Monday, July 21, 2014

The Canary Islands – Spanish Archipelago

Canary Islands
Credit:travelaroundspain
The Canary Islands also known as the Canaries are a Spanish archipelago which is situated off the northwest coast of Africa mainland around 100 kilometres west of the southern border of Morocco. The Canaries are one of the 17 autonomous communities of Spain and among the exterior region of the proper European Union.

The islands from the largest to the smallest include Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, La Graciosa, Alegranza, Isla de Lobos, Montana Clara and Roque del Oeste. The islands has a population of 2 million wherethe major island have well developed communication system, ports and airport making the Canary Islands a major European tourist destination.

The population is a mixture of Spanish, European – British and German, South American, especially Venezuelan and Cuban together with Northern and sub-Sahara African. Besides these, there are also a small section of historical minorities like Indian, Russians and Koreans.

Tenerife is the largest and the most popular island of the archipelago while Gran Canaria has around 865,070 inhabitants and is both the Canary Island’s second most popular island as well as the third most popular one in Spain after Majorca. Fuerteventura Island is the second largest in the archipelago which is located 100 m from the African coastline.

The Volcanic Islands – Steep Ocean Cliffs

With the Azores, Cape Verde, Madeira and the Savage Isles, the islands form the Macaronesia ecoregion. The archipelago also comprises of seven large together with several smaller islands which are volcanic in origin.

The originally volcanic islands were formed by the Canary hotspot and is the only place in Spain where volcanic eruptions which have been recorded during the Modern Era. On Tenerife, the Teide volcano is the highest mountain in Spain and also the third tallest volcano on Earth on a volcanic ocean island.

 Four of the islands namely Tenerife, La Palma and El Hierro have historical records of eruption since the European discovery and all the islands with the exception of La Gomera have been active in the past years.

The volcanic islands like those in the Canary chain have steep ocean cliffs which are the result of catastrophic debris, landslides and avalanches.

Less Rivers or Source of Fresh Water

Since there are less rivers or sources of fresh water, clean drinking water has been a problem on the island besides other problems with regards to erosion, depletion of nearby marine life as well as the general degradation of coast and tourist locations.

 The seven islands for some time were considered the poorest regions of Spain and has begun to prosper bringing the Canaries closer to the mainland which only decades ago was an afterthought to mainland Spain.

The Canary Islands are very European, modern and liberal. Ancient legend considered the Canary Islands as the lost islands of Atlantis and has been referring it as the land without sorrow, holding on to the edge of the world.

The first to arrive and settle there on the island were the North Africans in the 10th century BC; who were known as Phoenicians. During the 14th century, the Canary Islands were invaded continuously by various European countries.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

St. Petersburg – Russia’s Window to the West

St. Petersburg
Saint Petersburg, Russia, is a world class destination as well as Russia’s second largest city having a population of over 5 million and is located at the eastern tip of the Baltic Sea and the Neva River. Saint Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter The Great on 27th May 1702 and was the imperial capital of Russia between 1713-1728 and 1732-1918.

Towards 1918, the central government bodies shifted from Saint Petersburg which was then named Petrograd, to Moscow. It is a major European cultural centre as well as an important Russian port on the Baltic Sea and is one of the most amazing places on earth.

St. Petersburg has been called Russia’s window to the West featuring canals and neoclassical architectural that were designed by Italians giving the city a European look lending a European feeling with modern art galleries together with underground clubs making the city a spectacle at night. The city was formerly known as Petrograd and later known as Leningrad.

The city is threaded with canals dotted with baroque bridges which adds to the attraction and is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Hermitage Museum which is housed in the Winter Palace of the Romanov dynasty is one of the world’s greatest as well as the oldest collections of treasure, art and antiquities and also one of its most amazing buildings.

Exciting and Rich History 

Though Saint Petersburg is just 300 years old, it has an exciting and rich history which is full of major historical figures and dramatic events and is described as the most western city of Russia and its cultural capital. The city enjoys a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere together with some beautiful architecture in Europe.

It is also home to The Hermitage one of the largest art museums in the world. Besides this, a large number of foreign consulates, banks, international corporations, together with other businesses are also located in St. Petersburg.

