October 31, 2012

0372 LUXEMBOURG - Wandering in Luxembourg City (UNESCO WHS)

As the first postcard received by me from Luxembourg, this one is also a multiview, containing 5 images, but showing other sites than the first (from left to right):

Place Guillaume II lies in the heart of Luxembourg's historic Ville Haute quarter, and it's colloquially known as Knuedler, from the Luxembourgish word knued (knot), referring to the knot in the belt of the Franciscan friars, because the square was the site of a Franciscan monastery between 13th and 19th centuries. The western half of the square is dominated by City Hall, whilst the equestrian statue to Grand Duke William II, after whom the square is named, is the prominent feature of the eastern half.

October 30, 2012

0371 SPAIN (Community of Madrid) - University and Historic Precinct of Alcalá de Henares (UNESCO WHS)

Much can be said about Alcalá de Henares (Citadel on the river Henares), located at 35 km northeast of the city of Madrid. If you ask a historian to give some briefly information about this city, will say that due to the strategic position of the river Henares' valley there existed over time a Celtiberian settlement called Iplacea, then the Roman Municipium of Complutum, subsequently occupied by the Visigoths, and finally a moorish citadel (al-qal'a means even "citadel" in Arabic), today known as Alcalá la Vieja (Old Alcalá), conquered  in 1118 by the Christians. An architect would talk about the wonderful Isabelline Gothic style of the Cathedral-Magistral of Saints Justus and Pastor, and about the Universitas Complutensis, which will influence, from the architectural point of view but not only, many subsequent academic institutions, until in nowadays.

October 28, 2012

0370 NETHERLANDS (Netherlands / North Holland) - Marken, a place that time forgot

Marken Peninsula, until 1957 an island in what nowdays is called the IJsselmeer (Lake IJssel), a shallow artificial lake in the central Netherlands, is famous for its characteristic wooden houses, but also for the distinctive folk practices it developed over the centuries, isolated from the Dutch mainland. Since more than a hundred years, Marken and its inhabitants (now about 2,000) are the focus of interest for folklorists and ethnographers, who regard the small fishing town as a relic of the traditional native culture.

October 27, 2012

0369 BRAZIL (Rio de Janeiro) - Rio de Janeiro: Carioca Landscapes between the Mountain and the Sea (UNESCO WHS)

After a failed attempt, due to lack of funds, to erect a religious monument in 1850 on the peak of the 700m Corcovado mountain, overlooking Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, in 1921 the Catholic Circle of Rio managed to attract donations and collect signatures to support the building of a monumental statue. The designs included a representation of a cross, a statue of Jesus with a globe in his hands, and a pedestal symbolizing the world. Eventually the statue of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) with open arms, a symbol of peace, was chosen.

October 23, 2012

CZECH REPUBLIC (Prague) - Historic Centre of Prague (UNESCO WHS)

One day, at the beginning of the new reign of laws, the aforesaid Libuše, excited by prophecy, with her husband Přemysl present and other elders of the people standing nearby, foretold thus: "I see a burg, whose fame touches the stars, situated in a forest, thirty stades distant from the village where the Vltava ends in streams. From the north the stream Brusnice in a deep valley strongly fortifies the burg; from the south a broad, very rocky mountain, called Petřín from petrae (rocks), dominated the place.

October 20, 2012

0365 PORTUGAL (Azores) - Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores (UNESCO WHS)

0365 - Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores

In the Azores there are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores (1983) and Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture (2004). About the second I wrote here, and now is the turn of the first one. Located on the island of Terceira, Angra do Heroísmo is the archipelago's oldest city and its historical capital, in nowadays being one of the three regional capitals of the Azores, together with Ponta Delgada in São Miguel and Horta in Faial.

0364 LATVIA (Vidzeme) - The castle from the Garden of God

Turaida Castle, located at 50 km north from Riga, the capital city of Latvia, was constructed in the Brick Gothic style in 1214 under Albert, the third Bishop of Riga, instead of the destroyed wooden castle of the Livonian leader Caupo of Turaida. In the language of Livonians, Turaida means "Garden of God", and the fortress was named Fredeland, means "Land of Peace". Construction and development of the fortifications continued to the 17th century, when the castle started to lose its strategic importance. It was badly damaged by fire in 1776 and not reconstructed, and in the course of time fell into ruin. Restoration began in the 1970s and the castle is now the centrepiece of the Turaida Museum Reserve, which also includes the oldest wooden church in Vidzeme and its surrounding Livonian cemetery.

October 16, 2012

0361 BELARUS (Brest) - Kamyanets Tower

0361 Kamyanets Tower

Kamyanets Tower is located in the town with the same name in Belarus, at about 40 km north from Brest. Erected in 1271–1289 by the architect Oleksa, on the order of Vladimir Vasilkovich, Prince of Volhynia, as a keep (donjon) of a frontier stronghold on the northern border of the principality, on the stony steep bank of the Liasnaja (Lysna or Leśna) River, it was later named Belaya Vezha (the White Tower), probably because its proximity to Belavezhskaya Pushcha, not from its color.

0360 SPAIN (Galicia) - Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) (UNESCO WHS)

¡Santiago y cierra, España! cried the reunited armies of Alfonso VIII of Castile, Sancho VII of Navarre, Pedro II of Aragon and Afonso II of Portugal in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, which took place on 16 July 1212. That means "Saint James and strike for Spain!". And because in that battle the Christians massacred the Moors, Spaniards will continue to use this battle cry not only how long it lasted Reconquista, but by the end of the Spanish Empire. Invocation of Santiago (the local Galician evolution of Vulgar Latin Sanctu Iacobu - Saint James), wasn't accidental, because he was already patron saint of Spain, and appeared during the Battle of Clavijo (844) to fight for the Christian army. Since then was called Matamoros (Moorslayer). Oddly enough for an apostle of Jesus, I would dare to say.

