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.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Subway, Zion National Park, Utah

The Subway

The Subway – Famous Backcountry Hikes in Zion

The Subway is one of the most famous backcountry hikes in Zion which is one of the most varied and beautiful canyons. It is a short and the most spectacular section of the Left Fork of North Creek. The canyon system is known as the Great West Canyon which comprises of the Left and the Right Forks.

The Subway section has not been marked on the maps though it is where the Left Fork tends to tighten up and twist sharply between the North Guardian Angel and Guardian Angel Pass and the hike is known as `The Left Fork’.The route begins at the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead and slopes down a steep gully.

The Left Fork is followed via The Subway and then down canyon a few miles and a short steep trail then ascends the road ending at the left Fork Trailhead.To explore The Subway, permits are essential regardless of the direction of travel and the trip involves extensive routing finding. Those undertaking the trip are encouraged to do so with an experienced hiker of The Subway or attain a detailed route description. The Subway is said to be a day use area only.

Semi-Technical Canyoneering Adventure

Owing to its popularity, The Subway is accomplished under a quota system and reservations are distributed by lotto several months in advance which is highly recommended. After the lottery assignments have been done, the remaining reservation spots can be booked through the internet, one week in advance and thereafter, a new `Last Minute Drawing’, tends to allocate remaining spots through the internet.

Last minute drawing applications are considered between 2 days till noon and 7 days in advance of the date of the trip for Slot Canyon Day Trips which have been filled by reserved allocations. Last minute drawing tends to run two day before the requested trip date at 1 pm MDT.

After the last minute drawing, there could also be some walk-up permits that may be available a day in advance or the day of the hike. One need to be flexible and planning should be done in advance to avoid disappointment. The Subway – Left Fork of North Creek is a semi technical canyoneering adventure and the routes need to be undertaken only when it is led by an experienced hiker.

The Subway – Rated 2B III – Canyon Rating System

The route can be completed within 7 to 9 hours and it is worth the effort and time in visiting some of the most spectacular scenery in Zion National Park without the inconvenience of a busload of visitors. A car shuttle or hitching a ride would be appropriate in completing the trip down adventure. While undertaking the adventure, one would need a 60 foot rope for hand lines, lowering packs and possible emergency use, belays and the use of a dry bag for keeping essentials free from moisture.

 The Subway tends to contain many cold swims and miles of wading. The Subway has been rated 2B III utilising the Canyon Rating System and navigation for this hike is moderate because there is no trail. The Guardian Angels is the USGS 7.5 minute typographical map showing the Subway.

A GPS tends to work in his canyon in identifying all major route junctions as well as the exit trail and most of the waypoints and maps for this route tend to use the WGS84 datum. There is a serious flash flood danger for The Subway and the Zion Narrows and one need to check the weather report at the Visitor Centre while picking up your permit.

Friday, April 8, 2016

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia

Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia – Huge Roman Catholic Church

The Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia or Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family is said to be a huge Roman Catholic Church in Barcelona. It had been designed by a Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi and though incomplete, the church has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Sagrada Familia had been Antoni Gaudi’s strong obsession and with the commission of a conservative society which intended to build a temple as atonement for the sins of modernity of the city, Gaudi envisaged its completion as his holy mission. When the funds seemed to be less, he had contributed his own and in the last years of his life he did not shy away in pleading with anyone he thought to be a likely donor.

Gaudi created a temple 95 m long and 60 m wide which could accommodate 13,000 people with a central tower of 170m high above the transept –representing Christ and another 17 of 100m or more. The 12 besides the three facades seemed to represent the Apostles and the remaining five tend to represent the Virgin Mary with the four evangelist.

Gaudi gave his towers enlarged outlines since he was inspired by the peaks of the holy mountain Montserrat outside Barcelona and covered them with a tangle of sculpture which seemed an extension of the stone.

Pope Benedict XVI – Consecrated/Proclaimed it a Minor Basilica

In November 2010, Pope Benedict XVI had consecrated and proclaimed it as a minor basilica, distinct from a cathedral that must be the seat of a bishop. Gaudi’s masterpiece is the most popular attractions in Barcelona with its amazingly intricate exterior together with the appealing stained glass windows.

