Daily Archives: 12.07.2014

The Forbidden City – Palace of the Emperors



The Forbidden City – Palace of the Emperors

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Throughout their history Chinese have been known to be able to create thing which were larger than life such as paper, the Great Wall of China among others and among those creations the Forbidden City of Beijing is perhaps one of their greatest creations. The Forbidden City or Palace is the English name of the palace located in the dead center of China’s capital Beijing. A center of Chinese Empire’s economic and political power, the palace served as a beautiful abode for more than 24 emperors who ruled the lands from the 14th century till the 20th century. It is one of the biggest buildings in China being spread over 720,000 meter square comprising of 990 buildings each intricately built, designed and decorated keeping in mind the traditions of Chinese architecture and culture. The power center of Chinese influence on East Asia the Forbidden City was a mammoth reminder to outsiders of China’s might. The palace was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and was converted into a Palace Museum in 1925.

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On the occasion of Zhu Di becoming the Emperor after the establishment of the Ming Dynasty he ordered the construction of a grand palace in 1406, the construction of the palace continued on for fourteen years with the help of over a millions laborers and artisans. Upon its opening in 1420, it became the center of power of the Chinese Empire under the flagship of the Ming Dynasty who ruled the premises till 1644. In 1644, the Ming emperor was ousted by the rebel forces of Li Zicheng who proclaimed himself the ruler of China soon after. His army was then defeated by the combined forces of the former Ming General and the Manchus who were successful in defeating the rebel forces. Upon their victory the Manchus took the reins at the Forbidden City and declared themselves the rulers under the Qing Dynasty. For the coming two centuries, the palace became the center of power and politics in China with the Emperor demonstrating his influence over the lands through the giant walls of the Forbidden City.

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During the attacks by the Imperial forces of the European Empires on China, the Anglo-French forces took control of the Palace during the Second Opium War till the end of the war. In 1900, the then empress Dowager Cixi fled the City when attacked by the rebel forces during the Boxer rebellion. The Palace finally seized to be the center of power in China after the fall the last Chinese emperor Puyi who was ousted from power post the establishment of the Republic of China. In 1925, the Forbidden City was finally retired from serving the Emperors of China and converted into a Palace Museum. The museum was soon turned into the largest collection of artifacts belonging to the Qing and Ming Dynasty and became a place for the preservation of Chinese heritage and culture. During the Second World War, the Republican Revolution of 1949 and the Cultural Revolution the Forbidden City suffered a lot of damage. The Government of China since then has taken upon itself to restore the Palace to its erstwhile glory.

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The numbers related to the Forbidden City are just staggering; the Palace is rectangular in shape measuring 963 meters from north to south and 753 meters from east to west surrounded by giant walls from all corners which measure to the height of 7.9 meters and being 8.62 meters wide at the base rising up to a width of 6.66 meters at the top. Within its premises the City has around 980 surviving buildings which together have some 8886 rooms. At each of the four corners of the Palace stand mammoth towers which over look the imperial city of Beijing and are a big part of the folklore of the city. Each of the four walls is pierced by giant gates with the north being called ‘Gate of Divine Might’, the south ‘The Meridian Gate’, east ‘The East Glorious Gate and the west ‘West Glorious gate. Traditionally, the Forbidden City has been divided into two parts namely the Inner Court and the Outer Court. The Inner Court was the private premises of the King where the King and his family resided along with the day-to-day state functions also being performed from here. The Outer Court was meant for public ceremonies and celebrations.

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The Forbidden City is a landmark of Chinese history on par with the Great Wall of China, today it s the site of the largest conservation effort of Chinese history in the form of the Palace Museum which has been able to protect the many artifacts that belonged to the Palace, the interior of the Palace which consists of many famous paintings depicting the life and times of the Ming and Qing Dynasties and also other artifacts which have been collected from different eras in Chinese history.  The Museum has the largest collection of paintings in China totally to a staggering 55000 and also many collection belonging to ancient China. The Forbidden City is a great example of Chinese imagination, ability, architecture and foresight.

