Great Cities of the World

 Amsterdam

A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement, particularly a large urban settlement. Although there is no agreement on technical definitions distinguishing a city from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.

There is insufficient evidence to assert what conditions in world history spawned the first cities. Theorists, however, have offered arguments for what the right conditions might have been and have identified some basic mechanisms that might have been the important driving forces.

Theorists have suggested many possible reasons for why people would have originally decided to come together to form dense populations. In his book City Economics, Brendan O'Flaherty asserts "Cities could persist—as they have for thousands of years—only if their advantages offset the disadvantages".

Modern city planning has seen many different schemes for how a city should look. The most commonly seen pattern is the grid, favoured by the Romans, almost a rule in parts of the Americas, and used for thousands of years in China. Other forms may include a radial structure in which main roads converge on a central point, often the effect of successive growth over long time with concentric traces of town walls and citadels - recently supplemented by ring-roads that take traffic around the edge of a town.

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Alexandria

 Alexandria

Alexandria with a population of 4.1 million, is the second-largest city in Egypt, and is the country's largest seaport, serving about 80% of Egypt's imports and exports. Alexandria is also an important tourist resort.

Alexandria extends about 32 km (20 mi) along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in north-central Egypt. It is home to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (the new Library), and is an important industrial center because of its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez, another city in Egypt. Alexandria was also an important trading post between Europe and Asia, because it profited from the easy overland connection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

In ancient times, Alexandria was one of the most famous cities in the world. It was founded around a small pharaonic town c. 331 BC by Alexander the Great. It remained Egypt's capital for nearly a thousand years, until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 641 AD when a new capital was founded at Fustat (Fustat was later absorbed into Cairo).

Alexandria was known because of its lighthouse (Pharos), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; its library (the largest library in the ancient world); and the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. Ongoing maritime archaeology in the harbor of Alexandria, which began in 1994, is revealing details of Alexandria both before the arrival of Alexander, when a city named Rhacotis existed there, and during the Ptolemaic dynasty.

 Sphinx  Roman amphitheatre

At the left is at Alexandria, a sphinx made of pink granite, Ptolemaic, and at right an ancient Roman amphitheatre.

Although Cleomenes was mainly in charge of seeing to Alexandria's continuous development, the Heptastadion and the mainland quarters seem to have been primarily Ptolemaic work. Inheriting the trade of ruined Tyre and becoming the center of the new commerce between Europe and the Arabian and Indian East, the city grew in less than a generation to be larger than Carthage. In a century, Alexandria had become the largest city in the world and for some centuries more, was second only to Rome. It became the main Greek city of Egypt, with an extraordinary mix of Greeks from many cities and backgrounds.

Alexandria was not only a center of Hellenism but was also home to the largest Jewish community in the world. The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, was produced there. The early Ptolemies kept it in order and fostered the development of its museum into the leading Hellenistic center of learning (Library of Alexandria) but were careful to maintain the distinction of its population's three largest ethnicities: Greek, Jewish, and Egyptian. From this division arose much of the later turbulence, which began to manifest itself under Ptolemy Philopater who reigned from 221–204 BC. The reign of Ptolemy VIII Physcon from 144–116 BC was marked by purges and civil warfare.

The city passed formally under Roman jurisdiction in 80 BC, according to the will of Ptolemy Alexander but only after it had been under Roman influence for more than a hundred years. It was captured by Julius Caesar in 47 BC during a Roman intervention in the domestic civil war between king Ptolemy XIII and his advisors, and usurper queen Cleopatra VII. It was finally captured by Octavian, future emperor Augustus on 1 August 30 BC, with the name of the month later being changed to august to commemorate his victory.

In 115 AD, vast parts of Alexandria were destroyed during the Greek-Jewish civil wars, which gave Hadrian and his architect, Decriannus, an opportunity to rebuild it. In 215 AD the emperor Caracalla visited the city and, because of some insulting satires that the inhabitants had directed at him, abruptly commanded his troops to put to death all youths capable of bearing arms. On 21 July 365, Alexandria was devastated by a tsunami (365 Crete earthquake), an event two hundred years later still annually commemorated as "day of horror". In the late 4th century, persecution of pagans by newly Christian Romans had reached new levels of intensity. In 391, the Patriarch Theophilus destroyed all pagan temples in Alexandria under orders from Emperor Theodosius I. The Brucheum and Jewish quarters were desolate in the 5th century. On the mainland, life seemed to have centered in the vicinity of the Serapeum and Caesareum, both which became Christian churches. The Pharos and Heptastadium quarters, however, remained populous and were left intact.

 Sphinx

Bombardment of Alexandria from British naval forces is pictured at left.

In 619, Alexandria fell to the Sassanid Persians. Although the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius recovered it in 629, in 641 the Arabs under the general Amr ibn al-As captured it after a siege that lasted fourteen months.

