Monday, June 6, 2011

Madrid, Spain

Madrid is the capital and the largest city of Spain. The population of Madrid is 3.4 million! The first settlements in Madrid began around the 1000 BC along the rivers of Manzanares and Jarama. During this period, the town was mostly settled by the Iberian and Celtic tribes and as a result of the harsh weather conditions, other tribal groups did not settle here. Thereafter, Romans occupied the place and the city mainly served as a thoroughfare to other Spanish regions. After the decline of the Roman era, the area was primarily taken over by the Visigoth tribes. After the Visgoths left, Madrid came under Muslim rule and throughout the 11th century the Christians made incessant efforts to win back the city. But it was not until 1086, that Madrid was finally captured by Alfonso VI. The growth and prosperity of Madrid began from the 13th century under Alfonso VIII, and in 1561, it gained a royal status as Philip II established his court here. Madrid became the capital of Spain and this resulted in the infiltration of numerous nobles and state officials to the city. It also led to the construction of magnificent palaces and elegant monasteries in various parts of the city. The golden age of Madrid began in the 18th century with the discovery of America. Gold from the 'new world' was principally responsible for the prosperity of the city. It was Charles III who changed the look of the city and was responsible for the historical buildings which adorns the city till date. Madrid during this period not only witnessed the development of architectural marvels but also witnessed significant cultural growth by works of legendary writers like Cervantes and Lope de Vega.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Palermo, Italy

Palermo is the capitol of Sciliy. As well as being the capitol of Sicily, Palermo is also the capitol of Sicily's cultural, economic, and touristic capitol. The city was founded by the Phoenicians, but named by the Ancient Greeks Panormus meaning (Largest)Port of All(Sea). Palermo became part of the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire, and eventually part of the Byzantine Empire, for over a thousand years. From 827 to 1071 it was under Arab rule and it first became a capitol then. Then from 1130 to 1816, Palermo was the capitol of the Kingdom of Sicily. It is a city rich in history, culture, art, music, and, of coarse, food. There are many great architecture sites like Gothic churches, palaces, and buildings. People have been living in Palermo since 8000 BC! There are many cave enscriptions in some of Palermo's ancient caves. Palermo has been a centre for commerce for thousands of years. This is because it is a large port. This city has been passed between many great nations and kingdoms. Not the first time, it is now a part of Italy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mont Saint Michel

Above is Mont Saint Michel.

Perched upon a 264 feet rock formation on the coast where the regions of Normandy and Brittany meet in France, is the World Heritage site of Mont St. Michel. Mont Saint Michel is named after the arch-angel Saint Michael and is known as the Wonder of the Western World. Construction of the original abbey took more than 500 years from 1017 to 1521! The origins of Mont St. Michel can be traced back to a legend that has the archangel Michael appearing in a series of dreams to Aubert, Bishop of Avranches. Saint Michael tells Aubert to build a church on what was then a barren rock called Mont Tombe. The Monks of Mont St. Michel were revered for their copying skills before the printing press was widely in use. The abbey's monastic independence was undermined during the 17th century, when the monks began to flout the strict rules and discipline of their order, drifting into a state of decadence that culminated in their dispersal from the abbey. Mont St. Michel then served as a prison for a period of time. In 1874, the abbey was handed over to the French government with the aim of preserving the abbey for the ages.  Emmanuel Fremiet's famous gilt statute of St. Michael was added to the spire in 1897. Currently, Monks live and work here again, just as in medieval times.


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