Sunday, February 27, 2011

Parlement Européen, Strasbourg - Alsace - France

Parlement Européen, originally uploaded by Jean-Michel Priaux.

The European Parliament (abbreviated as Europarl or the EP) is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union (EU). Together with the Council of the European Union (the Council), it forms the bicameral legislative branch of the EU and has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world. The Parliament and Council form the highest legislative body within the EU. The Parliament is composed of 736 MEPs (Member of the European Parliament), who serve the second largest democratic electorate in the world (after India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world (375 million eligible voters in 2009).
It has been directly elected every five years by universal suffrage since 1979. Although the European Parliament has legislative power that such bodies as those above do not possess, it does not have legislative initiative, as most state parliaments within the Union do (however, it does have it in a de facto capacity - see Powers and functions below). Parliament is the "first institution" of the EU (mentioned first in the treaties, having ceremonial precedence over all authority at European level), and shares equal legislative and budgetary powers with the Council (except a few areas where the special legislative procedures apply). It likewise has equal control over the EU budget. Finally, the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, is accountable to Parliament: in particular Parliament can veto it and its President and can force the body to resign.
The President of the European Parliament (Parliament's speaker) is currently Jerzy Buzek (EPP), elected in July 2009. He presides over a multi-party chamber, the two largest groups being the European People's Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). The last Union-wide elections were the 2009 Parliamentary Elections. Parliament has two meeting places, namely the Louise Weiss building in Strasbourg, France, which serves for twelve four-day plenary sessions per year and is the official seat, and the Espace Léopold (Dutch: Leopoldruimte) complex in Brussels, Belgium, the larger of the two, which serves for committee meetings, political groups and complementary plenary sessions. The Secretariat of the European Parliament, the Parliament's administrative body, is based in Luxembourg.

Neuchâtel by night, Switzerland

Neuchâtel by night, originally uploaded by Tambako the Jaguar.
The city is located on the northwestern shore of the Lake of Neuchâtel ("lac de Neuchâtel" in French and "Neuenburgersee" in German), a few kilometers east of Peseux and west of Saint-Blaise. Above Neuchâtel, roads and train tracks rise steeply into the folds and ridges of the Jura range – known within the canton as the Montagnes Neuchâteloises. Like the continuation of the mountains to either side, this is wild and hilly country, not exactly mountainous compared with the high Alps further south but still characterized by remote, windswept settlements and deep, rugged valleys. It is also the heartland of the celebrated Swiss watchmaking industry, centred on the once-famous towns of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle, which both rely heavily on their horological past to draw in visitors. The River Doubs marks the border with France, set down in a gorge and forming along its path an impressive waterfall, the Saut du Doubs, and lake, the Lac des Brenets.

GREECE: An Outline

GREECE: An Outline

Geography – Greece, formally known as the Hellenic Republic, is located in southeastern Europe and is distinguished by one of the most unique geographic formations in Europe. The country totals 50,959 square miles, including its islands, and has a population of 11 million (2001 census), with an estimated five million Greeks living abroad.

Greece reaches out to the Ionian Sea to the west, the Aegean Sea to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Albania, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Bulgaria are Greece's northern neighbors. Turkey borders Greece on its northeastern side. At the crossroads of three continents, Greece is a gateway to Asia, Africa and Europe. About four-fifths of Greece's land is mountainous, while its coastline, with many gulfs and inlets, is one of the longest of any country in Europe.

There are four main geographic regions: (1) Greece's northern region, which includes Epirus, Macedonia, and Thrace, (2) Central Greece and Thessaly, (3) the Peloponnese, separated from the mainland by the Corinth Canal, and (4) the islands of the Aegean Sea to the east of the mainland, the Ionian Islands to the west, and Crete, the largest Greek island, to the south.

Mount Olympus (9,754 ft.), seat of the gods of Greek mythology, is the highest mountain in Greece. On its lowest slope, Mount Parnassus (7,066 ft.) is home to the ancient site of Delphi, once dedicated to the god Apollo and famous for its oracle visited by many in antiquity. On the peninsula of Chalkidiki, in northern Greece, lies Mount Athos, with many centuries-old Orthodox monasteries forming an autonomous monastic community.

Athens is the largest city and capital of Greece, with a population of over three million. The second largest city, Thessaloniki, with nearly one million inhabitants, is located in northern Greece and is an important seaport, cultural focal point, and regional business center. Other large cities include Piraeus, the main port of Greece, Patras, Volos, Larissa, and Iraklion.

Greece has been celebrated for thousands of islands, islets, and rock formations, accounting for 8,919 square miles of the country's territory. These include Crete; Cos, home of Hippocrates, the father of medicine; Patmos, where St. John wrote the Book of Revelation; Rhodes, Myconos, Santorini, and Hydra. Ithaca, the home of Odysseus, and Corfu are among the best known of the Ionian Islands.

Greece's rivers are not navigable because they do not have regular seasonal levels. Major rivers include Aliakmon, Axios, Strymon, and Evros which forms the frontier between Greece and Turkey. The lakes of Kastoria, Ioannina, and Prespa are the largest in the country. The climate of Greece is temperate Mediterranean, with hot and dry summers and mild winters in the majority of the country. Most of the rain falls in autumn and winter.

History - Greece, also known as Hellas, is the birthplace of democracy. Not only did its democratic ideals inspire the founding fathers of America to draft the U.S. Constitution, but ancient Greece also encouraged other countries around the world to follow its democratic system of government. Greece's history stretches back over 4,000 years to a time when the people who inhabited the island of Crete developed a notable Minoan civilization.

