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31/10/2010

Katikies, Santorini, Cyclades, Greece


This is a photo taken from the Katikies Hotel, hanging from the cliff, 100 meters above the dazzlingly blue caldera basin, in the picturesque village of Oia, the most westerly point of Santorini, Cyclades, Greece. Aegean architecture blends past with present in a free form fantasy of stairs, bridges, cubist cottages and infinity swimming pools.

30/10/2010

Street Portrait, Pakbeng, Laos


This photo was taken in a village located closed to Pakbeng, on the bank of the Mekong, in the north west of Laos.

29/10/2010

Springbok, Etosha National Park, Namibia


The Springbok (Afrikaans and Dutch: spring = jump; bok = antelope or goat) (Antidorcas marsupialis) is a medium sized brown and white gazelle that stands about 75 cm high. Springbuck males weigh between 33-48 kg and the females between to 30-44 kg. They can reach running speeds of up to 80 km/h. The latin name marsupialis derives from a pocket-like skin flap which extends along the middle of the back from the tail onwards. When the male springbok is showing off his strength to attract a mate, or to ward off predators, he starts off in a stiff-legged trot, jumping up into the air with an arched back every few paces and lifting the flap along his back. Lifting the flap causes the long white hairs under the tail to stand up in a conspicuous fan shape, which in turn emits a strong floral scent of sweat. This ritual is known as pronking from the Afrikaans, meaning to boast or show off.Springbok inhabit the dry inland areas of south and southwestern Africa. Their range extends from the northwestern part of South Africa through the Kalahari desert into Namibia and Botswana. They used to be very common, forming some of the largest herds of mammals ever documented, but their numbers have diminished significantly since the 19th century due to hunting and fences from farms blocking their migratory routes.

28/10/2010

Hector Guimard Art Nouveau Entrance at Abesses Station, Paris Métro (Métropolitain), France


The Métro's original French Art Nouveau entrances are iconic symbols of Paris, and 83 survive. Designed by Hector Guimard in a style that caused some surprise and controversy in 1900, there are two main variants:
- the most elaborate feature glass canopies : 3 still exist at Porte Dauphine, Abbesses (here on the photo), and at the intersection of Rue des Halles and Rue Sainte-Opportune )
- the rest have a cast-iron balustrade decorated in plant-like motifs, accompanied by a "Métropolitain" sign supported by two orange globes atop ornate cast-iron supports in the form of plant stems (as per photo in this post).
Several of these iconic Guimard entrances have been given to other cities. The only original one on a metro station outside Paris is the one at Square-Victoria station in Montreal, as a monument to the collaboration of RATP engineers. Replicas cast from the original molds have been given to the Lisbon Metro (Picoas station); the Mexico City Metro (Metro Bellas Artes, with a "Metro" sign), offered as a gift in return for a Huichol mural currently displayed at Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre station; and Chicago Metra (Van Buren Street, at South Michigan Avenue and East Van Buren Street, with a "Metra" sign), given in 2001.

22/10/2010

Heather (Calluna vulgaris) Moorland, North Yorkshire Moors National Park, England


This photo was taken in the North Yorkshire Moors, a national park in North Yorkshire, England. The moors are one of the largest expanses of heather (Calluna vulgaris) moorland in the United Kingdom.

19/10/2010

Registan (ریگستان) , Samarkand (Samarqand, Самарқанд, سمرقند), Uzbekistan (O‘zbekiston, Ўзбекистон)


