Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sarajevo – Largest City of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevois the capital as well as the largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina with an estimated population of 369,534 and the Sarajevo metropolitan area which includes Sarajevo, East Sarajevo together with the surrounding municipalities is inhabited by 608,354 people.

Besides, it is also the capital of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity as well as the capital of the Republic of Srpska entity and the centre of the Sarajevo Canton. It lies within the greater Sarajevo valley of Bosnia surrounded by the Dinaric Alps, located along the Miljacka River in the centre of the South-eastern Europe and the Balkans.

It is one of the most interesting historically and varied cities in Europe and a place where the Eastern and the Western Roman Empire separate, a place where the people of the Roman Catholic west, Eastern Orthodox east and the Ottoman south, met, lived and got separated.

 It was an example to historical turbulence as well as the clash of civilization together with signs of hope for tolerance and peace through multi-cultural incorporation and is a city which is vibrant and busy and is historically famous for its traditional religious diversity of Islam, Orthodoxy, Judaism and Catholicism which coexisted for centuries.

Jerusalem of Europe/Jerusalem of the Balkans

Sarajevo, due to its long and rich history of religious as well as cultural variance, was at times called the `Jerusalem of Europe’, or `Jerusalem of the Balkans’. Till recently in the 20th century, it was the only major European city to have a Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, a synagogue and a mosque in the same neighbourhood.

Being a regional centre in education, it is also a home to the Balkans’ first institution of tertiary education in the form of Islamic polytechnic which is known as Saraybosna Osmanli Medrese and present times University of Sarajevo.

Sarajevo is also the leading social, cultural and a political centre of Bosnia and Herzegovina with its region wide influence in education, entertainment, politics, media, fashion, science as well as arts, which had made an immense contributions to its position as Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most important and biggest economic centre.

Cosmopolitan European Capital with a Unique Twist

Sarajevo has now been restored from most of the war damage caused by the Yugoslav Wars of the 1992 -1995. It is a cosmopolitan European capital having a unique twist which is worth exploring. The people in this region are very friendly whether they are Croats, Bosnians, or Serb and this city ranks as one of the safest in South Eastern Europe.

The centre of Sarajevo is served by spinal tram network, making a counter clockwise loop round the central district together with a number of trolley bus and bus lines which spread out to the suburbs. Tickets need to be purchased in advance from the kiosks which have been labelled as `tisak’, on the street or from the driver.

Tickets need to be validated on boarding which are valid only for a one way trip and changing tram or bus would need a new ticket.Lonely Planet, the travel guide series, had listed Sarajevo as one of the top ten cities to visit in 2010-2011 and it has also been nominated as the only city outside the European Union, for the European Capital of Culture in 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ancient City of Damascus


Damascus – Second Largest City of Syria

Damascus, the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo is commonly known in Syria as ash-Sham and nicknamed as the City of Jasmine, besides being one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world. It is also a major cultural as well as religious centre of the Levant where the city has a population of around 1,711,000.

Damascus is situated towards the south-western area of Syria and is the centre of a huge metropolitan area of 2.6 million inhabitants. It is embedded, geographically, on the eastern foothills of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range at around 80 kilometres inland from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean on a plateau of 680 metres above sea level. The Barada River flows through Damascus. The climate here is semi-arid due to the rain shadow effect.

 Damascus has a rich history which is still alive in the historic quarter where narrow lanes wander from warrens of the ancient buildings that pass through lively markets, revealing historic sites which are all surrounded by remnants of venerable walls together with legendary gates. The old city of Damascus continues to preserve its graphical as well as historical aspects, where the high wall protects the old city of Damascus and is crystal clear till date.

Citadel Built – Seljuk Rule/Rebuilt – Saladdin Rule 

The citadel which was built during the Seljuk rule was rebuilt during Saladdin rule and occupies an area of land which is estimated by 220x190 square meters. It has thirteen towers. The Nureddin tower in the south west area of the wall was built in 1168 AD and Al-saleh Ayoub tower in 1248 AD. Besides this, there are many gates to the city, some of which dates back to the Roman era. Bab Sharqi and Bab Tourna are the oldest and the most famous gates of the old city of Damascus.

 Other attractions of the old city of Damascus are the museum, souk, Al-Hamidieh and many other souks, Khans, palaces and old schools together with Bimarestans The city has changed hands several times over the centuries like the Assyrians, Greeks, Persian, Nabataeans, Romans, the Umayyad caliphate, Seljuk Turks, Mongols, Ottomans, French and many more with each group leaving their traces behind which became a part of the city’s rich tapestry though it vanished after sometime and the city is thriving presently at the heart of an independent Syria.