The people of the mainland, called Hellenes or Greeks, were influenced by the Minoan civilization and further developed it. They organized expeditions which explored the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, reaching as far as the Caucasus mountains. One of these military expeditions, the siege of Troy, is told in the first great European literary work, Homer's Iliad. Greek settlements were founded throughout the Mediterranean, Asia Minor, and the coast of North Africa.

Throughout the classical period (5th century B.C.E.), Greece consisted of city-states, with Athens, Sparta, and Thebes among the largest. A fierce spirit of independence and devotion to freedom enabled the Greeks to defeat the Persians in battles, which influenced the course of history, in Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea.

In the second half of the 4th century B.C.E., the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, conquered most of the then known world. Alexander did not wish to enslave the nations he conquered, but sought to Hellenize them. In 146 B.C. Greece fell to the Romans.

In 330 A.D. Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople, setting the foundations of the Byzantine Empire. Byzantium soon became profoundly Greek, as it transformed the heritage of ancient Greece into a vehicle for the new Christian civilization which slowly spread to western Europe.

The Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottomans in 1453 and Greeks remained under Ottoman Empire control for nearly 400 years. During that long period, Greece's language, religion, and national consciousness defied extinction.

On March 25, 1821, the Greeks revolted against the Ottomans, and by 1828 had won their independence. As the new state comprised only a tiny fraction of the country, Greeks struggled for the liberation of all the lands they inhabited. In 1864, the Ionian Islands were ceded to Greece; in 1881 parts of Epirus and Thessaly. Crete, the islands of the Eastern Aegean and Macedonia were added in 1913, and Western Thrace in 1919. After World War II, the Dodecanese islands were also returned to Greece. During World War II, Greece fought memorably against Fascism and Nazism alongside the Allies. Greece has been a member of NATO since 1952 and of the European Union since 1981.

Government - The Constitution defines the country's political system as a parliamentary republic headed by the President of the Republic, who is elected by Parliament every five years. Popular sovereignty is the foundation of government. The government and its members must enjoy the confidence of Parliament (Vouli) which consists of one House with 300 members.

A new Parliament is elected every four years by popular vote. The leader of the majority party becomes the Prime Minister and forms a government which wields political power in Greece. The judiciary is independent.

Language - Modern Greek derives from the same idiom used by Homer and other renowned Greek poets and writers more than 3000 years ago. Greek was the language of the Gospels and has made a major contribution to all western languages.

Religion - Ninety-eight percent of the people adhere to the Greek Orthodox faith. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution, and other religious groups, such as Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, have their own places of worship.

The Flag - The national flag of Greece consists of four white and five blue alternating horizontal stripes, with a white cross on the upper left corner. Blue and white are the national colors of Greece, as blue symbolizes the sky and seas and white denotes the purity of the struggle for Greek independence in 1821. The cross on the flag represents the Christian religion.


The National Anthem - By Dionysios Solomos (1823); Music by Nikos Mantzaros; English translation by Rudyard Kipling.

We know thee of old
Oh divinely restored,
By the light of thine eyes
And the light of thy sword.

From the graves of our slain
Shall the valor prevail
As we greet thee,
As we greet thee again,
Hail, Liberty! Oh, Hail!

Flora, Fauna, and Marine Fauna – Common trees in Greece include white poplars, spearheaded cypresses, chestnut, pine, fir, and olive. Cultivated and wild flowers of Greece, many of which are mentioned in classical poetry and mythology, such as evosmon, anemone, violets, tulips, peonies, narcissus, parthenium, primrose and chamomile, are especially notable.

Wild animals indigenous to Greece include boars, bears, wild cats, brown squirrels, jackals, foxes, deer, and wolves. A rare white type of goat is found in Crete. There are 358 species of birds in Greece and two-thirds of them are migratory. Birds of prey include the golden and imperial eagle, the vulture, and several species of falcons. Other indigenous varieties of birds are the hawk, owl, pelican, pheasant, partridge, woodcock, and nightingale.

Greece has identified 246 species of fish. Squid, octopus, red mullet, lobster, prawn, shrimp, crab, oyster, mussel, and cockle are found in great quantity. River fish are rare. Dolphins, familiar in the legends and sculptures of antiquity, are often seen leaping close to shore. The island of Zakynthos is home to the giant loggerhead turtle, caretta-caretta.

Education - Greek families have always placed a high value on education, which is the right of every citizen and is provided by the Greek state from kindergarten to the university level. There are nine years of mandatory education, which includes six years of primary education and three years of secondary education (Gymnasium), and the state provides tuition and textbooks.

After graduating from the Gymnasium, students continue with a three year course in the Lyceum, which prepares them for higher education. There are dozens of public universities, schools of higher education, and technical colleges. Admission to universities is determined by competitive examinations held simultaneously throughout Greece. Children must attend school from the ages of six to 15, five days a week, from approximately 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Summer vacation extends from the end of June to mid-September.

Economy – In January 2002 Greece joined eleven of its European Union partners in adopting the euro as its new currency, replacing the centuries-old drachma. Greece's GDP in 2005 was nearly $210 billion. The services sector contributed 72% of Greece's GDP, industry 22%, while agriculture 6%.

The main agricultural products of Greece are cereals, vegetables, tobacco, currants, olives and olive oil, citrus fruit, grapes, almonds, figs, rice, and cotton. Livestock farming often involves sheep and goats, as there is limited pasture land for cattle rearing. Shipping is a preeminent Greek industry. The Greek-owned merchant shipping fleet is the largest in the world. Fishing, sponge-fishing, and handicrafts are among occupations in Greek islands.

