Umayyad Mosque in Damascus

Umayyad Mosque
Courtyard of Umayyad Mosque in Syria
Photo from: BillBl, Creative Commons

The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, is one of the oldest and largest mosques in the world. Sometimes referred to as the Grand Mosque of Damascus, it is known for its intricate architectural beauty with elegant color combinations that are accentuated by the lighting.

One of the features of the Umayyad Mosque is the tomb of Saladin, which stands in a garden that is adjacent to the wall of the mosque. This is the final resting place of Kurdish Ayyubid Sultan Saladin. The mosque also holds a memorial that may contain the head of John the Baptist, who is honored as a great prophet and preacher by both Christians and Muslims.

Damascus is one of the oldest colonized cities in the world and the mosques that are located on the land in that city are considered especially sacred. On the same ground where the Umayyad Mosque stands today was once a temple that was dedicated to Hadad, an idol from the Aramaean era around 1000 BC. While the Romans ruled the city, they built a temple on the site and dedicated it to the god Jupiter. Around the 4th century, the site became a Christian church.

The Muslims took over Damascus in 636 and purchased the church from the Christians before demolishing it and building the mosque that stands there today. The Christians and Muslim pilgrims now share the building for their religious practices and rituals.

March 29, 2009 at 1:08 am | 10 comments

Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba

The Mezquita of Córdoba (Mosque of Córdoba) is a Roman Catholic Cathedral located in Córdoba, Spain. Mezquita is a Spanish word and it means “mosque.” This well-known mosque was built in the 10th century during the rule of Abd-ar-Rahman III, who was one of the most prominent rulers in the history of Islam. During this time, Cordoba was the largest and the wealthiest city of Europe and the construction of the mosque added more to its majestic beauty.

The building was initially intended to be a church. However, when the Muslim rulers took over the place, they started using it as a mosque and extended it until it became the second largest mosque in the entire world. The Mezquita is said to be the most prominent monument in Cordoba. Once the Spanish reclaimed the site from the Muslims, they converted it from a mosque to a church. Today, the Mezquita is used as a church and the normal fee to visit it is 6 Euros.

Great Mosque of Cordoba
Roman Bridge and the Great Mosque of Cordoba in Spain
Photo from: jamesdale10, Creative Commons
Interior of The Great Mosque of Cordoba
Taken from inside the Great Mosque of Cordoba, displaying
the Muslim’s architecture style
Photo from: ArminFlickr, Creative Commons

One can enter the church via the Patio de los Naranjas, which is a typical Islamic courtyard which preserves its orange trees and fountains. In earlier days, when the Mezquita was being used as a mosque, all 19 gates were open while offering prayers so that they looked like and extension of the trees with sunlight filtering all over. The Mezquita of Cordoba is one of the few places in the world that consists of two different cultures and is a great place to visit regardless of your religion.

March 28, 2009 at 11:38 pm | 3 comments

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral from a distance
View of Chartres Cathedral from a distance overlooking the city
Photo by: Joe Shlabotnik, Creative Commons

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, also known as the Chartres Cathedral of France, is situated about 80 kilometers southwest of Paris. It is one of the most recognized churches in the entire country and it is also one of the most visited Gothic churches in France.

The Chartres Cathedral of France was built in the 16th century. It stands atop a hill which makes it visible from a distance. There are two spires which help make it visible from far away, one of which measures 349 feet tall and the other measures 377 feet tall. It is surrounded on either side by wheat fields, too.

As for the history of the cathedral, it served as a big landmark for the public and also for the nearby visitors. All important activities were centered around the cathedral. It was a common place for pilgrims to visit when they grew old and it also served as a hospital for the sick. Many different kinds of workmen also frequented the cathedral to find jobs for themselves. Sometimes during the Middle Ages, the cathedral worked as the marketplace, despite the objections of the priests. In fact, the priests would not even allow those who sold wine into the crypt.

March 28, 2009 at 9:35 pm | 2 comments

Meenakshi Temple in Madurai

The Golden Lotus tank within the sprawling complex of the Sri Meenakshi
Photo from: mckaysavage, Creative Commons

The Meenakshi Temple is one of the most popular and important temples of the Hindus. The Temple is situated in the middle of Madurai city in Tamil Nadu, India. On a daily basis, thousands of pilgrims pay visit to the temple. The Meenakshi temple stands as the landmark of the city. The 14 gateway towers, called Gopurams, are more than 50 feet tall and have images and colorful statues of gods, goddesses, animals and various mythological characters.

The Meenakshi temple has four different entrances and the complex covers about 45 acres. The Parvati Hut is a part of the temple where only women can enter and men are not allowed to go in. It also has a museum called the Art Gallery, which is full of brass and stone artifacts.

During the pre-Christian era, the temple was built by Kilasekara Pandya. After a long time, it was rebuilt again by Trimalai Nayak. The city of Madurai was ruled by Nayak from the 14th to the 18th century. The temple is spectacular with some of the best architecture found in any temple. It has four towers, the north, south, east and west tower. All of them have nine stories with the tallest tower standing at over 170 feet. The temple is dedicated to lord Shiva and his wife Parvati, also known as Meenakshi.

