Punta Cana

Punta Cuna


PUNTA CANA is the name of a town and tourist region at the easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic,  The region, covering about 420,000 sq.m (approximately 1,100acres), is home to a coastline of sandy white beaches.

In the Province of LA ALTAGRACIA, with a population estimated at 100,000, the region borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  To the north, it borders BAVARO & EL CORTECITO Beaches.  It also borders CABEZA de TORO, CABO ENGANO and further west, JUANILLO.
Punta Cano has a tropical climate.  Although it is mildly windy, the ocean I the area is mainly shallow with several natural marine pools in which visitors can bathe.  The weather is fairly constant, with an average temperature of 26degrees C.  The hottest season lasts from April to November, and during the day the temperatures might reach 32degrees C.  From December to March, temperatures during the evening are around 20degrees C.  Very little rain falls around the area, mostly because of the flat landscape.  The summer months tend to be very warm and very humid.
Punta Cana was founded as a tourist resort and tourism still is 100% of the local economy.  Lots of resorts employ the tactics of scaring their visitors from venturing outside by propagating stories of robberies and murder.  These have to be taken with a pinch (or a pound) of salt.  People tend to be very friendly and helpful.  Still flashing jewellery, expensive gadgets or lots of money is not recommended.
There are quite a few interesting places to visit :

Altos de Chavon


(1)  ALTOS de CHAVON : A modern – day artist’s village, resembling a 16th century Mediterranean town.  It is set upon a spectacular hillside cliff overlooking the winding CHAVON RIVER.  It is home to a 5,000-seat amphitheatre, an archaeological museum, craft workshops, artists’ studios and an assortment of galleries and restaurants.


Juanillo beach

(2) JUANILLO :  It is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic.  Until a few years ago, it was a very small village of fishermen.  The entire village was purchased as a part of a very large project called CAP CANA.  In return, for giving up their rights to occupancy, the residents were offered alternative housing, money and jobs  While Juanillo was at one time inaccessible to the public, it is now accessible to people staying at one of the Cap Cana Hotels and to property owners within the Cap Cana Project and their guests.

Santa Domingo


(3) SANTA DOMINGO : This is the Europe of the Western Hemisphere.  It has preserved its Colonial Heritage for more than five centuries, and is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.


Saona Island


(4) SAONA ISLAND : It is set in the natural reserve of the PARQUE NACIONAL del ESTE.  You can relax on powder-white sans, where palm-studded beaches meet the soft surf of the Caribbean waters and sometimes even dolphins swim alongside your catamarans.


Dolphin Island


(5) DOLPHIN ISLAND :  A short boat ride takes you to a floating platform where visitors can swim with trained dolphins in the sea.  The package includes 15mins of free time with these unique creatures.


Punta Cuna

(6) DOMINICAN ALPS : (near the town of JARABACOA), where 18 waterfalls cascade between chasms of rock to water the rich, fertile earth below.  If you are a white-water fan, the RIO YASQUE is the longest river in the Caribbean and offers challenging kayak or rafting courses like the MIKE TYSON, which features a 12ft vertical drop.
(7) MARINARIUM :  In this water park, you can experience some of the best snorkelling in the area, complete with nurse sharks and sting rays.  Enjoy a COCOLOCO ( 100% pure coconut water) as you cruise along the coast to your final stop ——– a waist-deep natural pool in the sea.
(8) SEAQUARIUM :  You are provided with a diving helmet and allowed to walk the bottom of the clear waters with an unforgettable view of reef and coral life (no certification required)
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Svaneti

Svaneti


SVANETI or SVANETIA (SUANIA in ancient sources) is a historic province in Georgia, in the north-western part of the country.  It is inhabited by the SVANS, an ethnic sub-group of Georgians.

Situated on the southern slope of the Central Caucasus Mountains and surrounded by 3,000 – 5,000 metre peaks, Svaneti is the highest inhabited area in the Caucasus.  Four of the ten highest peaks are located in the region.The highest mountain in Georgia, Mount SHKHARA, at 17,059ft, is located in the province.  Prominent peaks include TETNULDI (16,319ft), SHOTA RUSTAVELI (16,273ft), Mount USHBA ( 15,453ft), ALLAMA (14,842ft) as well as LALVERI, LATSGA and others.


