Bagan

Someone must have been really dedicated to building all those temples at Bagan.

  • Bagan is a highly religious, historical city located in central Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia, in the region of Mandalay.
  • ‘Bagan’ was also known as ‘Pagan’, both pronunciations of the native term ‘Pugan’, and the site is formally known as the ‘Bagan Archaeological Zone’.
  • Bagan was the capital of the Pagan Empire (which covered most of modern day Myanmar) until 1297, as well as a centre of Buddhist thought and activity, and it was visited by many scholars from other civilisations.
  • At least 2200 temples and pagodas can be found in Bagan today, although it is thought more than 10,000 once existed, with each monument dedicated to Buddha.
  • The historical record known as the ‘Burmese chronicles’, documented that the Bagan civilisation was established circa 100 AD, although many historians refute this source and rather cite 800 AD as the founding century, as evidence for a kingdom prior to this time is scarce.
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Bagan
Image courtesy of Dieter Timmerman/Flickr
  • The total zone of Bagan covers an expanse of around 104 square kilometres (40 square miles), and at its peak, the city had a population of between 50,000 to 200,000 individuals.
  • The construction of the temples of Bagan were authorised by various kings of the Pagan Empire, and they were mostly built of stone, between 1044 and 1287 AD.
  • Bagan’s collapse occurred in 1287 AD, after Mongols invaded the Kingdom of Pagan for political reasons, which resulted in a drastic decrease of the number of residents living in the city.
  • Among other factors, a large number of earthquakes have contributed to the destruction of Bagan’s many temples, including the devastating 2016 Myanmar Earthquake.
  • In 1996, Bagan was considered by the UNESCO World Heritage Convention to be listed as a World Heritage Site, however it was declined, said to be due to the poor and inaccurate restoration of many temples; though a resubmission date in 2018 is planned, at which time it will be reconsidered.
Bibliography:
Bagan, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagan
The Many Thousand Temples of Bagan, Myanmar, 2013, Amusing Planet, http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/04/the-many-thousand-temples-of-bagan.html
The Temples of Bagan, 2016, Pegu Travels Company Limited, http://www.go-myanmar.com/the-temples-of-bagan

 

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Petronas Towers

They don’t get twins taller than the Petronas Towers.

  • The Petronas Towers are a set of two, very tall, identical skyscrapers found in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with a design that resembles Islamic religious geometric patterns.
  • The ‘Petronas Towers’ are also called ‘Petronas Twin Towers’, and ‘Menara Berkembar Petronas’ and ‘Menara Patronas’ in Malay; and the towers were designed by architect César Pelli, an Argentine American.
  • At 451.9 metres (1483 feet) in height, the Petronas Towers were the tallest buildings on earth from 1996 to 2004, and as of 2015, they were still the tallest twin towers in the world.
  • The construction of the Petronas Towers began on 1 March 1993 after a year of planning, and the spires were added exactly three years later, in 1996, with the buildings being completed in 1998; and the towers were officially opened six years after construction, in August 1999, by Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s Prime Minister at the time.
  • Two different construction consortiums were contracted to build the Petronas Towers to meet set deadlines and therefore, budgets, with Tower 1 headed by the Hazama Corporation from Japan and Tower 2 by the Samsung C&T Corporation from South Korea.
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The Petronas Towers
Image courtesy of Rusticus/Flickr
  • The two construction companies building the Petronas Towers, competed against each other to complete their tower the fastest, with Tower 2 becoming the first to be completed, and as a result, the first to become the tallest tower in the world.
  • The Petronas Towers feature a two-story skybridge that was constructed separately, that connects the twin towers at levels 41 and 42, and it is the most elevated of its kind on earth.
  • It is believed that when one of the Petronas Towers reached a substantial height, it was discovered that the tower had been built slanted 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) from the vertical, meaning all subsequent floors had to be built slanted inwards to remedy this.
  • The Petronas Towers cost a total of roughly 1.6 billion USD to construct; and each tower has 88 floors above ground and five below, and 40 lifts per tower.
  • During the foundation stage of construction of the Petronas Towers, 13,200 cubic metres (466,154 cubic feet) of concrete was poured in 54 hours, without a break, and up until that time, it was the largest concrete pour of its kind in Malaysia.
Bibliography:
About, 2015, Petronas Twin Towers, http://www.petronastwintowers.com.my/about#history
Petronas Towers, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petronas_Towers
Petronas Twin Towers, 2016, Encyclopaedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com/topic/Petronas-Twin-Towers

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Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a backup for even a doomsday!

  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a facility that stores seed samples in a secure vault in a mountain not far from the town of Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen, a remote northern island of Europe’s Norway.
  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built as a backup for worldwide flora, particularly crops, in the case of a natural disaster, war, disease or other phenomena wiping out a certain seed or crop plant, or a whole seed bank.
  • Three organisations manage the Svalbard Global Seed Vault – the Norwegian Government, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and NordGen (Nordic Genetic Resource Center).
  • The construction of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault first commenced in mid 2006, a day commemorated by the Finnish, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic and Norwegian prime ministers laying down the first brick; and the building was complete and had its official opening on the 26th February 2008.
  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is named after the archipelago ‘Svalbard’, of which the Spitsbergen island where the vault is located is a part, and the site was chosen for its natural preservation characteristics of sub-zero ground temperatures; a structurally stable environment; and significant height above sea level.