Alexandria figured prominently in the military operations of Napoleon's expedition to Egypt in 1798. French troops stormed the city on 2 July 1798, and it remained in their hands until the arrival of a British expedition in 1801. The British won a considerable victory over the French at the Battle of Alexandria on 21 March 1801, following which they besieged the city, which fell to them on 2 September 1801. Mohammed Ali, the Ottoman Governor of Egypt, began rebuilding the city around 1810, and by 1850, Alexandria had returned to something akin to its former glory. In July 1882, the city came under bombardment from British naval forces and was occupied. In July 1954, the city was a target of an Israeli bombing campaign that later became known as the Lavon Affair. Only a few months later, Alexandria's Mansheyya Square was the site of a failed assassination attempt on Gamal Abdel Nasser.

The most important battles and sieges of Alexandria include:

	Siege of Alexandria (47 BC), Caesar's civil war 
	Battle of Alexandria (30 BC), Final War of the Roman Republic 
	Siege of Alexandria (619), Byzantine-Persian Wars 
	Battle of Alexandria, French Revolutionary Wars 
	Siege of Alexandria (1801), French Revolutionary Wars 
	Alexandria expedition of 1807, French Revolutionary Wars 

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Algiers

 Algiers

Algiers is the capital and largest city of Algeria, and the second largest city in the Maghreb (after Casablanca). According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. A recent UN estimate of the urban agglomeration (metropolitan area) puts the population at 3,354,000 as of 2007.

Nicknamed El-Bahdja or alternatively Alger la Blanche ("Algiers the White") for the glistening white of its buildings as seen rising up from the sea, Algiers is situated on the west side of a bay of the Mediterranean Sea. The city name is derived from the Arabic word al-jaza-ir, which translates as the islands, referring to the four islands which lay off the city's coast until becoming part of the mainland in 1525. Al-jaza-ir is itself a truncated form of the city's older name jaza-ir bani mazghanna, "the islands of (the tribe) Bani Mazghanna", used by early medieval geographers such as al-Idrisi and Yaqut al-Hamawi. Algiers is the only Algerian city with an English name different from its French name. The modern part of the city is built on the level ground by the seashore; the old part, the ancient city of the deys, climbs the steep hill behind the modern town and is crowned by the casbah or citadel, 400 feet (122 m) above the sea. The casbah and the two quays form a triangle.

A Phoenician commercial outpost called Ikosim which later developed into a small Roman town called Icosium existed on what is now the marine quarter of the city. The rue de la Marine follows the lines of what used to be a Roman street. Roman cemeteries existed near Bab-el-Oued and Bab Azoun. The city was given Latin rights by Vespasian. The bishops of Icosium are mentioned as late as the 5th century.

 Algiers

City and harbour of Algiers, circa 1921 (left).

The present-day city was founded in 944 by Buluggin ibn Ziri, the founder of the Berber Zirid–Sanhaja dynasty, which was overthrown by Roger II of Sicily in 1148, although the Zirids had already lost control of Algiers before the final fall of the dynasty. The city was occupied by the Almohades in 1159, and in the 13th century came under the dominion of the Abd-el-Wadid sultans of Tlemcen. Nominally part of the sultanate of Tlemcen, Algiers had a large measure of independence under amirs of its own due to Oran being the chief seaport and center of power of the Abd-el-Wahid.

 Old Algiers  Old Algiers

At left is an ornate Ottoman cannon founded in Algiers on 8 October 1581 by founder Ca'fer el-Mu'allim. Length: 385 cm, cal:178 mm, weight: 2910 kg, stone projectile. Seized by France during the invasion of Algiers in 1830. Musée de l'Armée, Paris. Old Algiers (at right) in the 16th century, with the Spanish-built Peñón of Algiers in the forefront.

As early as 1302 the islet of Peñón in front of Algiers harbour had been occupied by Spaniards. Thereafter, a considerable amount of trade began to flow between Algiers and Spain. However, Algiers continued to be of comparatively little importance until after the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, many of whom sought asylum in the city. In 1510, following their occupation of Oran and other towns on the coast of Africa, the Spaniards fortified the islet of Penon and imposed a levy intended to suppress corsair activity. In 1516, the amir of Algiers, Selim b. Teumi, invited the corsair brothers Aruj and Khair ad-Din Barbarossa to expel the Spaniards. Aruj came to Algiers, ordered the assassination of Selim, and seized the town. Khair ad-Din, succeeding Arouj after the latter was killed in battle against the Spaniards at Tlemcen, was the founder of the pashaluk, which subsequently became the beylik, of Algeria. Barbarossa lost Algiers in 1524 but regained it with Capture of Algiers (1529), and then formally invited the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificient to accept sovereignty over the territory and to annex Algiers to the Ottoman Empire.

 Naval Battle  Historic map

At right is an Ex-Voto of a Naval Battle between a Turkish ship from Algiers (front) and a ship of the Order of Malta under Langon, 1719, and at left is an Historic map of Algiers by Piri ReisThe city under Ottoman control was enclosed by a wall on all sides, including along the seafront. In this wall, five gates allowed access to the city, with five roads from each gate dividing the city and meeting in front of the Ketchaoua Mosque. In 1556, a citadel was constructed at the highest point in the wall. A major road running north to south divided the city in two: The upper city (al-Gabal, or 'the mountain') which consisted of about fifty small quarters of Andalusian, Jewish, Moorish and Kabyle communities, and the lower city (al-Wata, or 'the plains') which was the administrative, military and commercial centre of the city, mostly inhabited by Turkish dignitaries and other upper-class families.

 bombardment of Algiers

At right is the bombardment of Algiers by Lord Exmouth, August 1816, painted by Thomas Luny.