Culture and Architecture: Centre Pompidou, Paris



Culture and Architecture: Centre Pompidou, Paris

centreParis has always been known for its culture and architectural heritage work. One of them is the Centre Georges Pompidou which is also known as the Pompidou Centre. It is a complex in the Beaubourg area of Paris in the 4th arrondissement which falls near les Halles, Rue Montorgueil and the Marais. This architecture was designed in the style of high tech architectural structure.

designDue to the location of the structure it is locally also known as Beaubourg. It is named after the President of France, Georges Pompidou but it was officially opened by President Valery Giscard d’Estaing on 31st January 1977. There have been more than 150 million visitors to the Centre Pompidou since 1977.

Centre PompidouThere is this sculpture which is placed horizontal by Alexander Calder in front of the Centre Pompidou permanently which is twenty five feet high and is placed by the architects Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano. The construction of the glass and metal building in the centrally located Beaubourg was opposed and was into opposition by many people and the idea was even disliked as it was kind of an oil refinery in a historic district. But as the museum was inaugurated in 1977 it became an instantaneous hit and an instant success story. The original design had the capacity of accommodating 5,000 visitors per day but the Pompidou Centre has been welcoming almost over 25,000 visitors per day which makes it one of the best attraction and the most visited place in Paris.

centre-pompidou The French President wanted an ultra-contemporary artistic hub to be constructed in the heart of Paris and the two architects constructed it so beautifully inside out that the observers are still thrilled to admire it with utilitarian features such as plumbing pipes, air vents and electrical cables which makes the forming part of the external view of the sculpture. The pipes fussed and ducts are all color coded which represents blue for air, green for water, red for elevators, yellow for electricity, grey for corridors and white for the building itself. Freeing up the interior space for exhibitions and events to be held in here has made this phenomenon construction has amazed the visitors of Paris’ premier cultural Centre.

paris-museums-pompidouThe Centre Pompidou turns out be the home to the world’s most important museums of modern art, MNAM which contains a very popular library, a bookshop, a movie theater and a panoramic terrace which are the most famous attractions. Architecture comprises of a vast library for the public named Bibliotheque Publique d’information which is known as the public information library which takes up the first, second and the third floors. It is also known as Bpi which boosts a total collection of more than 4,50,000 books, 2,600 magazines and a large number of new media items are displayed in the library. Even there are cinemas and other entertainment venues located on the first floor and in the basement of the architecture and even there is presence of temporary exhibitions and information desks available.

ccThe fourth and the fifth floor consists of Musee National d’Art Morene which is the largest museum for modern art in the entire Europe which is situated in Paris. Around 65,000 and more works by 5,700 artists have been displayed in this museum which includes the work of the surrealists and cubists as well as pop art contemporary works are showcased in this museum. The work on the fourth floor id from the year 1905 to 1065 and even covers art movements such as fauvism, abstract art, surrealism and cubist art and the featured artists include Matisse, Kadinsky, Miro and Picasso. The fifth floor covers the work after the year 1965 which includes the pop art movement and the figurative art to it. The sixth floor has two galleries for chic exhibitions which would be held on temporary bases. There is a hyper industrial restaurant situated on the same floor named Georges which views the panoramic site of Paris and it is accessed by a free lift or elevator.centre-pompidou libraryThe museum in here has a great collection of Modern as well as contemporary art due to which it is well set out with works displayed in chronological order. They also have a great range of art form from all around the world and it is interesting to admire different styles which have been dominating in the different parts of the world. The museum has an overall and a very useful information on each art movement displayed and a handy overview.

IRCAM which is a Centre for music and acoustic research. Rooftop admission is included in museum and exhibition for which one has to buy a panorama ticket in order to land on the roof. The admissions and enter to the museum id free on the first Sunday of each month so it is obvious that the maximum number of visitors would be sighted on this Sundays.

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Not only inside the Centre but even outside there is a lot to observe. On the west of the Centre nearby pedestrian streets there are attractions of buskers, musicians, jugglers and mime artists to entertain and attract the visitors. Whereas in the southern side of the Centre there is Igor Stravinsky which are the fanciful mechanical fountains of skeletons, hearts, treble clefs and a big pair of ruby red lips which have been created by the architects Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle.