Tourism is a leading source of national income. Industrial production has recently become one of the most important contributors to the economy. More than 13 million tourists visited Greece in 2004.

The majority of Greece's trade involves other European Union countries. Its major exports are foods and beverages, manufactured goods, and textiles. Greece's major imports are chemicals, fuels, and machinery. Basic metal industries (aluminum, nickel and steel), rubber and plastics, chemicals, petroleum products, electric machinery, and textiles are the biggest increases in output in recent years.

With several gas and oil pipelines being built or projected, Greece is rapidly becoming an energy hub in southeastern Europe, while location and services make it a regional business center and gateway.


The Ancient Olympics
Olympia in the western Peloponnese was the home of the ancient Olympic Games, established by Hercules, according to tradition, in honor of the Olympian gods who were the first competitors. Evidence indicates that games were initially held at Olympia in the 9th century B.C.E. Named after the highest mountain in Greece, Olympus, the Games were recorded as held every four years since 776 B.C.E. In 676 B.C.E. they acquired pan-Hellenic significance, and by 576 B.C.E., their prestige had reached its peak.

Special messengers were sent in every direction to announce the beginning of a sacred truce and there was a suspension of all disputes and warfare among Greek city-states. The largest cities were represented by official ambassadors to Olympia. The competitions testing strength and endurance lasted five days and included a wide variety of events. Eventually, additional contests included a four-horse chariot race.

Chariot and horse races took place in the hippodrome, while athletic contests were held in the stadium. Wrestling and boxing were combined in the pankration; jumping, discus-throwing, javelin-throwing, running, and wrestling were included in the pentathlon.

The victors of the games were honored by all Greeks. Memorials were erected and they were praised in poems and songs. Victorious competitors did not receive any trophies or medals. The emblem of supreme honor was an olive wreath placed on their heads. Some cities were said to tear down sections of their walls to let their victorious athletes pass through, signifying that with such individuals they did not need fortifications.

The Olympics and other popular festivals were more significant as institutions than the individual honors accorded to athletes who competed. In addition to inspiring succeeding generations to pursue competitive sports, they also contributed to a sense of unity between the Greek city-states, as indicated by the fact that of an Olympic truce during the games.

For a thousand years, the games were held at regular intervals of four years. The games continued well after the decline of Olympia as a sanctuary and the Roman conquest of Greece. The advent of Christianity inspired radical social and religious changes and the old monuments were used to build a castle. The Games continued until A.D. 393, when the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I banned them by decree, while, in A.D. 426, Theodosius II ordered the total destruction of the sanctuary's temples. The Goths delivered the final blow by destroying what could not be carried away.

In the following centuries, the river Kladeos covered the sacred land with sand and pebbles. It was not until 1875 that archaeologists brought it back to light and re-discovered ancient Olympia.

The Modern Olympic Games
The modern revival of the Olympic Games is associated with Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937) who, in January 1894, in a letter to the athletic organizations of every country, pointed out the educational value of sports to modern man, if practiced in accordance with the ideals of ancient Greece.

Since the Olympic revival, the Greek athletes always lead the parade that marks the opening of the Games preceded by the lighting of the Olympic torch. The flame that is used to light the torch comes from the sacred site of Olympia, where it is lit from the sun's rays and then carried by a relay of runners to the city where the games are being held.

The first modern games took place in Athens in 1896. Many of the original Olympic contests were retained, with new events added. One of the original events still contested is the Marathon race, commemorating the feat of an unknown Athenian warrior. In 490 B.C., he ran in full armor from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens, to bring the news that the invading Persians had been defeated. He could only utter the words "Rejoice, we are victorious," before falling dead from exhaustion. This event is now regarded as the pinnacle of the Olympic Games. The present distance of the race is 26 miles, 385 yards or 42.2 kms, the distance between Marathon and Athens. The first Olympic Marathon in 1896 was won by a Greek runner, Spyros Louis, in 2 hours, 58 minutes and 50 seconds.

Since their revival in Athens in 1896, the Olympic Games have been celebrated every fourth year, except for interruptions caused by World Wars. Athens hosted the Olympic Games of 2004 with a celebration of sports and culture that linked antiquity with the modern world.


The Gods of Olympus
Among gods and goddesses revered by ancient Greeks, twelve who were said to live on Mount Olympus were the most important.
Zeus: King of the gods who ruled over the world and the deities. He punished those who violated the laws and was accompanied by an eagle carrying his thunderbolts.
Hera: Wife of Zeus and Queen of Olympus. She protected women and marriage.
Poseidon: God of the sea, rivers and springs, wielding the power of storms and winds over the fate of sailors and ships.
Demeter: Sister of Zeus and mother of Persephone, Queen of Hades. She was goddess of sewing and the harvest.
Hestia: Elder sister of Zeus. As goddess of the hearth she was the protecting divinity of the home and family life.
Ares: God of war who fought for the sheer love of fighting and did not possess the gentle qualities of the other gods.
Hephaestus: God of fire and volcanoes who was the blacksmith of the gods and builder of their palaces and weapons.
Aphrodite: Goddess of beauty and love. Her symbols were the dove, ram, dolphin, swan, tortoise, and the rose.
Athena: Goddess of wisdom, war and peace. As Zeus's favorite daughter, she shared power over storms and lightning. Athens, Greece's capital bears her name.
Apollo: The sun god personified both the mental illumination and the physical phenomenon of light. He was also the god of music and song.
Artemis: Zeus's daughter and the twin sister of Apollo, was goddess of the forest and the hunt and often danced with the Nymphs of the woods.
Hermes: Messenger of the gods who was revered as the god of commerce, as well as of wind, swiftness, gymnastics, numbers, and the alphabet.