Algiers from this time became the chief seat of the Barbary pirates. In October 1541 in the Algiers expedition, the King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V sought to capture the city, but a storm destroyed a great number of his ships, and his army of some 30,000, chiefly made up of Spaniards, was defeated by the Algerians under their Pasha, Hassan.

Formally part of the Ottoman Empire but essentially free from Ottoman control, starting in the 17th century Algiers turned to piracy and ransoming. Due to its location on the periphery of both the Ottoman and European economic spheres, and depending for its existence on a Mediterranean that was increasingly controlled by European shipping, backed by European navies, piracy became the primary economic activity. Repeated attempts were made by various nations to subdue the pirates that disturbed shipping in the western Mediterranean and engaged in slave raids as far north as Iceland. The United States fought two wars (the First and Second Barbary Wars) over Algiers' attacks on shipping.

The city under Ottoman control was enclosed by a wall on all sides, including along the seafront. In this wall, five gates allowed access to the city, with five roads from each gate dividing the city and meeting in front of the Ketchaoua Mosque. In 1556, a citadel was constructed at the highest point in the wall. A major road running north to south divided the city in two: The upper city (al-Gabal, or 'the mountain') which consisted of about fifty small quarters of Andalusian, Jewish, Moorish and Kabyle communities, and the lower city (al-Wata, or 'the plains') which was the administrative, military and commercial centre of the city, mostly inhabited by Turkish dignitaries and other upper-class families.

In 1817, the city was bombarded by a British squadron under Lord Exmouth (a descendant of Thomas Pellew, taken in an Algerian slave raid in 1715), assisted by Dutch men-of-war, destroying the corsair fleet harboured in Algiers.

The history of Algiers from 1815 to 1962 is bound to the larger history of Algeria and its relationship to France. On July 4, 1830, under the pretext of an affront to the French consul— whom the dey had hit with a fly-whisk when the consul said the French government was not prepared to pay its large outstanding debts to two Algerian Jewish merchants—a French army under General de Bourmont attacked the city in the 1830 invasion of Algiers. The city capitulated the following day. Algiers became a French colony.

During the 1930s, the architect Le Corbusier drew up plans for a complete redesign of the colonial city. Le Corbusier was highly critical of the urban style of Algiers, describing the European district as "nothing but crumbling walls and devastated nature, the whole a sullied blot". He also criticised the difference in living standards he perceived between the European and African residents of the city, describing a situation in which "the 'civilised' live like rats in holes" whereas "the 'barbarians' live in solitude, in well-being". However, these plans were ultimately ignored by the French colonial administration.

During World War II, Algiers was the last city to be seized from the Germans by the Allies during Operation Torch.

In 1962, after a bloody independence struggle in which up to 1.5 million Algerians died at the hands of the French Army and the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale, Algeria finally gained its independence, with Algiers as its capital. Since then, despite losing its entire European or pied-noir population, the city has expanded massively. It now has about 3 million inhabitants, or 10 percent of Algeria's population—and its suburbs now cover most of the surrounding Metidja plain.

Algiers was the host city for both the 1978 and 2007 All-Africa Games. The city was also designated the Arab Capital of Culture for 2007.

 bombardment of Algiers

Notre Dame d'Afrique panorama is at right.

Some 20 km (12 mi) to the west of Algiers are such seaside resorts as Sidi Fredj (ex-Sidi Ferruch), Palm Beach, Douaouda, Zéralda, and the Club of the Pines (residence of State); there are tourist complexes, Algerian and other restaurants, souvenir shops, supervised beaches, and other amenities. The city is also equipped with important hotel complexes such as the hotel Hilton, El-Aurassi or El Djazair. Algiers also has the first water park in the country. The tourism of Algiers is growing but is not as developed as that of the larger cities in Morocco or Tunisia.

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Amsterdam

 Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands, located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. The city, which had a population of 1.36 million (with suburbs) on 1 January 2008, comprises the northern part of the Randstad, the 6th-largest metropolitan area in Europe, with a population of around 6.7 million.

Its name is derived from Amstel dam, indicative of the city's origin: a dam in the river Amstel, where the Dam Square is today. Settled as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age, a result of its innovative developments in trade. During that time, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded and many new neighbourhoods and suburbs were formed.

 Museum Square

The city is the financial and cultural capital of the Netherlands. Many large Dutch institutions have their headquarters there, and 7 of the world's top 500 companies, including Philips and ING, are based in the city. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in the world is located in the city centre. Amsterdam's main attractions, including its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, (left) Hermitage Amsterdam, Anne Frank House, its red-light district, and its many cannabis coffee shops draw more than 3.66 million international visitors annually, as of 2009. The city's red light district is pictured below right.

