica built in the 4th and 5th centuries, while much of the currently standing building was constructed in the Romanesque style during the 12th and 13th centuries. The site has been submitted to UNESCO's Tentative List of World Heritage Sites. The first known bishop in Zadar was Felix - he attended two church councils, the first in Aquileia in 381 and the second in Milan in 390. The basilica's original patron was St. Peter. During the time of bishop Donatus, the diocese received the ashes of St. Anastasia of Syrmia from Emperor Nikephoros I, whom the cathedral took as patron. Donatus commissioned a sarcophagus for the remains, which are still held in the cathedral. During the siege of Zadar by the Venetians and Crusaders in 1202, the cathedral was heavily damaged. For the entire 13th century the building was under repair. Over the cathedral's history, two popes have made personal visits. Pope Alexander III arrived in 1177 and visited the cathedral as well as St. Anastasia's sarcophagus. Pope John Paul II came to the cathedral on June 9, 2003 on one of his last international visits.
  2. The Sea organ is an architectural object and an experimental musical instrument which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps. The waves create somewhat random but harmonic sounds. The device was made by the architect Nikola Bašić as part of the project to redesign the new city coast (Nova riva), and the site was opened to the public on 15 April 2005.
  3. National Museum [Narodni muzej Zadar] The Zadar branch of the National Museum traces the urban development of Zadar from the Baroque to the first half of the 19th century: architectural fragments, portraiture, furniture and (particularly recommended) early photography. There are also scale models of Zadar through the ages. The scientific section of the National Museum is kept in the Deputy's Palace. The Zadar National Museum consists of the Zadar City Museum, the Natural Science Department and the Ethnological Department.
  4. The Captain's Tower [Kapetanova kula] A pentagonal tower on the Five Wells Square, built by the Venetians to strengthen the city against Turkish attacks. It gets its name from the nearby residence of the Venetian city captain, and is now used as an exhibition space.
  5. St Donatus' Church - a monumental round building from the 9th century in pre-Romanesque style, traditionally but erroneously said to have been erected on the site of a temple of Juno. It is the most important preserved structure of its period in Dalmatia; the massive dome of the rotunda is surrounded by a vaulted gallery in two stories which also extends around the three apses to the east. The church treasury contains some of the finest Dalmatian metalwork; notably the pastoral staff of Bishop Valaresso (1460).  It is pretty difficult to miss, as it has become the most recognizable symbol of Zadar. The church is no longer in use for religious ceremonies, and today is a museum. It also holds a series of classical music concerts every summer.








Monday, 26 November 2012

Zamora

Zamora



Zamora is a city in Castile and León, Spain, the capital of the province of Zamora. It lies on a rocky hill in the northwest, near the frontier with Portugal and crossed by the Duero river, which is some 50 km downstream as it reaches the Portuguese frontier. Zamora is the city with the most Romanesque churches in all of Europe. 

After the Roman victory over the Lusitanian hero Viriathus the settlement was named by the Romans, Occelum Durii or Ocellodurum (literally, "Eye of the Duero"). During Roman rule it was in the hands of the Vaccaei, and was incorporated into the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis. 

Two coins from the reign of the Visigothic king, Sisebuto, show that it was known at the time as "Semure".

During the period of Moorish rule the settlement became known by the names of "Semurah" or "Azemur". After the establishment of the Christian Kingdom of Asturias, the settlement became a strategic frontier post and was the scene of many fierce military engagements between the Muslims and Christians. Control of the town shifted between the two sides a number of times from the early eighth century to the late eleventh century. During this period it became heavily fortified.

The most notable historic episode in Zamora was the assassination outside the city walls of the king Sancho II of Castile in 1072. Some decades before, king Ferdinand I of León had divided his kingdoms between his three sons. To his daughter, Doña Urraca, he had bequeathed the "well fortified city of Zamora" (or "la bien cercada" in Spanish). All three sons warred among themselves, till the ultimate winner, Sancho, was left victorious. Zamora, under his sister who was allied with Leonese nobles, resisted. Sancho II of Castile, assisted by El Cid, lay siege to Zamora. King Sancho II was murdered by a duplicitous noble of Zamora, Bellido Dolfos, who tricked the king into a private meeting. After the death of Sancho, Castile reverted to his deposed brother Alfonso VI of León. The event was commemorated by the Portillo de la Traición (Treason Gate). Zamora was also the scene of fierce fighting in the fifteenth century, during the conflict between the supporters of Isabella the Catholic and Juana la Beltraneja. The Spanish proverb, No se ganó Zamora en una hora, literally, Zamora wasn't won in an hour, is a reference to these battles. It is the Spanish equivalent of the English proverb "Rome wasn't built in a day."