March 28, 2009 at 9:15 pm | 4 comments

Amalfi Drive & Coast

View of Amalfi Coast
View of Amalfi Coast in Italy
Photo from: heydrienne, Creative Commons

If you really want the thrill and to view the beauty of nature, Amalfi Drive is the stretch that you can never afford to miss. The Stretch of the Amalfi Drive is next to the coastline of Sorrento and is known for its beauty. This is a one way road and thus experiences a lot of traffic. While on your way to the Amalfi, you would pass through Pasitano, which is a place that is close to the mountains, and you can view the sea on the other end. There are many villages along the way as well.

The life in Amalfi is very active and busy. That is the reason a lot of time is consumed if one wants to just cross the streets next to the harbor or go uphill. While going uphill can be big fun, coming down is not very interesting as it does not offer much and the path is extremely narrow. The best thing to do in places like Amalfi is to find the places that are not meant for visitors. Some interiors, though difficult to locate, offer better and more personalized services.

Tourists can also go in for a boat ride along the harbor. The view from the water to the mountain is just splendid. Tourists must plan how to go to this place. Hiring taxis or going by bus is ideal because the parking space in Amalfi Drive is so narrow. One can hire a private limousine with an English-speaking driver who would drive you along the coast. The place has some worthy restaurants that offer dishes that seafood lovers enjoy.

Many beach towns are located on the Amalfi Coast, including Vietrisul Mare, Cetara, Maiori, Minori, Ravello, Scala, Atrani, Amalfi, Concadei Marini, Furore, Praiano and Positano.

March 28, 2009 at 8:57 pm | 2 comments

Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong

Victoria Harbour at Night Taken from Victoria Peak
Hong Kong Harbor at Night take from Victoria Peak
Photo from: Base64, Creative Commons

The Hong Kong Harbor, now known as Victoria Harbor, is located in China between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula. The name was changed to Victoria Harbor to represent a fleet of ships that docked there that belonged to Queen Victoria. This harbor, due to its location in the south, was favored by the British to be used as one of the largest ports for trade. Over the years the shore has undergone enormous change.
People are attracted to the harbor because it offers a beautiful scenic view of Hong Kong. This area displays spectacular fireworks during the second night of the lunar year and thus is a very popular location for tourists and locals alike. It is also used for recreation like swimming and water polo.
Starting in 1970, Victoria Harbor experienced many years of bad pollution due to the quick expansion of the manufacturing sector. Because of this many activities in the bay ceased. Today the harbor is very well maintained by the government of China and Hong Kong attracts many new and old visitors. The harbor is also fully engaged in trade and is still the best and the largest harbor in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Harbor taken from Victoria Peak
Hong Kong Harbour during the day take from Victoria Peak
Photo from: Shaded.b, Creative Commons
Night Time Panoramic View of Hong Kong Island From The Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui
Night Time Panoramic View of Hong Kong Island From The Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui
Daytime Panoramic View of Hong Kong Island from the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui
Daytime Panoramic View of Hong Kong Island from the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui
Night View Victoria Harbor & HK Central
Night View of Victoria Harbor & HK Central
Photo from: dawvon, Creative Commons
Central HK at Dusk
Central HK at Dusk
Photo from: rmlowe, Creative Commons

March 24, 2009 at 8:26 pm | 5 comments

Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings is a magnificent area in Egypt located west of the Nile River. The region contains many tombs of the new kingdom and is divided into the west and the east valley. The east valley is more famous and attracts more visitors to it as it has most of the tombs. Visitors are often awed by the symmetry and magnificence of the tombs. Despite there being so many tombs, they each have their own uniqueness. It is almost impossible to see all of them. One of the special tombs is that of King Tutankhamen. A separate ticket is required to enter this famous tomb.

Not all the tombs are open for visiting at all times. Some are only used for special occasions and some of them are closed for restoration by the government. These tombs have undergone many changes in the past 500 years. Another tomb, Thutmose III’s, is in the East Valley and is one of the ancient tombs that has its own unique history. It was constructed in an oval shape and has paintings and carvings on the interior walls. There is a metal staircase that leads visitors down into the tomb.

Horemheb, Ramesses VI’s is yet another tomb that is worth visiting. So far almost 120 rooms have been discovered, however, they are not all open to the public. Although the ones that are accessible are certainly worth the visit.

Valley of the Kings Panorama
Panorama View of the Valley of the Kings in Egypt
Photo from: Nikola Smolenski, Creative Commons

March 24, 2009 at 7:03 pm | 32 comments

Borobudur Temple in Magelang

Borobudur, located in Magelang of Central Java, Indonesia, is said to be the greatest Buddhist stupa. A stupa is a mound that is filled with Buddhist relics. Borobudur was built before 800 A.D. It is known for its decorations, statues, exceptional up keeping and conservation. It is one of the world’s most complex buildings.