 Illicit District

The earliest recorded use of the name "Amsterdam" is from a certificate dated 27 October 1275, when the inhabitants, who had built a bridge with a dam across the Amstel, were exempted from paying a bridge toll by Count Floris V. The certificate describes the inhabitants as homines manentes apud Amestelledamme (people living near Amestelledamme). By 1327, the name had developed into Aemsterdam. A local legend has the city being founded by two fishermen, who landed on the shores of the Amstel in a small boat with their dog. Amsterdam's founding is relatively recent compared with much older Dutch cities such as Nijmegen, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. In October 2008, historical geographer Chris de Bont suggested that the land around Amsterdam was being reclaimed as early as the late 10th century. This does not necessarily mean that there was already a settlement then. The reclamation of land may not have been for farming - it may have been for peat, used as fuel.

 Waterfront Property

Amsterdam was granted city rights in either 1300 or 1306. To the left is a picture of present day waterfront property in the city. From the 14th century on, Amsterdam flourished, largely because of trade with the Hanseatic League. In 1345, an alleged Eucharistic miracle in the Kalverstraat rendered the city an important place of pilgrimage until the adoption of the Protestant faith. The Stille Omgang - a silent procession in civil attire - is today a remnant of the rich pilgrimage history.

In the 16th century, the Dutch rebelled against Philip II of Spain and his successors. The main reasons for the uprising were the imposition of new taxes, the tenth penny, and the religious persecution of Protestantism by the Spanish Inquisition. The revolt escalated into the Eighty Years' War, which ultimately led to Dutch independence. Strongly pushed by Dutch Revolt leader William the Silent, the Dutch Republic became known for its relative religious tolerance. Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, Huguenots from France, prosperous merchants and printers from Flanders, and economic and religious refugees from the Spanish-controlled parts of the Low Countries found safety in Amsterdam. The influx of Flemish printers and the city's intellectual tolerance made Amsterdam a centre for the European free press.

 Humming Harbor

The 17th century is considered Amsterdam's Golden Age, during which it became the wealthiest city in the world. Ships sailed from Amsterdam to the Baltic Sea, North America, and Africa, as well as present-day Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Brazil, forming the basis of a worldwide trading network. A picture of the harbor is at right. Amsterdam's merchants had the largest share in both the VOC (Dutch East India Company) and the WIC (Dutch West India Company). These companies acquired overseas possessions that later became Dutch colonies. Amsterdam was Europe's most important point for the shipment of goods and was the leading Financial Centre of the world. In 1602, the Amsterdam office of the VOC became the world's first stock exchange by trading in its own shares.

 Holland Icon

To the left is a Holland Icon.

Amsterdam lost over 10% of its population to plague in 1623–5, and again in 1635–6, and once more in 1655, and one more time in 1664. Nevertheless, the population of Amsterdam rose in the 17th century (largely through immigration) from 50,000 to 200,000.

Amsterdam's prosperity declined during the 18th and early-19th centuries. The wars of the Dutch Republic with England and France took their toll on Amsterdam. During the Napoleonic Wars, Amsterdam's significance reached its lowest point, with Holland being absorbed into the French Empire. However, the later establishment of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815 marked a turning point. New developments, by people such as city planner Samuel Sarphati, drew their inspiration from Paris.

The end of the 19th century is sometimes called Amsterdam's second Golden Age. New museums, a train station, and the Concertgebouw were built, while during this time, the Industrial Revolution reached the city. The Amsterdam-Rhine Canal was dug to give Amsterdam a direct connection to the Rhine, and the North Sea Canal was dug to give the port a shorter connection to the North Sea. Both projects dramatically improved commerce with the rest of Europe and the world. In 1906, Joseph Conrad gave a brief description of Amsterdam as seen from the seaside, in The Mirror of the Sea. Shortly before World War I, the city began expanding, and new suburbs were built. Even though the Netherlands remained neutral in this war, Amsterdam suffered a food shortage, and heating fuel became scarce. The shortages sparked riots in which several people were killed. These riots are known as the Aardappeloproer (Potato rebellion). People started looting stores and warehouses in order to get supplies, mainly food.

Germany invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940 and took control of the country. The Germans installed a Nazi civilian government in Amsterdam that cooperated with the persecution of Jews. Some Amsterdam citizens sheltered Jews, thereby exposing themselves and their families to the high risk of being imprisoned or sent to concentration camps. More than 100,000 Dutch Jews were deported to concentration camps. Perhaps the most-famous deportee was the young Jewish girl Anne Frank, who died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Only 5,000 Dutch Jews survived the war. At the end of World War II, communication with the rest of the country broke down, and food and fuel became scarce. Many citizens traveled to the countryside to forage. Dogs, cats, raw sugar beets, and Tulip bulbs-cooked to a pulp-were consumed to stay alive. Most of the trees in Amsterdam were cut down for fuel, and all the wood was taken from the apartments of deported Jews. After the war, approximately 120,000 Dutch were prosecuted for their collaboration with the Nazis.

