September 29, 2014
I have the conviction that Belarus and Ukraine broke away from Russia in 1990s for purely political reasons; ethnic and linguistic differences between the three being minimal, not to say also that they share the same history.
History: Many of the Russian principalities were first gathered under the flag of Kievan Rus, its dissolution in the 13th century following the Tatars attacks leading to separation of northern Russians from Belarusian (White Russians) and from Ukrainians. Moscow principality, became more stronger, shook the Tartar yoke in the late 15th century, conquering many of the Russian lands and becoming Grand Duchy of Moscow. Starting with Ivan the Terrible, the rulers took the title of "Grand Duke of all the Russias", but White Ruthenia (Belarus) and Ukraine remained under the rule of Grand Duchy of Lithuania (subsequent Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth) until 1795, when both were annexed by the Russian Empire (except a small part of Ukraine, Galicia, which remained under austrian control).
Language: Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian, and Ruthenian have a high degree of mutual intelligibility, i.e. the speakers of any of these languages can readily understand without a previous study, and without the need for translation, many scholars claiming that they are dialects of the same language, and not different languages.
Name: "Belarus" corresponds literally with the term "White Rus" (White Ruthenia). The name first appeared in the chronicles of Jan of Czarnków (1381), as "Alba Russia" (in latin), and its first use to refer to Belarus was in the late 16th century. Regarding the meaning of the appellation "white", opinions are divided, two being more reliable: one that claims that relate to the lands populated by early Christianized Slavs (in opposition to Black Ruthenia, predominantly inhabited by pagan Balts), and one that claims that relate to the old Ruthenian lands that were not conquered by the Tatars.
Of course that all these arguments are less important than the inhabitants will, so if the Belarusians want to live in their own state, so be it.
September 28, 2014
Mostly flat, with only a few hills, and without inland water, Aruba isn't the stereotypical tropical island of lush, steamy forests and constant rains. Its best-known geographical feature is its white-sand beaches, which are the basis of an active tourism industry. One of these beaches, considered by many one of the best beaches in the world is Eagle Beach, known also as home of two of the most photographed and renowned divi-divi trees in Aruba, with its trademark silhouette pointing in the direction of the Caribbean.
The Divi-Divi Tree (Caesalpinia coriaria), called Watapana in the Arawak language, is an endemic bush in the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao), which rarely reaches a height of 9 m, and is permanently bent, at nearly a right angle, with Medusa-like branches seemingly swept back by the wind. It is Aruba's natural compass, always pointing in a southwesterly direction due to the trade winds that blow across the island from the north-east. All attempts to plant this tree in other parts of the world have proved futile. That is why divi-divi is the national tree of Curaçao, and is also very common and popular on Aruba.
Posted on 12.08.2014, and 28.09.2014
The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization established on 24 October 1945, after the WWII, to prevent another such conflict, actually a replacement for the ineffective League of Nations. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states, but their number grew significantly following widespread decolonization in the 1960s, so now are 193. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, promoting human rights, fostering social and economic development, protecting the environment, and providing humanitarian aid in cases of famine, natural disaster, and armed conflict. The UN's mission to preserve peace was complicated in its early decades by the Cold War. The organization participated in major actions in Korea and the Congo, as well as approving the creation of the state of Israel in 1947.
The flag of the UN was adopted on October 20, 1947, and consists of the official emblem of the UN in white on a blue background (white and blue are the official colours of the UN). The emblem's design is described as: "A map of the world representing an azimuthal equidistant projection centred on the North Pole, inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree, . . . The projection of the map extends to 60 degrees south latitude, and includes five concentric circles." The olive branches are a symbol for peace, and the world map represents all the people of the world.
The UN Headquarters is situated in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, on spacious grounds overlooking the East River, and enjoys extraterritoriality. The complex was constructed in stages with the core complex completed between 1948 and 1952. Rather than hold a competition for the design of the facilities for the headquarters, the UN decided to commission a multinational team of leading architects to collaborate on the design. The American architect Wallace K. Harrison was named as Director of Planning, and a Board of Design Consultants was composed of architects, planners and engineers nominated by member governments. The board consisted of N. D. Bassov of the Soviet Union, Gaston Brunfaut (Belgium), Ernest Cormier (Canada), Le Corbusier (France), Liang Seu-cheng (China), Sven Markelius (Sweden), Oscar Niemeyer (Brazil), Howard Robertson (United Kingdom), G. A. Soilleux (Australia), and Julio Vilamajó (Uruguay).
The diminutive site on the East River necessitated a "Rockefeller Center"-type vertical complex, thus, it was a given that the Secretariat would be housed in a tall office tower. During daily meetings from February to June 1947, the collaborative team produced at least 45 designs and variations. After much discussion, Harrison, who coordinated the meetings, determined that a design based on Niemeyer's project 32 and Le Corbusier's project 23 would be developed for the final project. Le Corbusier's project 23 consisted of a large block containing both the Assembly Hall and the Council Chambers near the centre of the site with the Secretariat tower emerging as a slab from the south. Niemeyer's plan was closer to that actually constructed, with a distinctive General Assembly building, a long low horizontal block housing the other meeting rooms, and a tall tower for the Secretariat. Le Corbusier and Niemeyer merged their schemes 23–32, and this, along with suggestions from the other members of the Board of Design Consultants, was developed into project 42G.