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Svalbard Global Seed Vault
Image courtesy of Landbruks/Flickr
  • At the entrance face and the roof of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, there is an illuminated artwork which includes reflective metals to aid visibility from a distance; and the vault covers an area of around 1,000 square metres (10,764 square feet) and sits at an elevation of 130 metres (427 feet).
  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault cost a total of US $9 million, which was financed solely by the Norwegian Government, and the building is said to be safe from nuclear bomb threats, earthquakes and other major catastrophes.
  • Norway does not own the seed contents of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, as it works much like a bank safety deposit box, in that whoever deposits the seeds, owns the seeds.
  • In 2015, there were around 5100 species over 860,000 samples, where a sample consists of around 500 individual seeds, in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, and this figure grows each year, while the facility has the space to accommodate 4.5 million varieties or 2.5 billion seeds.
  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was constructed under the initiative of American Carly Fowler, an agriculturalist, in conjunction with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
Bibliography:
Anderson R, After 4 Years, Checking Up on the Svalberd Global Seed Vault, 2012, The Atlantic, http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/02/after-4-years-checking-up-on-the-svalbard-global-seed-vault/253458/
Svalbard Global Seed Vault, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svalbard_Global_Seed_Vault
Svalbard Global Seed Vault, n.d, Crop Trust, https://www.croptrust.org/what-we-do/svalbard-global-seed-vault/
Wade L, That Arctic Seed Vault Isn’t Just There For A Doomsday, 2015, Wired, http://www.wired.com/2015/09/arctic-seed-vault-isnt-just-doomsday/

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Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate is a symbol and landmark of many things, as decided by history.

  • Brandenburg Gate is a large gateway that consists of five openings, that spans across the entrance to a public square, that is now called the ‘Pariser Platz’, in Berlin, Germany not far from what once was the city palace.
  • ‘Brandenburg Gate’ is known as ‘Brandenburger Tor’ in the German language and it was historically the beginning of the road from Berlin to Brandenburger.
  • The Brandenburg Gate is one of the eighteen original gates of the ‘Berliner Zoll- und Akzisemauer’, or in English – ‘Berlin customs and excise wall’, which surrounded Berlin, and is the only gate still in place.
  • The construction of the Brandenburg Gate was authorised by Prussian king, Friedrich Wilhelm II (Frederick William II), built from 1788 to 1791, replacing a simple pre-existing structure, and the new gate was to symbolise peace.
  • Extensive damage was inflicted upon the Brandenburg Gate as a result of ammunition during World War II, and together in 1956 to 1957, East and West Berlin restored the gate.
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Brandenburg Gate
Image courtesy of james j8246/Flickr
  • The Brandenburg Gate was effectively closed for almost 30 years, after the Berlin Wall that divided East Berlin and West Berlin, was completed in 1961, and it was re-opened in 1989 and later renovated from 2000 to 2002, with private funds.
  • Originally vehicles travelled through the Brandenburg Gate; however, since 2002 the road has only been open to foot traffic, and as such has been paved with cobblestone.
  • Brandenburg Gate reaches an approximate height of 26 metres (85 feet) and spreads 65.5 metres (215 feet) in width.
  • A statue is located on the top of the Brandenburg Gate, known as the Berlin Quadriga, which depicts the goddess of peace or victory in a chariot drawn by four horses, which was placed there in 1793, and was once stolen by Napoléon Bonaparte.
  • The Brandenburg Gate was designed by Prussian architect Carl Gotthard Langhans, in the Greek revival neoclassical style, and it is decorated with bas-relief, and has twelve columns.
Bibliography:
Brandenburg Gate, 2016, Penguin’s Berlin Guide, http://berlin.barwick.de/sights/famous-places/brandenburg-gate.html
Brandenburg Gate, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg_Gate
Brandenburg Gate, n.d, Visit Berlin, http://www.visitberlin.de/en/spot/brandenburg-gate
Maranzani B, Brandenburg Gate: A Brief History, 2013, History, http://www.history.com/news/brandenburg-gate-a-brief-history

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Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel would have been a terror of a fortress.

