Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Trolltunga, Skjeggedal


Trolltunga – One of the Most Remarkable Scenic Cliffs in Norway

Trolltunga is a portion of rock which tends to jut out horizontally out of a mountain about 700 metres above the north area of the lake Ringedalsvatnet in the municipality of Odda in Hordaland County, Norway. Situated towards the east of the Skjeggedal area, the cliff is about 10 kilometres east of the village of Tyssedal and the Sorfjorden which is a branch off, of the main Hardanger Fjord. The cliff is said to be part of the Precambrian bedrock which was formed during the ice age around 10,000 years back when the glacier’s edges had reached the cliff.

The water from the glacier had frozen in the crevices of the mountain and ultimately broke off huge, angular blocks that were later on carried away with the glacier. Along the cliff, gneiss continues with deep cracks and the trail to Trolltunga also passes through the bedrock with the washed slippery hillsides in the background also contain gneiss. It is said to be one of the most remarkable scenic cliffs in Norway and the view is incredible. The cliff tends to overlook the valleys of Hardanger region and the mountains surrounding the cliff reaches a height of up to 1500 meters.

Hikes notto be Undertaken During Winter

Some of the hilltop has plains that are intermingled with lakes with patches of snow present in some areas even during summer time. Owing to heavy use by tourist, the Trolltungs trail turns quickly to mud after one shower of rain in the summer. The hike begins in Skjeggedal and goes through the high mountain comprising of 10-12 hours and the ascent is said to be about 900 metres which is a long and difficult hike. The hike is generally done from mid-June based on when the snow tends to melt in the mountain.

Generally one can hike to Trolltunga till mid-September. While undertaking the hike one needs to be in good shape with the right equipment before setting out. There is no mobile phone coverage along the route. Hikers are cautioned not to undertake hikes to Trolltunga during winter time, except from mid-March when one can join guided snowshoe hikes with Trolltunga Active.

Hikes in Strong Wind/Heavy Rain/Foggy Weather – Avoided

All the nature based activities are at the risk of individuals and one should ensure using sturdy hiking boots, together with extra clothing and should be prepared for bad weather. A map and compass is essential with adequate supply of food and drink for consumption, together with torch and a first aid kit. The weather in the high mountain is prone to changes instantly and hence one should check the latest weather forecast before going to Trolltunga.

Hiking to Trolltunga in strong wind, heavy rain or in foggy weather should be avoided. There are search and rescue operations for hikers in serious trouble every year and hence one needs to prepare well and be a responsible and safe hiker.Norway is far north which means the daylight seems to be short from September and night are very cold. It is advisable to start the hike early in the morning, latest by 8 in the morning. If one intends to stay overnight in the mountain area around Trolltunga, you could carry along your own tent.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Osijek, Croatia


Osijek – Biggest Economic/Cultural Centre of Eastern Croatian

Osijek is the biggest city as well as the economic and the cultural centre of the eastern Croatian region of Slavonia. It is also the administrative centre of Osijek-Baranja County. Owing to its important location towards the junction of the Drava and Danube rivers, this huge and once a prosperous town, is the fourth largest city in Croatia having a population of about 101,000 inhabitants, which bore most of the impact of the 1990s conflict. Several fine buildings have been restored to its previous glory though some scars tend to remain where some of the building bore the marks of bullet holes or shrapnel markings on them.

Osijek has been divided into two main regions, the upper town focusing on the city square, Trg Ante Starcevic and Tyrda, the preserved fortress town towards the east of the town centre besides the Drava River.

Attractions comprise of a fortified centre – The Tyrda which dates back to the 18th century, the impressive neo-Gothic Church of St. Peter and St. Paul as well as the grand Europska Avenija along which one can see some wonderful examples of the Art Nouveau architecture that was famous in this area of the world in the late 19th century together with a somewhat unnerving statue entitled Soldier in the Throes of Death.

Tyrda – Oldest preserved Baroque Centre

Tyrda which is the oldest part is a preserved Baroque centre where the central square is controlled by Kuzni’s pillar and it is here that one will find the Museum of Slavonia and the Archaeological Museum, together with galleries, besides the impressive churches. The entire city tends to have 12 districts or blocks, Upper Town, Lower Town, Fortress, New Town, South 1, South 2, Green Field, Industrial District, Retfala, New Retfala, Tvrdjavica and The Left Coast.