The complex includes a number of major buildings. While the Secretariat building (154m) is most predominantly featured in depictions of the headquarters, it also includes the domed General Assembly building, the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, as well as the Conference and Visitors Center, which is situated between the General Assembly and Secretariat buildings, and can be seen only from FDR Drive or the East River. Just inside the perimeter fence of the complex stands a line of flagpoles where the flags of all 193 UN member states, plus the UN flag, are flown in English alphabetical order. The UN' system is based on five principal organs: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice. The first four are located at the main UN Headquarters in New York City.
The General Assembly is the main deliberative assembly of the UN. Composed of all UN members states, the assembly meets in regular yearly sessions, but emergency sessions can also be called. The General Assembly Hall is the largest room in the UN, with seating capacity for over 1,800 people. The design of the room was a collaborative effort by the team of 11 architects that designed Headquarters, and it contains no gift from any Member State. The only gift is anonymous: two abstract murals on each side of the Hall - designed by the French artist Fernand Leger. In the postcard is the celebration of the Human Rights Day at UN Headquarters in 1952. Addressing a full session of the General Assembly on the fourth annual celebration of Human Rights Day, the President of the Assembly, Lester B. Pearson of Canada, expresses his gratitude to all nations for what has been done "towards achieving a greater respect for fundamental human rights".
The Security Council is charged with maintaining peace and security among countries, and is made up of 15 member states, consisting of 5 permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), and 10 non-permanent members (for two-year terms). The Security Council Chamber was a gift from Norway, designed by the Norwegian architect Arnstein Arneberg. A central feature is the oil canvas mural painted by the Norwegian artist Per Krogh. It depicts a phoenix rising from its ashes, as a symbol of the world being rebuilt after the WWI. Above the dark sinister colours at the bottom different images in bright colours symbolizing the hope for a better future are depicted. Equality is symbolized by a group of people weighing out grain for all to share. The blue and gold silk tapestry on the walls and in the draperies by the East River windows features the anchor of faith, the growing wheat of hope, and the heart of charity.
The complex is also notable for its gardens and outdoor sculptures. One of the iconic sculptures is the Knotted Gun, called Non-Violence, a bronze statue of a Colt Python revolver with its barrel tied in a knot, which was a gift from the Luxembourg government. It was made by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd after the singer, songwriter and peace activist, founder member of the Beatles, John Lennon was murdered in New York on 8 December 1980. There are currently 16 copies of the sculpture around the world, nine of them in Sweden. Since 1993, the Non-Violence sculpture is the symbol of The Non-Violence Project, a non-profit organisation, promoting social change with violence prevention education programs.
The UN has three regional headquarters, opened in Geneva (Switzerland) in 1946, Vienna (Austria) in 1980, and Nairobi (Kenya) in 2011. These help represent UN interests, facilitate diplomatic activities, and enjoy certain extraterritorial privileges, but only the main headquarters in New York contains the seats of the principal organs of the UN. All fifteen of the United Nations' specialized agencies are located outside New York. The United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) is located in the Palais des Nations building constructed in Ariana Park for the League of Nations between 1929 and 1938, and expanded in the early 1950s and late 1960s. An international architectural competition was opened in 1926, on which participated 377 projects, but the jury was unable to decide on a winner. Ultimately, the five architects behind the leading entries were chosen to collaborate on a final design: Julien Flegenheimer of Switzerland, Camille Lefèvre and Henri-Paul Nénot of France, Carlo Broggi of Italy and József Vágó of Hungary. The Palace and its buildings constitute the second-largest building complex in Europe after Versailles.
September 27, 2014
El Jem, or El Djem, was built by the Romans on a former Punic settlement, under the name Thysdrus. In a less arid climate than today's, Thysdrus, which became part of the Roman province of Byzacena, prospered especially in the 2nd century, at the time of Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138), when it became an important center of olive oil manufacturing for export. It was the seat of a Christian bishopric, which is included in the Catholic Church's list of titular sees. By the early 3rd century AD, it rivaled Hadrumetum (modern Sousse) as the second city of Roman North Africa, after Carthage.
0615 (posted on 25.04.2013) - RAGUSA
Can be said that Val di Noto (Province of Noto), a area located in south-eastern Sicily, owes its notoriety to a disaster, the enormous earthquake of 1693. After that, the representative of the king of Spain, the ruler of the time, received the permission to redesign the damaged towns based on rational and scenographic town plans. So these new towns were redesigned according to renaissance and baroque town planning, with streets crossing each other or starting from a central square, in what came to be known as the Sicilian Baroque style. In 2002, UNESCO inscribed eight of these towns on the World Heritage List as "representing the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe". One of this city is Ragusa (in the first postcard), formed from two distinct areas, the lower and older town of Ragusa Ibla, and the higher Ragusa Superiore (Upper Town), separated by the Valle dei Ponti, a deep ravine crossed by four bridges. Ragusa Ibla (in the postcard) hosts a wide array of Baroque architecture, including nine major churches and seven major palazzi.