Christmas and New Year
Christmas and Easter are Greece's major religious holidays that are celebrated all over the country. Even though the customs are common in character, they differ in detail from place to place. Christmas has overtaken New Year's Day as the major occasion for gifts, parties and decorated fir trees. The traditional red-robed and white-bearded Santa Claus appears in the guise of Saint Basil, and on both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, children go from house to house singing carols and collecting money.

Particularly in the countryside, Christmas Eve preparations center around the dinner table, featuring turkey or pig, which the family has been fattening since mid-summer. Also on Christmas Eve, every household bakes a 'Christopsomo,' literally a 'Christ-bread,' made in large sweet loaves of various shapes, with decorated images carved on the crust, usually depicting some aspect of the family's life and work.

In Macedonia, a farmer's Christmas loaf will often depict a lamb or sheepfold. Remembering the needy is a must on Christmas Day. At Koroni in Messinia, for example, the first slice of the Christmas loaf is offered to the first alms recipient passing by the house. Another common custom is to pour a few drops of oil or wine over the hearth. This is a remnant of the libations of the ancient Greeks to the hearth whose deity was Hestia.

On New Year's Eve family reunions and office parties share the custom of cutting the 'vasilopita,' or 'Basil-cake,' for good luck in the coming year. Like the western Christmas pudding, the vasilopita contains a coin, which is said to bring luck for the rest of the year to whoever finds it in his or her slice.

Easter is the most celebrated holiday in Greece, deeply embedded in the traditions of the Greek people. The candlelight processions on Good Friday, the celebratory fireworks at midnight on Saturday, the Easter Sunday feast and many other customs, make this springtime celebration a very colorful, festive, and distinctively Greek Orthodox holiday.

There are many rituals involved in the celebration of Easter. Churches are filled with worshippers and Lent is observed. On Holy Thursday, Easter eggs are died red and braided bread is baked. Good Friday is a day of mourning, during which symbolic funeral services, commemorating the death of Christ, are conducted. In a solemn ceremony, the Sacred Icon of Christ is laid in a bier, adorned with flowers and garlands by members of the parish. During the evening service, the bier is carried through the streets with the whole congregation following, carrying lit candles.

Late Saturday night, the faithful flock to church dressed in their best, especially young children in their Easter outfits, holding white or ribbon festooned "lambades" (candles), bought by their godparents. Inside the church, the lights are dimmed and precisely at midnight the priest appears chanting, "Come receive the light", calling on the congregation to light their candles from his own. The flame is passed from candle to candle and the church is flooded with the "Holy Light", while people exchange kisses and wishes, chanting along with the priest, "Christos Anesti" - "Christ is Risen."

At home, the table is set with baskets of deeply colored red eggs, signifying the blood of Christ, "tsoureki", the special Easter bread, as well as the traditional Easter soup, "mageiritsa". The meal usually starts with a favorite Easter tradition: everyone takes turns at an "egg-cracking" contest, each hoping that their own egg will survive and establish them the winner. The following day, Easter Sunday, is entirely devoted to merriment and feasting, with the festivities revolving around the sumptuous Easter dinner and the spit-roasted lamb. The celebration, singing, drinking, and dancing continue for many hours in the outdoors to the sounds of music and merriment.


Greek Salad (Choriatiki)
3 vine ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, cut into bite-size chunks
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chunked
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and chunked
1 cubanelle pepper, seeded and chunked
1 cup Kalamata black olives
Several sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, about 1/2 cup
2 (1/4 pound) slices imported Greek feta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons (3 splashes) red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed in palm of your hand
Coarse salt and black pepper
Pita breads

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix with large spoon.
Serve with pita bread.

1 cup ground almonds
1 cup ground walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
8 sheets filo
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups date sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
sunflower oil for coating pan

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a deep 9- by 12-inch baking pan.
2. In a small bowl combine almonds, walnuts, and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. Cut each sheet of filo in half. Stack cut sheets on counter. With a large pastry brush, dot top sheet with about 1 teaspoon butter, then spread evenly to coat as much of sheet as possible (see Preparing Filo). Lay evenly in baking pan. Sprinkle lightly with nut mixture. Repeat with remaining sheets, stacking evenly.
4. To cut baklava make 4 evenly spaced vertical cuts through the entire stack of filo. Then cut diagonally to form diamond shapes. (Four evenly spaced diagonal cuts will yield 15 to 20 pastries.) Bake for 20 minutes, then lower heat to 300 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes more.
5. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer date sugar, lemon rind, lemon juice, and honey until thickened. Pour over cooked baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let cool and then serve.



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Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, Greece

Temple of Olympian Zeus, originally uploaded by Vasilis Tsikkinis.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus (Greek: Ναὸς τοῦ Ὀλυμπίου Διός, Naos tou Olympiou Dios), also known as the Olympieion or Columns of the Olympian Zeus, is a colossal ruined temple in the centre of the Greek capital Athens that was dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. Construction began in the 6th century BC during the rule of the Athenian tyrants, who envisaged building the greatest temple in the ancient world, but it was not completed until the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century AD some 638 years after the project had begun. During the Roman periods it was renowned as the largest temple in Greece and housed one of the largest cult statues in the ancient world.
The temple's glory was short-lived, as it fell into disuse after being pillaged in a barbarian invasion in the 3rd century AD. It was probably never repaired and was reduced to ruins thereafter. In the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the temple was extensively quarried for building materials to supply building projects elsewhere in the city. Despite this, substantial remains remain visible today and it continues to be a major tourist attraction.

