Tag Archives: UNESCO

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Happy New Year from Cuba!    Feliz Año Nuevo desde Cuba!

El Malecón

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Havana_Christmas 2013

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Havana_Christmas 2013

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Havana_Christmas 2013

Havana_Christmas 2013

Havana_Christmas 2013

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Havana_Christmas 2013

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Mercado de Artesanía San José

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Christmas in Havana

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Touring Cappadocia

Cappadocia is the historical name of the region in Central Turkey, 750 km southwest of Istanbul and 300 km south of Ankara. Modern Cappadocia refers to a geographical area with a unique cultural heritage and landscape entirely sculpted by erosion, whose exceptional natural wonders are a popular setting for a variety of activities such as hot air ballooning (see previous post), horseback riding, and guided area tours, some of which are described here.

One such outing is a hike in the Ihlara Valley, a picturesque canyon marked by a stream that flows through it and honeycombed with hundreds of rock-cut underground dwellings and cave churches from the Byzantine period. The rock-hewn sanctuaries contain colourful frescoes, some still remarkably intact.

Ihlara Valley gorge

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The Underground City of Derinkuyu is an ancient multi-level complex used by early Christians as a hiding place during times of raids, before Christianity became an accepted religion. The vast network of caves sheltered up to 20,000 people and livestock for months at a time. Carved into the soft volcanic rock, its passages extend to a depth of 60m and are connected to other troglodyte villages or subterranean towns through miles of tunnels. Though breathing is difficult, you can descend as far as the 5th level to visit once-occupied spaces, such as chapels, religious classrooms, cellars and stables.

Derinkuyu Underground City

Other memorable spots include Selime, whose dramatic topography (pinnacles) inspired some of the filming of ‘Star Wars’, and Pigeon Valley, named for countless pigeon dwellings carved into the cliffs. (Years ago these creatures served as message carriers, and their droppings were used as fertilizer.)

Panoramic viewpoints of Paşabağı and Devrent Valley reveal mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys and unusual eroded landforms whose volcanic tuff has been sculpted into shapes shapes reminiscent of pillars and spires and even resembling animals – a ‘lunar landscape’ – like a  sculpture zoo made by nature.

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Paşabağı fairy chimneys

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Cappadocia-rock formationsThe town of Avanos is the center of ceramic art and earthenware production and trade dating back to the Hittites, and here you can see a pottery-making demonstration by kick-wheel technique.

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Sema, the Whirling Dervish Ceremony, is a physically active meditation still practiced by the Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. They aim to reach the source of all perfection by performing a customary dance, of which each of its seven parts symbolizes a stage of the mystic journey called ascension. Cloaked in a white frock and headdress, the Dervishes listen to music, focus on God, and, in a trance-like fashion, spin their body in repetitive circles, revolving as do all other beings and embracing humanity with love.

Cappadocia-whirling dervish ceremony

At the centre of Cappadocia are the towns of Ürgüp and Göreme. Within the region’s rock formations, Christian villagers had excavated cells which served as residences, storage, places of worship and refuges dating from the 4th century. It’s a very special experience to stay in a hotel built into existing caves, one that combines dwellings of the Hittite, Roman and Byzantine periods with the comforts of the 21st century.

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Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. See link here.

Walls of Dubrovnik

The historic walled city at the southernmost tip of Croatia is as exceptional from the ground as it is from the sky. Massive stone walls run high and low, encircling the Old Town of Dubrovnik and framing an uninterrupted course on the edge of the Adriatic Sea. Dotted with turrets and towers, the two kilometre-long climb reaches its peak at 25m, overlooking terracotta rooftops as far as the eye can see.

Though built during the Middle Ages, the Great Wall has been reinforced throughout its history, and remains remarkably intact. Some of its fortresses and defensive towers serve as jumping off points for bathers and are even used as bars. Having a nighttime drink on the cascading rock edge is a delightful sensory experience. It’s pitch black – just moonlight, candlelight, and the constant rhythm of the waves.

Split – The Old Town and Diocletian’s Palace

A walking tour of the inner city of Split will have you weaving in and out of the walls of an ancient construction dating back to the end of the third century A.D. Built by Roman Emperor Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus, the imperial palace is rectangular in shape; its two main streets run N-S and E-W, creating 4 quarters and 4 fortified gates. Intended to be his ‘retirement home,’ it was spared no expense: it is constructed of white limestone, tufa rock, imported marble, and massive granite columns and sphinxes from Egypt. As settlements emerged around it and buildings of succeeding historical periods were built within its walls, Diocletian’s Palace gradually transformed into the town of Split.

Split’s historic section is included in UNESCO’s register of World Cultural Heritage. A few thousand people currently live in buildings constructed within the imposing Roman ruin’s boundaries.

Split is now the second largest city in Croatia and a popular tourist hub. The wide maritime promenade, Riva, is lined with bars, palms, and plenty of benches. The city has an active port, with regular ferry service for exploration of the Dalmatian coast and the Adriatic islands of Hvar, Vis, Brač and Šolta.

The Peristil is a partially-colonnaded central courtyard whose original purpose was to allow access to the Emperor’s living quarters, mausoleum and temples. Now people gather day and night in the open space for walking tours, musical performances and dancing. On a ceremonial loggia under the central arch where Diocletian was long ago viewed and worshipped, actors re-enacting the emperor and his entourage stage a daily appearance at noon to the delight of tourists.