The Registan was the heart of the ancient Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The name Registan (ریگستان) means "Sandy place" in Persian.
The Registan was a place of public executions, where also people gathered to hear royal proclamations, heralded by blasts on enormous copper pipes called dzharchis.
The three madrasahs of the Registan are: Ulugh Beg Madrasah (1417–1420), the Sher-Dor Madrasah (1619–1636) and the Tilya-Kori Madrasah (1646–1660). Madrasah is an Arabic term meaning a Muslim clergy academy.The Ulugh Beg Madrasah has its imposing portal with lancet arch facing the square. The corners are flanked by the high well-proportioned minarets. Mosaic panel over the entrance arch is decorated by geometrical stylized ornaments. The square-shaped courtyard includes a mosque, lecture rooms and is fringed by the dormitory cells in which students lived. There are deep galleries along the axes. Originally the Ulugh Beg Madrasah was a two-storied building with four domed darskhonas (lecture room) at the corners. The madrasah was one of the best clergy universities of the whole Moslem Orient of the 15th century. Abdurakhman Djami, a prominent poet, scientist and philosopher studied there. Ulugh Beg himself gave lectures there. During Ulugbek's government the Madrasah was a centre of secular science. In the 17th century the ruler of Samarkand Yalangtush Bakhodur ordered the construction of the Sher-Dor and Tillya-Kori madrasahs. The Sher-Dor (Having Tigers) Madrasah was designed by architect Abdujabor. The decoration of the madrasah is not as refined as that on the 15th century - "golden age" of Samarkand architecture. Anyway, the harmony of large and small rooms, exquisite mosaic decor, monumentality and efficient symmetry - all these put the structure among the best architectural monuments of Samarkand.Ten years later the Tilya-Kori Madrasah was built, the name means "Gilded". It was not only the place of training students, but also it played the role of grand mosque. It has two-storied main facade, vast courtyard fringed by dormitory cells with four galleries along axes. Mosque building (see picture 6) is situated in the western section of the courtyard. The main hall of the mosque is abundantly gilded.
To the east of Tilya-Kori Madrasah the mausoleum of Shaybanids (16 century) is located (see picture). The real founder of Shaybanid power was Muhammad Shaybani - grandson of Abu'l Khair. In 1500, with the backing of the Chaghataite Khanate, then based in Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Muhammad Shaybani has conquered Samarkand and Bukhara from their last Timurid rulers. The founder of the dynasty then turned on his benefactors and in 1503 took Tashkent. He captured Khiva in 1506 and in 1507 he swooped down on Merv (Turkmenistan), eastern Persia, and western Afghanistan. The Shaybanids stopped the advance of the Safavids, who in 1502 had defeated the Akkoyunlu (Iran). Muhammad Shaybani was a leader of nomadic Uzbeks. During the ensuing years they substantially settled down in oases of Central Asia. The Uzbek invasion of 15 c. was the last component of the today's Uzbek nation ethnogeny.

18/10/2010

Copenhagen Opera House (Operaen), Island of Holmen, Copenhagen, Denmark


This is a photo of the Copenhagen Opera House (Operaen in Danish), the national opera house of Denmark, and among the most modern opera houses in the world. It is also one of the most expensive opera houses ever built with construction costs well over 500 million U.S. dollars. It is located on the island of Holmen in central Copenhagen.
The Opera House was designed by the architect Henning Larsen and engineers Ramboll and Buro Happold and Theatre Consultant Theatreplan. The acoustics were designed by Arup Acoustics and architectural lighting design by Speirs and Major Associates. Construction began in June 2001 and was completed on October 1, 2004. It was opened on January 15, 2005.

16/10/2010

Street Portrait, Pakbeng, Laos


This photo was taken in a village located closed to Pakbeng, on the bank of the Mekong, in the north west of Laos.

15/10/2010

Char Minar (Chor Minor), Bukhara (Buxoro, Бухоро, بُخارا), Uzbekistan (O‘zbekiston, Ўзбекистон)


This is a photo of Char Minar, which stands in a maze of alleys between Pushkin and Hoja Nurabad in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Its name means "four minarets" in Tajik, but this interesting little building with four towers was actually a gatehouse of a medressa.
The Char Minar gatehouse was built along with its medressa in 1807. Its architecture is more Indian in style than Uzbek. UNESCO restored one the towers, which had collapsed, in 1998.
Following the street from the Ulugbek and Abdulazizkhan Madrassahs, which flows into the labyrinth of narrow, winding streets of old Bukhara, we can find this monument that is not as old, but which is notable for its architecture - the Chor-Minor Madrassah, which was built in 1807 by Khalif Niazkul. He built the madrassah with a cozy courtyard and a pond, a summer mosque, and a four-turret building opening into the architectural complex. It draws attention to itself with its unusual architectural solution, the main focus of which is the four turrets with their sky blue cupolas, which have nothing in common with ordinary minarets. The cube shaped building is crowned with a slightly flattened cupola, it is without any architectural decor and is finished in ordinary brick. Its facade is partially engulfed by a disproportionably large arched portal against which the corner turrets are pressed, and only cupolas ornamented with glazed tile bands of geometrical figures. The four sky-blue cupolas look majestic and beautiful against the background of the cloudless sky. Among the one-storey buildings of old Bukhara, the original beauty of Char-Minar is a pleasant addition to the skyline of the city.

