Monday, December 26, 2011

Travel in the United Kingdom

Though it is difficult to reach the British Isles from the continent, they have been inhabited since ancient times. In prehistoric times, this territory was rich in tin, and the Phoenicians and the Greeks called Britain the Tin Islands. The most amazing and famous monument here is Stonehenge. A lot of legends are connected with it: Stonehenge used to be an observatory during the Stone Age and a religious monument with an altar; some even considered it to be an alien spaceport.
The Romans have founded many of the current cities in the UK, including its capital London. The Romans failed to conquer all the islands and did not want to move to the cold northern lands. In order to isolate themselves from the barbarians in the north, they built several fortifications. The most famous of them is Hadrian's wall that separates England from Scotland. The city gate of Lincoln, the gate in Colchester, and many ruins of Roman military fortifications have been preserved till nowadays.
The territory of the United Kingdom has long been thoroughly settled, but here you can find many places with almost untouched nature. Loch Ness in Scotland is famous primarily as the abode of the famous Nessie, a mythical monster that is the descendant of the dinosaurs, which, according to the legend, lives in the depths of the lake and sometimes appears on the surface. But even without the monster, picturesque beaches and steep green hills that surround the blue expanse of the lake can hardly leave anyone indifferent.
The fans of lakes and water recreation will certainly have to visit the Lake District in Cumbria and Lancashire County, where the largest national park in England is located. Stunning fjords and steep cliffs of the Hebride Islands, the beautiful island of Iona is among the most popular attractions. The Orkney Islands and the famous ornithological reserve on the 'bird island' Bass Rock are yet another destination.
Those passionate about mountain hiking, skiing and climbing are drawn to the Scottish Highlands, the Pennines, and Peak District at the border of England and Wales. Extraordinarily beautiful mountains are in the northern part of Wales, where the highest mountain in England and Wales, Snowdon, dominates the landscape. Right here, one will also find the Snowdonia national park filled with numerous mountain streams, waterfalls, and wooded valleys. In the south-west of Wales, there are sulfuric, hydrochloric and other mineral springs.
Great Britain represents a variety of architectural styles, including Romanesque Anglo-Saxon buildings noted by the simplicity of design. A typical example of the Norman style of architecture is the legendary Edinburgh Castle in Scotland. The rich ornamentation of buildings has reached perfection in late Gothic style, represented by King's College in Cambridge, St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle and Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey. The period of the Renaissance and Baroque is illustrated by such monuments as St. Paul's Cathedral in London, built by Sir Christopher Wren, one of the greatest English architects. One of the most famous buildings in the world, the Buckingham Palace, is built in the Victorian style characterized by grandeur and beauty. Modern constructivism does not change the architectural appearance of most cities in the UK, although sometimes contrasts the ancient edifices and underlines their irresistible charm.
True symbols of the United Kingdom are the Tower, the Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament on the banks of the Thames in London, Westminster Abbey, Stratford-upon-Avon, where William Shakespeare was born, and many other places which attract thousands of tourists each month all year round.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Popular Travel Destinations: Spain

