Turin, the capital city of the Piedmont region of Italy is an important business and cultural center of northern Italy. The city is located on the western bank of the Po River and surrounded by western Alpine Arch. In India Turin is well known for being the headquarters of the automobile manufacturer FIAT which was a favorite brand in India in the last decades. Above all Turin is well known for the Holy Shroud of Turin believed to be the burial shroud of Jesus.
The shroud is kept in the royal chapel of Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin. The shroud is respected by many Christians of several traditions, including Catholics and Protestants. The Catholic Church has neither formally endorsed nor rejected the shroud, but in 1958 Pope Pius XII approved of the image in association with the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. More recently, Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI have both described the shroud of Turin as “an icon”, and Pope John Paul II called the shroud “a mirror of the Gospel”.
The shroud is rectangular, measuring approximately 4.4 by 4.4 meters. Its most distinctive characteristic is faint, brownish image of a front and back view of a naked man with his hand folded across his groin. The two views are aligned along the mid plane of the body and point in opposite directions. The image of the “Man of the Shroud” has beard, moustache and shoulder-length hair parted in the middle. He is muscular and tall (various experts have measured him as from 5 ft 7 in to 6 ft 2 in). Reddish brown stains are found on the cloth, showing various wounds that according to proponents, correlate with the yellowish image the pathophysiology of crucifixion, and the Biblical description of the death of Jesus. The details of the image on the shroud are not easily seen with the naked eyes, but they can be more clearly revealed through photography.
The origin of the shroud and its images are the subject of intense debate among theologians, historians and researchers. Diverse arguments have been made in scientific and popular publications claiming to “prove” that the cloth is the authentic burial shroud of Jesus.
Irrespective of all these controversies millions of visitors flocked to Turin when the Shroud was kept on public display from 10 April to 23 May 2010 at the chapel of Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. Pope Benedict XVI came to Turin to visit the Shroud on May 2, 2010 and delivered a touching Meditation of the Holy Shroud. I was lucky enough to be in Turin on 20th May 2010 and view this rare display of the Holy Shroud. As authorized by Pope Francis the Shroud was put on public display from April 19 to June 24, 2015 and more than two million visitors came to Turin from around the world. On June 21, 2015 Pope Francis visited Turin to see the shroud and made headlines around the world. The next public exhibition of the shroud is scheduled to occur in 2025.
Other than the Holy Shroud, there are more to explore in Turin including its buildings from the Roman times. In the 1st century BC, probably 28 BC, the Romans created a military camp later dedicated to Augustus. The typical Roman street grid can still be seen in the modern city, especially in the neighbourhood known as the Quadrilatero Romano (Roman Quadrilateral). The Palatine Gate represents the primary archaeological evidence of the city’s Roman phase, and is one of the best preserved 1st Century BC Roman gateways in the world. Together with the ancient theatre’s remains, located a short distance away, it is part of the so called Archaeological Park opened in 2006.
No trip to United Kingdom could possibly be complete without a visit to amazing Windsor Castle, located in the English county of Berkshire. The breath taking size of the Castle (13 acres) is in fact the largest and oldest occupied Castle in the world and it is where Her Majesty the Queen chooses to spend most of her private weekends. With so many areas to explore and enjoy the spectacular view of the surrounding country side from the top, please allow at least 3 hours for your visit.
The original castle was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I, it has been used by all monarchs. Inside the Castle walls is the 15th Century St George’s Chapel noted for its English Gothic design. Originally designed to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London and oversee a strategically important part of the River Thames, Windsor Castle was built as motte-and-bailey with three wards surrounding the mound. The present day castle was created during a sequence of phased building project, culminating in the reconstruction work after a fire in 1992. It is in essence Georgian and Victorian design based on a medieval structure with Gothic features reinvented in a modern style.
Windsor Castle survived the tumultuous period of the English Civil War, when it was used as a military headquarters for the Parliamentary forces and a prison for Charles I. During the Second World War the castle was readied for war time conditions. It was used as a safe haven for the king and queen from the German bombings.
At the heart of the Windsor castle is the middle ward, a bailey formed around the motte or artificial hill in the center of the ward. The motte is 50 feet high and is made from mud excavated from the surrounding ditch. Above that is the Round Tower originally built in 12th century and extended upwards in the early 19th century.
The upper ward of Windsor Castle comprises a number of major buildings enclosed by the upper bailey wall, forming a central quadrangle. The State Apartments run along north of the ward, with a range of buildings along the east wall.
The lower ward lies below and to the west of the Round Tower, reached through the Norman Gate. The lower ward holds St George’s Chapel. At the east end of the St George’s Chapel is the Lady Chapel and the west end of the lower ward is the Horseshoe Cloister, originally build in 1480 near to the Chapel to house the clergy.