Platamonas Macedonia, Greece

A beautiful Lombardian castle that acts as an extension of midieval spirit in modern times ... The famous castle of Platamonas found exactly in the heart of Macedonian Land ...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Coco Ocean Resort and Spa Hotel, The Gambia

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." -- Lao Tzu Copyright © Demetrios the Traveler

Prague - The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn

The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, or Tyn Church, (Týnský Chrám) dominates one side of the Old Town Square. The two spires of this powerful looking Gothic church (with a Baroque interior) can be seen from all over Prague.

Tyn Church was founded in 1385, a tumultuous period when Hussites were being slaughtered by the ruling Roman Catholics. Indeed, in time Catholic Jesuits took over the church, recasting the bell and replacing the Hussites symbolic chalice with a large figure of Mary nailed between the towers.

Tyn Church is impressive by day, striking by night, lit up against the dark night sky. Take a close look at the two spires. They are not symmetrical. This is characteristic of the gothic architecture of the time and is a representation of both the masculine and feminine sides of the world.

Qasr Al Sarab - désert -Abu Dhabi

Liwa Oasis is about 100 km south of the Persian Gulf coast and 150 km SSW of the city of Abu Dhabi, on the northern edge of Rub' al Khali desert. It is centered around 23°08′N 53°46′E and stretches about 100 km east-west, along an arch curved to the north. It consists of some 50 villages. The geographic and economic center of the oasis is Muzayri`, where the highway from Abu Dhabi enters the oasis and then divides to the east (65 km to the easternmost village, Mahdar Bin `Usayyan) and west (45 km to the westernmost village, `Aradah).

Friday, February 25, 2011

Notre Dame, Paris France

Notre Dame, originally uploaded by essexglover.

Notre Dame de Paris (French for Our Lady of Paris), also known as Notre Dame Cathedral, [a] is a Gothic, Catholic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. It is the cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese of Paris: that is, it is the church that contains the cathedra (official chair), of the Archbishop of Paris, currently André Vingt-Trois. The cathedral treasury houses a reliquary with the purported Crown of Thorns.
Notre Dame de Paris is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in France and in Europe, and the naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture. The first period of construction from 1163 into the 1240's coincided with the musical experiments of the Notre Dame school.
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Filerimos, Rhodes Greece

Filerimos, originally uploaded by mattberry.

A view showing part of the monastery at Filerimos, a very peaceful and pleasant place to visit on the island of Rhodes, Greece.

I am thinking to host a week long guided tour of the island later in the year, between May - August.

I go there several times a year and know lots of good spots around the island for natural history and landscape photography. I also know where the best authentic local Greek cuisine and culture can be found and experienced - treats await that are not to be missed!

During the week we'd stay in a Greek family owned hotel (probably in the medieval old town - a World Heritage Site) and tour in a mini-bus to a number of places of interest, mixing leisure, wildlife, history and culture - with plenty of opportunities for photography, helped by the striking mediterranean light!

River Neckar bridge (1786-1788) - Heidelberg - Germany

Heidelberg [ˈhaɪdəlbɛʁk] is a German city situated in the south-west of the country. It is the fifth largest city of the German State of Baden-Württemberg after Stuttgart, Mannheim, Karlsruhe and Freiburg im Breisgau. Heidelberg is part of a densely populated region known as the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region. As of 2009, over 145,000 people live within the city's area. Heidelberg lies on the River Neckar in a steep valley in the Odenwald.
Heidelberg — having been a former residence of the Electoral Palatinate in the past — is the seat of the University of Heidelberg which is well-known far beyond Heidelberg's and Germany's borders. Furthermore, Heidelberg is a popular tourist destination due to its romantic and picturesque cityscape's character including the Heidelberg Castle and the baroque style Old Town. The US Army has had a military base in Heidelberg since 1951.
The Neckar is a 367 km (228 mi) long river, mainly flowing through the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, but also a short section through Hesse, in Germany. The Neckar is a major right tributary of the River Rhine. Rising in the Black Forest near Villingen-Schwenningen in the conservation area Schwenninger Moos at a height of 706 m (2,316 ft) above sea level, it passes through Rottweil, Rottenburg am Neckar, Kilchberg, Tübingen, Wernau, Nürtingen, Plochingen, Esslingen, Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg, Marbach, Heilbronn and Heidelberg, before discharging into the Rhine at Mannheim (at 95 m (312 ft) above sea level).
From Plochingen to Stuttgart, the Neckar valley is densely populated and covered with industrial areas, including several well-known companies, e.g. Daimler AG, the maker of Mercedes Benz cars, and Mahle GmbH. Between Stuttgart and Lauffen, the Neckar cuts a scenic meandering and in many places steep-sided valley into fossiliferous Triassic limestones and Pleistocene travertine. Along the Neckar's valley in the Odenwald hills, many castles can be found, like Burg Hornberg and Burg Guttenberg in Haßmersheim, but also the closed Obrigheim Nuclear Power Plant and the active Neckarwestheim Nuclear Power Plant. After passing Heidelberg, the Neckar discharges on average 145 m3/s (5,100 cu ft/s) of water into the Rhine, which makes the Neckar its 4th largest tributary, and the 10th largest river in Germany.
The name Neckar was derived from Nicarus and Neccarus from Celtic Nikros, meaning wild water or wild fellow. Since about 1100, Black Forest wood was transported by timber rafting, e.g. to Holland for the use in shipyards.
During the 19th century, traditional horse-drawn boats were replaced by steam boats that used a 155 km (96 mi) long chain in the river to pull themselves upstream. The railway made it possible to transport timber to the port of Heilbronn, limiting timber rafting to the lower part of the Neckar after 1899. Thanks to the construction of 11 locks, ships up to 1500t could travel to Heilbronn in 1935.

