tasmanian wilderness, no.181 [australia #11]

tasmanian wilderness, australia’s largest conservation zone, satisfies all four natural criteria for world natural site. its rocks represent every geological period, the wide range of plants are unique to the area and it is home to some of the oldest trees and the longest caves in the world. one fifth of the island is designated as a unesco heritage site; it has been on the list since 1982.

the insularity of tasmania has contributed to the uniqueness of the region. tasmania was cut off from the mainland australia by the flooding of the bass strait more than 8000 years ago, causing isolation not only of the aboriginal inhabitants, but also of its flora and fauna.  the vegetation has as much in common with cool, temperate regions of south america and new zealand as with the rest of australia. in addition to climatic factors, the vegetation has developed in response to fire. the fauna is of world importance because it includes an unusually high proportion of endemic species, the most famous being the tasmanian devil (whom we didn’t get to see!)

tasmanian wilderness covers the area of the cradle mountain, lake st clair, franklin-gordon wild rivers national park and many more. on our week-long trip to tasmania, we managed to see the cradle mountain only.. nevertheless, we captured some examples of tasmanian wilderness..

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the next entry will focus on the cradle mountain only.. our ascent and some of the breathtaking views..

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royal exhibition building and carlton gardens, no.1131 [australia #5]

the royal exhibition building and the surrounding carlton gardens were designed and built for the 1880 and 1888 international exhibitions. in 2004 they were inscribed to unesco heritage sites’ list, as the representative of the largest events staged in colonial australia, which helped to introduce the world to australian industry and technology. the royal exhibition building is one of the very few remaining buildings from XIX century world exhibitions.

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the royal exhibition building is constructed of brick and timber, steel and slate and it combines elements from the byzantine, romanesque, lombardic and italian renaissance styles. like the majority of exhibition buildings from that period, its aim was to present material and moral progress through displays of industry from all nations.

the building itself is in the northern part of melbourne, away form the CBD and crowded city spaces. it is also close to brunswick street and fitzroy – former student quarters, now up & coming neighborhoods. while we were in the area, we took a walk and checked out numerous cafés & bars, artisans’ workshops and alternative fashion shops. in this neighborhood you can see melbourne in its true colors.

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while i was admiring the building itself, i couldn’t help thinking how the focus of the world’s interest changed with respect to the XIX century and especially in the last decades. the focus of the world’s exhibitions at that time was mainly achievements related to the industrialization, along with art, science and education.

this year, almost 150 years after the melbourne international exhibition, universal exposition (expo 2015) will be hosted by milan, the city i have been living in for seven years. expo 2015 will be held under the theme “feeding the planet, energy for life”. even though i will not be living in milan during the expo, i plan on visiting it. aside from wanting to see what’s new out there, i would like to explore the link between technology, innovation, culture, traditions and creativity with food and diet. i can say for sure that i would be wondering how these events used to look like in the past, when the focus was totally different. and of course, i will be asking myself what what will be the focus of future world exhibitions.

sydney opera house, no. 166 [australia #2]

the sydney opera house has been on the unesco heritage sites list since 2007. the main criterion for its nomination was the fact that it brings together multiple strands of creativity and innovation in both its architectural form and structural design. it is often identified as one of the 20th century’s most distinctive buildings and one of the most famous performing arts centers in the world.

it was inaugurated in 1973, after being awarded by an international jury to danish architect jørn utzon in 1957. utzon’s original design concept boosted a collective creativity of architects, engineers and builders. ove arup’s engineering achievements helped make utzon’s vision a reality.

the sydney opera house comprises three groups of interlocking vaulted ‘shells’ which roof two main performance halls and a restaurant. these shell-structures are set upon a vast platform.

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the sydney opera house was for us the first glimpse of australia. we arrived in sydney on december 8th around 10pm, after a 24h-flight. we were exhausted + our luggage got lost on the way there, so we had the feeling that our trip didn’t have the best start. however, one look at sydney harbor managed to change our feelings. we fell in love with it immediately.