Besides being an administrative centre of Osijek-Baranja County, it is also and industrial centre and its rich history have left behind an abundance of cultural and artistic heritage. Asides from the concathedral towards the centre, one will find a Capuchin church with a series of art nouveau building in European Avenue, the National Theatre. Osijek tends to have a tram system which dates back to 1884 where the three main line link the railway station, town square, Tyrda, industrial district and all city borders.

Well-Designed City to Negotiate by Foot

Presently the network is in the process of being completely renovated and more than doubled in length, together with the old trams of the city being modernized. The local buses tend to compensate where the trams do not seem to reach and are fairly regular.

 Map of the local transport system is available on the Tourist Boards’ website. Tourists can experience the ride on the oldest tram in Europe which have been reconditioned for the purpose of sightseeing tours while buses are made available every 10-15 minutes in the city area and every 20-25 minutes which are linking the settlements around the city. There are various bicycling routes all across the city like Donji grad-Biljie, Jug II – Industrijska cetvrt and much more.

Taxis tend to serve within the main railway station/airport to the city centre. Overall, it is a straightforward and well-designed city to negotiate by foot with some hills. This destination is an amazing part of the continent with intriguing stories together with deep histories and very interesting to explore.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca


Plaza Mayor – Large Plaza, Utilised as Public Square

Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, Spain is said to be a large plaza situated in the centre of Salamanca and is utilised as a public square. An exceptional grand square, it is considered as the heart of Salamanca and widely regarded as the most beautiful central plaza of Spain. Salamanca is known as La Dorado – The Golden City owing to the glow of its sandstone buildings which the Plaza Mayor tends to represent at its core.

The square is mostly memorable during night when it is illuminated till midnight to magical effect. It has been designed by Alberto Churriguera with its amazing harmonious and controlled baroque display and the medallions placed around the square bear the bust of famous figures.

It has been built in the traditional Spanish baroque style and is a famous gathering area which is lined by restaurants, tourist shops, ice cream parlours, and much more along its perimeter except in the front area of the city hall.

It is linked to the shopping area Calle del Toro from the northeast area, Calle de Zamora from the north, the restaurant on Calle de Concejo from the northwest, Calle del Prior and the small Calle de la Caja de Ahorros from the west and as Plaza del Corrillo from the south.

Utilised for Bullfighting

In 1729 the construction of the plaza had started and was completed in 1755.Felipe the V had ordered the construction of the plaza to be utilised for bullfighting and was designed by the Churriguera family in sandstone. Till mid-19th century, it had been used for bullfighting, one hundred years after it was completed. The construction had started in two phases and the first was between 1729 and 1735 while the second was between 1750 and 1755.

The first phase was said to be built under the guidance of Alberto Churriguera and the second phase was built under the direction of his nephew, Manuel de Larra Churriguera. Eventually Andres Garcia de Quinones had built the City Hall. UNESCO had declared the old city of Salamanca as a World Heritage Site, in 1988. Presently there is a plaque place towards the centre of the plaza marking its significance to enhancement on the baroque style beauty of the plaza.

Irregular Square, Its Facades not Measuring the Same Height

The plaza is said to be an irregular square with none of its facades measuring the same height. The walls have three floors above its ground terrace level except for the main façade portion. There are six entrances which lead to various streets from opposite areas of the plaza. It features a clock – El Reloj tower and five larger façade entrances on only two floors towards the frontal area under the clock.

Besides this, it also features 88 arches which are raised on stout pillars and decorated medallions on it several spandrels. The plaza also tends to have 247 balconies which now belong to private residents. Originally the plaza was intended to be designed with two towers on each side of the clock but was not completed due to fear that the portion would not be capable of supporting the weight and thus the 1745 plan was used instead. The city hall is also placed on this side of the plaza, built in the baroque style with five granite arches and a steeple.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Lubeck, Germany


Lubeck City – One of the Main Ports of Germany

Lubeck, a city in Schleswig Holstein, northern Germany is one of the main ports of Germany on the river Trave. It had been the leading city of the Hanseatic League owing to its extensive Brick Gothic architecture which is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It has a population of around 218,523 in 2015. The old area of Lubeck is on an island which is enclosed by the Trave and the Elbe-Lubeck Canal tends to link the Trave with the Elbe River.

 In the proximity of the town centre is another important river Wakeknitz. The Autobahn 1 links Lubeck with Hamburg and Denmark. Travemunde is a sea resort with ferry port on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Lubeck Hauptbahnhof links Lubech to various railway lines particularly the line to Hamburg. Lubeck which was the former capital and Queen City of the Hanseatic League, was established in the 12th century and flourished till the 16thcentury as the main trading centre for northern Europe. Till date it tends to remain a centre for maritime commerce especially with the Nordic countries.

