Sunday Special – Warsaw, Poland


The thriving and growing capital city of Poland, Warsaw is truly a phoenix that has grown from the ashes. Its history of various takeovers and rulers goes back to the 1500s. More recently it has endured the onslaught of  WW II’s decimation of it’s Jewish population, the suffering of those in concentration camps, and the demolition of nearly 85% of it’s buildings. Then came the communist regime under the Soviet Union until 1989. Today, Warsaw has emerged with increased growth and livability earning itself the moniker of Phoenix City.  It is a vibrant and eclectic mix of commerce, culture, tourism, architecture, sports, and lifestyle. It continues to grow and expand in areas of media, research and development, information and technology, and much more. Not only that, it is a city with  some of the highest number of skyscrapers within the E.U. and it’s historic Old Town of Warsaw is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I have to say, this amazing city has just moved up on my bucket list!

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Warsaw’s historic Old Town – Photo credit: Ben Bender, Warsaw Old Town, Warsaw, Poland – panoramio (75)CC BY-SA 3.0

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Warsaw skyline at night – Photo credit: JakuberWarsaw at nightCC BY-SA 4.0

 

 

 

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Sunday Special – The Pantheon, Rome


I decided to round out letter “P” with an ancient landmark in the Eternal City – Rome’s Pantheon. This remarkable building has some interesting details, as one may expect from the best-preserved ancient Roman building within Rome. The current building was completed around 125 CE, during Emperor Hadrian’s reign. Two previous incarnations of the building existed prior, at the very same site. The first one was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa in 25 – 27 BCE yet burnt down in 80 CE.  It was rebuilt during the time of Domitian, was struck by lightning in 110 CE and subsequently burnt down as well. Initially built as a pagan temple it has been used as a Christian church since 608 CE (Saint Mary and the Martyrs). Having been in continuous use since it was built has aided in its ongoing survival.

One of the most striking features of the Pantheon is its incredible dome. It is the largest unsupported dome in the world. A large circular hole or oculus marks the top which is its primary source of natural light. A unique feature of this oculus is that only on a equinox (April 21) during noon does the light enter at such an angle that it hits a metal grille thus bathing the courtyard with light. Another aspect of dome is that the distance from the floor to its top is equal to the dome’s diameter. 

The Pantheon is open to visitors most everyday (closed on several holidays) and there is no fee to visit. Guided tours do have a fee involved. Tours or visits to walk around are not allowed during mass. Although I have walked past and admired the outside of the Pantheon many years ago I regret that I did not go inside. In my defense I was merely 21 years old and did not know much about it. I guess I will have to return to Rome soon.

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The Pantheon interior and oculus – Photo credit: Tomi Mäkitalo, Pantheon – panoramio (15)CC BY-SA 3.0

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Rome’s Pantheon at night – Photo credit: o2maRoma-pantheonnotteCC BY-SA 2.0

Sunday Special – Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina


Situated along the beautiful Neretva River lies Mostar, a city of cultural importance to the southern region of the Herzegovina area. Despite being one of the most heavily bombed cities in Bosnia during the Croate-Bozniak War, following the breakup of Yugoslavia, it has rebounded by rebuilding much of what was damaged. Today it is a popular destination for travellers (summer and fall mainly) and is said to have a festive and spirited vibe.

Among the most well-known and well-loved landmarks in Mostar is the Stari Most (The Old Bridge). In 1993 huge sections of it fell into the river during the war. Easily considered the heart of the city this 16th century Ottoman bridge was restored years later. Portions of it were even retrieved from the bottom of the Neretva. It is the pinnacle of the river and the pride of the city. It also is where Mostar Diving Club members gracefully dive 24 m/78.9 ft into the Neretva’s chilly 12C/53.6F waters.

Mostar’s Old Town is another popular area of the city. Admist the Medieval Ottoman style architecture that is prevalent you can find some pretty mosques and houses, such as the The Koski Mehmed pasa Mosque and The Biscevica House. And for something completely different and random, there is a Bruce Lee statue in the city as well.

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Stari Most (The Old Bridge) in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – Taken and owned by Mark Ahsmann

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Interior of Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque, Mostar – Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned by Stephen Hense

Sunday Special – Pont du Gard, France


I tell ya, those ancient Romans had a pretty long reach (though not as much as Genghis Khan had in his day). The Romans traversed far. With them they brought some fairly cool inventions of the time. Today’s special is one of those: the Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard in the south of France. 

This three story stone aqueduct, which looks to me to be in quite good condition, was built around 50 BCE to move water to the Roman city of Nimes. It is almost 50km/31 miles long and is the tallest of the aqueducts constructed by the Romans. In 1985 it was claimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.