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it was raining right before we arrived (in fact, rainy weather would continue for the next couple of days) and it was still a bit foggy. since we were staying at neutral bay, which is on the other side of the harbor, we were to take a ferry from sydney harbor. while waiting for our ferry, we decided to go for a short walk..

we walked around like hypnotized. whether it was it for our long journey & general tiredness, or because of the rain, but everything seemed somehow surreal.. one thing was sure: it felt truly great to be on the other side of the world.

australia – not a moment too soon!

oh, december is finally here! – those were my exact thoughts several days ago when i realized that the time for a big trip has come. it’s been more than a year since we started planning this trip – and i cannot believe that in a couple of days we’ll be flying off to the land down under.

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so, how did we get here..

it all started last year when our friends went for a 7-month trip to south america. we started talking how great it would be if we could go for a bit longer trip.. and somewhere as exciting as south america. just for fun, we started discussing the places where we would like to go. my top two were australia & south africa, while tarik talked about canada & australia. since it was in both the lists, we figured it would be australia. as simple as that..

then, of course, we had to figure when to go to there & for how long we can stay. okay, anything less than a month is definitely not worth it, for many reasons.. where do you want me to start – the price of tickets, the distance, or the size of a country.. and when would we want to go – well, in december. we already have plenty of holidays.. and it’s summer there!

so, we started preparing for our trip..
first, we opened a savings account and made a plan to put a certain amount of money every month, so that we don’t come back without a penny!

then, we purchased several guide books & downloaded a couple of documentaries so that we can decide where to go. well, australia is quite big and very soon it became clear to us that we’ll not be able to see all of it and that we would have to narrow it down to several points of interests.

i would like to recommend the documentaries we watched; the first one was “australia with simon reeve”, where we got to see his trip starting from the “red centre”, i.e. the ayers rock, continuing through the northern territories and the great barrier reef, and ending the journey in sydney and melbourne.

the other documentary i really liked was the one prepared by the coast team & neil oliver – “coast australia”. the team visited all the coastal regions of australia: the kimberley, coral coast, victoria, sydney region and of course, tasmania.

and finally, we made a plan: we’ll visit the east coast of australia, the cities of sydney and melbourne, go for a ride on the great ocean road, experience tasmanian wilderness, dive in the waters of the great barrier reef, hike in the blue mountains.. and finally, we’ll spend the new year’s eve looking at the fireworks in sydney.

so, yes.. that’s what we’ll do.. God willing, of course.

(rainy) venice and its lagoon, no. 394 / moment of happiness #2

venice and its lagoon have been on the unesco heritage site list since 1987. criteria behind its nomination are many, the most important one being the fact that it is a unique artistic achievement. the city is laid out onto 118 small islands and seems to float on the water’s surface. furthermore, the entire city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists such as titian, tintoretto, veronese and many others. the city itself also symbolizes the struggle of its people against the elements of nature.

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i have visited venice several times and on different occasions, the last time was last saturday with my husband. having bought our tickets well in advance, we had no other choice than to “enjoy” venice under the heavy rain. we sure did our best – during the massive showers we went for lunch, for a coffee, and so on. however, our feet were still wet all day.

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i have to admit, i was not a huge fan of venice at first. in my view, it was too crowded and too touristy, especially if you went to piazza san marco and ponte rialto. this time though, we decided to take some of the back routes, carefully avoiding people (the rain helped with that, as well!) and finally managed to see venice the way it was supposed to be seen: unique, artistic, but also decadent.

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the above picture shows a view of the santa maria della salute from the ponte dell’accademia. after enjoying the view, we crossed the bridge and went to the island of santa maria della salute to get a closer view.

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we spent the remaining part of the afternoon on that island, walking around and enjoying the views of the islands of san giorgio maggiore and la giudecca, as well as the company of very few people who decided to follow the same route. we also took a few pictures of some of the details we had found in this part of town.

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we truly enjoyed ourselves.
even though it was raining almost all day long, and we missed the train on the way back (so we had to spend another hour at the train station), it was really one of those days we will remember for a long time. the following photo shows the most sincere smiles we are able to give.

