Friday, August 29, 2014

Almaty, Kazakhstan

Almaty – Largest City & Capital of Kazakhstan 

Almaty the former capital of Kazakhstan is still its largest city having a population of 1,421,868 by August 2010 with 9% of the country’s population located in one city.Almaty means `city of apple tress’, and due to its relatively mild weather, it has a wide range of apple trees. Moreover, the Almaty area is considered to be the genetic home of a variety of apples which is often visited by scientists as well as researchers from all over the world, to get to know more above the complex system of genetic as well as to discover the origin of the domestic apple. Almaty is also a financial as well as a cultural centre of Central Asia and takes pride in its moderately sized tourist as well as expatriate communities. It is also one among the top 50 most expensive cities worldwide for expats according to Mercer Human Research, to live in.

Stock Exchange – Largest in Central Asia 

This destination is an awesome gateway to distinctive and an undiscovered country where the Kazakh people are very pleasantly hospitable, kind and welcoming. Almaty still continues to be the centre of commerce for Kazakhstan with the stock exchange together with the largest banks that are located there, including Kazkommerts bank, the largest bank in Kazakhstan as well as one of the largest players in Central Asia. Its Stock exchange is one of the largest in Central Asia which is responsible for a major proportion of the economy of the country. New developments to increase the financial facilities are in the pipeline and presently Almaty Financial District and Esentai Park is under construction.
Centre for Asian Winter Games – January 2011

Almaty is a city with amazing beauty and is situated in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau towards the extreme south-east of Kazakhstan making the backdrop of mountains with the taller buildings a dramatic and an impressive sight. It was also the centre for the Asian Winter games in January 2011. On a clear weather, one will see the beautiful rugged snow-capped mountains at the city’s doorstep towards the south and since the city slopes from south to north, navigating the streets tends to get a lot easier. If one is travelling uphill, then they are heading towards the south. One will find a small mountain range which borders the city towards the east.

Kazakhstan’s Main Transport Hub

Almaty is also Kazakhstan’s main transport hub where most of the travellers pass through instead of lingering. Should one decide to stay on for some days, they can enjoy the various green parks with colourfully illuminated fountain, the excellent museums, theatres, markets and shops. Some of Central Asia’s best selections of restaurants, clubs and bars are available for eating, drinking as well as dancing. Besides this, it is also the starting point for great hikes, treks, drives as well as skiing in the Zailiysky Alatay and Kyrgyzstan and is a short distance for the central Tian Shan in Kazakhstan’s further south-eastern point. The most appropriate time to visit Almaty is during mid-April to late May and mid-August to mid-October where the climate is not too hot or too cold and is very pleasant.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Tube -London

The Tube -London
The London Tube or the Underground is a rapid public transport system serving a large part of Greater London as well as parts of the home counties of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex where it serves around 270 stations and 402 kilometres of track out of which 55% is above ground. Its history dates back to 1863 when the Metropolitan Railway, the world’s first underground railway opened between Paddington and Farringdon serving six intermediate stations.

The Underground network, which has been nicknamed The Tube’, by generations of Londoners, has now increased to 270 stations and 11 lines stretch deep into the Capital’s suburbs and further on. The network incorporates one of the world’s first underground railways, which is now part of the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines as well as the first line in 1890, to operate electric traction trains, the City & South London Railway which is now part of the Northern line and in 2012/13 has carried around 1.23 billion passengers all across the various stations.

Tunnel Constructed Using the Cut & Cover Concept

The system’s first tunnel was constructed below the surface using the cut and cover concept. Later on circular tunnels were dug through the London Clay which was much deeper and the former lines were marketed as the Underground in early 20th century on maps as well as signs at central London stations. Private companies which owned and operated the railways were merged in 1933 and formed the London Passenger Transport Board.

 London Underground Limited – LUL, the prevailing operator is a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London TfL, which is the statutory corporation that is responsible for several elements of transport network in Greater London. The idea of constructing an underground railway was proposed in 1830 to link the City of London with some of the railway termini in the urban centre with the Metropolitan Railway permitting to build a line in 1854.

Underground Railway Opened in January 1863

The underground railways was opened in January 1863 using gas lit wooden carriage hauled by steam locomotives which was a success serving 38,000 passengers on the first opening day which was done by borrowing trains from other railways to provide service to the passengers. The Metropolitan district Railway which is also known as the District Railway opened in December 1868 from south Kensington to Westminster as a part of a plan for an underground inner circle which connected London’s main line termini.

The Circle line with the Metropolitan and District railways was completed in 1884 with the cut and cover concept.Both the railways expanded with the District building five branches towards the west which reached Ealing, Hounslow, Uxbridge, Richmond and Wimbledon while the Metropolitan extended towards Verney Junction in Buckinghamshire which is over 50 miles from Maker Street and the centre of London.

The Tube or Underground in the city of London is one of its kinds and London would not exist without the tube and the visitors would not want to leave the British capital without the `Mind the Gap’ image, which is the first underground railway system in the world.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lviv – UNESCO World Heritage Site

Lviv – Cathedral of Saint George
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine which was once a major population centre of the Halych-Volyn Principality, the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, the Habsburg Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria and later on the capital of Lwow Voivodeship at the time of the Second Polish Republic. Lviv is the biggest city of the region as well as the historic city centre on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Formerly being the capital of the historical region of Galicia, Lviv is now considered as one of the main cultural centres of present time Ukraine. The historical centre of Lviv, along with its ancient buildings, together with cobblestone streets has survived the Soviet and Nazi occupation during World War II which remained unscathed.

The city has various industries together with institutions of higher education like the Lviv University and Lviv Polytechnic and is also a home to several world class cultural institutions which include philharmonic orchestra and the famous Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet. In September 2006, Lviv celebrated its 750th anniversary with a son et lumiere in the city centre.

Central European Flair in Architecture

Lviv is situated on the edge of the Roztochia Upland around 70 km from the Polish border and 160 km from the eastern Carpathian Mountains with an average altitude of 296 metres above sea level. The city has a multicultural history which was founded by Kind Daniel of Galicia in 1256 which fell under the Polish control towards the 14th century where Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, Germans and others lived together for centuries.

Lviv which is located in the Ukrainian region of Ukraine as a Soviet province has most of its signs only in Ukraine with only a few in Russian. Due to its Polish and Austro-Hungarian history, this city has Central European flair in its architecture which makes it one of the most amazing cities in Eastern Europe.

 The people here are very proud of their history as linguistically, culturally as well as ethnically, Ukrainian city has a population of over half a million from World War II before which the majority were Polish, leaving its impact of Polish history.

Lviv – Traditional Celebration of Holidays with Themed Festivals

Vysokyi Zamok – High Castle is its highest point above sea level where the castle has an amazing view of the historic city centre together with its distinctive green domed churches accompanied with intricate architecture. The old walled city was at the foothills of the Vysokyi Zamok on the banks of the river Poltva. In the 13th century the river was utilised to transport the goods.

The city of Lviv is an interesting tourist destination which is very captivating, rich in historic architecture with an indulgent coffee house culture. It is a city with impressive temples with ancient squares, cosy narrow streets, museums and galleries which house artistic masterpieces of various historical events. The traditional celebration of the holidays came from Lviv with the new format of several themed festivals.

The city has a majority of new art as well as modern culture trends in the country together with the ideas of several interesting entertainment. Lviv is full of activity all year round and tourist visiting this city during spring, summer; autumn or winter will have a memorable stay at this amazing historical destination.

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.