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WALKING AROUND TOKYO

Tokyo, the capital city of Japan that is crossed by the Sumida River, is located in the region of Kanto, in the southeastern area of the island of Honshu.

The city, former known as Edo that in the Japanese language means “estuary”, was founded in 1457 by Ōta Dōkan, a warrior-poet, military and Buddhist monk, when he built a castle in the area; in 1869 Tokyo became the capital of the country.

My GPS navigation India&Asia helped me a lot walking around the city and reaching the main landmarks of Tokyo.

Some of the most known touristic attractions of the city are the Imperial Palace, former the Edo Castle, which is the residence of the Japanese royal family, and where it is possible to admire the Imperial East Gardens, the Tokyo Skytree, the second tallest building of Japan, where there are observation decks and on the base a shopping center with an aquarium, the Tsukiji Fish Market, the Meiji Shrine, built in 1920 to honor of the Emperor Meiji, the first emperor of the country on modern times, and his wife, where it can be seen the Meiji Jingu Treasure House and the Inner Garden, and the Buddhist Sensoji Temple, dated from the 7th century, located the neighborhood of Asakusa that is an example of the past decades live of the city.

Tokyo has several green areas, usually with cherry trees, a local attraction; among them it shall be referred the Koishikawa Korakuen, a garden dated from the 17th and 18th centuries, the Shinjuku Gyoen Park, the Yoyogi Park and the Ueno Park, dated from the 19th century and where it is possible to find bout 8,800 trees, the lake Shinobazu Pond, a zoo and a winter garden for birds.

At Ueno Park are located some of the most famous museums of the city: the Tokyo National Museum, the largest one in the country, founded in 1872, where it is possible to see archaeological artifacts and art works of Asia, including about 90 objects from the National Treasure of Japan, the National Museum of Nature and Science, also established in the 19th century, the Shitamachi Museum, founded in the late 20th century, exhibiting typical Japanese way of life and objects, and the National Museum for Western Art, established in 1959, in which are exhibited paintings and drawings from artists such as Veronese, Rubens, Brueghel, Delacroix, Manet, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Miró, Rodin and Cézanne.

Other museums and cultural places to be visited in Tokyo are the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, known as the “Future Museum”, the Edo-Tokyo Museum, established in 1993, featuring models of buildings and towns from the Edo, Meiji and Shōwa historical periods, its branch, the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, exhibiting Japanese historic buildings, the Fine Arts Nezu Museum, the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art, established in 1952, the National Diet Library, founded in 1948 that houses copies of all publications published in the country, and National Noh Theatre, dated from the latter 20th century, where the classical Japanese musical drama, the “Noh”, and the traditional Japanese comic theater, the “Kyōgen”, are performed.

The main events that take place at Tokyo are the “Kanda Matsuri” (mid May), which origins go back to the historic Edo period, the Sanja Matsuri, a religious festival that happens in the third weekend of May, the Tokyo Motor Show, one of the most importants motor shows of the world and the Tokyo Game Show, an annual trade for video game developers.

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A FEW DAYS IN TEHRAN

The area where the capital city of Iran, Tehran, is located was inhabited since the antiques times, but the city only in modern times (latter 18th century) became the 32nd and final capital of the country; it is the largest city in Western Asia.

Tehran lies in an altitude of around 1,200 meters, in the foothills of the Albroz Range, in the northern region of Iran, not far away from the coast of Caspian Sea.

An android navigation for smartphone will help visitors to find the best way to reach the main landmarks of the city.

The actual symbol of Tehran is the Azadi Tower (Azadi means “liberty” in the Iranian language), located in the square with the same name and the most famous of the city, was built in 1971 to celebrate an important and historic date of Iran: the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. To this building was given the name of Shahyad Tower (the “King’s Memorial”), but after the Iranian revolution (1979) the name was changed to the actual.

Marking the west entrance of the city and made of marble, the Azadi Tower has an audio/visual theatre displaying the history and geography of Iran, and in the basement the Azadi Museum.

Other famous touristic attractions of the city are the Golestan Palace Complex, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the Sa’dabad Palace (the “White House”), dated from the 19th century and built to be the official residence of the Pahlavi monarchs of the country, the Niavaran Palace Complex, the Iranian Imperial Crown Jewels, publicly displayed at the Central of Iran, the Tehran International Tower, the tallest residential building of the country, and the Milad Tower.

The Golestan Palace Complex that is the oldest historic monument of Tehran dates from the 15th century and was built to be the residence of the kings of the Savafid dynasty. The complex comprises actually 14 palaces and museums, in which it can be seen the Sun Throne, the imperial throne of Persia (the former name of Iran), built in the 19th century.