It is a fascinating and a beautiful destination for holiday, intriguing and historically significant cities in Europe and can be visited during a snowy Russian winter or during the dazzling White Nights of the summer months, where St. Petersburg’s beauty and culture is breath-taking. St. Petersburg has often been a city of ideas inciting the Russian Revolution, ushering in seventy years of communist rule. It was St. Petersburg that encouraged democracy and brought about immense changes.

Satellite Town – Horseshoe Shape

Greater St. Petersburg city with its satellite towns forms a horseshoe shape surrounding the head of the Gulf of Finland, including the island of Kotlin in the gulf. Towards the north it stretches westward along the shore for around fifty miles which is an extension of an area of dormitory towns, sanatoriums, resorts and children’s camps which have been set amidst extensive coniferous forest, accompanied by beaches and sand dunes.

Some of the upper class residents have summer cottages or dachas around this area and towards the southern side of the gulf, the metropolitan limits give way westward to include Peterhof and Lomonosov and eastward it stretches up to the Neva River to Ivanovskoye.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Londonderry

Londonderry
Derry Official name Londonderry- Second Largest city of Northern Ireland 

Derry, officially named Londonderry is the second largest city of Northern Ireland as well as the fourth largest city on that island. Derry is an Anglicisation of the Irish name Daire or Doire which means `oak grove’. The city was granted a Royal Charter by Kind James I in 1613 and the London prefix was added thereby changing the name of the city to Londonderry.

Londonderry is commonly used and remains the legal name though the city is usually known as Derry. Derry never seemed to be an interesting place and lagged behind Belgast with regards to investment and redevelopment. In preparation as UK City of culture 2013, the city centre underwent a makeover and an amazing change.

The new Peace Bridge, Ebrington Square as well as the redevelopment of the waterfront and Guildhall area comprised most of the city’s riverside setting and Derry with determination made the changes turning it into the powerhouse of the North cultural revival.

Intact walled City in Ireland 

Derry is one of the only remaining walled city in Ireland which is completely intact and one of the best examples of a walled city in Europe. The old walled city is situated on the west bank of the river Foyle and is spanned by two road bridges and a footbridge with the city covering both banks with Cityside on the west and Waterside on the east.

 It also extends to the rural areas towards the southeast. The Greater Derry area is within 20 miles of the city where the population is around 237,000 while the population of the proper city was 83,652 during the 2001 census and the Derry Urban area had a population of 90,736. The district was administered by Derry City Council containing Londonderry Port as well as City of Derry Airport.

The Greater Derry comprises of the districts of Derry City and parts of Limavady district, Strabane district together with East Donegal which includes Raphoe and St. Johnston and Inishowen. Derry seems to be close to the border along with County Donegal having a close link for several centuries. Saint Colmcille is considered as the founder of original Derry, a holy person from Tir Chonaill, an old name for all of modern County Donegal.

A City with Plenty of History

One can look forward to plenty of historyhere right from the Siege of Derry to the Battle of Bogside and a walk around the 17th century city walls should not be missed as also a tour of the Bogside murals. One can take a look at the city’s lively pubs which are home to awesome live music scene though the greatest attraction are the locals who tend to be warm hearted, witty and very friendly.

Londonderry being the UK City of Culture 2013 underwent a great change bringing along a wealth of cultural events inclusive of the 10-day All Ireland Fleadh, which is the world’s biggest Irish festival as well as plays host to the always controversial Turner Prize.

It is a city buzzing with various events throughout the year from pageants to music to contemporary dance besides hosting several festivals like the Jazz Festivals and Earhart Festival. It is an amazing destination with rich history to explore and enjoy.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Germany – A Federal Parliamentary Republic in Western Central Europe

Germany
Germany, which is officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a federal parliamentary republic in western central Europe. It comprises of sixteen constituent states most of which retain limited sovereignty, with Berlin which is the largest city and its capital. Germany covers an area of 357,021 square kilometres having a temperate seasonal climate.

 It is the most popular member state in the European Union with inhabitants of around 80.6 million which is the largest population of any European Union country and the major political and economic power of the European continent besides being a historic leader in the field of theoretical, cultural and technical. Its territory stretches from the North Sea and the Baltic in the north with the Alps in the south and is crossed by some of the major rivers of Europe like the Danube, Elbe and Rhine.

After the Second World War, Germany had been split into the democratic West and the Communist East – German Democratic Republic and the Berlin Wall was the symbol of this division. Towards 1989, it fell and Germany was once again reunited a year later, Germany was responsible in the Reformation of Christianity.