12/10/2010

Grottes de Lacave, Lacave, Lot, France


This photo was taken in Lacave, a village in France, situated in the North-West of the Lot department, within the Midi-Pyrénées region, situated in the foothills of the "Causse de Gramat" at the confluence of the Dordogne and the Ouysse, 12 km from Souillac and 8 km from Rocamadour.
Discovered in 1902 by Armand Viré, the Grottes de Lacave are a series of impressive caves which have several galleries, each given separate names. Two of the most impressive are the Great Dome Room at 60 meters high and the 2,000-square-meter Room of Marvels. There are also numerous limestone formations, including the Spider-footed Pillar, which has the biggest helictites in Europe.

11/10/2010

Winter Sun, Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, United Kingdom


This photo was taken on the Isles of Scilly (Syllan) which form an archipelago off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula of Great Britain.
The Isles of Scilly form an archipelago of five inhabited islands and numerous other small rocky islets (around 140 in total) lying 45 km off Land's End. They are all composed of granite rock of late Carboniferous age. The table provides an overview of the most important islands:
The islands' position produces a place of great contrast—the ameliorating effect of the sea means they rarely have frost or snow, which allows local farmers to grow flowers well ahead of those in mainland Britain. The chief agricultural product is cut flowers, mostly daffodils. Exposure to Atlantic winds means that spectacular winter gales lash the islands from time to time. This is reflected in the landscape, most clearly seen on Tresco where the lush sub-tropical Abbey Gardens on the sheltered southern end of the island contrast with the low heather and bare rock sculpted by the wind on the exposed northern end.

10/10/2010

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Paris (commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica), Montmartre, Paris, France


This is a photo of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica (Basilique du Sacré-Cœur), a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris, France. A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city.

09/10/2010

Gur-e Amir (Guri Amir, گورِ امیر) Mausoleum, Samarkand (Samarqand, Самарқанд, سمرقند), Uzbekistan (O‘zbekiston, Ўзбекистон)


This is a photo of the Gūr-e Amīr or Guri Amir, a mausoleum of the Asian conqueror Tamerlane (also known as Timur) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. It occupies an important place in the history of Persian Architecture as the precursor and model for later great Mughal architecture tombs, including Humayun's Tomb in Delhi and the Taj Mahal in Agra, built by Timur's descendants, the ruling Mughal dynasty of North India. It has been heavily restored.Gur-e Amir is Persian for "Tomb of the King". This architectural complex with its azure dome contains the tombs of Tamerlane, his sons Shah Rukh and Miran Shah and grandson Ulugh Beg and Muhammad Sultan. Also honoured with a place in the tomb is Timur's teacher Mir Sayyid Baraka.
The earliest part of the complex was built at the end of the 14th century by the orders of Muhammad Sultan. Now only the foundations of the madrasah and khanaka, the entrance portal and a part of one of four minarets remains.
The construction of the mausoleum itself began in 1403 after the sudden death of Muhammad Sultan, Tamerlane's heir apparent and his beloved grandson, for whom it was intended. Timur had built himself a smaller tomb in Shahrisabz near his Ak-Saray palace. However, when Timur died in 1405 on campaign on his military expedition to China, the passes to Shahrisabz were snowed in, so he was buried here instead. Ulugh Beg, another grandson of Tamerlane, completed the work. During his reign the mausoleum became the family crypt of the Timurid Dynasty.The entrance portal to the Muhammad Sultan ensemble is richly decorated with carved bricks and various mosaics. The decoration of the portal was accomplished by the skilled craftsman (ustad) Muhammad bin Mahmud Isfahani. Outwardly the Gur-e Amir Mausoleum is a one-cupola building. It is famous for its simplicity of construction and for its solemn monumentality of appearance. It is an octahedral building crowned by an azure fluted dome (see picture). The exterior decoration of the walls consists of the blue, light-blue and white tiles organized into geometrical and epigraphic ornaments against a background of terracotta bricks. The dome (diameter - 15 m (49.21 ft), height - 12.5 m (41.01 ft)) is of a bright blue color with deep rosettes and white spots. Heavy ribbed fluting gives an amazing expressiveness to the cupola.During the reign of Ulugh Beg a doorway was made to provide an entrance into the mausoleum.
Inwardly the mausoleum appears as a large, high chamber with deep niches at the sides and diverse decoration. The lower part of the walls covered are by onyx slabs composed as one panel. Each of these slabs is decorated with refined paintings. Above the panel there is a marble stalactite cornice. Large expanses of the walls are decorated with painted plaster; the arches and the internal dome are ornamented by high-relief papier-mache cartouches, gilded and painted. The ornate carved headstones in the inner room of the mausoleum merely indicate the location of the actual tombs in a crypt directly underneath the main chamber. Under Ulugh Beg's government a solid block of dark green jade was placed over the grave of Tamerlane. Formerly this stone had been used at a place of worship in the Chinese emperor's palace, then as the throne of Kabek Khan (a descendant of Genghis Khan) in Karshi. Next to Tamerlane's grave lie the marble tombstones of his sons Miran Shah and Shah Rukh and also of grandsons - Muhammad Sultan and Ulugh Beg. Tamerlane's spiritual teacher Mir Said Baraka, also rests here. In 1740, the Persian warlord Nadir Shah tried to carry off the valuable tomb stone, but it broke in two. This was interpreted as a bad omen. His advisers urged him to leave the stone to its rightful place. The second time the stone was disturbed was on June 19, 1941 when Soviet archaeologists opened the crypt. The anthropologist Mikhail Gerasimov was able to reconstruct Tamerlane's facial features from his skull, and it was also confirmed that he was 172 cm in height, a giant for his day, and would have walked with a pronounced limp. Further historical information about the assassination of Ulugh Beg and the authenticity of the other graves was also confirmed. Timur's skeleton and that of Ulugh Beg, his grandson, were reinterred with full Islamic burial rites in November 1942, at the beginning of the Battle of Stalingrad.

