Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ukraine Travels and UEFA Euro 2012

Every Ukrainian city boasts plenty of cultural attractions. After having traveled in Ukraine, you will have a ton of great memories after seeing this country's historical and cultural landmarks. Ukraine is not only one of the largest European countries, but also a country with beautiful nature, rich cultural heritage and many unique towns and villages, where one can unmistakably feel the history and the spirit of the Ukrainian people.
Ukraine's landmarks are rich in variety and each region has its own unforgettable flavor. From the Crimea to the Carpathian Mountains, a string of unique castles and churches, palaces and museums, stretches in many cities, where almost every building is an architectural monument.
Kyiv is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe. It was founded in the 5th century. The capital of Ukraine is often called 'the mother of Russian cities'. It is considered one of the most beautiful capitals of the world, and it is not surprising due to the number of unique historical monuments seen there. The main attractions include the Golden Gate of the 11th century, the Near and Far Caves of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, which house the remains of Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves, Ilya of Murom, Nestor the Chronicler, and other legendary historical figures. The most famous street, except probably Kreshchatyk, is St. Andrew's Hill. An iconic place of the capital is Vladimir's Hill and the Pochayna River, where Prince Vladimir baptized Kyiv. The best known palaces are Klovsky and Mariinsky palaces. The heart of the city is the ensemble of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, one of the world's centers of Christian Orthodox Church and the priceless monument included in the list of UNESCO treasures.
Numerous museums of Kyiv include the Shevchenko National Museum, the National Museum of Folk Architecture and Life in Pirogovo, the State Historical and Cultural Reserve of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, the historical and architectural monument-museum Kyiv Fortress. By the number of churches and temples, Kyiv is unmatched in the Commonwealth of Independent States. The complex of St. Sophia, built in the 11th century, stands out from the list as the symbol of Ukrainian spiritual life, and St. Vladimir's Cathedral and St. Andrew's Church are perhaps the city's most beautiful temples.
To the north of the capital there is the ancient city of Chernihiv, known for its historical and cultural monuments. Especially notable attractions are Pyatnitskaya church, Lyzogub House, Yeletsky and Trinity Monasteries as well as the caves inhabited by the people in the 11th century.
Dnepropetrovsk is one of the largest cities in the country. The local sights include the Potemkin's Palace, St. Nicholas Church, a few art and historical museums. Cathedral of the Transfiguration has a high architectural and cultural value, and it reflects the traditions and techniques of the Russian classical school during its heyday.
Odessa is one of the most picturesque cities in Ukraine. Odessa is an attraction in itself, but be sure to visit the famous Privoz Market and Deribasovskaya Street, Opera and Ballet Theatre and the Potemkin Stairs; Primorsky Boulevard and a semi-circular square with the monument to Duke de Richelieu. The best palaces in the city are Vorontsov, Potocki and Naryshkin Palaces. Other attractions include the Monastery of the Assumption and the Seminary, Old Stock Exchange, Odessa Sea Port (the largest on the Black Sea), etc.
Transcarpathia is widely known for the country's best resorts. It is a fantastically beautiful region of picturesque mountains, medieval castles, forests, mountain rivers, lakes, and springs. The famous resorts of Truskavets, Morshyn, Mirgorod, Kvasy, Shayan, and Svalyava, as well as a lot of nature reserves such as the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, the National Park "Sinevir" and others boost the region's value also adding a unique flavor to the gorgeous Ukraine.
The UEFA European Soccer Championship is second only to the World Cup in importance and it will be held in Ukraine and Poland in June-July of 2012. Local tour operators are standing by waiting for an influx of soccer fans from all over Europe!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Japan: Land of the Rising Sun

A 'Western' country, Japan is located in the Far East, in the Pacific ocean, and has China, two Koreas and Russia as the neighboring states. This country and its people have very peculiar features, original culture, rich history and amazing landscapes.
The main feature that the tourists immediately notice in Japan is the carefully looked after natural environment. Any territory, even the smallest strip of land among the skyscrapers, should necessarily be decorated with a tiny lawn. Any pond can be turned into a tiny nature reserve that the residents of the community consider their shrine. Carefully preserved historic monuments and temples are scattered all over the country, and that is why Japan makes an unforgettable impression on everyone, who decides to visit it.
The symbols of the country are the biggest 'holy gate' in Japan called Wooden Door, Itsukushima shrine on the 'sacred' island of Miyajima, standing in the water in a small bay, and the famous beautiful volcano, Mount Fuji, surrounded by picturesque landscapes. Another icon of the country is Seto Ohashi Bridge, erected in the end of the 20th century over the Inland Seto Sea, from Honshu to Shikoku. Many 'pearl farms' in Japan are also interesting as tourist sites visited by thousands of tourists every year.