The Borobudur stupa is very large and rests on a hill. The sculptures inside represent a solar model of the universe. One can walk through five kilometers of open corridors. Visitors start their journey from the base of the temple and move to the third and highest level where there are 72 statues of the Buddha and a large monument. The walkway leads to a small downhill area and through six square and circular terraces. The stupa is adorned with 2,676 panels and 504 Buddha statues. Borobudur is not only a shrine, but also dedication to Buddha.

Borobudur Northwest View
Northwest View of Borobudur in Indonesia
Photo by: Gunkarta, Creative Commons

The Borobudur site is now owned by the United Nations Educations, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the government of the Indonesia. Some signs suggest that this site was abandoned in the 14th century. This is one of the most visited sites in Indonesia. One of the main reasons why many of visitors come to this place is to see the giant sculpture of Buddha.

Borobudur View From the Green Grass
View of Borobudur From a Distance Park
Photo from: gerej, Creative Commons
Open Stupa at Borobudur
View of Open Stupa at Borobudur
Photo from: belgianchocolate, Creative Commons
Borobudur Side View of the Statues of Buddha
Side View of Borobudur and the Statues of Buddha
Photo from: belgianchocolate, Creative Commons
On Top of Borobudur With Many Stupas
The Top of  Borobudur With Many Stupas
Photo from: null0, Creative Commons

March 24, 2009 at 6:42 pm | 11 comments

Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum From Outside: Lots of Ancient Treasures Inside
Photo from: vipeldo, Creative Commons

The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is located in Cairo, Egypt. It is considered to be a national treasure. The design of the grand museum was a consequence of an international competition. This competition was held by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The architecture of the museum is very complex and it offers visitors a visually pleasing scene. The museum provides an enchanting cultural and educational experience.

The aim of the museum is to represent and display the diversity and heritage of Egypt. The museum creates a great experience for tourists by helping them connect history to the present. The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities has one of the best artifact collections in the world.

The ground floor gives a vivid history of Ancient Egypt. Every month a new artifact or piece of art is featured for visitors to view. The museum also has very important items that are more than five thousand years old. In the far end of the museum, one can find material from the “heretic” pharaoh, also known as Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV). Tourists who have a genuine interests in learning about the Egypt culture must not miss this site.

March 24, 2009 at 5:51 pm | 2 comments

Kashmir Valley

Kashmir Valley
Kashmir Valley: What Appears to Look Like Heaven on Earth
Photo from: Tony George, Creative Commons

Kathmandu is the biggest city and the official capital of Nepal. It is located in Kathmandu Valley, which has two other cities called Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. The language spoken in Nepal is Napali. Kathmandu city has a total population of 700,000 and it is the only developed and modern city in Nepal.

The view from the Kathmandu Airport is breathtaking as the region is covered with hills and has untapped natural beauty and greenery. The main religion followed in Kathmandu is Hinduism. Kathmandu is located in the center of the Himalayas and some of the peaks of the Himalayas are clearly visible.

Kathmandu has a very famous temple that is called “Kaasthamandap,” which was built in 1567 AD. The temple is also called “Marusthal” and is made completely out of wood. It is now controlled by the government, but it was previously ruled by royalty. Swayambhunath and Boudhanath are two famous stupas within Kathmandu. Stupas are mounds that hold Buddhist relics. Kathmandu also has a famous Hindu shrine, called Pashupatinath.

Kathmandu city is a small, yet thickly populated place where one will see monks in abundance. The city has many prominent groups of monuments and places that are rich in culture and heritage. Durbar Square and Changu Narayan temple are very unique and certainly worth a visit.

Kathmandu has some very nice and upscale five star hotels as well as casino gambling.

March 24, 2009 at 4:33 pm | 4 comments

Prague Old Town

Old Town Prague is located in central Bohemia along the Vltava River and it is the largest city of Czech Republic. Also known as the “Golden City,” the Prague Old City has been included in the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO and it is the sixth most visited city in all of Europe. The name of the old town was originally called the Old Town Square, mainly because it has many historic buildings and sites.

This area is known for both its magnificent and catastrophic events. The Prague Old Town has its origin in the 9th century when it was made up of settlements, but it only got its name in the 14th century when New Town was formed and the wall and moat that surrounded it was demolished.

Prague Old Town
Panorama View of Prague Old Town in Czech Republic
Photo from: robertpaulyoung, Creative Commons
Prague Old Town at Night
The Charles Bridge and Little Town/Prague Castle in the back.
Photo from: tanvach, Creative Commons
Middle of Town Square in Prague Old Town Taken From the Clock Tower
Middle of Town Square in Prague Old Town From the Clock Tower
Photo from: tanvach, Creative Commons

Some of the famous sites to spend time at in Old Town Prague include Powder Gate, Municipal House, Celenta Street, Estate Theater, Old Town Square, Carolinum and Church of Our Lady, just to name a few. The Church of Our Lady was built in 1365 and is a gothic church. One popular piece of art in the church is the entrance portal with its Christ pictures and the huge Rococo altar. The church has also been used for many big concerts because of its sound pipe organ. Today, it totally commercialized and offers a good holiday feel to tourists.