The Sa’dabad Palace is nowadays a museum and the official residence of the President of the country.

Other places to be visited at Tehran are the district of Darband, from where people can start the hiking trail or take the chair lift to the top of Tochal Mountain, within the Albroz Range, the Tehran City Theatre, the Hosseiniyeh Ershad a non-traditionalist religious institute that houses a large public library, the Abrisham Bridge, the Mellat Park, where it is possible to admire musical fountains, the Jamshidieh Park, the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Armenian Apostolic St. Sarkis Church.
Apart from the museums referred above, other important museums of the city are the National Museum of Iran, the Glassware and Ceramics Museum of Iran, the Carpet Museum of Iran, the Tehran’s Underglass Painting Museum, the Safir Office Machines Museum, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, featuring paintings from Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, among other famous artists, the Reza Abbasi Museum, the Darabad Museum of Natural History and the Money Museum.

The National Museum of Iran was established in 1937 and exhibits artifacts from the pre-historic periods (Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze and Iron Ages), of the ancient Persia and the post-Islamic period; it is also possible to see the statues of several Persian kings and the mummy of a prince (the “Salt Man”), preserved in a salt mine for 2,000 years.

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LASCAUX CAVES – FRANCE

The best GPS for taxi drivers  is a very useful contraption to reach the caves of Lascaux, located close to the French village of Montignac on the Vézère River on the southwestern area of the country, in the department of Dordogne, in the region of Aquitaine.

Lascaux is a complex of caves that became famous due to the some of the most known Upper Paleolithic caves art and paintings that are assumed by the scholars to be 17,300 years old and that primarily consists of paintings of large animals; the fossil archaeological finds in the area is considered by the experts a proof that those animals lived at that place at period.

The caves together with other pre-historic sites in the Vézère valley were classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The entrance of the caves and the paintings on the walls were discovered by chance by four young boys in 1940; the complex was opened to the public in 1948, but due to the damages  caused by the carbon dioxide produced by the large amount of visitors it has been necessary to close them for some periods of time to restore the paintings; since 1988 the caves were stricken by fungus, due to the air conditioning and lighting systems, and at this moment the access to the caves is restricted and subject to a prior authorization.

The scientists identified about 2,000 figures that are grouped into three main categories – animals, human figures and abstract signs.

The experts were able to identify that over 900 paintings represent animals, from which 605 could be identified with accuracy; other images represent equines (364 paintings), deer (90 paintings), bison, a bird, a bear, a rhinoceros, and a human. Some geometric images were also represented on the paintings.

There are no paintings showing the vegetation of that period neither of the surrounding landscape.

Although among the scientific community exists a large controversy about the meaning of the paintings, the actual theory, supported by some anthropologists and art historians, for the meaning of the paintings is that they intend to represent a kind of mystical ritual that would improve the venture of future hunting actions; this theory is reinforced by the fact that in some areas of the cave there is a superposition of images of groups of animals, giving the idea that some areas of the cave would be more powerful for hunting success.

The experts concluded that most of the images were painted using mineral pigments, although some images were engraved onto the stone; anyway it must be taken into account that many paintings are very faded away or even totally destroyed.

“The Great hall of the Bulls”, where are represented bulls, equines and deer is the most famous section of the Lascaux cave. There are figured 36 animals and four black bulls, or maybe aurochs dominate the painting; one of bulls, with 5.2 meters long is the largest animal discovered n the cave until this moment.

In the chamber called the Nave there is a painting usually referred as “The Crossed Bison” is often presented by the experts as one of the best examples of the ability of the Paleolithic painters.

Other important areas of the cave are the Abside (Apse), the Wheel and the Axial and the Feline Diverticula.

For regular visitors the authorities opened in 1983 a replica of two of the cave halls, known as “Lascaux II” 200m far from the original cave; this replica shows copies of the paintings of “The Great Hall of Bulls” and the “Painted Gallery”. At the “Centre of Prehistoric Art” at Le Thot, a few kilometers away from Montignac is possible to see reproductions of other works of the cave.

 

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REYKJAVIK – ICELAND

Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, in the southwest area of the country on the Bay of Faxaflói, and has the most northern latitude of all capital cities of the world; the city is crossed by River Elliðaá, where it is possible to fish one the best salmons of the country.

A smartphone with GPS navigation Europe will help the visitors of the city to found its most important landmarks and touristic points.

Reykjavik was founded in the 18th century (1786) by the Danish rulers of Iceland, to be a town dedicated to trade, but archaeological findings show the existence of a settlement in the area that is believed to be established in the 9th century by Norwegian Ingólfur Arnarson and his Norsemen tribe.