08/10/2010

Land's End (Pedn an Wlas), Cornwall, United Kingdom


This photo was taken at Land's End (Pedn an Wlas in Cornish), a headland and small settlement in west Cornwall, United Kingdom. It is located on the Penwith peninsula approximately eight miles (13 km) west-southwest of Penzance.
Land's End is the extreme south-westerly point of the British mainland, and the extreme westerly point of the mainland of England.

07/10/2010

Kino International Film Theater & Ex-Hotel Berolina, Berlin, Germany


This is a photo of the Kino International, a film theater in Berlin, located on Karl-Marx-Allee in former East Berlin and which hosted premieres until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The architecture of Karl-Marx-Alle was also shaped in large part by Josef Kaiser, who designed “Kino International” [“Cinema International”] and the 13-story “Hotel Berolina” both of which can be seen above. The hotel existed between 1963 and 1992, and now the building, on which a 14th-story was added between 1996 and 1998, hosts the town hall Rathaus Mitte von Berlin.
Despite differing political doctrines, cinema has occupied a major role across cultures for the sake of entertainment and propaganda since the mid 20th century. Opened in 1963, this GDR-era movie theater has seen its share of varying reels run on its now famed screen. Located opposite the Moskau Cafe (once the GDR politicians’ party house), Kino International stands in strict International style—a particular architectural approach adopted by the GDR for the second phase of building on Karl Marx Allee (Frankfurter Tor).
Though the geometric exterior is, alone, a good reason to pay a visit, be sure to step inside to marvel at the equally amazing classic cinema interior—characterized by the theater’s grand foyer, twin staircases and sequined curtain. Under World Heritage protection since 1995, the theater is destined to be a landmark for Berlin architecture and cinema for years to come.

05/10/2010

Château de Marqueyssac (Garden à la française), Vézac, Dordogne, France


These photos were taken in one of the many garden of the Château de Marqueyssac, a 17th century chateau and gardens located at Vézac, in the Dordogne Department of France. The chateau was built at the end of the 17th century by Bertrand Vernet de Marqueyssac, Counselor to Louis XIV, on cliffs overlooking the Dordogne Valley. The original garden à la française was attributed to a pupil of André Le Nôtre, and featured terraces, alleys, and a kitchen garden surrounding the chateau. Between 1830 and 1840, Julien Bessières constructed a chapel and a grand alley one hundred meters long for horseback rides.
In the 1860s, the new owner, Julien de Cervel, began to plant thousands of boxwood trees - today there are over 150,000 - and had them carved in fantastic shapes, many in groups of rounded shapes like flocks of sheep. He also added linden trees, cypress trees, and stone pine from Italy, and introduced the cyclamen from Naples. Following the romantic style, he built rustic structures, redesigned the parterres, and laid out five kilometers of walks.
In the second half 20th century the house was not frequented occupied, and the gardens were not well maintained. Beginning in 1996, a new owner, Kleber Rossillon, restored the gardens to their old character, and added some new features, including an alley of santolina and rosemary, and, in the romantic spirit of the 19th century, a course of water descending from the belvedere and ending in a cascade. The gardens were opened to the public in 1996.
Since 1997, the gardens have been classified amongst the Notable Gardens of France by the Committee of Parks and Gardens of the Ministry of Culture.