Prague Famous Landmarks

March 24, 2009 at 3:24 pm | 1 comment

Golden Temple of Amritsar

Golden Temple in India
View of the Golden Temple in India
Photo by: appaji, Creative Commons

The Golden Temple in India, which is often called the “Darbar Sahib” or “Harmandar Sahib,” is one of the oldest places of worship for the Sikhs and is located in Amritsar, Punjab in India. It is considered one of the holiest, blessed and sacrosanct places in India. It is a symbol of both beauty and peace. The temple is surrounded by a small man-made lake which has a lot of fish in it. This lake is said to consist of holy waters. The temple can be entered from four different sides and thus symbolizes openness and acceptance. This concept is based on the tents which would open from all four sides, welcoming travelers from all directions.

The Golden Temple has three holy trees. There is also a small Sikh Museum near the Ghanta Ghar, or clock house, in Amritsar which is very rich in information. The entire top of the temple is made of pure gold and thus adds a lot of pride and beauty to the entire temple.

During the earlier days, this place was a huge lake surrounded by a thin line of forests. It is also said that Buddha journeyed here to find the real meaning of life and spent some considerable time in this place. The first guru of the Sikh community called the Guru Nank also used to meditate in this peaceful place. Years after he passed away, many of his disciples kept coming back to the site as it was considered a sacred place. It was during the time of the Fifth Guru, Arjana when the Temple was finally built in 1604. It was Guru Arjan who installed the Guru Granth Sahib hymn book in the temple and appointed the first reader in August 1604. The temples architecture has both Hindu and Muslim qualities.

March 24, 2009 at 2:23 pm | 67 comments

Easter Island in the Southeastern Pacific Ocean

Easter Island
Stone Statues (Moai) at Easter Island
Photo from: Ian Sewell, Creative Commons

Easter Island is located 2,180 miles (3510 km) west of Santiago, Chile. This Island is full of charm and beauty and has a fascinating history. The island is popularly known for its monumental structures. Generations after generations of people lived here and left their distinctive mark on this Island.

Easter Island is also known for its beautiful stone statues call “moai” which are made of volcanic rock. There are nearly 1,000 stone statues within Easter Island and the purpose of the statues is a mystery. Historians say that perhaps the statues represent the gods or early ancestors. The biggest moai is said to be 10 meters tall and weight around 75 tons.

The island has many popular resorts, beaches and coastlines that spread over 4,000 kilometers. The weather varies from being either dry or wet because of the island’s Mediterranean Climate. Easter Island also has offers visitors a look at old Chilean architecture.

Most of the beaches have five star hotels and resorts with the latest state-of-the-art technology. Water sports are the center of attraction for many tourists, with surfing and fishing being among the most popular activities. Tourists can eat exotic seafood and drink expensive wine while staying on the island.

March 21, 2009 at 2:53 am | 13 comments

Cappadocia in Nevsehir

View of Cappadocia and Its Rock Site
Photo by: mila zinkova, Creative Commons

Cappadocia is located in Nevsehir Province, in the middle of Turkey, and is 200 km long and 400 km wide. Almost three to four million years ago there was a volcanic eruption that shook the Central Anatolian Plateau and wiped everything from the land. This site is becoming a favorite tourist spot because of its rocky terrain, unique culture and history. Due to high sweeping winds, Cappadocia has interesting natural rock formations such as: inverted cones, chimneys and mushrooms. The people of the area cut into the soft rocks to create buildings. Cappadocia has many underground cities, churches and a beautiful landscape. Currently, there are more than fifty churches in this valley.

The name Cappadocia came from Persia and means “the land of fine horses.” It is believed that during the medieval period this area was used to breed animals. Cappadocia still has indigenous people that live there. Some of the areas have fallen under a conservation policy requiring that new houses be constructed out of stone to maintain the uniqueness and style of the region.

March 21, 2009 at 2:17 am | 4 comments

Fjords of Norway

Geirangerfjord in Norway
View of Geirangerfjord in Norway, Scandinavia

Norway is a land of divine beauty that brings one closer to nature. It offers plenty for visitors to do including skiing and hiking. Norway has always been known for its scenic beauty highlighted by fjords, mountains and glaciers.

Fjords are defined as a very thin, long, and narrow bay in a valley made by the glaciers. Visiting the fjords of Norway is considered to be a great outing for tourists and locals alike. The best time to visit this place is from May through September.

Bergen, which was once the capital of Norway, is located between seven mountains that are called the Gateway of Fjords. Norway is very rich in its flora and has a storied historical past that attracts tourists from all across the globe.