 Heineken

To the left is one of the big industries in Amsterdam, Heineken beer.

Many new suburbs, such as Osdorp, Slotervaart, Slotermeer, and Geuzenveld, were built in the years after World War II. These suburbs contained many public parks and wide, open spaces, and the new buildings provided improved housing conditions with larger and brighter rooms, gardens, and balconies. Because of the war and other incidents of the 20th century, almost the entire city centre had fallen into disrepair. As society was changing, politicians and other influential figures made plans to redesign large parts of it. There was an increasing demand for office buildings and new roads as the automobile became available to most common people. A metro started operating in 1977 between the new suburb of Bijlmer and the centre of Amsterdam. Further plans were to build a new highway above the metro to connect the Central Station and city centre with other parts of the city.

The incorporated large-scale demolitions began in Amsterdam's formerly Jewish neighbourhood. Smaller streets, such as the Jodenbreestraat, were widened and saw almost all of their houses demolished. During the destruction's peak, the Nieuwmarktrellen (Nieuwmarkt riots) broke out, where people expressed their fury about the demolition caused by the restructuring of the city. As a result, the demolition was stopped, and the highway was never built, with only the metro being finished. Only a few streets remained widened. The destroyed buildings were replaced by new ones corresponding to the historical street plan of the neighbourhood.

 Life Aquatic  Urban Escape

All in all the good life is portrayed in the city of Amsterdam. To the left is the life aquatic, and to the right a picture of urban escape in the center of the city.

The new city hall was built on the almost completely demolished Waterlooplein. Meanwhile, large private organisations, such as Stadsherstel Amsterdam, were founded with the aim of restoring the entire city centre. Although the success of this struggle is visible today, efforts for further restoration are still ongoing. The entire city centre has reattained its former splendor and, as a whole, is now a protected area. Many of its buildings have become monuments, and plans exist to make the Grachtengordel (Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht) a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Ankara

Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the country's second largest city after Istanbul. The city has a mean elevation of 850 metres (2,800 ft), and as of 2007 the city had a population of 4,751,360, which includes eight districts under the city's administration. Ankara also serves as the capital of Ankara Province.

 Anitkabir  Kizilay

At the left is Anitkabir (literally, "memorial tomb"), the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the leader of the Turkish War of Independence and the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey. At right is Kizilay, a neighborhood in Ankara, mostly known for its trading and shopping centers. It is named after Kizilay Dernegi (Turkish Red Crescent) hospital which is located in this district.

As with many ancient cities, Ankara has gone by several names over the ages: The Hittites gave it the name Ankuwash before 1200 BC. The Galatians and Romans called it Ancyra. The local Armenians called it Enkare. The city was also known in the European languages as Angora after its conquest by the Seljuk Turks in 1073, and continued to be internationally called with this name until it was officially renamed Ankara with the Turkish Postal Service Law of 1930.

Centrally located in Anatolia, Ankara is an important commercial and industrial city. It is the center of the Turkish Government, and houses all foreign embassies. It is an important crossroads of trade, strategically located at the centre of Turkey's highway and railway networks, and serves as the marketing centre for the surrounding agricultural area. The city was famous for its long-haired Angora goat and its prized wool (mohair), a unique breed of cat (Angora cat), white rabbits and their prized wool (Angora wool), pears, honey, and the region's muscat grapes.

The historical center of Ankara is situated upon a steep and rocky hill, which rises 150 m (492 ft) above the plain on the left bank of the Ankara Cayi, a tributary of the Sakarya (Sangarius) river. The city is located about 351 km (218 mi) to the southeast of Istanbul, the country's largest city. Although situated in one of the driest places of Turkey and surrounded mostly by steppe vegetation except for the forested areas on the southern periphery, Ankara can be considered a green city in terms of green areas per inhabitant, which is 72 m2 per head.

Ankara is a very old city with various Hittite, Phrygian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman archaeological sites. The hill which overlooks the city is crowned by the ruins of the old castle, which adds to the picturesqueness of the view, but only a few historic structures surrounding the old citadel have survived to our date. There are, however, many finely preserved remains of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine architecture, the most remarkable being the Temple of Augustus and Rome (20 BC) which is also known as the Monumentum Ancyranum.

 Hittite artifacts

Ankara has a dry continental climate, with cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers. Rainfall occurs mostly during the spring and autumn. Under Koppen's climate classification Ankara features a semi-arid climate due to its elevation, the forementioned cold, snowy winters and hot dry summers, peaks of precipitation during the spring and autumn and the 415 mm (16 in) of average annual precipitation. Because of Ankara's high altitude and its dry summers, nightly temperatures in the summer months are cool. Precipitation levels are low, but precipitation can be observed throughout the year.

Hittite artifacts on display at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (left).

The region's history can be traced back to the Bronze Age Hatti civilization, which was succeeded in the 2nd millennium BC by the Hittites, in the 10th century BC by the Phrygians, and later by the Lydians, Persians, Greeks, Galatians, Romans, Byzantines, and Turks (the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, the Ottoman Empire and Turkey.)