Of Spain and Spanish Delicacy: Churros



Of Spain and Spanish Delicacy: Churros

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Churros conned by chocolate dip is a perfect traditional Spanish treat. Churros is a deep fried sweet treat, served in breakfast, snacks or even desserts. It’s a perfect relish for people having a sweet tooth.

Churro is a deep fried dough pastry. They are long star shaped, just like bread sticks. Served hot with the different variations of dipping , mostly chocolate. Pastry, doughnut and chocolate lovers gets a different experience of savoring this sweet relish as it is served hot and has to be dunked in different dips. The touch of cinnamon sugar sprinkled all over the churros, makes it look more tempting and the hot delicacy thus melts in the mouth. It is crispy from out, soft from within and is just perfect with thick melted chocolate.

There are number of stories about the origin of churros including the one that has them imported by the portugese from china and another that claims they were first made by Spanish shephards. Though, the origin of churros is still not clear. It is said that, centuries ago, Spanish shephards used to make churros while tending churra sheep high in the mountains. Because they did not have many cooking supplies, they needed to come up with a food that could be easily put together and cooked with a mere pan and oil. Churros were named after the churra sheep because the pastry resembled the sheep’s horns. Churros are made of the wheat flour, the shephards would roll out a length and fry it in a pan over an open fire. Firstly it was like a breadstick in shape and size and slowly it evolved as a star shaped pastry. After cooking, shephards would eat it plain or roll it in cinnamon sugar. As its popularity grew, the shape of churros began to evolve. Using a churrera, an extruder with a star tipped, churro makers now create a star shaped length of dough rather than the tradition breadstick shape. Additionally, churros are now being served with all types of fillings, from chocolate to jams and custards. Mostly it is served with thick delicious chocolate sauce. The churros are served hot with an accoutrement of caster sugar in saucers and long tumblers full of dessert thick chocolate, not for drinking but dunking and eating.

churros under process     mechanism of churros

Mechanism of churros is very interesting and fascinating. Churro making device is commonly made of plastic or metal, it is known as churreras and has different types of attachments. The made up dough is put into the tube, the top properly fitted and screwed down and you are all set to deep fry the churros. When it is bronzed all over, it is removed from hot oil and then rolled in to sugar, of which cinnamon sugar is the most common and thus it is served hot with melted chocolate, jams or any other sweet combination. The process of churro making is very fascinating to watch and since it is served hot you can get to watch the procedure before relishing them.

types of churrosChurros is also known as Spanish doughnuts. There are various types of churros and its dip.  The most known and common type of churro is long, thick and the knotted style of churros.  Types of churros varies according to different countries. Guava- filled churros is also one of its type. Chocolate-filled, jelly-filled churros with ice-creams and with whipped cream are also few interesting types of churros. The sugar powder rolled over the churros also has variations. Cinnamon sugar is the original and most popular and others are cinnamon and rose sugar, yuzu sugar and cardoman sugar. There are many other different variations all over the world. Variation in dips also goes from chocolate dip, most common one to tamarind sauce and spicy chocolate the uncommon ones.

Churros and chocolate, delightful Spanish combo could be found in cities and cafes all over the world. In countries like Spain, France, latin America, Portugal and the United States it has gained more popularity. You can find many outlets in Australia also, which provide churros and very few in India. In countries like spain and America, churros are so common and popular that it’s a common street food and easily found on the streets, parks etc. From street vendors to fine restaurants, people of all nationalities and walks of life enjoy churros.churros on street

In few countries, churros are known by some different names. In India similar churro shape stick is known as chakli, though made with rice flour and is spicy and has other added spices and flavours.

There are many good restaurants serving churros all over the world, just like La Pallaresa and La Granja Chocolate restaurants and café in Barcelona. Chocolateria San Churros, in Australia and India also serves the Spanish treat.  Don churro café is a unique south American restaurant serving perfect churros. Le churro restaurant in New York is also one of the most rated restaurants serving finest churros. Churros calientes in los angeles, la palma in Miami also serves the delicious churros. There are many restaurants in spain where churros are easily available throughout the day and also available on the streets

One having a sweeth tooth n fond of chocolates and who loves to explore variations in food one must definitely try these mouth watering churros!

churros con chocolate

The Yellowstone National Park, USA



The Yellowstone National Park, USA

Yellowstone national park

Yellowstone National Park is a park located in USA. It is one of the oldest, biggest and most famous national parks in USA. It was also recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978. This park is spread over to 3,472 square miles majorly in the state of Wyoming but with some portions of it extending to the state of Idaho and Montana comprising of lakes, rivers, canyons and mountain ranges.