Tokyo is one of the largest cities in the world and the capital of Japan. It was founded in the middle of the 15th century following the outlook of the ancient Chinese capital Xi'an. This giant metropolis has many old wooden buildings and churches. They interestingly contrast the ultramodern neighborhoods. The center of the city is the Imperial Palace, former Edo Castle, which was constructed in the 15th century and was surrounded by picturesque parks. A lot of tourists also visit the temple of Toshogu Shrine, the Tokyo National Museum, the National Science Museum, the temple of Cannon goddess and many other places. In Tokyo, one will also find a complex of skyscrapers called Three Towers and the largest Harumi Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. Some of the minor, but no less interesting museums include the Museum of Subway, the Museum of Glasses, the Museum of Plumbing, the Museum of Bags etc.
To the northeast of Tokyo, there lies the Nikko National Park, located among picturesque lakes and known for the splendid Kegon and Shirakumo waterfalls and hot springs. The pearl of the resort is the Toshogu Shrine temple complex, which includes 23 monuments of architecture, including the famous pagoda and Yakusido temple. Numerous picturesque bridges are stretched over the waterways, and the most beautiful of them is the "sacred bridge" of Cinque. Mount Nantay is the place of the Buddhist temple Tachi-ki-Kannon and Kazaana caves, known as the caves of the winds.
The second largest city of the country is Yokohama. In the past, it was repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes, but today the city amazes with its ultra-modern architecture and the high speed of life. Yokohama is often called the city that never sleeps. Its main attractions are landscaped parks and an outdoor museum, which has gathered samples of traditional wooden buildings, temples and houses from all over the country. Here one will also find the largest and most renowned commercial district of the coutnry, the water park called the Island of Entertainment, and the Maritime Museum. However, it is difficult to stay in Yokohama for a long time because of the strong gas pollution and extremely high density of population.
Nara is the first imperial capital of the country, often visited because of its open-air museum, which houses the most important Buddhist temples and pavilions, pagodas and gardens. Located 70 km from Nara, the famous Horyuji Temple is recognized as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lake Biwa is located in the central part of Honshu Island, north-east of the former capital of Kyoto. It is often mentioned in Japanese literature, since it lies close to the ancient capital. The lake has three islands, where big cities of Hikone and Otsu are located. Biwa is also known as the paradise for fishing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kazakhstan Travel Notes

A newly-emerged country, once republic of the former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan is a country with huge tourism potential. In the south, the country features monuments of the past, Islamic mosques and madrassahs. Almaty, the southern capital, is a busy political and financial center, a city with buzzing nightlife and lots of attractions. In the north, the Baikanur Cosmodrome, attracts visitors who wish to view the impressive launches of Russian spacecrafts.
The past centuries have given the lands of Kazakhstan many historical monuments. The mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi in the city of Turkestan is a unique example of medieval architecture. Numerous rooms are grouped around a square mausoleum hall, covered by one of the largest domes in Central Asia, eighteen meters in diameter. The majestic building is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Such historical and cultural monuments and mausoleums as Abat-Baytak and Aisha-Bibi, a necropolis of Karaman-Ata, palace complexes of Akyrtas and Baba-Ata, the ancient settlements of Koylyk, Issyk, and Berel are of considerable interest for touristrs. In total, Kazakhstan has more than 25 thousand monuments of history, archeology, architecture and monumental art. Kazakhstan is a lowland country, bordered by mountains. An example of such relief is the city of Almaty, where the windows of the houses have a view on the peaks of the Trans-Ili Alatau. This is a popular district of the Tien Shan, famous for its beauty of the mountain forests and alpine landscapes. Covering the area of nearly a thousand square miles, there is the Almaty Reserve located here. Almaty neighborhood is well-known for its orchards where amazingly big apples ripen. Among the sports facilities, one can mention the famous ice skating rink Medeo in the mountains.
Lake Balkhash is a unique natural phenomenon, being half fresh and half salty, 600 kilometers in length and surrounded by sand dunes and desert pastures. Another peculiar natural attraction is Lake Burabaj, admired for its relict pine forests, bizarre sculptures carved from granite by rain and wind. In the middle of the lake, there rises above the water surface a rocky island called Zhumbaktas. Its coast is overgrown with pine and birch forests. The combination of mountains, pine forests and the lake creates special climatic conditions, therefore a resort known for curative mud and mineral waters has been opened here.
Kazakhstan is not just an open air museum, but also a country with beautiful natural attractions, such as alpine meadows of the mountains, the majestic scenery of the Charyn River Canyon, and Lake Burabaj, mentioned in myths and legends. One of the most beautiful corners of Kazakhstan is Bayanaul National Park created to protect the unique flora and fauna of the north-eastern part of the country.