Johannes Gutenburg – 1400-1468 printed the first Bible in Mainz in 1456 and the printing press permitted ordinary people to possess a copy of the bible which was earlier reserved only for the clergy and the noble people.

World’s Largest Economy 

Germany is the world’s largest economy, producing automobiles, engineering product, electronic and communication equipment, pharmaceuticals and chemicals etc. As a global leader is various industrial as well as technological segments, it is the world’s third largest exporter and the third largest importer of goods.

Besides this, Germany is also a well-developed country having a high standard of living, featuring some of the most comprehensive social security which includes the world’s oldest universal health care system. Germany has also been a home for most of the influential philosophers, scientist, music composers and inventors and is also known for its rich cultural and political history.

Germany was a founding member of the European Community in 1957 which then became the European Union in 1993. It is also a member of the United Nations, NATO, the G7, the G20, the OECD as well as the Council of Europe.

Some Interesting Sites in the World

Some of the interesting sites are the Ulm Cathedral which is the tallest church in the world and is 161.53 metres in height while the Cologne Cathedral was the highest building of the world from 1880 to 1889. The world’s two biggest cuckoo clocks are located in Schonach im Schwarzwald, Baden-Wuttember, and one of the cuckoos measuring nearly five meters weighing 150 kg.

The oldest motorway network in the world is the German Autobahn, the first edition of which was completed in 1932 and also one of the densest which is the only one in Europe with no general speed limit. Besides these, there are also over 300 bunkers and hundreds of kilometres of underground tunnels which were built during the Nazi era which still remain under the modern city of Berlin though not accessible due to poor maintenance which are now crumbling due to floods from water tables.

The world’s largest fresco ceiling of 677 m2 is the Wuzburg Residence and is the work of Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Champs Elysees – The Most Famous Avenues in the World

The Avenue des Champs Elysees, a street in Paris, France, is one of the most famous avenues in the world. It is around two kilometres long and seventy meters wide. Towards its western end, the street is bordered with cinemas, theatres, cafes together with luxury shops.

Champs Elysees
Several French monuments are seen on this street including the Arc de Triomphe besides many others. On the opposite side near the Place de la Concorde is the street which is bordered by the Jardins des Champs Elysees, beautifully adorned with gardens and fountains with some grand building which include the Grand and Petit Palais at the southern end and the Elysees is at its northern end.

 The street has one of the elite institutions like the Presidential Elysee Palace which had been the residence of the French Presidents since 1873. According to a much used description, the Champs Elysees is` la plus belle avenue du monde’ which means `the most beautiful avenue in the world’. Besides being one of the most famous streets in the world, it is also one of the most expensive strips of real estate as well.

Redesigned – Extension of the Jardins des Tuileries 

In the sixteenth century it was but fields outside the centre of Paris and in 1616. Marie de Medicis planned to create a long tree lined path towards east from the Tuileries and the route was redesigned in 1667 by Andre Le Notre, a renowned landscape designer. This was an extension of the Jardins des Tuileries.

Grand Allee du Roule or Grand-Cours promenade had become a fashionable place though it was still isolated from the city with few building in the surrounding area.

Twenty seven years thereafter, the promenade was renamed to Champs Elysees or Elysian Fields in English where the name was derived from Greek mythology where Elusia is a place where heroes come to relax.

The Champs Elysees, in 1724, was then extended all the way to the Chaillot hill which is presently known as l’Etoile, which is the site of the Arc de Triomphe. It took its present shape in 1838 when the French architect Ignaz Hittorf who had redesigned the Place de la Concorde, created the Jardins des Champs Elysees.

Moreover he had also implemented sidewalks, fountains and gas lamps and the Champs Elysees gave way to more and more restaurants and hotels especially after 1900 when the Paris metro line 1 reached the Etoile station.

Major Celebration Conducted on the Avenue

Bernard Huetconducted the latest redesign of the prestigious avenue in 1994 where the side lanes were converted into pedestrian zone, with underground parking lot together with new trees that were planted which further enhanced the appearance of the street. Cars could occupy only half the width of this amazing avenue.

For all the major celebrations, the Champs Elysees was the preferred location and this is where Parisian celebrates New Year’s Eve as well as the military parades which are held on the 14th of July each year.

Other historic national events like the Liberation at the end of the Second World War or even the victory in the World Cup football were also celebrated on this avenue.