Visitors come from many places to feel the thrill of traveling alongside cliffs as they pass by the fjords. The largest and most famous fjord in Norway is called the Sognefjord. It is 1,200 meters deep and 200 kilometers long. While visiting, one can see fresh waters, clear skies and bright vegetation.

March 21, 2009 at 1:33 am | 3 comments

St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica
View of  St. Angelo Bridge & St. Peter’s Basilica from Palazzo di Giustizia
Photo from: jimmyharris, Creative Commons

St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the four basilicas that Rome has. It is officially known as Basilica di San Pietro in Vatican and it is located in the Vatican City, Italy. This basilica is where St. Peter was buried. Since then, many popes have been buried in the basilica as well. St. Peter was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and later became the Bishop of Rome. The church in the basilica has been standing in this site since the 4th Century. Because of its uniqueness, artistic beauty and historical association, St. Peter’s Basilica attracts many visitors and pilgrims.

St. Peter played a great role in establishing the Catholic Church. Peter was in the ministry for thirty years, after which he took a tour of the Rome. He was later executed in 64 A.D. when he was crucified upside down, as per his request, in what is now called St. Peter’s Square.

St. Peter’s Basilica is considered to be one of the holiest & the largest of all the Catholic Churches in Christendom. The main building is very impressive and stands 138 meters tall. Its passage is about 218 meter long. The interior artwork consists of the Pieta by Michelangelo, Papal Altar by Bernini and the Monument to the Stuarts by Canova.

March 20, 2009 at 6:34 pm | 3 comments

Potala Palace at Lhasa

Potala Palace
Potala Palace at Lhasa, China
Photo by: Ondřej Žváček, Creative Commons

The Potala palace in Lhasa, Tibet is located on what is called the Red Hill and was built by King Songtsen Gampo during the seventh century. It was struck by lightning and devastated by war which led to its destruction. However, the fifth Dalai Lama, in 1645, rebuilt the palace again. Since then, it has become the political center of Tibet. The Potala Palace actually has two palaces in it, the Red and the White Palace. The red one signifies religion and the white one is a ministerial building. This place is known for its complex construction, huge buildings, peaceful atmosphere and numerous works of art.

Once you enter the palace from the east. It takes you to the main courtyard where the Dalai Lama used to watch the Tibetan Opera. The White Palace was called the Winter Palace and the white color signified peace, calmness and togetherness. The largest hall in the White Palace is on the fourth floor, the living quarters and the offices are on the fifth floor. The Potala Palace has a beautiful Balcony that faces Lhasa.

The Red Palace exists in the middle of the Potala Palace and after the fifth Dalai Lama died, it was painted in a red color that signifies power and dignity. The walls of the Red Palace have many Buddhists stories written on them. It has three chapels. The North chapel is dedicated to the Dali lama, Buddha and his medicines. The East chapel is dedicated to the Indian monk who introduced Buddhism in Tibet. The West chapel is said to be the most luxurious chapel as it has 3,000 kg of gold and foil with hundreds and thousands of gems and pearls.

March 20, 2009 at 6:14 pm | 3 comments

Jerusalem Old City

Jerusalem Old City
View of Jerusalem Old City in Israel
Photo from: wikipedia, Creative Commons

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and also the largest city in the country. Jerusalem Old City is said to be the oldest and the holiest city in the world. It has a history that spans back to the fourth millennium BC. The old city is full of sites that are holy and thus attract countless pilgrims from all over the world. Jerusalem is claimed to be sacred by the three major religions. It is believed by many that anyone who is a Christian, Jewish or Muslim must once pay a visit to this holy place. The old city is filled with countless temples and ruins that any tourists can visit. The old city of Jerusalem has a very strong combination of Jewish and Arab culture.

The main attractions are found in the overcrowded city which includes some remains of the Roman dynasty. The Tower of David is where King David had his final resting place. But the main focal point of attraction is where Jesus is said to have been crucified.

Jerusalem Old City is also famous for the ‘Wailing Wall’ which was once called the Solomon temple. The wall has countless scribbled messages to God that are hidden in and around the stones. The wall is a very enchanting place for tourists to come and get a firsthand experience of some common Jewish rituals. The Dome of the Rock, located at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, is a shrine that represents the holiest place of the Islam religion. Muslims believe that the site is where the prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven.

March 20, 2009 at 5:59 pm | 20 comments

Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an

Terracotta Warriors
Up Close Shot of the Terracotta Warriors
Photo by: jeremybarwick, Creative Commons

The Terracotta Warriors and Horses were erected next to Qin Shi Huang’s burial site. Qin was the first emperor in China. It is a said in folklore that these warriors are real soldiers which were buried with him so that they could guard him in his afterlife.

The Terracotta civilization dates back to 210 BC but the site was discovered by farmers in 1974. The average height of this army ranges from 6 to 6.5 feet and they are standing in proper order of their roles. The soldier sculptures appear ready to go to the war and are all fully dressed with their weapons in hand. The generals are in the front, being the tallest, followed by acrobats, bowman and infantry soldiers. This site is breathtaking and is considered one of the wonders of the world. In total, there are over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses. Much of the sculptures are still buried in the ground.