The most beautiful city of Kazakhstan is Almaty. Located near the Trans-Ili Alatau Mountains, it is characterized by original architectural ensembles that combine the elements of traditional style with the latest building structures. Chimbulak mountain sports base in the suburbs of Almaty attracts mountain climbers, hikers, skiers, seeking the ski slopes with a considerable vertical drop.
One of the most spectacular wonders of the country is the Charyn River. Along the river one will find a deep and picturesque canyon, while the forests of this vast desert oasis make a lasting impression on the traveler. The water, wind, and heat have given the banks of the river wonderful shapes, resembling the walls of the ancient city. Diverse flora and fauna, with giant ashes and poplars, over 300 species of birds, 20 species of amphibians and more than 800 arthropods give this place a unique appearance.
On the banks of the Ili river, there is a wonderful monument of nature, the Singing Dune. Located between the two mountain ranges, the dune is influenced by the winds in such a way that the sand remains in one place all the time, without moving anywhere. The sand produces a humming sound so powerful that its 'singing' can be heard for several kilometers.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Traveling in Iran

Iran, or ancient Persia, is a country with past so great and glorious that there would be very few countries in the world to match it. Its civilization started thousands of years ago with mighty empires that conquered half of the world. Remnants of those empires still attract curious people from all parts of the planet.
Iran is a unique country where the past and the present co-exist in a harmonious unity. Historical sights of Iran are not just a pile of half-ruined buildings or prehistoric mosques, minarets and mausoleums. In fact, this country is a piece of living history, where nothing is forgotten. The great palaces of the kings of Persia, the clay fortress wall in Bam, the tomb of biblical prophet Daniel, paradisiacal gardens, ancient bazaars, and many other things are symbols of Iran.
Iran is a very interesting country in all spheres of life, but its rich history, full of different events, is the factor that motivates people from the rest of the world to come here and personally get acquainted with this legendary place.
Iran is mentioned in many legends and stories often as the scene of unbelievable events. According to some scientists, Iran's ancient city of Tabriz was the place of the divine Eden garden. Another Iranian city of Shush, located on the site of the ancient city of Susa, had been the capital of one of the most advanced civilizations in the world. Unique castles, palaces, mausoleums, and tombs are all the icons of modern Iran, which are definitely worth seeing with your own eyes.
The capital of Iran, Tehran, is a real metropolis, bustling with the voices of millions of people. However, modern concrete structures have diminished the oriental flavor of the city. In Tehran, there are not so many tourist spots. You can visit the National Museum and the Museum of Persian Carpets, Azadi Square with the monument to freedom, where from you can get a panoramic view of the city. Golestan Palace is the best place to admire Arabic architecture. At the head office of the Central Bank, you will be able to see a small museum of jewelry treasures, formerly owned by Persian shahs. The city has many parks and beautiful lakes. But the best kind of entertainment in Tehran is visiting the old bazaar, which is so big that it actually seems to be a separate town and, in fact, is one of the biggest bazaars in the world.
The tourists will have to travel far from Tehran to see the pearl of Iran - the ancient fortress city of Bam, surrounded by plantations of eucalyptus and palm trees. Iran has many interesting places, but the small town of Bam can be called one of the wonders of the world. Bam was a major trading center on the famous Spice Road, which ran from China and Indo-China through Central Asia and Iran. The town is small and cozy, but its majestic monuments dominate the landscape. They include the Arg-e-Bam Citadel, the remnants of the outer rampart, the internal castle complex, and the tomb of the famous astronomer Mirza Naim.
One of the oldest cities in the world and the first capital of ancient Persia is the city of Hamadan. Today, it is the major commercial and industrial center famous for its pleasant summer climate, lots of interesting places and beautiful gardens. In Hamadan, one will find the mausoleum and the museum of the philosopher and physician Avicenna, the Jewish mausoleum, Hakmatana hill with the ruins of fortifications of the Median period, the palace of Darius, and the Burj-e Qurban Tower. In the 16th century, the city of Esfahan was called 'half of the world.' Even today this city is unique and inimitable. Esfahan is the homeplace to a great number of architectural and historical monuments and great mosques. In this city one can find a small women's mosque of Sheikh Lotfollah, the mosque of Imam Ali Kapu and his Palace. Imam Mosque impresses with its grandeur and richness of decoration. The most romantic city of Iran is Shiraz. The city of love, poetry, and blooming roses, it was rightly called 'the capital of the poetry of Persia'. Literally any old city of Iran is a museum under the open sky. Once you enter it, you feel being transmitted to the Middle Ages, and that is the real Iran.