January 28, 2017

0615, 0685, 1251, 2924, 2929, 2937, 2938 ITALY (Sicily) - Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (UNESCO WHS)

0615 Ragusa Ibla

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, 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 hosts a wide array of Baroque architecture, including nine major churches and seven major palazzi.

0685 Catania - Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Agatha
and Palace of the Seminary of the Clerics

0685, 2924, 2929, 2937, 2938 (posted on 19.06.2013, 04.01.2017, 16.01.2017, 28.01.2017) - CATANIA
Another city is Catania, 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 in the Renaissance period it was one of Italy's most important and flourishing cultural, artistic, and political centers. Originally constructed in 1078-1093, Catania Cathedral, 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.

2924 Catania - Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Agatha
and the elephant with the egyptian obelisk (1)

The current appearance of the cathedral dates from the work in 1711 of Gian Battista Vaccarini. It has three levels with Corinthian columns in granite, perhaps taken from the Roman Theatre of the city. All the orders are decorated with marble statues of Saint Agatha over the gate, Saint Euplius on the right and Saint Birillus on the left. The main door, in wood, has 32 sculpted plaques with episodes of the life and martyrdom of Saint Agatha, papal coats of arms and symbols of Christianity. In the right of the postcard 0685 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.

2929 Catania - Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Agatha
and the elephant with the egyptian obelisk (2)

The elephant in Piazza Duomo was sculpted of volcanic stone during the Roman era and stands as an emblem of the city. It supports a transplanted Egyptian obelisk, brought by the Romans some time after circa 30 BC. The monument's nickname in the Sicilian language is "Liotru," a reference to Elidoros, a heretical eighth century apostate and wizard who sought, through magic, to make the elephant walk. Fashioned of typical pinkish red granite from the Aswan quarries, the obelisk bears hieroglyphs identifying the goddess Isis, whose Egyptian cult reached the height of its popularity from 664 to 610 BC, although the style of writing dates the work to an earlier period.

2937 Catania - Teatro Massimo Bellini and adjoining piazza

The creation of what was to finally become the Teatro Massimo Bellini took almost two hundred years, beginning with discussions following the 1693 earthquake. The construction of a public theatre was discussed, and a foundation stone was finally laid in 1812. Architect Salvatore Zahra Buda began to prepare a plan for a theatre in the Piazza Nuovaluce, in front of the Santa Maria di Nuovaluce monastery, the location of the present-day theatre. The plan of the Teatro Nuovaluce (New Light Theatre) was a grandiose one in all respects, and was conceived to create one of the most innovative works in Italy.

2938 Catania - Interior of the Teatro Massimo Bellini

Named after the local-born composer Vincenzo Bellini, it was inaugurated on 31 May 1890 with a performance of the composer's masterwork, Norma. It seats 1,200. The exterior of the house matches the distinctive Sicilian Baroque style of the neighboring buildings of the late 17th Century. Its marble foyer, the Ridotto, is ornate and stuccoed, and a statue of Bellini is located between the central arches. The beautiful red-plush interior includes the main floor seating and four tiers of boxes. Surrounding them, on the upper level, are unusual arched arcades. The painted ceiling by Ernesto Bellandi depicts scenes from four of Bellini’s most well-known operas.

1251 Caltagirone - Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte

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.

2936 ROMANIA (Dâmboviţa) - The Sphinx of Bucegi Mountains

The Sphinx is a natural rock formation located at an altitude of 2,216m, in the Bucegi Mountains, a 10-minute walk from Babele. The name of the Sphinx is due to its similarity with a human head, or with the similarity with the Egyptian Sphinx, its creation being the work of natural forces (especially wind erosion but also rain). The image of the Sphinx appeared when the rock, having an 8m height and a 12m width, was watched from a certain angle. The megalith has its clearest outline on 21st November, at the time the sun goes down. It only acquired its nickname in the year 1936.