Foreign visitors to Ankara usually like to visit the old shops in Cikrikcilar Yokusu (Weavers' Road) near Ulus, where myriad things ranging from traditional fabrics, hand-woven carpets and leather products can be found at bargain prices. Bakircilar Carsisi (Bazaar of Coppersmiths) is particularly popular, and many interesting items, not just of copper, can be found here like jewelry, carpets, costumes, antiques and embroidery. Up the hill to the castle gate, there are many shops selling a huge and fresh collection of spices, dried fruits, nuts, and other produce.

 Armada Shopping Center  Karum Center

Armada Shopping Center in Ankara (left) was selected as "Europe's Best Shopping Mall" by the ICSC in 2003, becoming the second mall in Turkey after Akmerkez in Istanbul (Europe's Best 1995, World's Best 1996) to win this prestigious award. At right is a picture of the interior of Karum Shopping & Business Center.

Modern shopping areas are mostly found in Kizilay, or on Tunali Hilmi Avenue, including the modern mall of Karum (named after the ancient Assyrian merchant colonies (Karum) that were established in central Anatolia at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC) which is located towards the end of the Avenue; and in the Atakule Tower at Cankaya, the quarter with the highest elevation in the city, which commands a magnificent view over the whole city and also has a revolving restaurant at the top where the complete panorama can be enjoyed in a more leisurely fashion. The symbol of the Armada Shopping Mall is an anchor, and there's a large anchor monument at its entrance, as a reference to the ancient Greek name of the city. Likewise, the anchor is also related with the Spanish name of the mall, Armada, which means naval fleet.

As Ankara started expanding westward in the 1970s, several modern, suburbia-style developments and mini-cities began to rise along the western highway, also known as the Eskisehir Road. The Armada and CEPA malls on the highway, the Galleria in Umitkoy, and a huge mall, Real in Bilkent Center, offer North American and European style shopping opportunities (these places can be reached through the Eskisehir Highway.) There is also the newly expanded Ankamall at the outskirts, on the Istanbul Highway, which houses most of the well-known international brands. This mall is the largest throughout the Ankara region.

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Athens

 Athens

Athens, the capital and largest city of Greece, dominates the Attica periphery; as one of the world's oldest cities, its recorded history spans around 3,400 years.

The Greek capital has a population of 745,514 (in 2001) within its administrative limits and a land area of 39 km2 (15 sq mi). The urban area of Athens extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3,130,841 (in 2001) and a land area of 412 km2 (159 sq mi). According to Eurostat, the Athens Larger Urban Zone (LUZ) is the 7th most populous LUZ in the European Union (the 5th most populous capital city of the EU) with a population of 4,013,368 (in 2004). A bustling and cosmopolitan metropolis, Athens is central to economic, financial, industrial, political and cultural life in Greece and it is rated as an alpha-world city. It is rapidly becoming a leading business centre in the European Union. In 2008, Athens was ranked the world's 32nd richest city by purchasing power and the 25th most expensive in a UBS study.

 Athena

A statue of Athena, the patron goddess of Athens is at left.

Classical Athens was a powerful city-state. A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum, It is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the then known European continent.

The heritage of the classical era is still evident in the city, represented by a number of ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon, widely considered a key landmark of early Western civilization. The city also retains a vast variety of Roman and Byzantine monuments, as well as a smaller number of remaining Ottoman monuments projecting the city's long history across the centuries. Landmarks of the modern era are also present, dating back to 1830 (the establishment of the independent Greek state), and taking in the Hellenic Parliament (19th century) and the Athens Trilogy consisting of the National Library of Greece, the Athens University and the Academy of Athens. Athens was the host city of the first modern-day Olympic Games in 1896, and 108 years later it welcomed home the 2004 Summer Olympics.

 The Parthenon

The Parthenon is a temple of the Greek goddess Athena whom the people of Athens considered their protector is at right.

In Ancient Greek, the name of Athens was related to the name of the goddess Athena.

Since the official abandonment of Katharevousa Greek in the 1970s, Athens has become the city's official name.

The oldest known human presence in Athens is the Cave of Schist which has been dated to between the 11th and 7th millennium BC. Athens has been continuously inhabited for at least 7000 years. Classical Athens became the leading city of Ancient Greece in the 5th century BC, with its cultural achievements laying the foundations of Western civilization. By the end of Late Antiquity the city experienced decline followed by recovery in the second half of the Middle Byzantine Period (9th-10th centuries AD), and was relatively prosperous during the Crusades, benefiting from Italian trade; after a long period of decline under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

Athens re-emerged in the 19th century as the capital of the independent Greek state. In 1896 Athens hosted the first modern Olympic Games. In the 1920s a number of Greek refugees, expelled from Asia Minor after the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), swelled Athens' population; nevertheless it was most particularly following the World War II, and from the 1950s and 1960s, that the population of the city exploded, and Athens experienced a gradual expansion in all directions. In the 1980s it became evident that smog from factories and an ever increasing fleet of automobiles, as well as a lack of adequate free space due to overcongestion, had evolved into the city's most important challenges. A series of anti-pollution measures taken by the city's authorities in the 1990s, combined with a substantial improvement of the city's infrastructure (including the Attiki Odos motorway, the expansion of the Athens Metro, and the new Athens International Airport), considerably alleviated pollution and transformed Athens into a much more functional city.