Svaneti.jpg


Svaneti has two parts corresponding to two inhabited valleys ; (1) UPPER SVANETI and (2) LOWER SVANETI.  The landscape of Svaneti is dominated by mountains that are separated by deep gorges.  Most of the region which lies below 5,904ft above sea level is covered by mixed and coniferous forests  The forest zone is made up of tree species such as spruce, fir, beech, oak and hornbeam.  Other less common species include chestnut, birch, maple, pine and box.  The zone which extends from 5,904 – 9,840ft above sea level consists of Alpine meadows and grasslands.  Eternal snows and glaciers take over in areas that are over 3,000 metres above sea level.


Svaneti trekking


The climate is humid and is influenced by the air masses coming in from the Black Sea, the region is spared from the extremely cold winter temperatures that are characteristic of high mountains.


Svaneti architecture


Svaneti is known for its architectural treasures and picturesque landscapes.  The famous Svanetian Towers, erected mainly in the 9th – 12th centuries, makes the region” villages more attractive.  In the province are dozens of Georgian Orthodox Churches and various fortified buildings.  The architectural monuments of Upper Svaneti are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites..

Crater lake

CRATER LAKE (1,950ft deep) is situated in a 7,700-year-old caldera in the Cascades of south-central Oregon, United States.

crater lake twilight


It is famous for its intense blue colour and the clarity of its water.  The lake is the deepest in the US and, the third and the ninth deepest in the world, depending on whether average or maximum depth is measured.  Though no rivers flow into or out of it, its waters are replaced every 250 years through rain and snowfall.


Crater lake


A post caldera cinder cone forms WIZARD ISLAND.  Crater Lake is also known for the OLD MAN OF THE LAKE, a full-sized tree which is now a stump that has been bobbing vertically in the lake for over a century.  The low temperature of the water has slowed the decomposition of the wood, hence the longevity of the bobbing tree.

There are two islands in Crater Lake  : WIZARD ISLAND, formed from a cinder cone that erupted after Crater lake began to fill with water, and the smaller PHANTOM SHIP, which has seven different trees living on it.  There are also colonies of violet-green swallows and several varieties of wildflowers and lichens living there.


Crater lake top view


While having no indigenous fish populations, the lake was stocked  from 1888 to 1941 with a variety of fish.  Several species have formed self-sustaining populations.  Due to several unique factors, mainly that the lake has no inlets or tributaries, the waters of Crater Lake are some of the purest in the world because of the absence of pollutants.  The lake has relatively high levels of dissolves salts, total alkalinity and conductivity.


crater lake


The Klamath Tribe of Native Americans, who may have witnessed the collapse of Mount Mazama and the formation of Crater Lake, have long regarded the lake as a sacred site.  Their legends tell of a battle between the Sky God (SKELL) and the God of the Underworld (LLAO).  Mount Mazama was destroyed in the battle, creating Crater Lake, called GIIWAS in the Klamath language.  The tribe used Crater Lake in “vision quests”, which often involved  climbing the caldera walls and other dangerous tasks.  Those who were successful in such quests were often regarded as having more spiritual powers.  The tribe still holds Crater lake in high regard as a spiritual site.

Since 2002, one of the State’s regular-issue license plate designs has featured Crater Lake.  The commemorative  Oregon State Quarter, which was released by the US Mint in 2005, features an image of Crater Lake on its reverse.

Samosir Island

Samosir Island


SAMOSIR ISLAND is a large volcanic island in Lake Toba, located in the north of the island of Sumatra, in Indonesia.  Administratively, SAMOSIR ISLAND is governed within SAMOSIR REGENCY.

The lake island was formed after the eruption of a super volcano some 75,000 years ago.  The Island was originally connected to the surrounding CALDERA wall by a small isthmus, which was cut through to aid navigation.

Samosir Island


At 640sq.km, SAMOSIR is the largest island within an island, and the fifth largest LAKE ISLAND in the world.  It also contains two smaller lakes— Lake SIDIHONI & Lake AEK NATONANG.  Across the lake, on the east of the island, lies ULUAN Peninsula.  The island is linked to the mainland of Sumatra on its western part by a narrow isthmus, connecting the town of PANGURURAN on SAMOSIR & TELE on mainland Sumatra.  TELE consequently offers one of the best views  of Lake TOBA & SAMOSIR Island.