The Changing of Guard
The privilege of guarding the Sovereign traditionally belongs to the Household Troops, better known as ‘the Guards’, who has carried out this duty since 1660. For operational and other reasons this privilege is periodically extended to other regiments of the British Army. The Guards consists of infantry regiments – the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards – and two regiments of Household Cavalry – the Life Guards and Blues and Royals. Most of the Guards will have seen action overseas.
Changing of Guard, also known as ‘Guard Mounting’, begins with the Windsor Castle Guard forming up outside the Guard Room. In due course, the new Guard will arrive, led by a Regimental Band, Corps of Drums or occasionally by a Pipe Band. During the ceremony the handover of the duties will take place including the changeover of the sentries. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the old Guard will return to Victoria Barracks in Windsor Town.
I would like to express my special thanks to my friend Tintes Das for making this visit a reality.
Venice (Italian: Venezia) is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world for its art and architecture. The city has an average of 50,000 visitors a day, often regarded as one of the most beautiful cities of the world. This sanctuary on a lagoon is virtually the same as it was 600 years ago which adds to its fascinating character. It comprises a group of 117 small islands that are separated by 177 canals and linked by 409 bridges. These are located on the Venetian Lagoon which stretches along shoreline, between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. The lagoon and part of the city are listed as World Heritage Site.
The buildings of Venice are constructed on closely spaced wooden piles. Most of these piles are still intact after centuries of submersion. The foundations rest on plates of Istrian limestone placed on top of the piles and building of brick or stone sit above these footings. Submerged by water, in oxygen- poor conditions, wood does not decay as rapidly as on the surface. Most of these piles were made from trunks for alder trees, a wood noted of its water resistance. The alder came from Slovenia and Croatia.
Beyond the road and rail land entrances at the northern edge of the city, transportation within the city remains (as it was centuries ago) entirely on water or on foot. Venice is Europe’s largest urban car-free area, a city functioning entirely without motor cars and trucks.
Venice has a rich and diverse architectural style, the most famous of which is the Gothic style. Venetian Gothic architecture is a style combining the use of Gothic lancet arch with Byzantine and Ottoman influences. This style originated in the 14th century Venice, where the confluence of Byzantine style from Constantinople met Arab influence from Moorish Spain.
The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 buildings, most of which belongs to the 13th to 18th century and demonstrate the art created by the Republic of Venice. The noble Venetian families face huge expenses to show off their richness in suitable palazzos. A visit to Venice is incomplete without a ride through the Grand Canal.
Piazza San Marco (English: St. Mark’s Square) is the principal public square of Venice, where it is generally known just as “la Piazza” (The Square). The square is dominated at its eastern end by the great church of St. Mark along with a bunch of few other historic buildings including the Doge’s Palace (Italian: Palazzo Ducale) and Palazzo Patriarcale, the seat of the Patriarch of Venice. Opposite to this, standing free in the Piazza, is the Campanile of St Mark’s church (Italian: Campanile di San Marco), the most recognizable symbols of the city of Venice. The tower is 98.6 meters tall. The tower is capped by a pyramidal spire, at the top of which sits a golden weathervane in the form of the archangel Gabriel. The tower reached its present form in 1514.
The classical Venetian boat is the gondola, although it is now mostly used for tourists, weddings, funerals or for ceremonies. Many gondolas are lushly fitted with velvet seats and Persian rugs. Less well-known is the smaller sandolo. At the front of each gondola that works in the city, there is a large piece of metal called the fero (iron). Its shape has evolved through centuries, as documented in well-known paintings. Its form, topped by a likeness of the Duke’s hat, become gradually standardized, and was then fixed by local law.
Large luxury cruise liners are a familiar scene in Venice. The city relies heavily on cruise business. It is estimated that cruise ship passengers spend more than 150 million euros annually in the city.
Warwickshire has been named one of the best places to visit in Europe, according to the Lonely Planet guide. Warwick, the county town is famous for its magnificent castle and historic charm. Warwick castle originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068 is situated on a bend of the Avon River. The original wooden castle was rebuilt in stone in the 12th Century. It was used as a stronghold until the early 17th century, when it was granted to Sir Fulke Greville by James I in 1604. Greville converted it to a country house and it was owned by the Greville family, who became the Earls of Warwick in 1759, until 1978 when it was bought by the Tussauds Group. In 2007, Tussauds Group merged with Merlin Entertainments, which is the current owner of Warwick Castle. The castle have a large collection of armoury on display which is regarded as second only to that of the Tower of London.