The Neckar river in southwest Germany, flows from south to north, emptying to the Rhine at Mannheim.

Houses in Tübingen reflected in the Neckar

The Neckar river in Stuttgart

Lock in Neckar at Heidelberg
By 1968, the last of 27 locks, at Deizisau, was completed, making the Neckar navigable for cargo ships about 200 km upstream from Mannheim up to the river port of Plochingen, where the Fils joins, and where the Neckar bends, taking a Northwestern instead of a Northeastern direction. Other important ports include Stuttgart, Heilbronn and Mannheim.
The river's course provides a popular route for cyclists, especially during the summer months. Its steep valley sides are used as vineyards, to cultivate mainly Trollinger.
The name "Neckar" was also given to the world's first motorboat made during the summer of 1886 by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach when their Standuhr (Grandfather Clock) petrol engine was tested on the river near Bad Cannstatt.

via wikipedia

Marken Lighthouse, IJsselmeer, the Netherlands

Marken is a peninsula in the IJsselmeer, the Netherlands, located in the municipality Waterland in the province North Holland. It is a former island, which nowadays is connected to the North Holland mainland by a causeway. Also, Marken is a well-known tourist attraction, well-known for its characteristic wooden houses.

The biggest full moon of 2009 could be seen on the 10th of January. Above photo was captured on 10 January around sunset. The giant moon was rising in the east. It was the biggest and brightest one of 2009, sure to wow even seasoned observers.
Earth, the moon and the sun are all bound together by gravity, which keeps us going around the sun and keeps the moon going around us as it goes through phases. The moon makes a trip around Earth every 29.5 days. But the orbit is not a perfect circle. One portion is about 50,000 km closer to our planet than the farthest part, so the moon's apparent size in the sky changes. Saturday night the moon will be at perigee, the closest point to us on this orbit. The biggest Full Moon of 2009 and it will appear about 14 percent bigger in our sky and 30 percent brighter than some other full moons during 2009, according to NASA. A similar setup occurred last December. This month's full moon is known as the Wolf Moon from Native American folklore. The full moon's of each month are named. January's is also known as the Snow Moon. At moon rise, the moon will appear even larger than it will later in the night when it's higher in the sky. This is an illusion that scientists can't fully explain. Some think it has to do with our perception of things on the horizon vs. stuff overhead.

Photo of the lighthouse taken at Marken island. Ice fishers walking on the ice-fields of the Gouwsea. Looking out over the infinite sea and it seems they stopped to watch the biggest and brightest moon of 2009. I took this photo from the southern dike. Besides this amazing moon rising there was also a beautiful sunset on the opposite site.

The lighthouse 'Horse of Marken' stands on its own tiny island at the end of a narrow causeway and is almost completely surrounded by water, which makes its location so photogenic. Particularly in winter, when after a long period of frost during which the IJsselmeer was largely frozen over the thaw set in and the ice was starting to drift you could shoot spectacular pictures here. These two fishermen went with a sliding carriage, fishing net and an axe for ice fishing like their ancestors in Marken. Finally after 12 years without ice they could go ice fishing again. Fishing for sparkling and flounder was a nice additional income in those days. It looks like fun but not without risk. In the old days fishermen felt with regularity in a ice-field hole and became super cooled or even drowned.

Santa Pau, Gerona Spain

Santa Pau (dedicada a mi amor), originally uploaded by Luciti.

Santa Pau is a town Catalan (Spain), in the province of Gerona, located in the region of La Garrotxa.

Located in the heart of the Natural Park of the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone, between the towns of Olot and Mieres, hilly and volcanic cones Croscat, Black Rock and Santa Margarita and Finestres saws, the Corb and Sant Julia del Mont.

Rainfed agriculture in the valleys. Cattle, swine and poultry. Has meat industry, wood and textiles. It is increasingly important in the tourism economy.

It was the center of the barony of Santa Pau, well-preserved medieval old town with the castle of Santa Pau (siglo XIII - XIV) whose facade in the arcaded square. Is declared a Historical Monument

An interesting historic site which is built around a square based castle constructed between the 13th and 14th centuries, and the main square, with porticoes and an irregular layout, and with arches of different sizes and with a decidedly mediaeval personality. In the town square there is the church of Santa Maria, a solid 15th century Gothic building, with a single nave and a square bell tower.

In the southern sector of the town, under the protective shade of the castle, there is a set of houses and narrow streets that lead to the Portal del Mar, from where you can contemplate a wonderful view of the valley of Santa Pau.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Alexandria : The Pearl Of The Mediterranean

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:


Nepal from lennart holterman on Vimeo.

i shot this with a sony cdr hc 96 in nepal around the Gokyo lakes. It's all handheld, so unfortunely it is not all 100% steady.