Some of the main touristic attractions of the city are the forest of Heiðmörk, about 10 km away from Reykjavik, Nauthólsvík, a beach heated by geothermal sources, the geothermal spa of the Blue Lagoon, the “Red Hills (Rauðhólar in the Icelandic language) that is a group of pseudo craters lava fields and the lake Tjörnin, in the center of the city.

The most known museums of Reykjavik are the Reykjavik Art Museum, the largest art museum of the country, founded in 1973, the National Museum of Iceland, founded in 1863, the Viking Maritime Museum, founded in 2005 and located at the harbor area that exhibits the maritime history of Iceland, and the Reykjavík Open Air Museum (the “Árbæjarsafn”), established in 1968 and that intends to show to the visitors the way of living in the earlier times of the Reykjavík inhabitants; this museum organized an archaeological exhibition, the Reykjavík 871±2 camp, showing the ruins of the houses and other findings from the Viking period.

Other landmarks and touristic attractions of the city are the Perlan, a building based on the hot water storage tanks, with a glass dome, with an exhibition area, known as the Winter Garden, shops and restaurants, and in which there are panoramic telescopes that allow to have a general view of Reykjavík, the Icelandic parliament building (the “Alþingishúsið”), dated from the 19th century, the Culture House, dated from the earlier 20th century that houses several exhibitions, the Lutheran Church of Hallgrímskirkja, the large one in the country, Reykjavík Concert & Conference Center (“Harpa Reykjavík”), the City Hall (“Ráðhús Reykjavíkur”), dated from the latter 20th century, the National and University Library of Iceland and the most important shopping street, Laugavegur, located downtown and dated from the 19th century.

 

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SYRACUSE –SICILY, ITALY

To walk away Syracuse and find the most touristic attractions of the city and how to get there it is useful to have a not only your GPS navigation India, but also the maps of Europe.

Syracuse is an historic city located on the southeast coast of the Italian island of Sicily, in the Mediterranean Sea, and the capital of the province with the same name; the city was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The nucleus of the ancient city was the small island of Ortygia.

The city was founded in the 8th century B.C. by the Ancient Greek people, the Corinthians and the Teneans, as a city-state and it is credited as the birthplace of the famous mathematician Archimedes, is referred in the Bible´s Acts of the Apostles due to the fact that St. Paul was there and for the rich vestiges of Greek and Roman culture and history, as well as from the Christian period.

On December 13 Syracuse celebrates the feast of Saint Lucy, a young Christian martyr born in the city and its patron saint.

Close to Syracuse (approximately 23 km) is the Necropolis of Pantalica, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site; where is possible to see large rock cemeteries tombs dated from the 13th to the 7th centuries B.C. This Necropolis has five cemeteries – Filiporto (4th century B.C.), with almost one thousand tombs; North West necropolis (12th – 11th centuries); Cavetta necropolis; North necropolis, with approximately 1,000 tombs; South necropolis.

At the Necropolis of Pantalica is also possible to see a Mycenaean princely palace, the Anaktoron, probably dated from the Byzantine period.

From the Greek and Roman period it is possible to admire at Syracuse the Temple of Apollo (6th century B.C.), the Greek Theater (5th century B.C.), the Roman amphitheatre, the Tomb of Archimedes (at the “Grotticelli Necropolis”) and the Temple of Zeus (the Greek God of Gods), dated from the 6th century B.C. and located about 3 km of the center of the city.

At Syracuse is also possible to admire buildings of the Christian period, such as the Cathedral, dated from the 7th century), on Ortygia island, the Byzantine church built in the 15th – 16th century, in the same place of the martyrdom of the saint in 303 A.D., the Basilica of St. Lucy, the Church of St. Paul, built on the 18th century, the Church of Santa Lucìa alla Badìa, dated from the 17th century and where it is possible to see the painting of the Italian painter Caravaggio, “The Burial of St. Lucy”, the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, dated from the 13th century and the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, which main altar is of the Byzantine style and where it can be seen several frescos.

 

Other interesting places to visit at Syracuse are the Maniace Castle (13th century), the Archaeological Museum, several palaces such as the Palace of the Archbishop, dated from the 17th century, the Palace Lanza Buccheri (16th century), the Palace Mergulese-Montalto (14th century) and the Palace Migliaccio, built on the 15th century, the Castle of Euryalos and the Fountain of Diana.

 

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VERONA – ITALY

For those who intend to visit Verona an android navigation for smartphones is a very good help to find the best way to reach the main touristic attractions.

Verona is an Italian city, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site due to its urban structure and architecture, crossed over by Adige River and located in the region of Veneto, in the northern area of Italy. The city was the birthplace of the novelist Emilio Salgari and of the composer Antonio Salieri and it is also the place where the action of the tragedy written by William Shakespeare, “Romeo and Juliet”, take place.