October 14, 2012

0359 RUSSIA (Altai Republic) - A horse-rider dressed in Altaic traditional clothes

The Altaians are a group of six related tribes (Altai Kiji, Telengit, Teleut, Tubalar, Kumandi, and Chalkandu), living beside the Altai Mountains and also closely related to Tuvan, Shors, Khakas, and other Siberian Turkic peoples. They formed a part of the ancient Turkic kingdoms of Central and East Asia, among them the Kök-Türk and Uigur, then later the Kara-Kitay and the Kitan, who ruled briefly in China at the end of the 12th century. The region was part of the Mongol Empire between 13th and 15th centuries, being incorporated into the Russian Empire in the mid-18th century.

October 13, 2012

0358 INDIA (Madhya Pradesh) - Khajuraho Group of Monuments - Kandariyâ Mahâdeva Temple (UNESCO WHS)

About one thousand years ago, in a summer night, a young Brahmin widow named Hemvati decided to take a dip in a pond near her house in Benares (now Varanasi). How she bathe under the canopy of stars, her ravishing beauty caught the eye of the Moon God, who couldn't resist her charm and descended to earth, interrupting his usual journey across the heavens. Hemvati submitted to his desire, and conceived a child out of this relationship. When the night ended, of course that the Moon God rose to leave. Worried about her fate, Hemvati asked what will happen to her after he will leave. The Moon God answered her that their son would be the first king of Khajuraho, founder of a new dinasty, and will build 85 temples, to free his mother from the blemish of extramarital love. And so it happened.

0357 GERMANY (Bremen) - Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen (UNESCO WHS)

Seat of a bishop early as 787, so before that Charlemagne successfully conclude the bloody campaign of Christianization of Saxons, Bremen obtained in 888 the right to hold its own markets, to mint its own coins and make its own customs laws. Since then, the city on the River Weser permanently fought to maintain its independence or at least autonomy,  i.e. the right not to share with surrounding neighbors the consistent amounts accrued through trade privileges (don’t shoot me, Bärbel). It's one of the three reasons that UNESCO included in 2005 on its list of World Heritage Sites the Town Hall of Bremen (in the picture – the building from the left), "an exceptional testimony to the civic autonomy and sovereignty, as these developed in the Holy Roman Empire."

October 10, 2012

0356 CANADA (Nova Scotia) - Old Town Lunenburg - The Lunenburg Academy (UNESCO WHS)

Now the second-smallest province in Canada, Nova Scotia (as the entire Acadia in fact) was inhabited for centuries by Mi’kmaq, a First Nations people, to whom was joined, since 1604, the French Catholic settlers. For the next 150 years took place many wars between New England and New France and their native allies, concluded with the defeat of French by British in North America (1763), but despite this, Nova Scotia remained primarily occupied by Catholic Acadians and Mi'kmaq. Although it was considered "the 14th American Colony", Nova Scotia doesn't joined the colonists in American Revolution (1776–1783), it supporting the British.

October 7, 2012

0354 RUSSIA (Saint Petersburg) - Peter the Great Bridge

Peter the Great Bridge (named from 1917 to 1956 Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge, also known as Okhtinsky Bridge), designed by Krovoshein and Apishkov, is one of the 342 bridges in Saint Petersburg. It crosses the Neva River and has 334m length and 23m width, consisting of three spans, the central one, marked by four granite Norman towers, can be drawn (as shown in the picture) in only 30 seconds.

October 4, 2012

0351 ITALY (Veneto) - Saint Mark's Basilica - part of Venice and its Lagoon (UNESCO WHS)

Basilica di San Marco (St Mark's Basilica), the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, is the most famous of the city's churches. The most famous but also the most byzantine, to use a term entered in Europeans language long after the fall of Constantinople (1453), because as long as there was, the Eastern Roman Empire's successor has been appointed either Basileia Rhomaion (in Greek) or Imperium Romanum (in Latin) or simply Romania (not to be confused with the current Romania). How much owes Venice (and Western Europe generally) to Constantinople, it's impossible to quantify.

October 2, 2012

0350 INDONESIA (Java) - Prambanan Temple Compounds - Shiva temple (UNESCO WHS)

The legend say that during the times of the Hinduism in Java, a prince named Bandung Bondowoso madly fell in love with the princess Loro Jonggrang, renowned for her beauty, and wanted to marry him. But she refused, and he killed her father. Therefore, the princess swore not to ever marry her father's killer, but to end his insistences she finally agreed on one condition: to build 1,000 temples in one night. Unable to complete this task all by himself, prince Bandung summoned up hundreds of spirits to help him, and close to dawn, much to the dismay of Loro Jonggrang, they had completed the 999th temple. Loro Jonggrang ordered her palace maids to light a large fire, begin pounding rice, and scatter fragrant flowers all over the kingdom. The roosters were fooled into thinking it was dawn and began to crow, the spirits fled, and the last temple was left unfinished. Enraged beyond measure, the prince turned Loro Jonggrang into a stone statue, representing the final temple, so that she would never be able to love others forever. Touched by the story, the Gods took the princess to the heavens, where she finally found eternal peace.