During the 12th century, the city was extraordinarily important for its strategic position in the wars between the Kingdom of León and Arabs to conquer the Iberian Peninsula. As a result, the city preserves many churches and buildings from that time. In the next centuries, the city lost its political and economic relevance and suffered emigration, especially to South America (where many other cities called Zamora were founded).

In today's Zamora, shopping areas are mainly centred on Tres Cruces Avenue, Santa Clara Street and parallel-running San Torcuato. If you prefer Malls, the biggest one is the Centro Comercial Valderaduey, named after one the local rivers or as it is known by locals, Eroski. The other one is called 'Vía de la Plata'.

Typical souvenirs include items featuring elements from Semana Santa or Easter. Local wines and cheese, as well as chickpeas from Fuentesaúco always make a good buy. If you're more into the vintage-style buying, check out the weekly mercadillo, a street market held every Tuesday morning. The traditional site was just outside the Train Station, now moved to the parking lot of the Football Stadium Vía de la Plata (either a good 30 minute walk from downtown Zamora or one of the only occasions where local transport would be worth it). The mercadillo is set to return to its original location outside the Estación del Ferrocarril, but no deadline has been given as of May 2007.


If you happen to visit Zamora at the end of June, pottery would make an excellent souvenir too, as Viriathus Square is filled with stands from all over the country selling their creations. You can find items both for everyday use and for display. The 'big day' of the San Pedro festivity is June 29th. You can buy some of these products and other souvenirs, cheese or wine at the store Aperos y Viandas (literally "Farming implements and Food") which is on the way to the Cathedral or at some the shops in and around Ramos Carrión Square. These cater especially for tourists, but you can find many local products -especially wine-at any supermarket (Mercadona, El Arbol, Eroski, etc).

The excellent raw materials used in the local cuisine really stand out. Staple ingredients include the pulses, the famous chickpeas from Fuentesauco or 'garbanzos', the exquisite cheese made from sheep´s milk, honey from Sanabria, asparagus from Guareña, peppers from Benavente, steak from Aliste, mushrooms, game, cold meats, cakes and sweets... Apart from the tasty roasts, also worth tasting are the rice dishes from Zamora. Traditional dishes include bacalao a la tranca (a cod dish), el pulpo a la sanabresa (an octopus dish), dos y pingada (two fried eggs with fried ham, usually served in Easter) and '"presas de ternera" (a veal dish). For dessert there is the rebojo Zamorano, a very tasty though hard type of bun, and "las natillas almendradas" (Spanish style custard with almonds).





                                                        Zamora’s Top 5:
       
  1. The Cathedral of Zamora is located above the right bank of the Duero in the southern and rather higher part of the old town, and is still surrounded by its old walls and gates. Built between 1151 and 1174, it is one of the finest examples of Spanish Romanesque architecture. A previous church, also entitled to El Salvador ("Holy Savior") existed at the time of King Alfonso VII of Castile, but it was apparently in ruins, so that the king donated the church of St. Thomas in the city to act as cathedral.
    The church was built under bishop Esteban, under the patronage of Alfonso VII and his sister, Sancha Raimúndez. The date of construction (1151-1174) is traditionally attested by an epigraphy in the northern side of the transept, although recent discoveries have proven that the church had been already begun in 1139, at the time of bishop Bernardo. The cathedral was consecrated in 1174 by bishop Esteban, although works continued under his successor Guillermo (1176-1192), including the transept. The cloister and the bell tower date to the first half of the 13th century. The designer of the church is unknown. The Cathedral Museum, in the 17th century cloister, is notable particularly for its fine Flemish tapestries of the 15th-17th centuries depicting scenes from the Trojan War, Hannibal's Italian campaign and the life of Tarquin, the Etruscan king of Rome. Another treasure is a Late Gothic monstrance of 1515.
  2. Palacio de los Condes de Alba y Aliste (Palace of the Counts of Alba and Aliste) This stately palace, a splendid example of Spanish Renaissance architecture from the early 16th century, today houses a Parador hotel. One of the most surprising aspects of this palatial residence is the contrast between the sober exterior –with its sturdy ashlar work and a predominance of straight lines both on the main doorway (enclosed within a rectangular border) and on the windows and balconies– and the elegant and refined silhouette of the interior courtyard. The courtyard has a double gallery of elliptical arches supported by columns decorated with grotesque-style motifs of animals and plants on the capitals. The springers are carved with medallions on the lower layer and crests on the upper layer. The whole arrangement is crowned with a small floral cornice in the Gothic tradition. Another highlight on the interior is the lower staircase which opens on the ground floor under two segmented arches with Lombard-inspired decoration on the capitals and hand rails.
  3. City Walls Zamora was known as the “bien cercada” (excellently walled). This is due to its triple layer walls around the town converting it into an important strategic point on the banks of the Duero.The first wall layer is the most important.Built during the reign of Fernando I, in the XI century on the site of a former Arab fortress.Closes the atoll where the Zamorian historic quarter is located.There are various entrances doors.The most noteworthy being the Olivares, where you can enter the Cathedral and the Episcopal Cathedral. On the opposite side there is the North entrance or Doña Urraca. The third door is the Portillo de la Traición through which Bellido Dolfos passed persecuted by El Cid Campeador after the murder of King Sancho II.
  4. Museo de Zamora. The museum is housed in the Cordón Palace, a 16th-century building located in the old quarter of Zamora, and is divided into two clearly-differentiated sections: Archaeology, containing works dating from prehistoric times to the Modern Age; and Fine Arts, with an important collection of sculptures and paintings dating from the 14th to the 20th century. There is also a room on the history of the city of Zamora.
  5. The Castle of Zamora is a Middle Ages fortress which stands northwest of the city's Cathedral. It features Pre-Roman foundations and a Romanesque general structure. It was built between the 10th and 12th centuries.The castle features magnificent views of the town and the river from the keep.