Umayyad Mosque – Earliest Mosque

The Umayyad Mosque is Islam’s one of the earliest mosque which ranks in holiness below those of Mecca and Medina and the mosque site was a home to temple of Syria’s ancient Armaean people when the Roman temple honoured Jupiter and a Christian church during the Constantine era. The Arab conquest of Damascus eventually was responsible in the construction of the mosque which dates back to the early 8th century where a shrine is reported to house the head of John the Baptist which lies within the walls of the mosque.

Towards the north gate of the mosques is the tomb of Salah al-Din ibn Ayyub, the legendary warrior sultan who had defeated the Crusaders in various battles and had driven them from Jerusalem. Modern example of the history can be found in Souq al-Hamidiyya wherein an ancient street had been converted into an active covered market towards the late 19th century of the Ottoman era. The bazaar is considered to be the only one of the old city’s many suqs where sellers come along with spices, rugs, and sweets together with various attractive wares which have been followed over the centuries.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Seattle – Coastal Seaport


Seattle, a coastal seaport city is located on a narrow isthmus between Puget Sound, which is an inlet of the Pacific Ocean and Lake Washington, around 100 miles south of the Canada-United States, bordered by the snow-capped Olympic and volcanic Cascade Mountains. The city had an estimate of around 652,405 people as per the 2013 census and is the largest city in the Pacific North-western region of North America. With around 3.6 million inhabitants in Seattle metropolitan area, it is the 14th largest metropolitan area in the United States. It is also the fastest growing major gateway for trade with Asia, the eighth largest port in the United States and the 9th largest in North America with regards to container handling. It offers a wealth of outdoor adventure from kayaking to the climbing of rocks and is a home to innovative companies which includes together with Microsoft and is also supportive to world class cultural institutions like the Seattle symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Opera, and award winning theatre troupes. The area of Seattle was earlier inhabited by the Native Americans for around 4,000 years before the first permanent European.

Commercial & Shipbuilding Centre – Klondike Gold Rush, 1897

Arthur A, Denny along with his group of travellers known as Denny Party had arrived on November 13, 1851 at Alki Point where the settlement moved to its current site and was named Seattle in 1853 after Chief Si’ahl of the local Duwamish and Suquamish tribes. Seattle’s first major industry was logging, but the city had turned into a commercial and ship-building centre by late 19th century, as a gateway to Alaska at the time of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897. Towards 1910, Seattle became one of the largest 25 cities but the Great Depression hampered the city’s economy drastically. During and after the World War II, the city developed gradually, due to the local Boeing Company which was established as a centre for aircraft manufacturing and developed as a technology centre towards 1980s. New software biotechnology together with Internet companied was the outcome of economic revival which led to the city’s population by 50,000 between 1990 and 2000. Thereafter, Seattle became the hub for green industry as well as a model for sustainable development.

History of Boom and Bust Cycles

Seattle Opera
The Emerald City has diverse attractions with distinctive neighbourhoods on seven hills, from Old West saloons together with high tech hotels to trendy boutiques as well as a 100 year old public farmer’s market. Seattle offers a magnificent setting with its modern skyline of glass skyscrapers accompanied with friendly charm mingled with lots of fun filled restaurants, coffeehouses and active clubs. It has an amazing musical history and from 1918 to 1951, there were almost two dozen jazz nightclubs along Jackson Street from the present Chinatown/International district to the Central district where the jazz scene developed the early career of Quincy Jones, Ray Charles and the rest. It is also the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix the rock musician as well as the alternative rock style grunge. Moreover, Seattle has a history of boom and bust cycles with areas of extensive mineral and natural resources and has risen many times economically and then gone into deep decline but has been rebuilt on solid infrastructure.


The splendid region of Tuscany is without a doubt one of the most enchanting and idyllic destinations to be found in the whole of the Italian peninsula. Thousands of visitors flock to Tuscany each year in order to enjoy and admire the region’s magnificent architecture, towering cypresses, breathtaking panoramas and delightful authentic cuisine. With this in mind, here is a quick guide to some of Tuscany’s most beautiful towns and cities just waiting to be explored.

1. Lucca

The quaint city of Lucca attracts more and more visitors each year as a result of the locality’s exquisite ancient architecture dating back to both Renaissance and medieval times. Lucca’s phenomenal Church of San Michele in Foro, Piazza Anfiteatro and the Duomo di San Martino are not to be missed. This is also the location in which the renowned Italian composer Giacomo Puccini was born making Lucca a must-see for anyone passionate about opera.

