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Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Barcelona, Spain
Gran Templo en situación especial
El Templo Expiatorio del Sagrado Corazón (en catalán Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor) es una iglesia situada en la montaña del Tibidabo, en Barcelona, obra del arquitecto Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia y finalizada por su hijo Josep Maria Sagnier i Vidal. Su construcción se prolongó de 1902 a 1961. La idea de construir un templo en lo alto de la montaña del Tibidabo surge a finales del siglo XIX ante los rumores sobre la construcción de un templo protestante y un hotel-casino, ante lo que una “Junta de Caballeros Católicos” adquiere la propiedad del terreno, cediéndolo en 1886 a San Juan Bosco, de visita entonces en Barcelona invitado por Dorotea de Chopitea, gran mecenas y promotora del proyecto. Surge entonces la idea de hacer un templo dedicado al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, advocación de moda en aquel entonces gracias al impulso del papa León XIII, y siguiendo la línea del templo construido en Roma por el propio Bosco (Sacro Cuore di Gesù), así como del famoso Sacré-Cœur de París. En 1886 se construye una ermita neogótica, y dos años más tarde, con motivo de la Exposición Universal, se urbaniza la carretera de Vallvidrera y se construye al lado de la ermita un pabellón de inspiración mudéjar, que servía de mirador -posteriormente derribado-. Sin embargo, el proyecto sufrirá un importante retraso debido sobre todo a la aparición de un nuevo proyecto para construir un observatorio astronómico en la cima del Tibidabo, que finalmente se hizo en una colina próxima (Observatorio Fabra). Finalmente, el 28 de diciembre de 1902 se coloca la primera piedra en un acto presidido por el obispo de Barcelona, Salvador Casañas i Pagès. El 29 de octubre de 1961 recibió el título de basílica menor, otorgado por el papa Juan XXIII. de wikipedia.com

Castell de Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain
Castell de Montjuïc
This forbidding castell (castle or fort) dominates the southeastern heights of Montjuïc and enjoys commanding views over the Mediterranean. It dates, in its present form, from the late 17th and 18th centuries. For most of its dark history, it has been used to watch over the city and as a political prison and killing ground. Anarchists were executed here around the end of the 19th century, fascists during the civil war and Republicans after it – most notoriously Lluís Companys in 1940. The castle is surrounded by a network of ditches and walls (from which its strategic position over the city and port become clear). Until 2009 the castle was home to a somewhat fusty old military museum, closed since the Ministry of Defence handed the fortress over to the city after protracted negotiations, although it is currently undergoing renovations and will be used as exhibition space. The artillery that once stood in the central courtyard has been removed, but some of the seaward big guns remain in place. In 2014 parts of the castle previously closed to the public – such as the tower and the dungeons – were opened, and an entrance fee was applied. A large part of the castle will now function as exhibition space, although the finer details had yet to be ironed out at the time of writing. The current exhibition explains something of the history of the place as well as detailing plans for its future. Perhaps when all this is done, the tombstones (some dating to the 11th century) from the one-time Jewish cemetery on Montjuïc will get a more imaginative exhibition space than the drab room once set aside for them in the military museum. The views from the castle and the surrounding area looking over the sea, port and city below are the best part of making the trip here. Around the seaward foot of the castle is an airy walking track, the Camí del Mar , which offers breezy views of the city and sea. From the Jardins del Mirador , opposite the Mirador (Telefèric) station, you have fine views over the port of Barcelona. A little further downhill, the Jardins de Joan Brossa are charming, landscaped gardens on the site of a former amusement park near Plaça de la Sardana . These gardens contain many Mediterranean species, from cypresses to pines and a few palms. There are swings and things, thematic walking trails and some good city views. by lonelyplanet.com

Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar, Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona’s finest Catalan Gothic church
At the southwest end of Passeig del Born stands the apse of Barcelona’s finest Catalan Gothic church, Santa Maria del Mar (Our Lady of the Sea). Built in the 14th century with record-breaking alacrity for the time (it took just 54 years), the church is remarkable for its architectural harmony and simplicity. Its construction started in 1329, with Berenguer de Montagut and Ramon Despuig being the architects in charge. During the construction, the city’s porters (bastaixos) spent a day each week carrying on their backs the stone required to build the church from royal quarries in Montjuïc. Their memory lives on in reliefs of them in the main doors and stone carvings elsewhere in the church. The walls, the side chapels and the facades were finished by 1350 and the entire structure was completed in 1383. The exterior of Santa Maria del Mar gives an impression of sternness, and like many of the buildings in the old part of town, it suffers from the impossibility of an overall perspective – the narrow streets around it are restrictive and claustrophobic. It may come as a (pleasant) surprise then, to find a spacious and light interior – the central nave and two flanking aisles separated by slender octagonal pillars give an enormous sense of lateral space. The interior is almost devoid of imagery of the sort to be found in Barcelona's other large Gothic churches, but Santa Maria was lacking in superfluous decoration even before anarchists gutted it in 1909 and 1936. Opposite the church’s southern flank, an eternal flame burns brightly over an apparently anonymous sunken square. This was once El Fossar de les Moreres (The Mulberry Cemetery), the site of a Roman cemetery. It’s also where Catalan resistance fighters were buried after the siege of Barcelona ended in defeat in September 1714. Keep an eye out for music recitals, often baroque and classical. In summer you can visit the roof terrace as part of a guided tour (€5) by lonelyplanet.com

Palacio de la Virreina, Barcelona, Spain
The Palau de la Virreina
The Barcelona Culture Institute is a public body set up by Barcelona City Council to support and promote cultural activities in the city, including the programme of events at La Virreina Image Centre at Palau de la Virreina. In 2008, La Virreina exhibition centre began a new stage as an Image Centre. Its programme has since included photography, audiovisual works, election broadcasts, book publishing, literary festivals, talks, digital documentation and expanded literature in the age of the image, amongst others. La Virreina Image Centre aims to explore the notion of the image as knowledge and also as a way of sparking new cultural experiences. Its key mission is to forge its own identity within the network of spaces in Barcelona, in terms of its lines of programmes and its contents and formats, as well as working closely with other centres for visual creation. The Palau de la Virreina, a jewel of baroque civil architecture, was built between 1772 and 1777 as the residence of Manuel d’Amat, Viceroy of Peru. The Amats finally sold the building, which was the property of the Carreras family from 1835 to 1944, when it was purchased by the City Council. The site housed different museums and collections until, in 1986, it was converted into the seat of the Council’s Culture Department (now ICUB). In 2007, approval was given to establish La Virreina Centre de la Imatge on the first floor and part of the ground floor, with the mission of generating a space in which to explore the universe and promote new cultural experiences. It was La Virreina Centre de la Imatge that, in 2010, promoted a “critical” restoration of the building.

Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona, Spain
Parque de la Ciudadela
Construido sobre los terrenos de la antigua fortaleza de la ciudad con motivo de la Exposición Universal de 1888, el Parque de la Ciudadela (Parc de la Ciutadella) fue durante muchos años el único parque público de Barcelona. Con una extensión de más de 17 hectáreas que se extienden sobre el barrio de Ciutat Vella, el parque compone uno de los principales pulmones de la ciudad y un oasis alejado del tráfico y las prisas. Tras la Guerra de Sucesión Española Felipe V ordenó la construcción del Castillo de Montjuïc y una enorme ciudadela, para lo cual se derribaron las casas de la zona y más de 4.500 personas fueron desalojadas. Tras la Revolución de 1868 la ciudadela fue demolida y solo se conservaron la capilla, el Palacio del Gobernador y el arsenal, que actualmente es la sede del Parlamento de Cataluña. Con motivo de la Exposición Universal de 1888 tuvo lugar la construcción del espectacular parque, para lo cual se contó con las colaboración del artista Antonio Gaudí. Con una extensión de más de 17 hectáreas que se extienden sobre el barrio de Ciutat Vella, el parque compone uno de los principales pulmones de la ciudad y un oasis alejado del tráfico y las prisas. Probablemente los elementos más llamativos del parque sean su sorprendente cascada compuesta por un enorme conjunto monumental y el edificio del Castillo de los Tres Dragones, que en la actualidad funciona como Museo de Zoología. Además de esto el parque cuenta con extensas áreas ajardinadas, monumentos, arboledas, un lago, un invernadero y el Zoológico de Barcelona. El Parque de la Ciudadela es un espacio muy agradable que ofrece la posibilidad de relajarse en un entorno propio de un museo al aire libre. de conocerbarcelona.com

Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Puerto Madero: un sitio residencial exclusivo y elegante.
Puerto Madero en un sitio residencial exclusivo y de excelencia por la elegancia, el buen gusto, los increíbles edificios, los buenos restaurantes y negocios de la Ciudad. Uno de los detalles a recalcar es que todas sus calles rinden homenaje a mujeres destacadas de la historia argentina. Entre los magníficos edificios totalmente de cristal y las antiguas casonas, podemos descubrir algunos chateau como el edifico del Hotel Hilton que, aunque nuevo, está realizado en un muy clásico estilo francés, también podemos admirar las fábricas de antaño recuperadas, su antiguo puerto inaugurado en 1897, con un lugar especialmente adjudicado a los Museos Corbeta Uruguay y Fragata Sarmiento, que conviven armónicamente con algunos yates y elegantes veleros del Yatcht Club Puerto Madero, la exposición de antiguas grúas, sus plazas y plazoletas. Es un placer caminarlo, recorrerlo, mirar hacia arriba y hacia abajo, en medio de una fina llovizna que le daba al cielo ese color plomizo ideal para las buenas fotos. Allí nos encontramos con la Fuente de las Nereidas, la Juan Manuel Fangio y su Monumento el auto Mercedes Bez con que se hiciera famoso Campeón del Mundo en automovilismo, y el moderno Puente de la Mujer. Al limitar con el Barrio Monserrat podrán visitar la Plaza de Mayo , y todos los importantes edificios de sus alrededores y, al hacerlo también con el Barrio San Nicolás se encontraran con la Catedral Metropolitana

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mi viaje a Buenos Aires
Hay dos Buenos Aires diferentes. Una para el turista, una vidriera de cosas estupendas, y otra para el porteño, que puede darse algún que otro gusto pero no puede permitirse vivir al nivel de un turista. Me refiero especialmente a ciertos barrios relativamente nuevos como Puerto Madero o Palermo Soho (llamado así porque es un barrio “trendy”) donde sus restaurantes, tiendas y hoteles están preciosos, impecables, pero que en general son bastante caros, con precios para turistas que van con dólares o euros. Algunas tiendas no marcan los precios en la ropa, a modo de broma dicen que depende de cómo habla el cliente, es un precio u otro. Si te mueves en sitios muy turísticos, los precios son elevados, aunque de todos modos, con el cambio actual, para los europeos son muy buenos precios. A lo mejor no hay tanta diferencia en ropa de marca, que es cara, pero sí por ejemplo en cosas cotidianas como cenar en un restaurante o en coger un taxi. Hemos pasado allí Navidad y Año Nuevo, con calor, claro. A pesar de los 35 grados se acostumbra comer frutos secos, turrones y unas buenas comilonas protagonizadas generalmente por un asado o un lechón frío acompañado de todo tipo de ensaladas, arrollados y postres con dulce de leche para después. Buenos Aires es y está muy bonita. La seguridad, un tema que preocupa bastante a los visitantes, está mucho mejor que años atrás, ya no se nota esa sensación de inseguridad en las calles. Desde luego es un momento ideal para conocer la ciudad. A partir de estas fechas los precios de los pasajes ya han bajado, y a pesar de que hay que aguantarse 12 horas de avión merece mucho la pena conocerla. Y ya que hacemos el viaje es obligado hacer un recorrido por las bellezas naturales del país como el Glaciar Perito Moreno, las cataratas del Iguazú o la Patagonia Argentina.