It is said that the statues were constructed by local craftsman. In total, eight different kinds of moulds were used to create the face. Clay was added to the mould to give a proper structure and facial expression. All of them vary in their height and hairstyle, depending on their rank. There are a total of four pits that are seven meters deep. The fist pit is 230 meters long and has 8,000 figures. The ceiling is water proof and made of reed mats and wood.

March 20, 2009 at 3:31 pm | 17 comments

Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge is located in above the River Thames, London. On June 30th, 1894, the Tower bridge was opened by King Edward VII. The design of the Tower Bridge was done by Horace Jones and Wolfe Barry, the bridge was constructed in the year 1894. The Tower Bridge contains two massive towers which are linked together. The bridge stands at a height of 60 meters and the height of each tower is about 43 meters. The middle part of the bridge can be lifted up when huge ships pass through that way. In the past, the bridge was lifted nearly 50 times per day.

Tower Bridge at Night
View of the Tower Bridge from the North Bank in London at dusk
Photo from: DAVID ILIFF Creative Commons

Initially, the Tower Bridge was constructed as a level crossing over the River Thames, as the population of London grew, new bridges were constructed. But among all the bridges in London, Tower Bridge is the only one of its kinds. During the construction of the bridge, almost 50 designs were taken into consideration, these 50 designs can be viewed at Tower Bridge Exhibition. Finally, John Wolfe Barry and Horace Jones (architects) designs were chosen.

Eight years were involved in the construction of the bridge, about 430 laborers and five contractors took part in the construction. Two enormous pillars were downcast deep into the Thames River and 11,000 tons of steel are used in building the walkways and towers. The towers are then built with Portland stone and granite. The construction of the bridge pictures can be viewed in the Tower Bridge Exhibition.

Tower Bridge Panorama
Tower Bridge connects Borough to the heart of London City’s Financial District with The Gherkin at 30 St Mary Axe at night
Photo from: DAVID ILIFF Creative Commons

The Tower Bridge is operated by hydraulic methods. Over six massive accumulators are used in the operation of the bridge. These machines use steam to generate power and the power is fed to the accumulators. Using this energy, the bridge bascules are lifted up to a height of about 86 degrees. But from the year 1976, electricity and oil were used in place of steam. In addition, the bridge also uses navigation system for the signaling of ships and to control the traffic.

History & Facts

• In the year 1910, the walkways for the public have been designed.

• In the year 1912, Frank MacLean, a pilot has flied in the center of the bascules.

• In the year 1952, a bus jumped over the other bascule during the rising of the bridge.

• In the year 1977, the bridge was painted in several colors.

• In the year 1982, Tower Bridge Exhibition was opened.

• In the year 1993, the Centenary exhibition was opened at the Tower Bridge.

• In the year 1994, the bridge was available for events and parties.

• In the year 2002, the Tower Bridge Exhibition was reopened.

• In the year 2007, the Tower Bridge Exhibition celebrated its Silver Jubilee.

The Tower Bridge exhibition is a special attraction, where the designs, construction and the operating of the bridge can be viewed. The Tower Bridge is a great tourist destination and one of the mostly visited spots in the world. In the present days, the Tower Bridge is closed for some repairs, but it is open on certain days.

Traveling to Tower Bridge

There are numbers of flight services from all over the world to the London Heathrow Airport. Frequent train services are available from the underground London Bridge stations. In addition a number of private bus services are available frequently.

London Famous Landmarks

March 20, 2009 at 3:18 am | 25 comments

Tower of London

Tower of London
Tower of London With White Tower in the Back
Photo by: londonmatt, Creative Commons

The Tower of London is located near the River Thames in Central London, England. The tower was built by William the conqueror (Emperor of England) in the year 1078. The complex contains some buildings with two circles of walls and a large water body. The tower was built as a palace, castle and prison (for high level people). In addition, the tower was also used as a Royal Mint, observatory, zoo and as a house of Crown Jewels in the year 1303.

The white tower is considered the main center of the tower and it was built in order to save the people of London from outsiders. The construction of the tower was done under the supervision of Gundulf, an architect. The tower’s windows and doors were built with yellow limestone and mortar. The white tower stands at a height of 90 feet and the surrounding walls were about 15 feet. The tower’s exterior has been whitewashed in the year 1240 by Henry III. With this whitewash to the tower, the name “White Tower” was given.

The tower has been converted into a majestic palace in the 13th century by Henry III. The ward inside the tower has been joined by a Coldharbour Gate, surrounded by a wall, which led to internal destruction of the ward. The tower served as a majestic palace till the end of Oliver Cromwell, who destroyed some of the towers structures. A huge wall was built around the inner ward in order to expand the city towards the east, but the wall was broken. In addition, the wall contains 13 more towers.