Samosir Island


SAMOSIR is a popular tourist destination, due to its exotic history and the vistas it offers.  The tourist resorts are concentrated in the TUKTUK area.  The Island is the centre of the BATAK CULTURE, and many of the TOBA BATAK traditional houses (RUMAH ADAT) remain on the Island.  Most of the tourist accommodations are concentrated in the small town of TUKTUK, which is located a one-hour ferry ride across the lake from the town of PARAPAT.  The passenger ferry leaves from TIGA RAJA harbour every hour, between 8.30 & 19.00.  For those who run late, there is an option to take the passenger boat from AJI BATA to TOMOK until 8.30p.m.


Samosir Island


As you step down from the ferry at TOMOK, you will be greeted by a row of souvenir stalls selling an array of BATAK handicraft, from the traditional hand-woven ULOS cloths to BATAK bamboo calendars and all kinds of knick-knacks.

TOMOK itself is a traditional village, best known as the GATEWAY & INTRODUCTION TO SAMOSIR.

Kemi

Kemi


KEMI is a town and municipality of Finland.  It is located near the city of TORNIO.  It was founded in 1869 by decree of Russian Emperor Alexander the Second, because of its proximity to a deep-water harbour.  KEMI is situated by the BOTHNIAN BAY at the mouth of the River KEMIJOKI, and it is part of Lapland region.

The main economic activity in KEMI is centred on two large paper and wood pulp mills and on the only chromium mine in Europe (which supplies the OUTOKUMPU ferrochrome plant in Tornio).  A Polytechnic University of Applied Sciences is also situated in Kemi.

Kemi


Kemi also has a claim to fame as the home of the world’s largest Snow Castle (re-constructed every year in a different design).  In 1996, the first Snow Castle drew 300,000 visitors.  The area covered by the Castle has varied from 13,000 to 20,000sq.metres.  The highest towers have been over 20metres high and the longest walls over 1,000metres long, and the Castle has had up to three storeys.  Despite its varying configurations, the Snow Castle has a few recurring elements : a Chapel, a restaurant and a Hotel.


Kemi snow castle


 **The Snow Restaurant has ice tables and seats covered with reindeer fur, as well as ice sculptures.
** The Ecumenical Snow Chapel, with 50 to 100 seats, has seen numerous weddings of couples from as far away as Japan and Hong Kong.
**The Snow Hotel offers a choice of double rooms and a honeymoon suite, all of which are decorated by local artists using local materials.
The Snow Castle also hosts such things as an Adventure land for children, a Theatre and Ice-Art Exhibitions with lights and sound effects.  Many Opera singers and dancers have performed in the Snow Castle of KEMI.

Kemi snow castle Finland


KEMIN KIRKON (Kemi Church) is a Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Diocese of OULU and is located in the centre of the town of Kemi.  The Gothic Revival building was designed by architect Josef Stenback, and was completed in 1902.  The building was renovated in 2003.


Kemi snow castle


Icebreaker SAMPO, which is a Finnish icebreaker built in 1960 in Helsinki and now stationed at Kemi.  The massive vessel, which was completed in 1961, was built to operate in extreme Arctic conditions.  In the northern part of the Gulf of Bothnia, it kept lanes free for shipping for nearly 30years.  Its predecessor, of the same name (1898 – 1960), was the first Icebreaker in Europe with a propeller in the bow and the stern.  The ship is now used for tourist cruises.  During the late winter of 1988, Sampo started its career in tourism.  It made its first cruise on the 14th of April, 1988 with foreign and domestic media.  In the year 1989, Sampo had 1,000 passengers and in the year 1994, the record was 6,000 passengers.  During the cruise, tourists have a chance to go down from the icebreaker and float in the sea dressed in rescue suits.  They can also participate in the guided ship tour and get to know Sampo from the engine room to the bridge.  Sampo can take 150 passengers at a time.  Yearly, it takes about 10,000 tourists on cruises, and totally there have been passengers from over 50 countries.