La Ribera, Barcelona, Spain
A must for anyone taking a walk through Barcelona.
La Ribera neighbourhood is a must for anyone taking a walk through Barcelona. Whether you get there from the Via Laietana or the Arc de Triomf, as you explore the maze of narrow streets in this neighbourhood where merchants, artisans and guilds once, you’ll discover the city of design, leisure and fashion. Many artists have set up their studios in La Ribera neighbourhood, inheriting the past of the neighbourhood where Barcelona city’s artisans used to live. Many street names remind us of the ancient trades and skills: Mirallers (mirror makers), Sombrerers (hatters), Argenters (silversmiths), etc. Streets that grew up around the church of Santa Maria del Mar, which is, without a shadow of a doubt, the masterpiece of Catalan Gothic architecture. By the 13th century, Barcelona needed to expand beyond its city walls and a separate borough was created, which soon became the district where merchants and the wealthiest Barcelona families came to live, supported by an important seafaring tradition. Carrer Montcada, currently the home of art galleries and major museums such as the Museu Picasso, formed the centre of this affluent part of Barcelona. The medieval palazzos are a vivid reminder of this past. A period of splendour cut short in the 16th century, and later, by the War of the Spanish Succession, when Philip V built a military citadel on the eastern side of La Ribera. Now, among the ancient stones of La Ribera, restaurants, wine bars, cocktail lounges, dance clubs and designer boutiques showcase the vibrant colour of an old neighbourhood whose beauty has been renewed.

Barri Gótic, Barcelona, Spain
The centre of the Roman city, today’s Gothic Quarter.
A stroll through Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter brings to light the early Roman city of Barcino and the medieval town with its palazzos, mansions and Gothic churches. This is the style that defines “the heart of Barcelona”: a neighbourhood where the splendour of the historic past coexists with the vibrancy of the present. The centre of the Roman city, today’s Gothic Quarter, was marked by the point where the two main streets, the Cardo and Decumanus, converged. Today the Carrer del Bisbe and Carrer Llibreteria stand on this site. Nearby, we can still see the remains of the Roman temple of Augustus. In fact, the original centre of Roman and medieval Barcelona still forms the core of 21st-century Barcelona. Its maze of narrow streets and squares is steeped in the city’s past and present. Here, in the Gothic Quarter, we find the City Hall and the seat of the Catalan Government, the Palau de la Generalitat, the Cathedral and other Gothic churches, including Santa Maria del Pi and Sants Just i Pastor. Very near the Plaça de Sant Jaume, right in the middle of this Barcelona neighbourhood, is the old Jewish Quarter, the Call Jueu, with its endless narrow streets, where some remains of the ancient synagogue still survive. In the Gothic Quarter, the Plaça del Rei proudly showcases the architectural ensemble made up of the royal residences of the Catalan-Aragonese monarchs. Below the square, you can visit the impressive archaeological remains of Roman Barcino. Behind the Cathedral stands the beautiful Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, with its baroque church. The square is surrounded by narrow streets in a Barcelona neighbourhood suffused with history which comes to life when you go there. by barcelonaturisme.com

