Friday, 19 December 2014

Herodium: The Palace and Tomb of King Herod

This place is located somewhere 12 kilometer south of Jerusalem, in the Judean desert. The Herodium is looks like an extinct volcano, but actually it is a fort built by King Herod the Great between 23 and 15 BC. King Herod’s palace and fortress was strongly built atop a natural hill, raised to a greater height by heaping earth around the walls, forming a cone-shaped mountain. The complex was well surrounded by double walls 7 stories high, within which Herod built a palace that included ample halls, courtyards and opulent bathhouses. Therefore at the base of the fortress was an inspiring royal compound with splendid gardens. A distinct aqueduct brought water to the desert from the area of Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem. Being the highest peak in the Judean desert, Herodium commanded a spectacular view, overlooking the desert with the mountains of Moab to the east, and the Judean Hills to the west.

According to the Roman Jewish historian Josephus, Herodium was built on the site where Herod won a triumph over his Hasmonean and Parthian enemies in 40 BC. To honor the memorable event, the king built a fortress and a palace there, which he named after himself. He also built, in the plain below the hill, an administrative center for the region. The reputation of Herodium to the king is clear from the fact that it is the only monument he built to which he gave his name. Therefore since the place had slight strategic value to warrant the structure of a fort, so it is well believed that Herodium’s solitary purpose was to provide a place for the king to live out his last years.

However; after the death of Herod’s in 4 BC, Herodium became part of the kingdom of his lad Archelaus, who ruled for about ten years. The Roman procurators then held the place until the outbreak of the Great Revolt in 66 AD. As a result during this revolt, rebels entrenched themselves at Herodium until the Romans defeated them in 71 AD. The fortified mountain palace served as a vital center for the rebels during the Bar Kokhba Revolt in the 2nd century. As part of their defense measures, the rebels dug secret tunnels around the cisterns, and hid there. These tunnels can still be explored these days.

The site remained deserted until the 5th, when a big community of monks took residence in the area and built 4 churches at the base of the hill. While the settlement at Lower Herodium continued to exist until the 8th century, after which Herodium lay abandoned. It was only in the 1970s, that archaeologists initiated exploring the site. As the excavation advanced, widespread restoration was carried out on the structures of Herodium. Nowadays it is possible to walk on a contented path to the top of the fortress, to climb its walls and to enjoy, as in the past, the view of the surrounding region.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Stunning Igloo Hotel with Private Pools, Mountain Saunas and Candle-lit Suites



Well, imagine in this winter, you’re in this hotel which is carved out of the surrounding snow, with igloo rooms, romantic suites and even an outdoor whirlpool for the valiant guests. The Iglu-Dorf hotel is rebuilt every season from 3,000 tons of snow at 6 locations from the Alps to the Pyrenees. The Swiss igloos, built in the Bernese Oberland and beautifully surrounded by 9,000ft mountain peaks, comes with artworks carved into the walls by artists from around the world, candle-lit suites for romantic visitors and even saunas among the mountains. It is open from 25th December to April, and every village’s sleeps up to 38 guests, cocooning them in cozy sleeping bags on thick sheepskin rugs, designed to withstand temperatures of minus 40C. And in the morning, there’s a huge buffet of croissants, cooked meats, pastries, cereals, cheese and coffee. The cost for one in a standard Iglu-Dorf igloo is 99euros (£68) from Monday to Thursday and 115 euros from Friday to Sunday.

The site shows the great multiplicity of works in rooms and common areas of the exceptional accommodation from traditional Inuit works to artists from Switzerland and much further abroad.  Artists armed with no more than an ice pick, motorized saw and shovel, produce life-like animals like seals, arctic wolves, polar bears and whales, striking designs and patterns, or even super heroes. It's an elaborate and classy scene compared to the basic igloo Gunter first constructed with friends on a mountain in a bid to be first on the slopes in the morning.  The company says 99 % of their visitors stay one night only. Therefore we don't generally recommend more than one night because we neither have running water, nor showers.  Each village caters for 38 guests a night, all of who bed down on a thick sheepskin rug in cozy sleeping bags equipped for minus-40 degrees Celsius. Nighttime entertainment doesn't extend much past mulled and good conversation, though there’s a private whirlpool and saunas.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Rock Piller of Krasnoyarsk Stolby Nature Reserve