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historic centre of avignon, no. 228

historic centre of avignon: papal palace, episcopal ensemble and avignon bridge have been on the unesco heritage sites’ list since 1995. as it is known to many, in the 14th century this city was the seat of the papacy.

the palais des papes, an austere-looking fortress, dominates the city and the remains of a 12th-century bridge over the rhône. beneath this marvelous example of gothic architecture, the petit palais and the romanesque cathedral of notre-dame-des-doms complete an exceptional group of monuments that testify to the leading role played by avignon in 14th-century christian europe.

in 1309 the frenchman bertrand de got, who had been elected and crowned supreme pontiff in 1305, refused to go to rome, choosing instead to install himself temporarily in the dominican convent at avignon. seven popes were to reign there until the election of martin v in 1417 and the return of the seat of the papacy to rome.

With 15,000 m2 of floor space, the palais is the biggest gothic palace in all of europe and, due to its many architectural merits, one of the most important in the world.

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saint bénézed bridge, most comonly known as the pont d’avignon, was originally built in the 12th century. it is spanned 900m over the river rhône but it suffered several collapses in the following centuries. a flood in 1668 swept much of it away, and since it was not rebuilt since, only four arches (out of the original twenty-two) remain.

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we have visited avignon two weeks ago. even if unable to appreciate deeper meaning of the papal palace, we were impressed by its architecture and position. the deep-green color of river rhône & surrounding trees was natural complement to yellowish shade of palace and buildings of avignon. when talking a walk around the town, we got to admire charming medieval town and its atmosphere.

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paris, banks of the seine, no.600

after dedicating my last post to several highlights of paris, i have decided to dedicate this post to highlights of “classical” paris, the unesco heritage site no.600.

in 1991. some of the most significant architectural masterpieces realized on the banks of the seine were added on the unesco heritage sites list, such as notre dame and the sainte chapelle, louvre, palais de l’institut, les invalides, place de la concorde, école militaire, la monnaie, grand palais des champs elysées, eiffel tower and palais de chaillot.

i have spent an entire day walking down the river seine, enjoying the sunshine & brisk breeze, and taking pictures.

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eiffel tower & bridges on the seine

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banks of seine & île de la cité

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notre dame de paris

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musée du louvre after the rain

while walking down the river seine, i remembered what i’ve read in the unesco website, while reading about this heritage site: “paris is a river town. ever since the first human settlements, from the prehistoric days and the village of the parisii tribes, the seine has played both a defensive and an economic role. the present historic city, which developed between the 16th (and particularly the 17th) centuries and the 20th century, translates the evolution of the relationship between the river and the people: defence, trade, promenades, etc.”

river seine was the heart of paris through history, and it still is. there are 37 bridges within paris and dozens more outside the city. throughout the history it played an important role: the ashes of joan of arc were thrown in the river seine in 1431; at the 1900 summer olympics it hosted the rowing, swimming, and water polo events; it was one of the original objectives of operation overlord in 1944; and during the 19th and the 20th centuries the seine inspired many artists, such as henry matisse, camille pissarro, etc.

i have enjoyed my walk along seine. i think it is the best way to see and appreciate the splendor of paris.

mount etna, no.1427 (NOT visited)

mount etna, the highest mediterranean island mountain and the most active stratovolcano in the world, entered unesco heritage sites’ list just last year. it is site on the eastern coast of sicily, which i visited in july 2011.

at the time i did not want to visit mount etna, even though the other party (i.e. my hubby) was highly interested to pay a visit to this extraordinary site. do i have to say how much i regret for not going?

however, we did manage to see it – from the airplane, from the city of taormina, and even to feel its dust on us, in catania. we took a lot of pictures (whew!), and now i think it’s time to share them, in order to celebrate mount etna’s entering on unesco heritage sites’ list.

our first stop was catania, the city so close to the mount etna that made volcano omnipresent in the city, its dust is all over this quite grey city, whose buildings are mainly lava-built. also, the main street is called via etnea and on piazza del duomo (or the main square) there was a statue of an elephant carrying an egyptian obelisk. according to the legend, the elephant is city’s protection from volcano eruptions.

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the second place where we’ve got the opportunity to enjoy the view of mount etna was the lovely city of taormina, famed for its splendid scenery, beautiful beaches and historic sites. the most important historic site in taormina is teatro greco (or greek theatre), built in the 3rd century AD, by the island’s first occupiers, the greeks. the view from the greek theatre was particularly beautiful.