However, La Sagrada Familia’s construction is unending and is not expected to be completed till 2026. The construction of Sagrada Familia had begun in 1882 where Gaudi had been involved in 1883 in taking over the project and changing it with his architectural as well as engineering style with the combination of Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms.

He had devoted his last years to the project and at the time of his death at the age of 73, in 1926, less than a quarter of the project had been completed.Construction of Sagrada Familia seemed to progress slowly since it depended on private donation and had been interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and resumed irregular progress in 1950s.

Anticipated Completion – 2026

At Gaudi’s death, only the vault, the apse walls, a portal and a tower had been completed. Three more towers had been added by 1930 that completed the northeast – Nativity façade. Toward 1936 rebels had burned and smashed the interior inclusive of workshops, models and plans and the work commenced in 1952.

However controversy often hinders the progress. Foesof the continuation of the project stated that the computer models based on what little plans of Gaudi had survived the rebels’ rage, had led to the creation of a monster which has little to do with the plans and style of Gaudi. It is a dispute which tends to have little hope of resolution.

Constructions moved to midpoint in 2010 though some of the greatest challenges of the project remained. The anticipated completion date is 2026 which is the centenary of Gaudi’s death. The church seem to share its site with the Sagrada Familia Schools building which was originally designed in 1909 by Gaudi for the children of the construction workers.

 Repositioned in 2002, from the eastern area of the site to the southern corner, the building presently tends to house an exhibition.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Place Vendome, Paris


Place Vendome – First Arrondissement among Beautiful Squares of France

Place Vendome in Paris was laid in 1702 and is the first arrondissement among the most beautiful squares of France. Situated towards the north of the Tuileries Garden, it is an amazing example of neoclassical architecture in France akin to the squares of Place de la Concorde – Paris, Place de la Bourse – Bordeaux and Place Stanislas – Nancy.

Being a centre for money and luxury, Place Vendome offers a base for famous and high-status establishments namely the Ritz hotel, Chanel jewellery, Cartier, Rolex and the Ministry of Justice. In its centre the celebrated Column of Vendome tends to sit enthroned. Architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart who had built most of the Versailles Place had initially bought the land where it sits with a hope of making some revenue in real estate.

However, when the project seemed to be unsuccessful, the land was handed over to the King’s minister of finance who proposed the public square. It shape being octagonal, the square was intended to be built near the site which was formerly occupied by the palace of the First Duke of Vendome.

All Building Identical on Square

Later on when the land was passed from the minister to King Louis XIV, Mansart had re-entered the scene and was recruited to create the design for the square that was destined to oppose the Place des Vosges which had a statue in the centre of the predecessor of King Louis XIII. Alike the Place des Vosges, Mansard had made all the buildings identical on the square with arched ground floors together with tall windowed second floors.

Ornamental and pilasters pillars had been placed between each set of windows. Initially, Place Vendome was known as Place des Conquetes – Conquests Square, though was later on renamed to Place Louis de Grand – Louis the Great Square, when things were not going well for the armies of Louis. Nevertheless, a statue of the king had been erected in the square and remained there for a hundred years till it had been pulled down during the French Revolution in 1792.

Column Erected by Napoleon

Currently the column in the centre of the square had been erected by Napoleon as the Colonne D’Austerlitz and the 44 meter tall column has been modelled after Trajan Column of Rome which was built to honour the victory at Austerlitz in 1805, one of Napoleon’s greatest. It is said that the continuous ribbon of bas-relief bronze plates of the column, by the sculptor Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret had been made from 1200 cannon that were taken from both the armies of Russia and Austria at the time of the battle.

The column earlier known as the Colonne d’Austerlitz was later given the names of Colonne de la Victoire and Colonne de la Grande Armee. Presently it is known as the Colonne Vendome. The buildings on Place Vendome presently serve as residences and retail stores comprising of those belong to two famous jewellers as well as various well-known dress designers.

Several famous people have also lived along Place Vendome like composer Frederic Chopin, author George Sand and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who had stayed at the Ritz for some time. It is said that Ernest Hemingway had helped to liberate the Ritz in 1944.