Sky View of Tower of London
View of the Tower and Bridge of London from the Swiss Re Tower
Photo by: wikipedia, Creative Commons
Corner of Tower of London
Corner View of the Tower of London
Photo by: rudolf_schuba, Creative Commons

The Wakefield Tower is a special attraction among the towers which has the biggest curtain wall. Also, this is the place where King Henry VI has been murdered while offering prayers. Edward I, Emperor of England has built a curtain wall outside by closing the wall inside, filling the space with a water body which resulted in space between the outer body and the wall. He later filled the space with a water body, known as outer ward.

The tower also has the collection of Queen Elizabeth II’s crown and jewelry. In addition, there are beautiful gardens within the entrance of the tower. The Tower of London is also one of the haunted houses in the world; several ghosts including Henry VI, Henry VIII and Queen Margaret Pole are seen in the Tower. In the present days, the Tower of London is considered as one of the best constructions all over the World in terms of architecture and style. The tower attracts many tourists due to its magnificent beauty.

Traveling to the Tower of London

There are numbers of flight services from all over the world to the London Heathrow Airport. Frequent train services are available from the Underground London Bridge Stations. In addition, a number of private bus services are available frequently.

London Famous Landmarks

March 20, 2009 at 2:25 am | 2 comments

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle
View of Himeji Castle from Nishi-no-maru

The Himeji Castle is situated in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. It contains 83 buildings which are made with wood. Norimura Akamatsu, who was the ruler in 1333, constructed a fort where the castle stood. The fort was expanded further by Sadanori, the son of Norimura Akamatsu, in the year 1346.

During the Onin wars, the castle was severely damaged. Toyotami Hideyoshi took hold of the castle in the year 1580, and a three floored building was built in that place by Kuroda Yoshitaka. In the year 1600, Sekigahara Battle occurred and the Himeji Castle was handed to Ikeda Terumasa by Tokugawa Leyasu, to restore the Himeji castle. It took nine long years to bring back the Himeji Castle to its original shape.

Himeji was known to be the last construction during the Edo period. After that, Sakai Tadasumi descendents held the Himeji Castle until the Meiji Restoration. In the year 1868, the government of Japan took control of the castle. During War World II in 1945, bombings were held twice at Himeji Castle, causing severe damage to the castle. Later in 1956, the restoration of the castle started again.

The castle has a great structure and it is also called “White Heron” due to the fact that the walls comprises of white plaster. The white plaster is used as a fireproof.  Compare to the other castles in Japan, the construction of the Himeji Castle is made of wood only. The Himeji Castle is constructed 45.6 meters high on the top of sea level, and on the hill known as Himeyama.

The Himeji Castle provides a great scenic beauty, from the walls base, the shape of fan curve can be seen. Also, there are beautiful green lush gardens in the Himeji Castle. The interesting factor at the Himeji castle is the design of the tower, where many people lost their way even though the directions are exactly marked.

Traveling to the Himeji Castle

Its just 20 minutes walk from the Himeji Station and a 5-minute ride from Otemae-Cori Street. The castle opens from 9:00 am and closes at 4:00 pm in the evening.

March 20, 2009 at 12:54 am | 8 comments

Higashi Hongan-Ji Temple

Higashi Hongan-Ji Temple
Higashi Honganji complex with a total area of 99,000 m²,
interior space 29,700 m²

The Higashi Hongan-Ji Temple is considered to be the one among the two parts in Shin Buddhism abroad or in Japan, the other one is Nishi Hongan-Ji. The temple was established in the year 1321 and it is also said to be the burial place of Shinran Shonin, founder of Jodo-Shinshu Buddhism. During the year 1987, the name of the Higashi Hongan-Ji has been changed into “Shinshu Honbyo”, and the temple is not suppose to be called “Higashi Hongan-Ji”. Though the name has been changed, the temple has not been moved or restored; it follows the same religious traditions of the past till now. Kakunyo is known to be the first priest of the Higashi Hongan-Ji Temple.

In 1860s, it was called the period of Meiji Restoration; the government of religious organization managements gives some new instructions. The Higashi Hongan-Ji Temple was under the control of Shinshu Otani organization. To the Shinshu Otani School, the Higashi Hongan-Ji Temple serves as the head quarters. Shinran is known to be the founder of this school.

From the past, many people have visited the Higashi Honganji Temple, though the name has been changed, people still call it Higashi Hongan-Ji. The important thing to be viewed at the Higashi Hongan-Ji Temple is the hall gate of the founder. This gate can even be viewed from JR Kyoto Station. A number of wooden structures at the time of 1895 can be seen here.

Another important thing at this temple is the Shosei Garden. Ishikawa Jozan, who was known to be a great poet, did the design of the garden in the 17th century. A ceremony called Tokudo-Shiki takes place here, twice in august, where the people take vows.

Traveling to the Higashi Hongan-Ji Temple

From the Kyoto Station, its just 10 minutes walk. There are lots of trains to the Kyoto Station. The Higashi Hongan-Ji Temple is open from 5:50 am and closes at 5:30 pm in the evening. The entry fee is free.