Avignon

Avignon



Avignon is a French commune in southeastern France in the départment of the Vaucluse bordered by the left bank of the Rhône river. 

Often referred to as the "City of Popes" because of the presence of popes and antipopes from 1309 to 1423 during the Catholic schism, it is currently the largest city and capital of the département of Vaucluse. This is one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts, its historic centre, the palace of the popes, Rocher des Doms, and the bridge of Avignon. It was classified a World Heritage Site by UNESCO under the criteria I, II and IV. 


The site of Avignon was settled very early on; the rocky outcrop (le Rocher les Doms) at the north end of the town, overlooking the Rhône River, may have been the site of a Celtic oppidum or hill fort.

Avignon, written as Avennio or Avenio in the ancient texts and inscriptions, takes its name from the Avennius clan. Founded by the Gallic tribe of the Cavares or Cavari, it became the centre of an important Phocaean colony from Massilia (present Marseilles).

Under the Romans, Avenio was a flourishing city of Gallia Narbonensis, the first Transalpine province of the Roman Empire, but very little from this period remains (a few fragments of the forum near Rue Molière).

During the inroads of the Goths, it was badly damaged in the fifth century and belonged in turn to the Goths, the kingdoms of Burgundy and of Arles, in the 12th century. It fell into the hands of the Saracens and was destroyed in 737 by the Franks under Charles Martel for having sided with the Arabs against him. Boso having been proclaimed Burgundian King of Provence, or of Arelat (after its capital Arles), by the Synod of Mantaille, at the death of Louis the Stammerer (879), Avignon ceased to belong to the Frankish kings.

In 1033, when Conrad II inherited the Kingdom of Arelat, Avignon passed to the Holy Roman Empire. With the German rulers at a distance, Avignon set up as a republic with a consular form of government, between 1135 and 1146. In addition to the Emperor, the Counts of Forcalquier, of Toulouse and of Provence exercised a purely nominal sway over the city; on two occasions, in 1125 and in 1251, the Counts of Toulouse and Provence divided their rights in regard to it, while the Count of Forcalquier resigned any right he possessed to the local Bishops and Consuls in 1135.


At the end of the twelfth century, Avignon declared itself an independent republic, but independence was crushed in 1226 during the crusade against the Albigenses (the dualist Cathar heresy centred in neighboring Albi). After the citizens refused to open the gates of Avignon to King Louis VIII of France and the papal Legate, a three month siege ensued starting on 10 June 1226, and ending in capitulation by Avignon on 13 September 1226. Following the defeat, they were forced to pull down the ramparts and fill up the moat of the city.

On 7 May 1251 Avignon was made a common possession of counts Charles of Anjou and Alphonse de Poitiers, brothers of French king Saint Louis IX. On 25 August 1271, at the death of Alphonse de Poitiers, Avignon and the surrounding countship Comtat-Venaissin (which was governed by rectors since 1274) were united with the French crown.

Avignon and the Comtat did not become French until 1791. In 1274, the Comtat became a possession of the popes, with Avignon itself, self-governing, under the overlordship of the Angevin count of Provence (who was also king of "Sicily" [i.e., Naples]). The popes were allowed by the count of Provence (a papal vassal) to settle in Avignon in the early 14th century. The popes bought Avignon from the Angevin ruler for 80,000 florins in 1348. From then on until the French Revolution, Avignon and the Comtat were papal possessions, first under the schismatic popes of the Great Schism, then under the popes of Rome ruling via legates and vice-legates. The Black Death appeared at Avignon in 1348; killing almost two-thirds of the city's population.