Protected By Act on the Protection & conservation of Monuments

In spite of the damage it suffered at the time of the Second World War, the simple structure of the old city comprising mostly of 15th and 16th century aristocratic residence, churches, public monuments- the well-known Holstentor brick gate and salt storehouse, tend to remain unchanged as an urban monument characteristic of a significant historical structure.

 Around 20% of it had been destroyed inclusive of the most popular monumental complexes, namely the Cathedral of Lubeck, the churches of St Peter and St Mary, particularly the Grundungsviertel, the hilltop quarter wherein the gabled houses of the rich merchants gathered. Only some reconstruction was permitted to replace most of the important churches and monument. A greater number of historic monuments together with the Old Town Island are protected by the Act on the Protection and Conservation of Monuments in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein. It is said that the Monument Preservation Plan is the basis for town planning as well as architectural interventions.

Responsible for Administration of World Heritage Property

Moreover, Lubeck’s historic centre is protected by a preservation decree and a design decree. The quarters of the late 19th century surrounding the Old Town have been protected by preservation statutes. The regional development programme of the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein safeguards the protection of the view axes and the outline of the World Heritage property.The City of Lubeck is said to be responsible for the administration of the World Heritage property.

The World Heritage commissioner organises the coordination between the shareholders within the municipal structure to suitably indicate possible threats to the Outstanding Universal Value as well as to ensure the integrations of applicable issues in the planning process, an integrative monitoring approach and a sustainable progress of the World Heritage property. In order to protect and sustain the Outstanding Universal Value, a buffer zone together with view axes outside the buffer zone are placed, ensuring the long-term protection together with constant preservation of important views and of the structural reliability.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Yashima, Japan


Yashima – Flat Topped Mountain, outside Takamatsu’ City Centre

Yashima is a flat topped mountain, a peninsula of lava which is located outside of Takamatsu’s city centre. It is a lava plateau having an altitude of 293 meters within Setonaikai National Park and the name Yashima or Roof Island had been derived from its flat top which tends to look like a roof. It had been an important site in the 12th century battle during the Gempei War between the Taira and Minamoto Clan.

 The Taira had been defeated here in what was to be the last battle before their final destruction. Surrounding the flat summit one will find some of the attractions connected to the history of the mountain as a battleground, inclusive of the Monument to the Battle of Yashima and Chinoike, which is a pond said to have turned red with blood after the victorious Minamoto had washed their swords in it.

Yashima provides amazing views of Takamatsu as well as the Seto Inland Sea. Among the various viewpoints, around the mountain top, one will find shops where one can buy small clay discs that are thrown off the mountain.

The Famous Clay Plate Throwing Event

Visitors can take up the challenge of participating in the famous clay plate throwing event which is based on an episode wherein officers as well as soldiers of the Genji clan who had won the battle of Yashima had thrown their wooden headpieces from the mountaintop as they shouted in victory. Participants during the event would throw the unglazed clay plate as far as they could which was said to ward off evil.

Another attraction is the Yashima-jo Temple and the main temple that is said to have been constructed by the great Chinese priest Ganjin in the 8th century is painted in red and accommodates a Buddhist image of a seated Senju Kannon. The Yashima Temple, which is the 84th of the 88 temples on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, is near the summit’s parking area.

The temple, in addition to a number of buildings which seems to be of a different era also has a modern museum that tends to display artifacts from the history of Yashima. The New Yashima Aquarium is about a five minute walk from Yashima Temple that features dolphin and seal shows.

Yashima – Best Scenic Spot to View Seto Inland Sea

Owing to its state of aging, the small aquarium would probably be closed or renovated in the near future. Scheduled to be built near the aquarium with planned completion date in 2019 is a new tourist centre and observation deck. Towards the base of Yashima is the Shikoku Mura, an open air museum, displaying traditional farmhouse, bridges, and storehouses together with other structures from all over Shikoku Island. Yashima was the site of the famous battleground of the 12th century samurai general Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune of the Genji clan who had defeated the enemy clan, the Heikeand one can have glimpses of the old battleground from the Dankorei observation deck on the mountaintop.

From another observation desk in Shishi-no-reigan one can enjoy the amazing view of the island in the Seto Inland Sea. Yashima is said to be the best scenic spot to view the Seto Inland Sea.