January 24, 2017

0861, 1184, 1775, 1947, 2923, 2934 CANADA (Alberta / British Columbia) - Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks (UNESCO WHS)

0861 Banff National Park - Peyto Lake

Posted on 14.11.2013, 16.08.2014, 25.07.2015, 10.10.2015, 01.01.2017, 24.01.2017
Renowned for their scenic splendor, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are comprised of Banff, and Jasper parks in Alberta, and Kootenay, Yoho, Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber parks in British Columbia. Together, they exemplify the outstanding physical features of the Rocky Mountain Biogeographical Province. Classic illustrations of glacial geological processes - including icefields, remnant valley glaciers, canyons and exceptional examples of erosion and deposition - are found throughout the area. The Burgess Shale Cambrian and nearby Precambrian sites contain important information about the earth's evolution.

1947 Banff National Park - Lake Louise

Located at 110-180km west of Calgary, Banff National Park is Canada's oldest national park, established in 1885. Named for an early trail guide and trapper, Peyto Lake is a glacier-fed lake formed in a valley of the Waputik Range, between Caldron Peak, Peyto Peak and Mount Jimmy Simpson, at an elevation of 1,860m. During the summer, significant amounts of glacial rock flour flow into the lake, and these suspended rock particles give the lake a bright, turquoise colour. The lake is fed by the Peyto Creek, which drains water from the Caldron Lake and Peyto Glacier, and flows into the Mistaya River. Lake Louise, named Lake of the Little Fishes by the Stoney Nakota First Nations people, is also a glacial lake within the same park, drained through the 3 km long Louise Creek into the Bow River, and having characteristics similar to Peyto Lake.

1184 Jasper National Park - Athabasca Glacier

One of the icefield of Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks is Columbia Icefield, which lies partly in the northwestern tip of Banff National Park and the southern end of Jasper National Park. It is about 325 km² in area, 100 to 365m in depth and receives up to 7m of snowfall per year. The icefield feeds eight major glaciers, including Athabasca Glacier. It currently recedes at a rate of about 5m per year and has receded more than 1.5km in the past 125 years and lost over half of its volume. The glacier moves down from the icefield at a rate of several centimetres per day. Due to its close proximity to the Icefields Parkway, between the Alberta towns of Banff and Jasper, and rather easy accessibility, it is the most visited glacier in North America.

1775 Jasper National Park - Maligne Lake

Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, and includes the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls and mountains. Located 44km south of Jasper town, Maligne Lake (from the French word for malignant or wicked) is famed for the colour of its water, the surrounding peaks, the three glaciers visible from the lake and Spirit Island. It is fed and drained by the Maligne River, which enters the lake on its south side, near Mount Unwin and drains the lake to the north. Spirit Island is a tiny tied island, frequently photographed, a view which many people associate with the Canadian Rockies.

2923 Yoho National Park - Emerald Lake

Located in southeastern British Columbia, Yoho National Park was named after a Cree expression of awe and wonder. Emerald Lake is the largest of Yoho's 61 lakes and ponds, as well as one of the park's premier tourist attractions. It is enclosed by mountains of the President Range, as well as Mount Burgess and Wapta Mountain. This basin traps storms, causing frequent rain in summer and heavy snowfalls in winter. This influx of moisture works with the lake's low elevation to produce a unique selection of flora. Due to its high altitude, the lake is frozen from November until June. The vivid turquoise color of the water, caused by powdered limestone, is most spectacular in July as the snow melts from the surrounding mountains.

2934 Yoho National Park -
A fossil of Bathyuriscus rotundatus

The Burgess Shale, located in Yoho National Park, has among the world's richest deposits of rare fossils. Bathyuriscus is an extinct genus of Cambrian trilobite. It was a nektobenthic predatory carnivore. The genus Bathyuriscus is endemic to the shallow seas that surrounded Laurentia. Its major characteristics are a large forward-reaching glabella, pointed pleurae or pleurae with very short spines, and a medium pygidium with well-impressed furrows.In Greek, bathys means deep, and oura - tail, so Bathyuriscus means a trilobite with a deep tail. On the other hand, rotundatus comes from the Latin rotundus - round, presumably alluding to the rounded outline of the dorsal shield.

January 22, 2017

2933 THAILAND (Prachuap Khiri Khan) - Klai Kang Won Palace in Hua Hin

Klai Kang Won, meaning  "far from worries", is aptly named after the peace and serenity of the surrounding landscape, fronting a secluded stretch of the Hua Hin beachfront, and was the primary summer royal residence of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). King Prajadhipok (Rama VII) commissioned its construction in 1926, after Hua Hin Train Station was built and the southern-northern rail line officially linked. In those early days, Thailand started to open its doors to western culture and architecture.