Barrio del Raval, Barcelona, Spain
Beautiful place to visit!
The word Raval, which comes from the Arabic Rabad, means neighbourhood or district. Once home to a cluster of convents and hospitals in Barcelona, the Raval has become a multicultural mosaic where the mix of modernity and the past of the former Barrio Chino, have made it a pole of attraction for people from all over the world. Barcelona’s Raval neighbourhood, which was hemmed in by the city walls until 1859, is now bounded by La Rambla, Carrer Pelai, the Ronda Sant Antoni, Ronda Sant Pere and the Paral·lel. These ancient Roman roads marked out the boundaries of the walls which were demolished so that the rapidly growing city could expand. Within these perimeters, this area, which had been the site of fields and convents until the mid-19th century, saw the construction of textile mills and workers’ houses throughout the network of narrow winding streets in this Barcelona neighbourhood. As a result of its industrialisation and proximity to the port, the Raval became a neighbourhood with a high immigrant population, where social problems were commonplace. And it was because of this that the journalist Àngel Marsà christened it the Barrio Chino in 1925, a monicker still used until fairly recently. The efforts made by Barcelona City Council since the 1990s to clean up and improve living conditions in Raval neighbourhood, by building new streets, such as the Rambla del Raval, and creating institutions which have had a major impact on its social and cultural life, such as the Centre de Cultura Contemporània and MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona), have given the Raval back its reputation and prestige. by barcelonaturisme.com

Norway, Norway
Fata Morgana
If the aurora inspires wonder, the fata morgana may prompt a visit to a psychiatrist. The clear and pure Arctic air ensures that distant features do not appear out of focus. As a result, depth perception becomes impossible and the world takes on a strangely two-dimensional aspect where distances are indeterminable. Early explorers meticulously laid down on maps and charts islands, headlands and mountain ranges that were never seen again. An amusing example of distance distortion, described in the enigmatic book Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez, involves a Swedish explorer who was completing a description in his notebook of a craggy headland with two unusual symmetrical valley glaciers, when he discovered that he was actually looking at a walrus. Fata morganas are apparently caused by reflections off water, ice and snow, and when combined with temperature inversions, create the illusion of solid, well-defined features where there are none. On clear days off the outermost coasts of Lofoten, Vesterålen, northern Finnmark and Svalbard, you may well observe inverted mountains or nonexistent archipelagos of craggy islands resting on the horizon. It’s difficult indeed to convince yourself, even with an accurate map, that they’re not really there! Also unsettling are the sightings of ships, large cities and forests where there could clearly be none. Normal visibility at sea is less than 18km, but in the Arctic, sightings of islands and features hundreds of kilometres distant are frequently reported.

Norway, Norway
Aurora borealis
There are few sights as mesmerising as an undulating aurora. Although these appear in many forms – pillars, streaks, wisps and haloes of vibrating light – they’re most memorable when taking the form of pale curtains wafting on a gentle breeze. Most often, the Arctic aurora appears as a faint green or light rose but, in periods of extreme activity, can change to yellow or crimson. The visible aurora borealis, or northern lights, are caused by streams of charged particles from the sun, called the solar wind, which are directed by the Earth’s magnetic field towards the polar regions. Because the field curves downward in a halo surrounding the magnetic poles, the charged particles are drawn earthward. Their interaction with electrons in nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere releases the energy creating the visible aurora. During periods of high activity, a single auroral storm can produce a trillion watts of electricity with a current of one million amps. The Inuit (Eskimos) call the lights arsarnerit ('to play with a ball'), as they were thought to be ancestors playing ball with a walrus skull. The Inuit also attach spiritual significance to the lights, and some believe that they represent the capering of unborn children; some consider them gifts from the dead to light the long polar nights and others see them as a storehouse of events, past and future. Norwegian folklore attributes the lights to old maids or dead maidens dancing and weaving. The lights were seen as a bad omen and a sign that God was angry, and people who mocked the superstition risked incurring the ire of God. The best time of year to catch the northern lights in Norway is from October to March, although you may also see them as early as August. Oddly enough, Svalbard is actually too far north to catch the greatest activity.