 Acropolis Museum  Temple of Olympian Zeus

The Acropolis Museum in central Athensis on the left, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus is at the right.

The Athens Metropolitan Area consists of 73 densely populated municipalities, sprawling around the city in virtually all directions.

The Athens city coastline, extending from the major commercial port of Piraeus to the southernmost suburb of Varkiza for some 25 km (20 mi), is also connected to the city centre by a tram.

In the northern suburb of Maroussi, the upgraded main Olympic Complex (known by its Greek acronym OAKA) dominates the skyline. The whole area has been redeveloped according to a design by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, with steel arches, landscaped gardens, fountains, futuristic glass, and a landmark new blue glass roof which was added to the main stadium. A second Olympic complex, next to the sea at the beach of Kallithea (Faliron), also features modern stadia, shops and an elevated esplanade. Work is underway to transform the grounds of the old Athens Airport – named Hellinikon – in the southern suburbs, into one of the largest landscaped parks in Europe, to be named the Hellenikon Metropolitan Park.

Many of the southern suburbs host a number of sandy beaches, most of which are operated by the Greek National Tourism Organisation and require an entrance fee, which is not excessive in most cases. Casinos operate on both Mount Parnitha, some 25 km (16 mi) from downtown Athens, (accessible by car or cable car) and the nearby town of Loutraki (accessible by car via the Athens – Corinth National Highway, or the suburban railroad).

 Kifissias Avenue

At left is Kifissias Avenue at night and northern Suburbs.

The city is one of the world's main centres of archaeological research. Apart from national institutions, such as Athens University, the Archaeological Society, several archaeological Museums (including the National Archaeological Museum, the Cycladic Museum, the Epigraphic Museum, the Byzantine Museum, as well as museums at the ancient Agora, Acropolis, and Kerameikos), the city is also home to the Demokritos laboratory for Archaeometry as well as several regional and national archaeological authorities that form part of the Greek Department of Culture. Additionally, Athens hosts 17 Foreign Archaeological Institutes which promote and facilitate research by scholars from their respective home countries. As a result, Athens has more than a dozen archaeological libraries and three specialized archaeological laboratories, and is the venue of several hundred specialized lectures, conferences and seminars, as well as dozens of archaeological exhibitions, per year. At any given time, Athens is the (temporary) home to hundreds of international scholars and researchers in all disciplines of archaeology.

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Beijing

 Beijing

Beijing, also known as Peking, is a metropolis in northern China and the capital of the People's Republic of China. Governed as a municipality under direct administration of the central government, Beijing borders Hebei Province to the north, west, south, and for a small section in the east, and Tianjin Municipality to the southeast Beijing is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China.

The picture to the right is the view of a corner tower of the Forbidden City.

Beijing is divided into 16 urban and suburban districts and two rural counties.Beijing is a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and motorways passing through the city. It is also the destination of many international flights arriving in China. Beijing is recognized as the political, educational, and cultural center of the People's Republic of China,[6] while Shanghai and Hong Kong predominate in economic fields. The city hosted the 2008 Olympic Games.

 water columns

To the left water columns sprout from the moat outside the Tiananmen Gate, adorned with the portrait of the late chairman Mao Zedong, July 15, 2008, in Beijing.

Few cities in the world besides Beijing have served as the political and cultural centre of an area as immense as China for so long. The Encyclopædia Britannica describes it as "one of the world's great cities," and declares that the city has been an integral part of China’s history for centuries; there is scarcely a major building of any age in Beijing that doesn't have at least some national historical significance. Beijing is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates. Its art treasures and universities have long made the city a centre of culture and art in China.

 Temple of Heaven

At right is a place for prayer. The highlight of Bejing's Temple of Heaven is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. The hall is circular wooden structure designed with a unique architectural style -- there are no nails, beams r crossbeams used. The hall was were emperors came to pray for good harvests on the 15th day of the first lunar month every year.

The earliest remnants of human habitation in the Beijing municipality are found in the caves of Dragon Bone Hill near the village of Zhoukoudian in Fangshan District, where the Peking Man lived. Homo erectus fossils from the caves date to 230,000 to 250,000 years ago. Paleolithic homo sapiens also lived there about 27,000 years ago. There were cities in the vicinities of Beijing by the 1st millennium BC, and the capital of the State of Yan, one of the powers of the Warring States Period (473-221 BC), Ji, was established in present-day Beijing.

 Forbidden City  Forbidden City

Each year, thousands of tourists visit the Forbidden City in Bejing. The structure is the best preserved palace in China and is the largest palatial structure in the world. For more than 500 years, 24 emperors ruled over China from the Forbidden City, now also known as Palace Museum. At right, another view.