Warwick Castle is 95 miles from London, and a 2 hour drive will take you there from London. Warwick railway station is approximately one mile from the castle.
The Warwick Trebuchet
Trebuchet is a machine used in medieval siege warfare for hurling large stone or other missiles. The trebuchet at the Warwick Castle is the largest in the world. In June 2005, Warwick castle become home to one of the world’s largest working siege engine. The trebuchet is 18 meters tall, made from over 300 pieces of oak and weighs 22 tons. The machine was built with drawings from the Danish museum Middelaldercentret, who were the first to recreate a fully functioning trebuchet in 1989. It was built in Wiltshire with expertise from the Danish Museum and now situate on the riverbank below the castle.
The trebuchet takes eight men half an hour to load and release, the process involves four men running in 4 meters tall wheels to lift the counterweight, weighing 6 tons into the air. It is designed to be capable of hurling projectiles distances of up to 300 meters and as high as 25 meters and can throw projectiles weighing up to 150 kilograms.
From the castle top one can get the amazing views of the charming city of Warwick with St. Mary’s church dominating its skyline. Also look out for the golden fields brightening the landscapes with the rapeseed farms with its yellow flowers. Rapeseed oil, sometimes called canola oil forms the third most important crop grown in the UK after wheat and barley.
Once through with the castle one should not miss a walk through the narrow streets of Warwick to explore some of the medieval buildings and traditional houses.
I would like to express my special thanks to my friend Tintes Das for making this visit a reality.
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. It was the center of Medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of the world at that time. Florence is considered to be the birthplace of Renaissance and has been called “the Athens of the Middle Ages”. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. Florence is noted for its culture, Renaissance art and architecture and various monuments. It is an important city of Italian fashion.
The Arno River which originates in the Apennines passes through the city of Florence where it flows below the Ponte Vecchio and Santa Trinita Bridge. The river flooded the city of Florence in historical times. The most recent was in 1966 which collapsed the embankment in Florence, killing at least 40 people and damaging or destroying millions of works of art and rare books.
The Palazzo Vecchio (English “The Old Palace”) is the town hall of Florence. Originally it was called Palazzo della Signoria after the Signoria of Florence the ruling body of the Republic of Florence.
The Loggia dei Lanzi also called the Loggia della Signoria is a building on a corner of the Palazzo adjoining the Uffizi Gallery. It consists of wide arches open to the street. The arches rest on clustered rectangular columns. The wide arches appealed so much to the Florentines, that Michelangelo even proposed that they should be continued all around the Piazza della Signoria. The Loggia dei Lanzi is effectively an open-air sculpture gallery of antique and Renaissance art. On the steps of the Loggia are the Medici Lions, marble statues of the lions, heraldic symbols of Florence.
On the back of the Loggia are five marble female statues (three are identified as Matidia, Marciana and Agrippina Minor). They were discovered in Rome in 1541.
Piazz della Repubblica is a city square in Florence.
The National Central Library of Florence is the largest in Italy and one of the most important in Europe along with the one in Rome. The library was founded in 1714 when scholar Antonio Magliabechi bequeathed his entire collection of books, encompassing approximately 30,000 volumes, to the city of Florence. Unfortunately during the flood of the Arno River in 1966, nearly one third of the library’s holding were damaged. The subsequent Restoration Center which was established to restore the collection could manage to save many of the books. However some items are lost forever.
The main tourist attraction of Florence is the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (in English “Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers”). This is the main church of Florence and the most prominent structure in the city. It is ordinarily called “Il Duomo di Firenze”. The construction of the church begun in 1296, in the Gothic style with the design of Amolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436, with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi.
The cathedral complex, located in Piazza del Duomo includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s bell tower. These three buildings are part of the UNESCO world heritage site covering the historic center of Florence. This is one of Italy’s largest churches, and until development of new structural materials in the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.
Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square) is a square with a panoramic view of Florence located in the Oltrarno district of the city. This square was designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi and built in 1869 on a hill just south of the historic center.
The square dedicated to Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, has bronze copies of some of his marble works, the David in bronze. Poggi designed the loggia in the neoclassical style that dominates the whole terrace, which today houses a restaurant. One will get an amazing aerial view of the city of Florence from this terrace.
Keukenhof also known as the garden of Europe is one of the world’s largest flower gardens. Keukenhof is located in the small town of Lisse south west of Amsterdam the capital city of The Netherlands. The Keuknhof park, covers an area of 79 acres and approximately 7 million flower bulbs are planted here annually. Keukenhof features a variety of gardens and garden styles. With more than 800 varieties of Tulips it is an unique and unforgettable experience.
Keukenhof is opened annually from mid-March to mid-May. It is accessible by bus from Amsterdam and Schiphol.