Kemi Finland snow castle


KEMIN JALOKIVI GALLERIA ( Kemi Gemstone Gallery) contains one of the greatest collections of gemstones in the world.  There are more than 3,000 gemstones.  The Gallery building is  an old Customs House.  It was designed by architect Walter Thome and completed in 1912.  The large collection includes a unique and remarkable crown that was designed for the first and only King of Finland.  There is also a copy of the Imperial State Crown of England.  The copy is so exact, that it needs an expert to recognise it from the original.  One of the finest necklaces in the world was designed for Queen Marie Antoinette of France.  The original necklace does not exist anymore, but here at the Gallery, you can see the exceptional beauty of this necklace.  The copy was made from the original drawings at the Gemstone Gallery.  The KEMIN JALOKIVI GALLERIA is really a Lapland Jewel in itself.


Kemi


The PERAMEREN  JAHTI ( a sail-ship) guarantees an enjoyable and safety sailing experience.  A comfortable lounge and dining room, saloon as well as an open modern kitchen with a cook’s service makes the sailing trip easy and carefree.  There are seats on the deck, where you can enjoy the fresh sea air.  It can have 36 passengers for one-day cruises.  For longer cruises, there is accommodation for 12 persons.  The JAHTI has been built with an old boat-building style, following as much as possible the old era’s knowledge of coastal building and structure, but still respecting modern safety regulations.

Kornati

National-Park-Koarnati-1.jpg


The KORNATI Archipelago of Croatia, also known as the STOMORSKI Islands, is located in the northern part of DALMATIA, south from ZADAR, and west from SIBENIK, in the SIBENIK – KNIN county.  With 35km length and 140 islands —– some large, some small —– in a sea area of about 320sq.km, the KORNATI are the densest archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea.  The Archipelago is the plural form of the name of the largest island called KORNAT.


Kornati


There are no permanent settlements in KORNATI.  Simple houses in well-protected coves such as VRULJE, KRAVJACICA, LAVSA and others are used by mainland landowners as temporary shelters.  Most of the landowners are from the island of MURTER & DUGI OTOK.  Geographically, the KORNATI islands can be divided into main groups : the GORNJI KORNATI or UPPER KORNATI, closer to the mainland, and the DONJI KORNATI or LOWER KORNATI, which are mostly facing the open sea in the southwest.  The islands known as GORNJI KORNATI include the northernmost island of SIT and the surrounding islets, divided by a channel from ZUT and its surrounding islets to the south.  ZUT is the largest and most indented of these islands.


Kornati


In 1980, the 89 northernmost of the 140-odd islands, islets and reefs of the KORNATI Archipelago were declared a National Park (NACIONALNI PARK KORNATI), protecting the islands and their marine surroundings.  The area covered by the National Park mostly coincides with the DONJI KRONATI, which includes the island of KORNAT and the surrounding islets, separated with a channel from the island of PISKERA and the surrounding islets.

The National Park includes 109 islands, of which 76 are less than 1hectare in size of the total land surface area of KORNATI (62 sq.kms), 85% is stony and only 5% has been cultivated.
The most important places on the KORNATI islands are : the shallow channel MALA PROVERSA, the oval-shape TALJURIC island, SPINUTA bay, STIVINA bay, the 4th largest island LEVRNAKA, the 2nd largest KRAST rock area TARAC SVRSATA VELA island, MANA island, PISKERA island, PANITULA VELA island, the picturesque LAVSA bay, the resort island RAVNI ZAKAN, SMOKVICA VELA island, the OPAT Peninsula, SAMOGRAD island, the PURARA Reserve for marine life, VRGADA & GANGAROL islands.

Kornati park


Most of the terrain in the KORNATI islands is KARST- limestone which, in the distant geological past, arose from sediment from the sea.  In the stone on the islands, there are numerous fossils of crustaceans and fish.  In the area, there are examples of all typical forms of KARST : bizarre shapes formed by the atmosphere, unexplored caves, areas of flat rock and, above all, cliffs.  KARST rock is porous, rapidly draining and dry, and so therefore are the KORNATI islands.  Numerous cisterns supply water for people and animals.


Kornati islands


Human presence on the KORNATI islands appear to extend back to the Neolithic Age.  The presence of wealthy Romans is attested by the mosaic floors of Roman Villas and the KORNATI island has a small TORETA (tower), that was probably built in the 6th century AD.  The island of PISKERA was also inhabited during the Middle Ages and served as a storage point for fish.  Archaeological sites in STRAZISCE & TARAC and on LEVRNAKA & LAVSA provide evidence that, during the Roman Era, life on KORNATI was very active.  There are many buildings and it is known that there were also stone quarries.