Scholars and historians do not know neither the origin of the name of Verona, neither the date of its foundation, and they assume that the city was founded by the Euganei people, a semi-mythical proto-Italic ethnic group, and conquered in 550 B.C. by the Cenomani people, an ancient Gaul tribe from a part of Northern Italy, the Cisalpine Gaul; about 300 B.C. Verona became a Roman territory and in 89 B.C. a roman colony.

The main landmarks of Verona are the buildings and monuments of the Roman and early medieval periods.

Among the Roman buildings and monuments visitors may see the Verona Arena, an amphitheatre dated from 30 A.D., located in Bra Square, the largest in the city, where nowadays operas are performed and the main touristic attraction, the “Piazza delle Erbe” (Erbe Square), the city’s forum on the Roman Empire period, the “Porta Borsari” (“Borsari Gate”), dated from the 1st century A.D., “Porta Leoni” (“Leoni Gate”), dated from the1st century B.C., the Roman Theatre, dated from the 1st century B.C., the “Ponte di Pietra” (“Stone Wall Bridge”) that crosses the Adige River, dated from 100 B.C. and the “Arco dei Gavi” (“Gavi Arch”) located at the “Via Postumia”, an ancient Roman road leading to the city, dated from the 1st century B.C.

Within the medieval monuments tourists can admire several Renaissance Palaces, the basilica of San Zeno Maggiore, built in a Romanesque style and dated from the 10th century (the church in the 12th century was damaged by an earthquake and it was re-built between the 12th and the 14th centuries), the Sant’Anastasia Church, built between the 13th and the 14th centuries in a Gothic Style, The Santa Maria Antica Church, built in a Romanesque style, famous for the Gothic tombs of the family Scaliger, who ruled the city, the Pellegrini Chapel, famous due to the fresco “St. George and the Princess of Trebizond”, a work from the Italian painter Pisanello, and the “Ponte Scaligero” (“Scaligero Bridge), also known as the “Castel Vecchio Bridge”, an arc and fortified bridge, built in the 14th century.

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MIRA DE AIRE CAVES – PORTUGAL

The Mira de Aire Caves are located in the center of Portugal, close to the village of Mira de Aire, in the Natural Park of Aire and Candeeiros Mountains, about 110 km from the capital city of the country, Lisbon.

To find the best way to reach the caves truck drivers take use of truck gps software.

The caves are integrated into a touristic complex that includes also an exhibit hall, an amusement water park, the “Aguagruta Water Park”, a restaurant, the “Garden of Smells”, the Windmill (a rarity that is still possible to see in Portugal) and the Sundial, with a diameter of 4 meters.

The Mira de Aire Caves that are the most known and famous of Portugal were discovered in 1947 and are open all days in the year, according to the following timetable:

– From October to March: 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.

– April and May: 9:30 am to 6:00 pm.

– June and September: 9:30 am to 7:00 pm.

– July and August: 9:30 am to 8:00 pm.

Along of a gallery system with about 11 km it is possible to admire several calcareous concretions that emanate from the ceilings and the floors of the caves, caused by the action of the water in the limestone – stalactites and stalagmites; in some areas of the caves these concretions are linked, forming beautiful columns, creating capricious effects.

The main caves of the complex are the “Gruta dos Moinhos Velhos” (“Old Mills Cave”), the “Gruta da Pena” and the “Gruta da Contenda” (“Strife Cave”).

The “Gruta dos Moinhos Velhos” is inhabited by several endemic trogobionts (the ground-beetle “Trechus lunai”), spiders and stygobiont crustaceous.

The most important zones of the caves are the “Púlpito” (“Pulpit”), the “Sala Grande” (“Big Room”), the “Galeria Grande” (“Big Gallery”), the “Fonte das Pérolas” (“Pearl Fountain”), the “Galerias do Polvo” (“Pulp Galleries), the “Órgão” (“Organ”), the “Rio Negro (“Black River”), the “Sifão das Areias” (“Sand Siphon”), the “Concha” (“Shell”), the “Labirinto” (“Labyrinth”) and the “Poço Final” (“End Well”).

At the exhibit hall is possible to see a large collection of rocks, minerals, gemstones and fossils, known as the “Natural Richness of the World”.

The water park is opened from June, 16 to September; the “Aguagruta Water Park” has a swimming pool, toboggans, the “Aqualândia” for children, water slides, a solarium and a bar-restaurant.

It is also be possible to rent a bungalow within the complex (“Casas da Gruta”); the bungalows are equipped with air conditioning, TV, Internet access, freezer, stove, oven and microwave.

 

 

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