This park was established in 1872 to protect the vast number of geysers, hot springs, thermal areas as well as the incredible wildlife in this region. On 1st of March, 1872 this park became the first National park reserve declared anywhere in the world. More than half of the world’s geothermal features are in the Yellowstone Park. There are more than 300 geysers to be found here which is two third of the number of geysers found in the entire world. There are about 10,000 thermal features comprising the colored hot springs, steaming fumaroles, bubbling mud pots.

Flora and Fauna

Yellowstone is home to a large number of wild animals and birds. It has one of the largest intact temperate zone ecosystems that are remaining on the planet. This is the reason why it is home to a large number of wildlife. There are 67 types of mammals to be found here including the black bears and grizzly bears. There are about 100 gray wolves in the park. Also animals like the elk, bison, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer and moose live here. Wolverine and lynx that require large areas of land and an undisturbed habitat are to be found in the park. There are many other numerous small mammals found in the park.

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Birds are also easily seen in the park. There are about 330 species of birds to be found here out of which around 148 species nest in the park. There are around 18 species of fishes in the park. Though, there are not many reptiles to be found in the park due to the glacial activity and current cool and dry conditions. Also there are large varieties of plants and trees. It is home to more than 1,350 species of plants.

Things to Do

The famous West Entrance to the park is parallel to the Madison River. This entrance takes you to the Grand Loop Road which will further take you to all the major features of the park. When you travel south on the Grand Loop Road towards Old faithful, there is a side road that will take you to Firehole River which is the most area in the Yellowstone. There are many thermal basins on this route the first being lower Geyser Basin. On this road there is also the famous Fountain Paint Pot where pools of colourful hot mud bubble and sputter out. This mud is a mixture of water clay and silica. Here, there is an 800 foot canyon through which the water pours forming the Firehole Falls.

Firehole Falls

The two basins namely Midway and Biscuit and Black Sand basin lie adjacent to each other and the Firehole River serves as a common boundary to this. The runoff from many geysers in these basins drains into the Firehole River. Grand Prismatic Spring is the most stunning feature at the Midway basin. If seen from above the splendid array of deep colours are visible. And it is also the largest spring in Yellowstone. There are clearly marked boardwalks and trails are paved for visitors to explore the thermal features of Midway Basin.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Cliff Geyser at the Black Sand Geyser Basin is very interesting as it sits at the edge of Iron Spring Creek. The eruptions of this Geyser go as high as 50 feet. Rainbow Pool is a large hot spring which has an extremely blue centre. The water at this hot spring is cooled enough to allow the growth of algae which produces a rainbow of colours.

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Your visit to Yellowstone would be incomplete without seeing one or more eruptions of Old Faithful Geyser. This Geyser is famous in the world and one of the greatest natural wonder of America. There are geysers here that erupt very high and for long period of time. And these geysers are very powerful combined with Old Faithful’s innate beauty. This view once witnessed is to remain forever in your memory.

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In addition to the various thermal features and the beautiful mountain scenery, the park also has many wild animals. Visitors get an opportunity to view the wildlife in the park and photograph it too. This makes Yellowstone definitely a photographer’s paradise. One can also come here backpacking once the permit is obtained and can stay for one to three nights. Swimming is allowed too at the Firehole Cascades swimming area which is warmed by the Hot springs. There are some areas where fishing is allowed but a permit is required for that. One can also go boating and can enjoy a horseback ride here. As there are many mountains here one can also go hiking and enjoy the beautiful scenic view from the top of the mountains. Thus, Yellowstone offers a scenic natural beauty with a wide variety of thermal features and wildlife making it a must visit for nature lovers.