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Monday, June 27, 2011

Carcassonne: The Medieval Walled City


Location: Languedoc-Roussillon, France
Founded by: Visigoths in the Golden Age
Restored by: Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
Date restored: 1853


Carcassonne is one of the finest, historical and most interesting towns in France.The history of the town went back to the time of the Cathar wars where they played a very important role.


Carcassonne is a fortified French walled city at the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It is an entire city that is essentially one huge castle where huge rampant separates the walled city on top of a large hill. 

 
This popular attraction in France which draws more than three million visitors yearly is also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997 and listed as a national Monument of France.


Pepin the Short, king of the Franks took most of the south of France back from the Saracens in 760 except Cascassonne. It remained as an impregnable fortress. After a long war, the Franks thinks that the inhabitants of Carcassonne would soon starve and eventually surrender. But the widow of the Sarrasin lord of the castle named Dame Carcas devised a clever plan to save the city. She has a pig fed with the last sacks of grain that the inhabitants can find. After the pig was fat enough, it was thrown over the city's rampants. At the sight of such a well-fed fat animal, the assailant concluded that the inhabitants still have enough food to save off famine and weren't about to surrender soon. And so, they gave up. Dame Carcass rang all the bells of the city all day long to celebrate the victory. Legend has it that Dame “Carcas sonne” (Dame “Carcass rings”) is where the name of the city came from.


The Cathar's were very important in the history of Carcassonne. They led very austere lives. However, the Cathar's clergy known as the Perfects were thought to practice magic and know the secrets of alchemy. The Cathar's were then massacred and burned at the stakes. Some of Carcassonne's nhabitants still believe that the Cathar's hid their treasures in the surrounding mountains before their execution.


Carcassonne is encircled by a huge double row of fortified walls that run almost 12 miles long and has a magnificent 56 watchtowers. The walls were built to protect the city from barbarian invasions. The 2,000 year old city still stands today as the most successful achievement in military architecture of the time in Europe.


Anyone approaching Carcassonne would feel that they are being transported in a world of fairy tale. 


Nothing has really change in Carcassonne since the 13th century. If you find yourself in the south of France, don't miss the chance to visit the walled city and be carried back to the medieval ages and feel the magic of its glorious past.



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Friday, June 24, 2011

Christ The Redeemer



Location: Corcovado Mountain, Rio de Janero, Brazil
Suggested by: Father Pedro Maria Boss (in 1850's)
Construction Started: 1926
Designed: Heitor da Silva Costa
Sculpted: Paul Landowski
Date Inaugurated: October 12, 1931



With arms wide stretched as if embracing the whole Rio de Janero, the Cristo Redentor statue can be seen all over town. It is considered as the second largest art deco statue in the world. The statue always invoke interest in the people and was named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World on July 7, 2007. 


The statue stands 130 feet tall and weighs 700 tons. The site is visited by more than 300,000 tourists every year. Some notable people who have come to visit the statue were Pope John Paul II, Princess Diana and Albert Einstein.


The work on the statue began in 1926. French sculptor Paul Landowski was in charge of construction and Heitor da Silva Costa was the designer. Most of the construction was carried out in France where the statue was built in pieces after which when all the pieces were built, it was taken to the site for assembly. It is made of reinforced soapstone and concrete.


After reaching the Corcovado mountain via auto or cogwheel railway, tourists and visitors must climb 220 steps to reach the statue's base. The left arm of the statue points to the north and the right points to the south.


In the evening, spotlights illuminate the statue making it glow and almost appear to levitate in the mountains. Escalators and elevators are now installed. The view at the top of the statue is the best view of the Rio de Janero.




Christ the Redeemer is a spectacular view to behold and also rich in history.






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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Victoria Falls: The Smoke That Thunders



Location: Southern Africa, between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe
Known to be: The largest falls in the world
Introduced to the western world by: David Livingstone
Date Discovered: November 17, 1855


Located between the borders of Zimbabwe and Zambia, lies the magnificent and captivating Victoria falls or Mosi-oa-Tunya (smoke that thunders) to the natives. It is The largest falls and is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The falls are twice as tall and several times longer than Niagara.