η ωρα της ΓΗΣ

This Earth Hour 2011: 8.30pm, Saturday 26 March, celebrate your action for the planet with the people of world, and add more to your Earth Hour. From its inception as a single-city initiative -- Sydney, Australia - in 2007, Earth Hour has grown into a global symbol of hope and movement for change. Earth Hour 2010 created history as the world's largest ever voluntary action with people, businesses and governments in 128 countries across every continent coming together to celebrate an unambiguous commitment to the one thing that unites us all -- the planet. Sign up to, switch off your lights for Earth Hour 2011, and share the positive actions you will sustain for earth beyond the hour.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

London Eye, London, UK

, originally uploaded by CostaDinos.

The EDF Energy London Eye (commonly the London Eye, or Millennium Wheel, formerly the Merlin Entertainments London Eye and before that, the British Airways London Eye) is a giant 135-metre (443 ft) tall Ferris wheel situated on the banks of the River Thames in the British capital. Since 20 January 2011, it has been officially known as the EDF Energy London Eye following a three-year sponsorship deal.
It is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe, and the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, visited by over 3.5 million people annually. When erected in 1999, it was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, until surpassed first by the 160 m (520 ft) Star of Nanchang in 2006, and then the 165 m (541 ft) Singapore Flyer in 2008. It is still described by its operators as "the world's tallest cantilevered observation wheel" (as the wheel is supported by an A-frame on one side only, unlike the Nanchang and Singapore wheels).
The London Eye is located at the western end of Jubilee Gardens, on the South Bank of the River Thames in the London Borough of Lambeth in England, between Westminster Bridge and Hungerford Bridge. The site is adjacent to that of the former Dome of Discovery, which was built for the Festival of Britain in 1951.

more info @

Methoni fortress, Peloponnesus, Greece

Prisoners of the Dusk , originally uploaded by justeline.

Prisoners of the Dusk

The fortress of Methoni in Greece, shot from a loophole of the Castle on a windy afternoon which gave its place to an intensely colorful sunset. When we finished shooting we returned to the main gate only to find out that we had been securely locked inside (hence the title). It took us a considerable amount of time and phone calls to escape but at least we were left with a story to tell!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Street of Råå, Helsingborg Municipality, Skåne County, Sweden

Street of Råå, originally uploaded by Håkan Dahlström.

Råå is a fishing village in southern Helsingborg .
The village's name was written in 1521 ( aff ) Raa and is named after Råån.
Stream name comes from the ancient Danish ra 'bar, landmark'. Råån the border between the two counties on a long stretch.
Settlements have existed around the estuary since long ago, but did not become permanent until 1500 - and 1600's. During the Scanian War 1675-79 burned Swedes Råå. In 1788, destroyed the entire society of a Russian naval cadre, but rebounded in the 1800s. In the late 1800s and early 1900s was Råå largest fishing village, but today there are only subsistence fishermen left. In 1918 incorporated Råå with Helsingborg and thus became a district.

Grizedale Pike, Cumbria UK

Grizedale Pike, originally uploaded by bingleyman2.

Grisedale Pike is a fell in the Lake District, Cumbria, England situated 7 km west of the town of Keswick in the north-western sector of the national park. At a height of 791 m (2593 feet) it is the 40th highest Wainwright in the Lake District; it also qualifies as a Hewitt, Marilyn and Nuttall. Grisedale Pike presents a striking appearance when viewed from the east, rising to a perfect pyramidal peak and has the nickname of “The Matterhorn of Lakeland”. It possesses two subsidiary summits: Hobcarton Crag and Hobcarton End.

more @

Friday, February 18, 2011

the Moscow Kremlin, Russia

The Moscow Kremlin (Russian: Московский Кремль, Moskovskiy Kreml), sometimes referred to as simply The Kremlin, is a historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River (to the south), Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square (to the east) and the Alexander Garden (to the west). It is the best known of kremlins (Russian citadels) and includes four palaces, four cathedrals and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The complex serves as the official residence of the President of Russia.
The name The Kremlin is often used as a metonym to refer to the government of the Soviet Union (1922–1991) and its highest members (such as general secretaries, premiers, presidents, ministers, and commissars), in the same way that the metonym Quai d'Orsay refers to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs or White House refers to the Executive Office of the President of the United States. It is still used in reference to the government of the Russian Federation. "Kremlinology" referred to the study of Soviet and Russian policies.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

amazing destinations, wonderful places

Is it a dream or is it for real? These places will make you wonder whether you step into the land of magic and fantasy or still firmly stand on the ground. With unearthly nature, unreal landscapes or fairy tale architecture, these destinations will take you far away from your humdrum reality.


Picturesque Colmar in France, considered the most beautiful city in Europe, looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale. This tiny town in Alsace is famous not only for its magically colourful old town. Colmar, situated along the Alsatian Wine Route, is called the "Capital of Alsatian Wine" - it boasts a sunny microclimate and is the second driest city in France, making it ideal for wine growing.
As if being the wine capital was not enough, Colmar, with its pretty squares, fountains and canals, is also called the "little Venice" (la Petite Venise). It is also the home town of Frédéric Bartholdi, who designed the Statue of Liberty, and the painter Martin Schongauer.
Colmar, France. By Nikkodem
Colmar, France. By Nikkodem