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the last photo was taken as the airplane was taking off. we know taking photos is forbidden during the take-off, but we simply couldn’t resist.

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i guess we should consider going again to this region & visiting mount etna, right?

ps. all the photos were taken by tarik (of course!)

postcards’ invasion!

last week i came home to a wonderful surprise! two lovely postcards from my highschool friend lejla, who went to study in the netherlands.

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the first postcard shows schokland, a unesco heritage site, which was actually an island in the past. since the 1940s it formed part of the land reclaimed from the sea, by draining of the zuider zee. it symbolizes the struggle of the people of the netherlands against the encroachment of the waters. it confirms the dutch saying that God created the world but a man created the netherlands!

the second postcard has a delftware vase on it, a blue and white pottery which is a landmark of the town of delft. the beautiful part of this postcard is that one can actually cut it down to pieces and make a little delftware vase!

the most beautiful part is the fact that a person whom i haven’t talked to in years figured out what i like and what would i like to see. it made me think of our friendship, as well. we have never been the best friends, we were only schoolmates who went to german language course together. every couple of years we exchanged a couple of emails, in the recent months maybe a bit more. i have to admit i was really touched how she remembered i told her to enjoy delft and delftware and that i “collect” unesco heritage sites. i wish there were more people like lejla. i wish i were thoughtful like her.

ancient thebes, no.87

ancient thebes with its necropolis has been on the unesco heritage list since 1979. thebes was the capital of egypt at the height of its greatest power and magnificence, the middle and new kingdoms that lasted over a thousand years (from 2130 to 1070 bc). it contains the finest examples of ancient egyptian history, art and religion.

it includes two temples, of karnak and luxor, as well as valley of kings and valley of queens. throughout the years hundreds of rulers glorified the city of thebes with architecture, obelisks and temples. thebes of the living took place on the right bank of nile, with temples of karnak and luxor as the finest example of egyptian culture. death took celebration on the left bank of the river nile.

i have visited ancient thebes in august last year. it was one of those places where i could feel the history. unfortunately, we did not get to visit the temple of luxor, but we did see the valley of the kings, the temple of the queen hatshepsut and temple of karnak.

our first stop was the valley of the kings, the necropolis of the pharaohs of the new kingdom. the valley stands on the west bank of the nile, opposite thebes (modern luxor), within the heart of the theban necropolis. from the 1500 bc the tombs of the pharaohs were carved deep into the hills in thebes; however that did not stop the thieves to steal the treasures kept in them. nevertheless, the structures remain, with spectacular corridors and rooms beautifully decorated with funeral symbols of the journey to the underworld, with images and rituals intended to assist the pharaohs in the afterlife. we have paid a visit to three tombs, and we weren’t deceived. the only flaw in the plan was that we couldn’t take pictures.

quite close to the valley of the kings is site mortuary temple of the queen hatshepsut, beneath the cliffs at deir el bahari on the west bank of the nile. it is widely considered to be one of the “incomparable monuments of ancient egypt”, as well as the only example of the classical architecture in egypt.

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in the temple itself, one may find column of the divine birth of hatshepsut, as well as various sculptures of the queen, where she gets represented very masculine, even with the beard.

the last stop in our journey through ancient thebes was the temple of karnak, a vast open-air museum and the largest ancient religious site in the world. unlike the valley of the kings and the temple of hatshepsut, it is site on the right bank of the river nile, so called “thebes of the living”. the karnak complex is composed of three temples: one consecrated to mut (mother goddess of egypt and wife of amon), one to warrior god montu and one to amon.

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i have to say that among the 42 unesco heritage sites i have visited so far (yes, now there is 42 of them!), none impressed me as much as ancient thebes, not even the pyramids i visited a couple of days before. it is one of those places where you could let your mind wander through the past centuries, or even better, past millenniums. i hope i’ll have the honour to visit this heritage site one more time before i die.

of course, we couldn’t go to ancient thebes dressed in our everyday clothes. firstly, we had to wear a light & cotton dresses and preferably to cover our heads. so we decided to make the best out of it.

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ps. all the pictures were taken by tarik&me in august 2012.