It took thousands of years of erosion to create what is now the great Victoria falls. It only became known to the western worlds after Scottish missionary David Livingstone first set eyes on the spectacular wonder in 1855.



Livingstone first heard about Mosi-oa-Tunya in 1851 but it was only in 1855 that he set out to visit Victoria Falls. The area was sacred to the Batoka and other local tribes. Together with Chief Sekeletu of the Makololo, they paddled in a small canoe to an island in Zambezi to approach the thundering smoke. 

They landed on the biggest island on the lip of the falls that is now called as Livingstone Island and from there he approached and gazed down the wall of spray. He named gave the english name Victoria falls in honor of Queen Victoria.


The falls is 1,708 meters wide, making it the largest and the greatest known curtain of falling water. The powerful Zambezi River provides the water supply for the falls.


Victoria falls is an awe amazing view to behold. Its spectacular curtain of waters that falls captivates people from all around the world. It is a natural wonder that is deeply rooted in the heart of Africa.

"No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight" (Livingstone 1857)




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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Angkor Wat: An Ancient City Of Temples



Location: Cambodia
Built by: Khmer civilization
Built for: Hindu God Vishnu
Under the rule of: King Suryavarman II
Date Constructed: between 802 and 1220 AD

Angkor Wat is one of the most famous tourist destination in Cambodia. The Ancient City of Angkor is surrounded by jungle. It is the single largest religious structure in the world and one of the worlds wonder in arts and architecture. Angkor Wat also represents mankind's most astonishing and enduring architecture.

Angkor Wat was built in dedication for the Hindu god Vishnu (the supreme god of the past, present and future). It was built as the state temple of King Suryavarman II. In the 14th or 15th century, it became a temple for monks.

As the Khan Empire began to wane in the 15th and 16th century due to frequent Thai invasions, they left Angkor Wat and moved to Phnom Penh leaving the place to the natives. Soon, Angkor Wat was overcome by the jungle.


The city and temples of Angkor Wat was rediscovered by a Khmer king in the latter part of the 16th century and was also discovered by Portugese traders who was captivated by its beauty. Again, the temple was discovered by a French botanist named Henri Mouhot who was exploring the Cambodian jungle in 1860.

Angkor Wat is a classic example of Khmer architecture.They use sandstone as the main building material. Angkor Wat has gained praises for its harmony and design which has been compared to the architecture of the ancient Greece and Rome.

Angkor Wat is consists of a huge temple that symbolizes a mythic mountain named Mt. Meru. These temples are traces of a high level civilization that exists centuries ago. 


Angkor Wat has a long and amazing history that makes the ruins a remarkable and marvellous sight after so many centuries had passed.


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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pompeii: The Forgotten City

Destroyed: August 24, 79 A.D.
Cause of Destruction: Eruption of Mount Vesuvius
Rediscovered: 1748
Location: Italy

At dawn of August 24, 79 A.D., a violent explosion of massive toxic gasses and burning cinders from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius causes time to stop at Pompeii. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius spews tons of molten ash, pumice and sulfuric gas miles into the atmosphere suffocating the inhabitants of the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae. The city of Pompeii was buried 9 feet under volcanic ash.


In 1748, archaeologist began to slowly uncover and excavate the ancient city. Until then, Pompeii lay buried for nearly 1,700 years.


Pompeii is one of the most important and significant evidence of Roman civilization. It provides rich information regarding the customs, trades and everyday lives of the past Roman people. Pompeii was a haven to many wealthy Romans before, and so the rich remains of Pompeii continues to wow people until today.


Today, we can see some of the tragic death scenes in the plaster cast. The archaeologist poured some liquid plaster into the hollows left in the ash when the bodies had decomposed to create the figures at the moment of their death. Most of the inhabitants of Pompeii were not killed by collapsing buildings or the volcanic shower of magma, stones and ash but by the poisonous gasses release from the pumice stones. 

Pompeii's excavation has provided an extraordinary detail and insight into the life of a city at the height of Roman empire. It is now one of the most popular tourist attraction in Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Under the Ash, everything remained as it was at the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Several important clues were left behind as the cities, artwork and buildings were preserved by the ash that covered the city.


Pompeii serves as the reminder of the Roman civilization that is so vivid and tangible which contributes to the history of the past and the fascination of the present.

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