Monday, October 20, 2014

Church of the Ascension, Kolomenskoye, Russia

The Church of the Ascension dominates the surrounding architectural and natural structures and unites all the elements of the estate. It is also a unique architectural and artistic monument as one of the earliest tent-roofed churches in Russia and as such the progenitor of subsequent architecture. The church was built in 1532 by Prince Vasili III to commemorate the birth of the prince who was to become Tsar Ivan IV 'the Terrible'. 

It was consecrated with great pomp on 3 September 1532 by the Metropolitan Dionissi, the Bishops of Kolomenskoye and Zaraisk, and the whole of the synod in the presence of Grand Prince Vasili, Grand Princess Yelena, Tsarevich Ioann and the brothers of the tsar. The church is situated in the Kolomenskoye estate, first recorded in 1339, when it belonged to Ivan KaIita, Grand Prince of Moscow. By the 16th century it had become a fortified stronghold. The palace complex was added later, in the 17th century, and it continued in use as an imperial residence and estate until the 1917 Revolution.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Archeological City of Troy

The archaeological site of Troy is of immense significance in the understanding of the development of European civilization at a critical stage in its early development. It is of exceptional cultural importance because of the profound influence of Homer's Iliad on the creative arts over more than two millennia. Troy is a unique example in an Aegean context of the oriental city at the junction between Anatolia, the Aegean and the Balkans. It is also probably the most famous archaeological site in the world. It may be considered to represent the starting point for modern archaeology and its public recognition. The Greek and Roman cities at Troy are represented above all by the sanctuary complex. 

Roman urban organization is reflected by two major public buildings on the edge of the agora. The odeion (concert hall) has the traditional horseshoe-shaped plan and tiers of seats made from limestone blocks. The nearby bouleuterion (council house) is smaller but similar in plan. The surrounding landscape contains many important prehistoric and historical sites: cemeteries, Hellenistic burial mounds, Greek and Roman settlements, Roman and Ottoman bridges, etc.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Stonehenge

Many early historians were influenced by supernatural folktales in their explanations. Some legends held that Merlin had a giant build the structure for him or that he had magically transported it from Mount Killaraus in Ireland, while others held the Devil responsible. Henry of Huntingdon was the first to write of the monument around 1130 soon followed by Geoffrey of Monmouth who was the first to record fanciful associations with Merlin which led the monument to be incorporated into the wider cycle of European medieval romance. 

According to Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae, using his magic Merlin took the circle from its original place in Ireland at the behest of Aurelius Ambrosius to serve as an appropriate burial place for Britain's dead princes. In 1655, the architect John Webb, writing in the name of his former superior Inigo Jones, argued that Stonehenge was a Roman temple, dedicated to Caelus, (a Latin name for the Greek sky-god Uranus), and built following the Tuscan order. Later commentators maintained that the Danes erected it. Indeed, up until the late nineteenth century, the site was commonly attributed to the Saxons or other relatively recent societies.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Beautiful Sharjah

I first read/heard of Sharjah in my early stamp collecting days when it featured the hard-to-obtain  Beethoven stamp which I collect until this day (There are more than 200 stamps of Beethoven and I have at least 150 of them). In the 70's when the UAE was not yet rich as it is today, novelty stamps would be featured by that country to raise some extra revenues.  I got their novelty Beethoven stamp on gold and silver foil which was issued in 1970. This stamp cost around P500 today.  During those days, I memorized all the 7 emirates by heart never had I imagined that I would be visiting 4 of them someday.  

Sharjah is a beautiful city less than an hours drive from Dubai.  I stayed at Hilton hotel at very cheap rates at Booking.com which I booked a month in advance. I have booked through this site in my previous travels to Paris, Yogyakarta and Siem Reap and they give "secret deals" to frequent "bookers".  I was lucky to have gotten this deal.  The nice thing with Booking.com is that you can cancel any reservation at least a day prior and they don't charge you a cent. At the Hilton, the mostly Filipino staff  were very friendly and helpful and made me feel at home. The Hilton view was magnificent overlooking a lake and the wonderful city skyline.  The city center is just a few meters away and bustles with more activity at night.  I had a blast taking pictures and the scenery really brings night photography to a whole new level.  I was glad I brought my reliable and super-lightweight Sirui tripod. I took several pictures of the mosque, cityscape and lake-views and enjoyed every minute of it!  I didn't realize it was almost midnight (4am RP time) and after a few minutes walk, I was back in my cozy hotel.  The next day I ventured to Al Ain, an ancient city of Abu Dhabi emirate.

I had a memorable time in Sharjah, far away lands on my stamps, now I am treading on.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Cultural Sites of Al Ain

After an hour and a half drive from Dubai, one arrives in Al Ain, a small but vibrant city which is a part of Abu Dhabi, one of the the seven emirates. It borders Oman so a few more steps and you are in another country.  Tourist beware though of taking pictures near the border because the Omanis are strict and you can be reprimanded.  Always bring your passport wherever you go around UAE because you might be crossing borders without being aware of it.  The serial property of The Cultural Sites of Al Ain, with its various component parts and the regional context in which it is situated, provides testimony to ancient sedentary human occupation in a desert region. Occupied continuously since the Neolithic, the region presents vestiges of numerous prehistoric cultures, notably from the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

Al Ain is situated at the crossroads of the ancient land routes between Oman, the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf and Mesopotamia. Very diverse in nature, the tangible elements of the property include remains of circular stone tombs and settlements from the Hafit and Hili periods, wells and partially underground aflaj irrigation systems, oases and mud brick constructions assigned to a wide range of defensive, domestic and economic purposes. This expertise in construction and water management enabled the early development of agriculture for five millennia, up until the present day.