Tag Archives: landmarks

Qinngua Valley, Greenland’s Only Forest

Greenland is actually quite white and blue, due to all the glaciers that cover the world’s largest island like frosting on a cake. But near the southern end, sheltered within narrow fjords, there is still some greenery left.

South of Tasersuag Lake and east of Tasiusaq Fjord, oriented north-south, is a valley about 15 kilometers long that contains the only natural forest in Greenland. Qinngua Valley is protected on either side by tall mountains nearly 5,000 feet high that shields the valley from cold winds coming off the interior. The sea itself is 50 kilometers away. This creates a warm climate favorable to trees such as the downy birch and gray-leaf willow. The lack of strong winds allow the trees to stand up straight. Some of … Read the rest

Mauritania’s Iron Ore Train

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At one million square kilometers, Mauritania is not a small country, but a very small percentage of it is habitable. The rest is covered by the sands of the Sahara. Towns and settlements are separated by vast stretches of inhospitable desert. Roads often have to make detours hundreds of kilometers long just to avoid the drifting sands.

The mining town of Zouérat in northern Mauritania is one such isolated outpost. With a population close to fifty thousand, Zouérat is not a small town either. Yet, Zouérat’s only connection to the city of Nouadhibou, the country’s only major shipping port on the Atlantic coast, is via a railway. This railway, the only one in the country, serves as the lifeline for one of the world’s poorest nations, … Read the rest

The Bolivian Clock That Runs Backwards

The building that houses Bolivia’s legislative assembly in Plaza Murillo, in central La Paz, features a clock above the entrance that looks like a mirror image. The positions of the numerals on the clock face are reversed, and the clock itself runs anticlockwise. The building, which was erected during the 1920s and was originally intended to serve as the headquarters of Bolivia's central bank, featured a regular clock until 2014, when the clock was reversed to better reflect the “southern-ness” of the Bolivian people.

“Who said clocks always have to run the same way? Why do we always have to be obedient? Why can't we be creative?” asked Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, who seemed especially pleased with the idea.

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Photo credit: Rogerio Camboim S A/FlickrRead the rest

Yasukuni Shrine, Where War Criminals Are Revered

The Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni, in Chiyoda, Tokyo, is a beautiful spiritual place for remembering those who died in service for Japan. As many as 2.4 million men, women and children, and even various animals, are enshrined here. These people (and animals) lost their lives in numerous conflicts involving Japan spanning nearly a hundred years—starting from the Boshin War of 1868–1869 to the Second World War, including the First Indochina War of 1946–1954.

Those enshrined are mostly military men, but there are also civilians who died while taking part in various activities involving war, such as Red Cross nurses and air raid volunteers, factory workers and those who died in Soviet labor camps and those killed in Merchant Navy vessels, and so on. In addition, Yasukuni … Read the rest

How Australia Remembers The World’s Biggest Gold Nugget

On February 1869, two British prospectors, John Deason and Richard Oates, were digging for gold in central Victoria, Australia, when their pickaxe struck something hard very near the surface. When Deason bent down to examine the large stone he thought was on the way, he discovered an enormous gold nugget—the largest anybody had ever seen, and will ever see. The nugget measured two feet in length and almost a feet in width.

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Miners and their wives posing with the finders of the world’s biggest gold nugget, “Welcome Stranger” .

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The Ziggurat of Choga Zanbil

The Egyptians had pyramids, the Mesopotamians had ziggurats, which are massive brick structures with raised platforms with successively receding levels. Nobody knows what they stood for, but it’s presumed that they once contained shrines dedicated to the gods and had living quarters for priests. The Great Ziggurat of Ur in Iraq is one fine example of a ziggurat. But Choga Zanbil is one of the few ziggurats that lies outside Mesopotamia, and it’s the largest one among them. The ziggurat stands at the site of the ancient city of Elam, in today’s Khuzestan province in southwest Iran.

Choga Zanbil was built around 1250 BCE by the king Untash-Napirisha to honor the great god Inshushinak. But before the ziggurat could be completed, the king died and construction … Read the rest

Maison Carrée, The Most Intact Roman Temple

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Maison Carrée in Nimes, France. Photo credit: Lamax/Shutterstock.com

The Maison Carrée in the city of Nimes, in southern France, is the only ancient Roman building that you don’t have to use the word “ruins” to describe. Although not as impressive as the Parthenon of Athens, nor as elegant as the Pantheon in Rome, the Maison Carrée retains an integrity in its design, and preserves much of its original ornamentation, unlike so many ancient buildings that have been repurposed through the ages.

The Maison Carrée was built in the beginning of the first century. According to the inscription, it was dedicated to Lucius and Gaius Caesar, the grandsons whom Emperor Augustus had adopted as his hopeful heirs. Unfortunately, they died young before Augustus could be succeeded, … Read the rest

The Mines of Messines Ridge

About 8 kilometers south of Ypres, in the middle of a farm, is a small green pond known as the “Pool of Peace”, but its creation was a rather violent event.

It was 1916 and the First World War was in its second year. The Germans had occupied the Belgian coast and was using the coastal ports as bases from which they attacked merchant ships and troop transports in the North Sea and English Channel. Capturing these ports became a major objective for the British army. But before that could happen, the British had to drive the Germans out of a tactically important high ground called the Messines–Wytschaete Ridge, located south of Ypress, in Belgium.

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The crater at Spanbroekmolen, also known as the Lone Tree Crater Read the rest

Damme Canal: The Canal That Napoleon Built To Avoid The British Navy

A popular way to see the beautiful city of Bruges in Belgium is from a boat cruising along the city’s many canals. The historic city center is conveniently enclosed within an ‘egg’ encircled by canals allowing tourists to take a boat ride around the city center admiring the charming historic houses and churches. The city’s canals themselves are worth seeing, particularly the tree-lined Bruges-Sluis Canal or the Damme Canal.

The canal is about 15 km long and connects Bruges to the Dutch border town of Sluis through the town of Damme. It was dug on the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte, and hence it is also called Napoleon Vaart, or Napoleon Canal.

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Panoramic view of the famous Damme Canal. Photo credit: canadastock/Shutterstock.com

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Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge: The World’s Longest Sea Crossing

The world’s longest sea crossing connecting Hong Kong with Macau and Zhuhai opened this week in China. The unusual bridge cum tunnel system consist of a series of three cable-stayed bridges and one undersea tunnel, as well as two artificial islands for a total length of 55 km.

The largest part of the crossing is the 30-km-long Main Bridge, which is actually a bridge and a 6.7 km undersea tunnel that dips beneath the Pearl River Estuary and emerges at the other end just before the Hong Kong border. The undersea tunnel was built to avoid disrupting shipping lanes. The route then continues over a 9.4-km-long viaduct and ends at Chek Lap Kok, the island where Hong Kong International Airport is located.

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The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Read the rest