Spain is often recognized as the single greatest historical museum in the open, surrounded by beautiful beaches and resort areas, perhaps the best in Europe. Also a true miracle of nature in terms of animal species variety and the beauty of its landscapes, Spain is a perfect place for aesthetic recreation away from city bustle.
Spain is a country with glorious history. The most ancient monuments of culture in Spain belong to the Paleolithic period. These are rock paintings on the cave walls of Altamira. The architecture of the Iberians is represented by the ruins of the gigantic stone walls in Tarragona. The Romans left mainly civil constructions in Spain, such as water mains, bridges, aqueducts, amphitheatres, and arches. One of the Roman bridges, the Alcantara River Tagus, is perfectly preserved. This bridge features six arches with the middle one being a triumphal arch. The ruins of the Roman amphitheater for 6,000 spectators in Merida and Sagunto are simply majestic. Also, there are ancient arches in Medisaneli and Bar built in 107-102 BC.
The Arabs exerted a great influence on medieval Spanish art and architecture. The Alhambra palace-fortress in Granada, the Mosque of Cordoba, La Giralda minaret in Seville are world-famous tourist destinations. Alhambra is the palace-fortress of the 13th century, a fine example of Muslim architecture. Depending on the light, its walls and towers change color during the day. Especially beautiful is the Lions courtyard, surrounded by columns of white marble. In the courtyard, there is a fountain, with its huge marble bowl resting on 12 lions. In the palace, there are some great halls, including the Hall of Ambassadors; the Royal Hall with gold lace arches resembling stalactites, the Hall of Secrets with amazing acoustic effects.
The Mosque Cathedral of Cordoba is the largest mosque in the world, second to the famous Kaaba in Mecca. With its 19 aisles with 32 arches, it occupies a large area. Moreover, it is a double monument since it combines a mosque and a cathedral. In 1236, after the city had been captured by the Christians and the Muslims had fled to North Africa, King Ferdinand III ordered to turn the mosque into a Christian church, and the minaret was transformed into a bell tower.
Numerous medieval castles, Paradors, have survived in Spain. They are usually located in the quiet corners and provide excellent opportunities for leisure and for work. Now they form a complex of buildings that combine strict architectural lines with modern interiors and provide a swimming pool, tennis courts, and gyms.
Madrid, the capital of Spain, is famous for its Prado National Museum of painting and sculpture, the museums of Modern Art and Natural Sciences, Archaeological and Ethnographic museums. Tourists will be thrilled to see the Royal Palace of the 18th century and Sabatini gardens, the Church of San Francisco el Grande, Buena Petiro Park, and the Zoo.
Barcelona is another major tourist destination which attracts tourists with its Marine and Archaeological Museums, the Cathedral of the Holy Family, the Museum of Catalan Art and Pablo Picasso, the Montjuic Castle, and the Church of San Pablo del Campo.
Zaragoza is famous for the residence of the Aragonese kings of Castillo de la Alyaferis. Toledo will help you to get acquainted with the architecture of the Moorish period, including the Alcazar castle, Gothic church of San Juan Delos Reyes, and Square Plaza del Zoko.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Travel Destination: Sweden

The country of Sweden is endowed with abundant natural beauty and numerous tourist attractions. Here one will find the green fields of the south and the tundra climate of Lapland, highlands and wooded cliffs, picturesque islands and the calm coast in the Gulf of Bothnia, the great lake system, and a variety of wild animals. All of this attracts a large number of tourists to the country. And its rich history and beautiful cities give a chance to observe a unique culture. Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is located on 14 islands on Lake Malaren. It is known as one of the most beautiful capitals in the world. In the 13th century, the city served as the residence of the Swedish royal family and the capital of the then vast country of Sweden. The old part of the city is entirely located on the island Stadsholmen. No vehicles are admitted here. The most famous attractions include the Royal Palace, the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, which was the coronation place of Swedish monarchs, the Antique Museum, the Palace Church, the Armoury, and the Treasury.
Several unique palaces are located in the neighboring island of Riddarholmen. Of special interest are also the Riddarholmen Church and a magnificent museum. The most remarkable tourist attractions of the islands include the Palace of Rosendal, the amusement park and the open-air museum called Skansen. The museum of wooden architecture has collected together more than 150 buildings of various age from all over Sweden.
Kungsholmen district is known primarily for its Town Hall, where the ceremony of awarding the Nobel prizes traditionally takes place. The Tower Hall is Stockholm's emblem, and it has an excellent viewing platform from which the central part of the city can be seen.
There are more than 75 museums and a hundred of art galleries in the city. They include Gripsholm Castle, the National Museum, the Swedish National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of National History, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Royal Treasury, and many others. Drottningholm Palace is located in the suburbs of the Swedish capital. Visitors will see here the magnificent park, the Chinese pavilion, Drottningholm Court Theater, where opera and ballet performances take place every summer.
Bjork Island is a very interesting place due to the excavations of the first city in the country - Birka, which was often mentioned in medieval chronicles. Today Birka is the homeplace of a number of sites, which are under protection of UNESCO. The latter include the ancient fortress and the city walls, the graves of the Viking Age and the Viking Museum. The second largest city in Sweden is Gothenburg, famous for its wonderful beaches, pristine forests and lakes, as well as the nearby picturesque archipelago of islands. Gothenburg is the location of one of the oldest universities in Europe, widely known for its old buildings, the remnants of the fortress and it's Art Gallery.
Kalmar is one of the oldest cities in the country. There are interesting remains of the Kalmarnaus fortress, Kalmar Castle, and the Baroque church of the 16th century.
Gotland is the most famous island in the country. In the time of the Vikings, it was a well-defended settlement and an important trading center. Visby was one of the most important European trading centers in the Middle Ages.
Check out the list of Sweden's tour operators and its ratings before you start planning your visit: they may recommend something unique to be included in the tour. Travel agents in Sweden cater to the locals who are very passionate travelers who are usually spotted in the world's most exciting destinations.