In 1309 the city, still part of the Kingdom of Arles, was chosen by Pope Clement V as his residence, and from 9 March 1309 until 13 January 1377 was the seat of the Papacy instead of Rome. This caused a schism in the Catholic Church. At the time, the city and the surrounding Comtat Venaissin were ruled by the kings of Sicily of the house of Anjou. The French King Philip the Fair, who had inherited from his father all the rights of Alphonse de Poitiers (the last Count of Toulouse), made them over to Charles II, King of Naples and Count of Provence (1290). Nonetheless, Phillip was a shrewd ruler. Inasmuch as the eastern banks of the Rhone marked the edge of his kingdom, when the river flooded up into the city of Avignon, Phillip taxed the city since during periods of flood, the city technically lay within his domain.

After the restoration of the Papacy in Rome, the spiritual and temporal government of Avignon was entrusted to a gubernatorial Legate, notably the Cardinal-nephew, who was replaced, in his absence, by a vice-legate (contrary to the legate usually a commoner, and not a cardinal). But Pope Innocent XII abolished nepotism and the office of Legate in Avignon on 7 February 1693, handing over its temporal government in 1692 to the Congregation of Avignon (i.e. a department of the papal Curia, residing at Rome), with the Cardinal Secretary of State as presiding prefect, and exercising its jurisdiction through the vice-legate. This congregation, to which appeals were made from the decisions of the vice-legate, was united to the Congregation of Loreto within the Roman Curia; in 1774 the vice-legate was made president, thus depriving it of almost all authority. It was done away with under Pius VI on 12 June 1790.

Avignon is commemorated by the French children's song, "Sur le pont d'Avignon" ("On the bridge of Avignon"), which describes folk dancing. The bridge of the song is the Saint Bénézet bridge, over the Rhône River, of which only four arches (out of the initial 22) remain which start from the Avignon side of the river. In fact people would have danced beneath the bridge (sous le pont) where it crossed an island (Île de Barthelasse) on its way to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. The bridge was initially built between 1171 and 1185, with an original length of some 900 m (2950 ft), but it suffered frequent collapses during floods and had to be rebuilt several times. Several arches were already missing (and spanned by wooden sections) before the remainder were destroyed in 1660.





                                                       Avignon’s Top 5:
       
  1. Avignon Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral, and a national monument of France, located in Avignon, above the Palais des Papes. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Avignon. The cathedral is a Romanesque building, mainly of the 12th century, the most prominent feature of which is the gilded statue of the Virgin Mary which surmounts the western tower. Among the many works of art in the interior, perhaps the most beautiful is the mausoleum of Pope John XXII, a masterpiece of Gothic carving of the 14th century.
  2. City Ramparts, built by the popes in the 14th century, still encircle Avignon and they are one of the finest examples of medieval fortification in existence. The walls of great strength are surmounted by machicolated sattlements, flanked at intervals by thirty-nine massive towers and pierced by several gateways, three of which date from the fourteenth century. The walls were restored under the direction of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.
  3. La Fondation Calvet is an art foundation in Avignon, France, named for Esprit Calvet, who left his collections and library to it in 1810. The foundation maintains a museum and a library, with state support. The original legacies of paintings, archaeological items, coins and medals, and medieval sculpture have been added to by many other legacies, and a significant deposit of works of art from the Louvre. The archaeological collections and medieval sculpture are now housed separately in the "Musée Lapidaire" - once the chapel of the Jesuit College. The main museum is in an 18th century city mansion, to which modern buildings have been added; the Library bequeathed by Calvet, and the important collection of over 12,000 coins and medals, have moved to a different location in the city.
  4. The Pont Saint-Bénezet, also known as the Pont d'Avignon, is a famous medieval bridge. The bridge originally spanned the Rhône River between Avignon and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon on the left bank. It was built between 1171 and 1185, with an original length of some 900 m (2950 ft), but it suffered frequent collapses during floods and had to be reconstructed several times. Over the centuries, it became increasingly perilous as arches collapsed and were replaced by rickety wooden sections. The bridge was finally put out of use by a catastrophic flood in 1668, which swept away much of the structure. It was subsequently abandoned and no more attempts were made to repair it. Since then, its surviving arches have successively collapsed or been demolished, and only four of the initial 22 arches remain intact today.
  5. The Palais des Papes is a historical palace in Avignon, one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Since 1995, the palais des Papes has been classified along with the historic center of Avignon, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, under cultural criteria i, ii and iv. The Palais construction began in AD 1252. The site, on a natural rocky outcrop at the northern edge of Avignon, overlooking the river Rhône, was that of the old episcopal palace of the bishops of Avignon. The Palais was built in two principal phases with two distinct segments, known as the Palais Vieux(Old Palace) and Palais Neuf (New Palace). By the time of its completion, it occupied an area of 11,000 m² (2.6 acres). The building was enormously expensive, consuming much of the papacy's income during its construction. The Palais Vieux was constructed by the architect Pierre Poisson of Mirepoix at the instruction of Pope Benedict XII. The austere Benedict had the original episcopal palace razed and replaced with a much larger building centred on a cloister, heavily fortified against attackers. Its four wings are flanked with high towers.