March 20, 2009 at 12:12 am | 6 comments

Tirumala Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati

Tirumala Venkateswara Temple
Tirumala’s Main Temple. The Yellow Shrine in the Back is Completely Made of Gold
Photo by: dwimalu Creative Commons

The Tirumala Venkateswara Temple is located on the Venkatachalam hills, Tirupati, which is in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. The temple hill is a part of the seven hills located at Tirupathi. These seven hills are collectively known as “Temple of seven Hills”. The idol at this temple is Lord Venkateswara, also called Balaji or Srinivasa. The Tirumala temple is the world’s richest temple and the World’s most visited pilgrim place. Everyday, 75,000 to 100,000 pilgrims visit the temple daily and during the festival seasons, nearly 500,000 pilgrims visit the temple daily which is a record to any sacred places in the whole world. The temples annual income is the highest income compared to any holy place in the world.

The temple at several parts, such as the gates at the Lord Venkateswara’s idol is made with gold. The jewels used in the Lord Venkateswara’s idol are made of diamonds, gold, and gems. A large number of devotees present precious ornaments made of gold and diamonds everyday to the Lord Venkateswara’s idol. The value of the Ornaments gifted is not yet known.

The temple was built in a Dravidian style and the year of the temples construction is not known clearly. But some scriptures say that the temple was constructed by Thondaiman (king from the Pallava Dynasty). Thondaiman first built the temple and the entrance gate, which were used in conducting the prayers. The major development of the temple took place in the 15th century during the time of Krishnadevaraya (emperor of the Vijayanagar Dynasty) rule. In addition, he donated the ornaments to the Lord Venkateswara’s idol, made of gold and diamonds.

The temple is open in all the days, a queue system is maintained for the people. There are two ways to see the Venkateswara’s idol inside the temple, one is “Dharma Darshanam” (going near to see the Venkateswara’s idol), which is free of cost and takes about 10 hours time. Another way is “Sudarshaman”, which costs about 50Rs and takes about 3 hours, and “Nija Pada Darshanam” which costs about 100Rs.

The “Brahmotsvaram” (a festival which is celebrated nine days at the temple), which is celebrated in September, attracting millions of devotees. “Vasanthotsavam” (a spring festival) celebrated on March and April and “Rathasapthami”, a festival celebrated on February, where the idol of Lord Venkateswara is taken out as a Procession on the chariots.

Laddu is the tastiest sweet served at the temple, in addition, the curd rice and tamarind rice is a special attraction. A large number of devotees shave their head at the temple premises which is a tradition at the temple. The shaved hair is sold by the temple authorities, which is used in cosmetics etc.

Traveling and accommodation
Tirupathi being the major pilgrim city in India is well connected by all means of transportation from the major cities in India. Paid and free accommodation is available, people can choose according to their choice.

March 19, 2009 at 1:40 am | 3 comments

Elephanta Caves in Mumbai

Elephanta Caves
Shiva at Elephanta Caves
Photo by: ricardo.martins Creative Commons

The Elephanta Caves are situated in the Elephanta Island which is in the heart of Mumbai city, in the state of Maharashtra, India. UNESCO listed the Elephant caves as the World Heritage Site in 1987.

The name was kept by the Portuguese when they passed through the elephant statue of 13 foot at the door. The Elephanta Caves comprise an area of about 6000 square feet. The temples inside the caves were created as a practice of rock carving and the removal of rock. The temple complex consists of additional shrines, courtyard and a hall. Inside the caves, there are several rock temples, which belong to the 5th century. In the main cave of the temple, there is a huge three headed statue of Lord Shiva displayed in three different forms. The three different forms resemble Lord Shiva as the Destroyer, inventor and preserver.

The temples stand as a fine example of great architecture. Inside the temple, there is a large space, descriptions of the ancient past history and columns. The temples are created in such a way that one can freely move inside the temple. The temple three main entrances, the entrances from the east and west spot the temple axis. To the western end of the temple, a 20 pillared hall is situated, where a Shiva lingam (a symbol of Lord Shiva) is placed.

To the ends of north and south points of the temple, there is a 20 feet high Lord Shiva, portraying him as a three headed, also known as Trimurthy (three), which stands as a masterwork in the Indian Architecture. Also, the image of Panchamukha Shiva (an image having five faces) is carved on the walls. On the southern wall, there are majestic images of Ardhanariswara Uma Maheswara Gangadhara and Kalyanasundara. Also, there are Andhakaasuravadamoorthy and Natraja, Ravanaanugrahamurthy and Yogiswara images at the north entrance gate.

In the present days, the Elephant Caves is a great tourist destination spot. The Maharashtra government organizes the Elephant Festival every year where dance events and illumination of lights is being conducted.

Traveling to Elephant Caves

The only way to reach the Elephant caves is by boat. At the gateway of India, several boats are available frequently, which takes about 15 minutes. In addition, there is cruise and the journey on the cruise is really adventurous.

March 19, 2009 at 12:31 am | No comment

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