January 19, 2017

2932 MYANMAR (Yangon Region) - Bogyoke Aung San Market in Yangon

Bogyoke Aung San Market (formerly Scott's Market) is a major bazaar located in Pabedan township in central Yangon. Known for its colonial architecture and inner cobblestone streets, the market is a major tourist destination, dominated by antique, Burmese handicraft and jewellery shops, art galleries, and clothing stores, but also is a popular black market location to exchange currency. It was built in 1926, late in the British rule of Myanmar, and it was named after the Municipal Commissioner of the time, Mr. Gavin Scott. After Burmese independence in 1948, it was renamed after Bogyoke (General) Aung San. A new wing of the market was added across Bogyoke Market Road in the 1990s.

January 18, 2017

0241, 2930 THAILAND (Sukhothai) - Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns (UNESCO WHS)

0241 Sukhothai Historical Park - Wat Mahathat

Posted on 08.06.2012, 18.01.2017
The golden age of an empire contains the seed of his downfall, and the Khmer Empire wasn't a exception. During the reign of Jayavarman VII (1181-1219), the empire reached its maximum expansion (its territory covering the current Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, southern Vietnam - Champa, and part of Malaysia), but also a cultural and spiritual peak. His successor, Indravarman II (r 1219-1243), completed some temples, but as warrior he was less successful, withdrawing from many of the provinces of Champa, and in the west being pushed back by the Thais rebels, who established the Kingdom at Sukhothai.

2930 Sukhothai Historical Park - Buddha image
in the ruins of the ordination hall of Wat Mahathat

Thais (free men), known then as Siameses, weren't natives of the region, but they came from the north, maybe from the Chinese Province of Guangxi, and assimilated many elements of classical indianized civilizations of the Southeast Asia. The Sukhothai Kingdom, located in north central Thailand, existed from 1238 till 1438, and had the capital to Sukhothai, now at 12km outside of New Sukhothai, about 427 km north of Bangkok. The modern national Thai history comprises the history of this kingdom, Sukhothai being considered the first national capital, followed by Ayutthaya, Thonburi until Rattanakosin or today Bangkok.

January 15, 2017

2928 BELGIUM (Brussels) - Hotel Tassel - part of Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (UNESCO WHS)

2928 Stairway of Hôtel Tassel

Victor Horta was born in Ghent, Belgium in 1861 and lived for several years in Paris before returning to Belgium to work as an architect in 1880. He achieved rapid success, working on several prestigious buildings and receiving a number of official posts including a position at the Free University of Brussels. From 1892, Horta began working in the new Art Nouveau style, being credited as the first to introduce the style to architecture from the decorative arts. Four of his buildings - Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay, Hôtel van Eetvelde, and Maison & Atelier Horta - were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

January 14, 2017

2927 CANADA (Newfoundland and Labrador) - Atlantic puffin colony in Witless Bay Ecological Reserve

The Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica), also known as the common puffin, is a species of seabird in the auk family. It is the only puffin native to the Atlantic Ocean, and breeds in Iceland, Norway, Greenland, Newfoundland and many North Atlantic islands. Although it has a large population and a wide range, the species has declined rapidly, resulting in it being rated as vulnerable by the IUCN. This puffin has a black crown and back, pale grey cheek patches and white underparts. Its broad, boldly marked red and black beak and orange legs contrast with its plumage.

January 13, 2017

2925 RUSSIA (Pskov Oblast) - The Old Mill in Mikhailovskoye

Located in the heart of the Pskov Oblast, on the spurs of the Valdai Hills, not far from Pskov and the border of Latvia, the State museum-reserve of Alexander Pushkin «Mikhailovskoye» is a unique monument of Russian culture of national significance. In Russian history Mikhailovskoye, Trigorskoye, Petrovskoye, Pushkinskie Gory (or Holy Hills) are connected with life and creative activity of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837), probably the greatest Russian poet and the founder of modern Russian literature.