Krasnoyarsk Stolby Nature Reserve is situated on the southern bank of the Yenisei River, bordering the city of Krasnoyarsk, in Russia. The foremost attraction of the park is its towering stone pillars that have peculiar curved forms and reach up to 100 meters in height. These rocks are mostly of sedimentary and volcanic origin, aged from the Cambrian period, almost over 600 million years ago, to the Carbon period. They were shaped when molten magma penetrated the surface from a depth of 500 to 1500 meters into a layer of peneplain where it formed a system of cracks that spread naturally across the whole layer. Selective weathering along those cracks led to the formation of mattress-like prismatic detachments, which caused unique shapes on the rock outcrops. The place was discovered in 1624 by Russian kozaks - the explorers of Siberia, who built a small fortress at the influx of the Kacha River into the Yenisei. They wondered at the enormous intricately shaped stony blocks rising amid a thick forest and gave them the biblical name "Stolpy", abridged later to the widespread "Stolby", plural for “stolb” which means “pillar” in Russian. Since then the name came into use for these and any similar rocky features in Siberia and the Russian Far East and was accepted as a geological term. Stolby is also a major rock climbing site. A lot of local climbers deliberately do not use any belaying equipment, an ability the Krasnoyarsk rock climbers have mastered over the years. They call their exciting sport stolbism, famous elsewhere as solo climbing.

Kungur Ice Cave Russia



Kungur Ice Cave is a lovely karst cave situated in the Urals, near the town Kungur in Perm Krai, Russia, on the banks of the Sylva River. This remarkable cave has a length of explored passages over 5 kilometers. Though this is one of Russia’s biggest karst caves and the only one in the country equipped for visits by travelers. Over thousands of years rainwater dissolved the soft rocks and formed a system of capacious underground halls, filled with rocks of unusual shapes. Therefore; snow-melt dripping through the porous rocks had frozen in the cold interior of the cave to turn into ice stalactites that hang from the ceiling in entirely impulsive forms and extraordinary sizes. Amazingly some of the hanging icicles have reached the floor and formed spectacular ice columns shaped like giant hourglasses .One of the most beautiful places in the cave is right near the entrance “The Diamond Grotto”. Layers of ancient ice in these chambers overflow under spotlights, bringing to mind a frozen waterfall, while vaults cover large crystals. Diamond grotto adjoins Polar grotto where it is possible to observe ice stalactites and stalagmites.

 In the grotto of Pompeii Ruins visitors can see rocks of strange shape some of them resembling silhouettes of animal and fantastic characters, thanks to the special system of illumination. Well overall, Kungur Cave encompasses 48 grottoes, but each having their own story and exclusive name. i.e. there’re  the Coral and Sea Bottom chambers, which’re beautifully ornamented with stone lace that water wore away for 12,000 years. In the Meteorite chamber, a spectator has the illusion that massive celestial bodies are lying under the earth. The history tells us, that the first plan of the ice cave was made in 1703 when Peter the Great issued the decree sending the famous geographer Simeon Remezov. When they’ve used the materials of Remezov drawings, Stralenberge made one of the first schemes of the cave which we can see now. 

The first regular excursions of the ice cave were made by Alexey Timofeevich Hlebnikov, the grandnephew of the Russian America researcher K.T.Hlebnikov. Hence in 1914 Hlebnikov, having rented the cave from a local community of peasants, started to arrange paid excursions for inhabitants of Kungur and visitors of the city. Owing to Alexey Hlebnikov's diligence, the news about Kungur’s outstanding ice cave speedily scattered to diverse corners of the country. Nowadays the cave is a popular destination and every year thousands of visitors pay the visit to this cave. Source: Charismatic Planet

Manjanggul Lava Tube Cave in Jeju Island



The volcanic island of Jeju, is well located 130 kilometers from the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula, has a widespread system of lava tubes. These natural conduits through which magma once flowed are now empty caves that are some of the largest in the world. However these caves, apart from providing opportunities for scientific research, are popular sightseer destinations.

The most inspiring is the Geomunoreum Lava Tube System formed by the flow of basaltic lava when the Geomunoreum volcano erupted more than 250 thousand years ago. Amazingly the volcano has an elevation of 456 meters and lava flowed down to the coastline 13 km away, and while doing so, created plentiful lava tubes. The Manjanggul Lava Tube represents the largest cave in this system. Because it is stretches 8,928 meters and its passages are up to 30 meters high and 23 meters wide.

manjanggul-lava-tube-4The insides of the tube is ornamented with multi-colored carbonate decorations and countless cave formations commonly found in lava tubes. They’ve included lava stalactites and lava stalagmites, lava columns, lava flowstone, lava helictites and lava blister, cave corals, benches, lava raft, lava bridges, lava shelves and striations. So at the end of the one of the passageways open for tourists, is a gigantic lava column shaped when a large amount of lava spilled from the upper level down to the lower level. This menacing column stands 7.6 meters high and is the biggest known in the world.

Moreover some 30,000 common bent-wing bats (Miniopterus schreibersii) have taken eternal residence inside the tube, establishing the largest colony of bats so far recognized to be living in Korea. Almost 38 types of cave creatures have been recognized inside the Geomunoreum Lava Tube System, the most common of which is the Jeju cave spider (Nesticella quelpartensis).

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