Another city is Catania (in the second postcard), located between Messina and Syracuse, at the foot of the Mount Etna. Founded in the 8th century BC by the Greeks, it has had a long and eventful history, and has been buried by lava of seventeen times. In the 14th century and the Renaissance it was one of Italy's most important and flourishing cultural, artistic, and political centers. Originally constructed in 1078-1093, Catania Cathedral (in the postcard), dedicated to Saint Agatha, has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Today, traces of the original Norman edifice include part of the transept, the two towers and the three semicircular apses, composed of large lava stones, most of them recovered from imperial Roman buildings. In the right can be seen the Palace of the Seminary of the Clerics, a very complex structure built by the architect Alonzo Benedict, connected to the Cathedral through a step above the Porta Uzeda.
1251 (posted on 27.09.2014) - CALTAGIRONE
Caltagirone, located about 70km southwest of Catania, has been long famous for the production of pottery, particularly maiolica and terra-cotta wares. Virtually all buildings in the old town are decorated with ceramic tiles, shops spill their delightfully crafted wares onto the pavements and the effect is one of multichromatic vivacity. The highlight is undoubtedly the 142 steps of the Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte (Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte), built from 1609, that connect the lower town with the older upper town. The peculiarity is that each step is decorated with different hand-decorated ceramics, using styles and figures derived from the millennial tradition of pottery making. At the end of July (24th and 25th), in honour of the town's patron saint, San Giacomo, and in the middle of August, the steps undergo yet another transformation, the "Illuminata". Thousands of candles flicker away creating a truly breathtaking sight.
Santiago de Querétaro, the capital and largest city of the state of Querétaro, located in central Mexico, at 213km northwest of Mexico City, was founded on 25 July 1531, when during a battle between the Spanish and the natives of the area, an eclipse occurred during which Saint James on a white horse carrying a pink cross supposedly appeared, causing the natives of the areas to surrender. The old colonial town of Querétaro is unusual in having retained the geometric street plan of the Spanish conquerors side by side with the twisting alleys of the Indian quarters. The Otomi, the Tarasco, the Chichimeca and the Spanish lived together peacefully in the town, which is notable for the many ornate civil and religious Baroque monuments from its golden age in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The kumintang is the name given to several distinct styles, techniques and forms in music and dance, probably originating in the areas used by early Spanish chronicles to denote a province centering around what is known as Batangas, on the southwestern part of Luzon. Early 19th-century travelers' accounts often mention the kumintang as a Tagalog "chant national", describing them as dance-songs performed by pairs of men and women, with texts concerning love and courtship. All accounts mention a glass of coconut wine passed from hand to hand by the dancers as they sing. Jean Baptiste Mallat describes it as a pantomimic dance where the man runs around and gestures to a woman, and finally pretends illness to get the woman's full attention. In the 20th century, Francisca Reyes-Aquino dubbed as kumintang the circular hand and wrist movement also known as the kunday. Among present-day afficinados of musical and dance events called awitan and pandangguhan in and around the city of Batangas, kumintang also refers to a guitar-plucking style, considered the most melodious and beautiful of all guitar styles accompanying the old kinanluran style of pandangguhan dance songs.
September 26, 2014
Saint Peter Port is the capital of Guernsey, one of the two british bailiwick located in the English Channel, possession of the Crown and part of the Channel Islands. It is a small town, with a population of about 16,500, consisting mostly of steep narrow streets and steps on the overlooking slopes. A trading post existed here since before Roman times, but its pre-Christian name hasn't survived into the modern era. On the seaward side it faces Herm to the east, across the Little Roussel, and Sark and Brecqhou even further east across the Big Roussel between them and Herm. The Bréhon Tower sits in the Little Roussel between St Peter Port and Herm. Saint Peter Port Harbour, a natural anchorage used by the Romans, is now Guernsey's main port for passengers.
Located on the Atlantic coast, between South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia, and known as the Tar Heel State and the Old North State, North Carolina has a wide range of elevations, from sea level to 2,037m at Mount Mitchell (the highest point in the Eastern US), consisting of three main geographic sections: the Atlantic Coastal Plain, the Piedmont region, and the Appalachian Mountains and foothills. Its capital is Raleigh, founded in 1792 specifically for this purpose, and its largest city is Charlotte. Most of the state falls in the humid subtropical climate zone. In the past five decades, North Carolina's economy has undergone a transition from heavy reliance upon tobacco, textiles, and furniture-making to a more diversified economy with engineering, energy, biotechnology, and finance sectors.
September 25, 2014
Located very near for the capital Kabul, west of the city, the fertile Paghman Valley is one of the most visited places, mostly for the Paghman Gardens, arranged by King Amanullah after his 1927-1928 tour of Europe, India and Iran. Paghman, a small village at the bottom of the Hindu Kush, became a holiday retreat with villas and chalets as well as the summer capital. The region seriously suffered during the soviet war in Afghanistan, but also after becoming a Mujaheddin battleground at the close of the 20th century.