Masjid-i-Vakil, Shiraz, Iran
Masjid-I-Vakil
Outside the Arg I walked over to what Bradt refer to as the Bagh-I-Nazar. This is described as ‘a small octagonal reception Pavilion of Karim Khan Zand’. Now Bradt says that, it used to house a small local museum. However the only building that matched this description was a museum, looked quite nice as well – but it was closed. No one nearby seemed to be entirely sure whether this was the Bagh-I-Nazar and I decided to move on. The Masjid – I – Vakil, a 1773 construction was supposed to be walking distance. Bradt say that it is out of bounds to foreign tourists, but I was able to get in without any problems. There is some reconstruction work going on though – with one of the workmen willing to give impromptu guides (in Farsi) – but he usefully did point out the foundation stone. It’s a very large mosque with massive dusty stone pillars and a large courtyard with grass growing between the paving stones. It’s difficult to imagine that just next door is a heaving market with hundreds of people. As usual with these places the only other tourists seem to be Iranian school children and the odd Europeans. Next to the mosque is the Vakil bazaar (18th century, whose rents paid for the mosque). Like bazaars in other cities this is covered, with two of the original four caraveranserai remaining. These were places for traders and travellers to stay, now they seem to be used as offices and warehouses. In Nishapour (north eastern Iran) I had seen a caravanserai converted into a museum and in Isfahan into a kitsch hubble/bubble tea shop.

Jalil Khayat Mosque, Erbil, Iraq
Jalil Khayat Mosque
The Mosque allocated in a very distinct area of Erbil city capital of Kurdistan Region, surrounded by four streets (two of them are main streets), the land area is about (15000m²). The mosque building relies on Islamic architecture and al-Abbasi design except the domes, which built, relying on OTTOMAN Mosques. The Mosque is distinguished by hugeness skeleton, many domes, and tow high minaret, intermediate the mosque skeleton big and huge dome, the height of the main dome (48 meter), and the diameter (20 meter), and around the main dome (four half domes), (twelve quarter domes) and (four domes on the corner) There are also many domes distributed around the Mosque, with the presence of two high minarets with (75 meter) high beside the main sanctum together with domes which cover the sanctum gives a nice architecture view to the mosque. The two minarets are designed and built relying on Islamic architecture, with a square base, and the second nave with an octagonal shape and the third nave with a circular shape, in additional to the columns which bear the crescent. The mosque project is consider the first mosque in Kurdistan Region and Iraq in variegation, design, ornament and skeleton where as the big sanctuary (which specified for men praying) which take about (1500 prayer). The sanctuary has been ornamented from inside by hand which took one year of hard work, as all inside walls and domes carefully variegated and golden ink used to write verses of the Holly Koran. The chandeliers used for lighting consist of original crystal and all the metal gold plated 24 K gold. The second sanctuary specified for woman for praying and listens to the Friday speeches, can take (300 prayers), and also variegated and ornamented from inside. The mosque includes two main gates on the main street, the first main gate is (25 meters) of height covered by a big dome and two half domes, the second gate is built relying on Islamic architecture and covered with bricks, there are also several gates on side streets. On the left side of the big sanctuary there is a big hall can take (300 persons) for the religion occasion, the ceiling of the hall variegated with mirror ornamented and lighted by chandelier which includes original crystal and gold plated. The hall includes annex for food service. Beside the occasion hall there is a grave yard with octagonal shape, over it a circular dome, with a separate entrance. The path ways leading to the occasion hall and other mosque annex and halls is beside the sanctuary and around consists of a corridor built relying on (Al-Abbasi design of corridors) decorated and covered with bricks and colored ceramic. There are three places ablution and annex for departed and pray on, the mosque includes a kitchen to arrange food for poor people at owner expenses. Under the mosque at the basement floor there are several rooms designed to be a library or introduce different services to the mosque. During ten years from the beginning of the project and until the completion hundreds of believer and faithful people work to build this project and introduce this edifice to the Erbil City to be a living evidence during history, beside other Erbil edifice.

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