Faroe Islands. By
Faroe Islands. By
The Lord of the Rings' scenery of Faroe Islands truly makes you believe the archipelago is inhabited by hobbits and elves. Located halfway between Iceland and Norway, in the heart of the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic, the 18-island archipelago is home to beautiful dramatic landscapes of volcanic peaks and oceanic waves hitting against the rocky shoreline. The islands' magical and mysterious scenery seems to be much closer to the fantasy world than to reality.
Saksun, Faroe Islands. By T.K.V
Saksun, Faroe Islands. By T.K.V


Castle Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, Germany in autumn. By gerdragon
Castle Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, Germany in autumn. By gerdragon
It is not a sugary Disneyland construction, although it looks like a fairy tale palace occupied by some capricious princess. In fact, despite its magical look, the Neuschwanstein Castle is more firmly rooted in reality than one could imagine. Constructed on a rugged hill in the 19th century for Ludwig II, the castle's fixtures were revolutionary at that time: the building had running water and toilets with automatic flushing on every floor as well as a heating system. Today, the Neuschwanstein is the main stop on the Romantic Road, the Bavarian trail of ancient towns and castles.
Dramatic look of Neuschwanstein. By Nataraj Metz
Dramatic look of Neuschwanstein. By Nataraj Metz


Capadoccia. By Emre Ersahin
Cappadocia. By Emre Ersahin
If there was a fairy tale about the enchanted land of clay, its setting would look like Cappadocia. This fabulous region located in central Turkey is famed for its pottery and unique rock formation in which the ancient people carved out their houses and churches. The region is also home to the odd-looking rock formations called "fairy chimneys" that can be found in various shapes such as cones, mushroom-like forms, columns and pointed rocks. The tradition of pottery and ceramics in Turkey is one of the world's oldest crafts, dating back to the 8th century.


Hoi An. By jmhullot
Hoi An. By jmhullot
Hoi An is a place that cannot be missed while in Vietnam. This colourful, magical and beautiful little town is home to more silk lanterns than people. Situated on the coast of the South China Sea, the town used to be an important port and trading centre.  Today it is a fairy tale spot visited by thousands of travellers and backpackers that cannot resist its charm. Hoi An's fabulous atmosphere blended with captivating hospitality and fairytale architecture make the town one of the most rewarding destination in South-East Asia.
Lattern shop. By Nikkodem
Lattern shop. By Nikkodem


Tasiilaq Greenland. By chrissy575
Tasiilaq Greenland. By chrissy575
Unspoiled, remote and untraveled, Greenland is a land of wilderness, unbeaten tracks, raw landscapes and jaw-dropping vistas. With virtually no trees, no roads and almost no people, the island seems to be inhabited by mythological dwarves rather than humans. Though cold and rugged, Greenland is a place of unforgettable atmosphere warmed up by the magical aurora borealis and colourfully painted houses.
winter in Greenland. By noukorama
Winter in Greenland. By noukorama


Venice. By MorBCN
Venice. By MorBCN
Venice is hard to rival. Its admirable architecture, unique canals, the abundance of fantastic sights and extraordinary atmosphere are one of a kind. Venice seems to be imported from another dimension, though the New York Times described it as "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man". Stretched across 117 small islands, Venice boasts 455 bridges, hundreds of canals where romantic gondolas wind their way through the city, and is home to the famed Carnival of Venice, Venice Biennale and the Venice Film Festival.
Venice. By MorBCN
Venice. By MorBCN


Kathmandu. Nepal. By dwrawwlinson
Kathmandu. Nepal. By dwrawwlinson
Beautiful and spiritual, Nepal's vibrant capital, Kathmandu, is truly a magical place. Surrounded by mighty mountains, the city is filled with enchanting atmosphere, exotic sounds, smells and fascinating temples. Although Kathmandu is the largest city in the country, it has preserved its fantasy-like charm of ancient temples, shrines and traditional architecture. Called "the Land of Gods", Kathmandu seems to be a slightly unearthly destination.
inside Tharlam Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism, Kathamndu. By Wonderlane
Inside Tharlam Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism, Kathamndu. By Wonderlane


Kyoto's Bamboo Forest. By Stuck in Customs
Kyoto's Bamboo Forest. By Stuck in Customs
Though located in Kyoto, Japan and unrelated with the movies, the landscape of the Bamboo Forest resembles the scenery of the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or House of Flying Daggers. Is only one example of hundreds of amazing forests covering the region of South-East Asia. Bamboo plays a significant role in many Asian cultures- it is a symbol of longevity in China, a symbol of friendship in India, and in Japan many Shinto shrines are surrounded by a bamboo forest which is considered a sacred barrier against the evil.
Bamboo Forest. By ebergcanada
Bamboo Forest. By ebergcanada


Sintra. Palacio de. By szeke
Palacio de Sintra. By szeke
No wonder Sintra inspired Lord Byron to write Childe Harold's Pilgrimage that celebrates the beauty of the town. Anyone visiting this magical spot, located not far from Lisbon, could feel encouraged to create a sublime poem in honour of Sintra's graces. Pena Palace, the Castelo dos Mouros, and Palácio Nacional de Sintra are the town's three amazing palaces, and the Sintra Mountain Range, one of the largest parks in the Lisbon area, only adds more charm and enigma.
Castelo dos Mouros (Mourish Castle), Sintra. By WaveCult
Castelo dos Mouros (Mourish Castle), Sintra. By WaveCult

And the best thing about those places, notwithstanding their magical qualities, is that they're all as real as it gets. Accessible, safe and inviting, they're just waiting for you to pack your bags and reach for that bit of fantasy on Earth. Been there? Seen that? Please tell as a story...

"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." -- Lao Tzu Copyright © Demetrios the Traveler


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