  • Mont Saint-Michel is an islet that contains a monastery, a village, and a fortification, situated roughly 600 metres (0.4 miles) away from the coast of France’s Normandy, in Europe.
  • Mont Saint-Michel sits at the mouth of the Couesnon River, and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, as well as the surrounding area, and due to its unique location and historical significance, it is visited by around 2.5 million people each year, making it the most popular tourist site in France outside of Paris.
  • ‘Mont Saint-Michel’ is also known as ‘Mont St-Michel’, and ‘Le Mont St-Michel’ in French, and is translated into English as ‘Saint Michael’s Mount’; and the island is now mainly a tourist attraction and includes accommodation, restaurants, shops, and other facilities for visitors, though it still houses a community of nuns and monks.
  • Originally, Mont Saint-Michel was the site of a Gallo-Roman settlement from 500s to 600s AD, and was called ‘Mont Tombe’ at the time, and in the 1840s and 1850s it was home to more than 1,000 people, while in 2015, its population was 50.
  • Legend says that the first church of Mont Saint-Michel was built under the orders of the bishop Saint Aubert, early in the 8th century, but only after ignoring the instructions of Archangel Michael on a number of occasions, who is said to have commissioned the building, and subsequently had a hole burnt into his skull.
Mont Saint-Michel, Trivia, Ten Random Facts, Monastery, France, Island, Castle, Sunset, Tide
Mont Saint-Michel
Image courtesy of Mike Norton/Flickr
  • Before modern times, Mont Saint-Michel was of strategic importance as it was only accessible at the quick-changing low tide, which meant that most attacking garrisons would drown or be forced to retreat.
  • In later centuries, due to a number of reasons including the building up of a causeway, silt began to mound around Mont Saint-Michel; however in 2006 a project was initiated by the government to restore the site using a hydraulic dam, and ridding the area of unnatural impediments, to enable the tides to flush out the silt naturally.
  • A bridge was completed in 2014, which connects the mainland to Mont Saint-Michel, and during a supertide in March 2015, the bridge became fully submerged.
  • To reach the top of the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, which was built and expanded upon from the 11th to the 16th centuries, one is required to ascend approximately 900 steps.
  • The island of Mont Saint-Michel covers an area of approximately 5 hectares (12.6 acres), with a natural height of around 80 metres (262 feet).
Bibliography:
History, 2010, Mont Saint Michel, http://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/histoire.htm
Mont Saint-Michel, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Saint-Michel
Mont St-Michel, Pontorson, 2016, Sacred Destinations, http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/mont-st-michel

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Lion City

Would you brave the depths to see Lion City?

  • Lion City is an ancient city that has been abandoned and submerged in the water of Quindao Lake of Zhejiang, China.
  • It is thought that construction of Lion City began in 621 AD, and the city eventually rose to economical importance, with many features built at a later stage.
  • ‘Lion City’ was named after the nearby Five Lion Mountain and is known as ‘Shī chéng’ in Chinese.
  • The enormous Xin’an Dam and hydroelectric station project initiated by the Chinese government and completed in 1959, was the cause of the Lion City flooding and submerging, as well as other cities and towns, causing a total of almost 300,000 people to be displaced.
  • In 2001, Lion City was ‘rediscovered’ by a diving club, at the invitation of the Chinese government, and further explorations have since been organised.
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Part of Lion City
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
  • Lion City is approximately 0.43 square kilometres (0.17 square miles) in area, and it is situated between 26 and 40 metres (85 to 131 feet) deep under water; and it is notable for featuring five city gates, an abnormal quantity as most ancient cities would have only four gates.
  • Most statues, sculptures and art, and other stone or wooden structures of Lion City, have been remarkably preserved, due in part to lack of exposure to air, and relatively stable water temperatures of 10 to 20 degrees Celsius (50 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Lion City was designated a protected site in 2011 by the Zhejiang Province, which coincidentally was also the year that curiosity and awareness of the city grew, especially as new photographs of the city were released.
  • For expansion of Lion City’s increasing tourism, a submarine for casual exploration has been built, though by the end of 2015 it had not yet been used due to site preservation concerns; and a concept for an underwater tunnel has been presented, but its purpose may be purely for transporting vehicles across the lake.
  • Lion City is best visited from April to October due to warmer air and water temperatures, and even then, only experienced divers can venture, particularly due to conservation concerns and lack of underwater visibility.
Bibliography:
Graaf M, China’s Atlantis, 2014, Daily Mail Australia, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2561147/Chinas-Atlantis-How-Lion-City-purposely-flooded-make-way-power-station-remains-completely-intact-130ft-underwater-50-years.html
Galloway L, China’s Atlantis of the East, 2014, BBC Travel, http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20140711-chinas-atlantis-of-the-east
Lingren Z, The Ancient Underwater City of Thousand Islands Lake, 2013, Chinese National Geography Press, http://www.chinascenic.com/magazine/the-ancient-underwater-city-of-thousand-islands-lake-222.html
Lost Underwater Lion City: Rediscovery of China’s ‘Atlantis’, 2012, Love These Pics, http://www.lovethesepics.com/2012/06/lost-underwater-lion-city-rediscovery-of-chinas-atlantis/
Qiandao Lake, 2015, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qiandao_Lake
Wang C, Dive the Ancient Ruins of Lion City in Qiandao Lake, 2015, Underwater Photography Guide, http://www.uwphotographyguide.com/dive-qiandao-lake-china

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