2. Siena

The awe-inspiring medieval city of Siena is one of Tuscany’s most popular destinations due to the spectacular architecture, mesmerising artwork, colourful past and of course, the twice-annual Palio horse race. A trip to Siena would not be complete without a visit to the city’s Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pubblico, where intricate and ornate architecture and artwork can be enjoyed. If you are currently planning your trip to this charming city, you will be able to find a number of great accommodation options in Siena through this page.

3. Volterra

Often overlooked by tourists visiting Tuscany, Volterra is a hidden gem more recently made famous by the popular Twilight films. This town is in fact one of the best places to see ancient Etruscan ruins in the whole of Italy. Volterra is also home to winding medieval passageways, fabulous hill-top vistas and the ruins of the town’s former amphitheatre and bathhouse. Visitors can also enjoy the town’s splendid museum dedicated to life as an Etruscan.

4. San Gimignano

San Gimignano is one of the most visually striking towns in the Tuscan region due to its fourteen spectacular medieval towers, all contained within the locality’s original walls. Visitors have the chance to stroll through San Gimignano’s vehicle-free streets, sampling the town’s local culinary delicacies before climbing to the top of the Torre Grossa and admiring the picturesque views of the settlement below.

Tuscany boasts a remarkable number of delightful localities nestled amongst the region’s many sun-drenched rolling hills. As there is so much to see and do in this stunning region, I recommend that you do a little research online before departure in order to be able to plan your visit and really make the most of your stay in one of the world’s most breathtaking travel destinations.

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

Guggenheim Museum
Guggenheim Museum – Well Known Museum of Contemporary/Modern Art

The Solomon R, Guggenheim Museum is also known as Guggenheim Museum Bilbao which is a well-known museum of contemporary and modern art, designed by Frank Gehry, a Canadian-American architect located in Bilbao, Basque Country, in Spain.

The museum was established in 1939 by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting under the guidance of its artist and first director, Hilla von Rebay and was inaugurated by King Juan Carlos I of Spain, on October 18, 1997. It adopted its present name in 1952, after the death of its founder, Solomon R. Guggenheim. It was built alongside the Nervion River that runs through the city of Bilbao to the Cantabrian Sea and is one of the many museums which belong to the Solomon R, Guggenheim Foundation.

 Moreover it features some of the permanent as well as visiting exhibits of the works done by international as well as Spanish artists and is a home of renowned and ever flowing collection of Impressionist, early Modern and Post-Impressionist besides contemporary art, with special exhibitions carried out throughout the year.

Represents Architectural Landmark of Bold Configuration

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao represents an awesome example of the most mind blowing construction of the 20th century architecture. With 24,000 m2 out of which 11,000 is dedicated to exhibition space, it has more space for exhibition than the three Guggenheim collections in New York and Venice combined.

The exhibition space of 11,000 has been distributed over nineteen galleries, 10 of which follow a classic orthogonal plan which can be identified from the external by their stone finish while the remaining nine galleries are shaped irregular and can be noticed from the outside by their swirling organic forms together with titanium covering and the biggest gallery measures 30 meters wide and 130 meters long.In 2005, it housed Richard Serra’s monumental installation, The Matter of Time, dubbed as `courageous and sublime’, by Robert Hughes.

The museum represent architectural landmark of bold configuration together with innovating design providing an appealing backdrop for the exhibition of art. Gehry’s design has created an amazing sculpture like structure integrated within Bilbao’s urban pattern as well as its surrounding area. The museum is integrated seamlessly in the urban context giving way to interconnecting shapes of stone, titanium and glass on a 32,000 square meter site along the Nervion River in the heart of the old industrial city. Though modest from street level, it is very impressive when seen from the river.

Constructed on Time & Budget

Over eight decades, the collection of the museum has grown organically and is founded on many important private collections starting with the original collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim and the collections is shared by its sister museum in Spain, Bilbao and others. Around 1.2 million people visited the museum in 2013 and it also hosted the most popular exhibition in the city of New York.

 The building, it is said, has been constructed on time and budget and in an interview, Gehry explains that first, he made sure that what he called `the organisation of the artist’ prevailed at the time of construction in order to prevent interferences of political as well as business interest, with the design. Then he ensured that he had detailed and realistic cost estimate before going ahead with his project and finally he used computer visualization which he created by his own Digital Project software, collaborating closely with individual building trades in order to keep a tab on costs at the time of construction.