Deforestation and subsequent erosion and overgrazing by sheep and goats, for whose benefit the scrub was periodically burnt, impoverished the fauna and depopulated the islands, which were purchased by citizens of MURTER during the late 19th century.

Kornati islands panorama


Apart from seagulls, which are the most numerous animals, there are some lizards and ring-snakes, and 69 varieties of butterfly, some amphibians and rodents.  As regards marine life, the KORNATI islands are typical of the Adriatic and the Mediterranean, but, due to the underwater relief, streams and special characteristics of the sea in this labyrinth, there are also some peculiarities : algae, coral and sponges.  At one time, the sea was the richest, in the Adriatic, for sponge hunters.  The rare mollusc PINNA NOBILIS, lives in the KORNATI and is protected by law.

Not only the land, but also the sea, is within the protection of the National Park.  Fishing is limited in order to allow the regeneration of fish shoals that had been severely over-fished.

Kornati national park_


Vegetation on the islands is very sparse.  There have been 200 known varieties of Mediterranean plants, but they have degenerated.  The most common plant is a tough variety of grass, but there are many scented and medicinal herbs : sage, feather grass and XERANTHEMUM, and these provide the best forage for bees.  Olive trees account for about 80% of the land under cultivation, followed by vineyards, figs, orchards and vegetable gardens.  It is thought that the KORNATI islands were once covered with forests of Mediterranean Holm oaks, QUERCUS ILEX, but as open fires demanded a great deal of wood, the forests were slowly destroyed.

Dongyang wood carvings

Dongyang wood carving


DONGYANG, a city in the middle of ZHEJIANG PROVINCE near Shanghai, is famous for its woodcarving.  It is one of the major centres of woodcarving production of the MING (1368 – 1644) and QING (1644 – 1911) Dynasties to the present day.  Woodcarving in DONGYANG had already developed to a certain level by the  last two feudal dynasties ——— the MING and the QING.


Dongyang wood carving


The magnificent woodcarvings can be found in the Imperial Palaces of Beijing, Suzhou City, Hangzhou City and Anhui Province.  During the reign of Qing Dynasty Emperor ZIANLONG (1711 – 1799), over 400 craftsmen came to the capital of Beijing to decorate the Palaces and carve the lanterns.  Those woodcarving articles are still kept in GUGONG, the Imperial palace in Beijing.

After 1910, many carvers from DONGYANG gathered in Shanghai and Hangzhou to produce export-oriented furniture and utensils combining Chinese and Western styles.  Since the founding of the PRC, highly artistic frescoes and screens appeared on the market with the rapid development of technology.  These works, focussing on historical stories and folk legends were designed using the FULL CARVING technique, which formed a unique artistic style.

Dongyang wood carving


In 1957, a 19-metre-high wooden statue of SAKYAMUNI BUDDHA was sculpted for the main hall of LINGYIN TEMPLE in Hangzhou.  In 1983, DONGYANG City was named “the hometown of Chinese woodcarving” by the State Council.

The artistic forms of DONGYANG woodcarving, with distinct gradations and superb carving technology, are unique in the handicraft and art fields.  DONGYANG woodcarving, also called WHITE WOODCARVING (white is the natural colour of the wood) is second to none in terms of Chinese crafts.  In terms of techniques, DONGYANG woodcarving features a high relief, multi-layers and a rich composition of pictures, presenting the third-dimension, full yet in neat order.

Dongyang carving china


DONGYANG woodcarving emphasizes relief-skill, uses the traditional experience of a discreet bird’s-eye perspective of the structure, stresses round composition, considers dispersion and multiplicity without looseness or disorder.  Moreover,, it has other features  such as distinct gradations, obvious subject and expressive plots which often help to tell a larger story.


Dongyang carving on wood


DONGYANG woodcarving is mainly used to decorate houses and furniture with mainly realistic depictions of galloping horses, cranes, lotus flowers and human beings.  Nowadays, the assortment of DONGYANG woodcarving products amount to more than 2,700 varieties ———- most of which ———– covering 90% of the total output value ———- are daily wares such as cases, cabinets, stools, desks and tables.  They are exported to over 50 countries and regions, while involving thousands of craftsmen in that industry.


Dongyang wood carving process