After the fall of the Yan, the subsequent Qin, Han, and Jin dynasties set up local prefectures in the area. During the fall of the Han, it was the seat of the warlord Gongsun Zan. In Tang Dynasty it became the headquarters for Fanyang jiedushi, the virtual military governor of current northern Hebei area. The An Shi Rebellion was also launched from here in AD 755.

In 936, the Later Jin Dynasty (936-947) of northern China ceded a large part of its northern frontier, including modern Beijing, to the Khitan Liao Dynasty. In 938, the Liao Dynasty set up a secondary capital in what is now Beijing, and called it Nanjing (the "Southern Capital"). In 1125, the Jurchen Jin Dynasty conquered Liao, and in 1153 moved its capital to Liao's Nanjing, calling it Zhongdu, the "central capital." Zhongdu was situated in what is now the area centered around Tianningsi, slightly to the southwest of central Beijing. Some of the oldest existing relics in Beijing, such as the Tianning Temple, date to the Liao.

 Jiaolou

A general view of the Jiaolou (Corner Tower) of the Forbidden City (left) bathed in sunshine and reflected off of the moat surrounding the former imperial palace.

Mongol forces burned Zhongdu to the ground in 1215 in what is now known as the Battle of Beijing. Later in 1264, in preparation for the conquest of all of China to establish the Yuan Dynasty, Kublai Khan decided to rebuild it slightly north to the center of the Jin capital, and in 1272, he made this city his capital as Dadu, or Daidu to the Mongols, otherwise spelled as Cambaluc or Cambuluc in Marco Polo's accounts. Construction of Dadu finished in 1293. The decision of Kublai Khan greatly enhanced the status of a city that had been situated on the northern fringe of China proper. The center of Dadu was situated slightly north of modern central Beijing. It centered on what is now the northern stretch of the 2nd Ring Road, and stretched northwards to between the 3rd and 4th Ring Roads. There are remnants of the Yuan-era wall still standing, and they are known as the Tucheng.

 performer

At right a performer dressed in the imperial yellow costume of former emperors rehearses his steps with others during an imperial rites ceremony during the Chinese lunar new year holidays at the Temple of Heaven on Jan. 20, 2009. According to records, during some 500 years, various emperors performed more than 600 imperial rites ceremonies in the Temple of Heaven.

In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang, soon after declaring himself the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, sent an army toward Dadu, still held by the Yuan. The last Yuan emperor fled north to Shangdu, and Zhu razed the Yuan palaces in Dadu to the ground. The city was renamed Beiping in the same year, and Shuntian prefecture was established in the area around the city. In 1403, the new (and third) Ming emperor - the Yongle Emperor - renamed this city 'Beijing', and designated Beijing the co-capital alongside the (then) current capital of Nanjing. Beijing was the subject of a major construction project for a new Imperial residence, the Forbidden City that lasted nearly 15 years (1406 to 1420). When the palace was finished, the Yongle Emperor ceremoniously took up residence. From 1421 onwards, Beijing, also known as Jingshi, was the "official" capital of the Ming Dynasty while Nanjing was demoted to the status of "secondary" capital. This system of dual capitals (with Beijing being vastly more important) continued for the duration of the Ming Dynasty. Thirteen of the sixteen Ming Emperors are buried in elaborate tombs near Beijing.

 old neighborhood

At left is pictured an appreciation of old times. This picture taken on April 13, 2009, shows an old neighborhood in Beijing. That spring, thousands of workers in yellow helmets took to the streets of old Beijing for a major renovation of traditional houses, or at least those that survived the real estate frenzy of recent years.

By the 15th century, Beijing had essentially taken its current shape, and the Ming-era city wall served as the Beijing city wall until modern times, when it was pulled down and the 2nd Ring Road was built in its place. Tiananmen, now a state symbol of the People's Republic of China and featured on its emblem, was first built in 1420, and rebuilt several times later.

 the Yonghegong

A Tibetan Buddhist monk walks on the grounds of the Yonghegong (right), also known as the Lama Temple, a temple and monastery belonging to the Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism in Beijing. The temple is one of the largest and most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world.

The Temple has five large halls and five courtyards with beautifully decorative archways, upturned eaves and carved details. It has a treasury of Buddhist art, including sculptured images of gods, demons and Buddhas, as well as Tibetan-style murals.

The end of the Ming came in 1644.

Prince Dorgon established the Qing Dynasty as a direct successor to the Ming, and Beijing remained China's capital.

 Mogao Cave

At left visitors view replica of parts of the Mogao Cave during the Dunhuang Art Exhibition at the National Art Museum of China on Jan. 21, 2008. The exhibition included recovered antres, original painted sculptures and their replicas, grotto fresco replicas, tiles relics and documents from Library Cave of Dunhuang.

Dunhuang, located in Northwest China's Gansu province, is renowned for its fresco caves, where the Buddhist paintings and sculptures were created in the 5th to 13th century.

 civil official

Statue of a high civil official (right), advisor to the emperor, stands on Spirit Way at Ming Tombs site in Beijing. The Ming Tombs, where 13 Ming Dynasty era emperors are buried, are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the Second Opium War, Anglo-French forces captured the city, looted and burned the Summer Palace and Old Summer Palace in 1860. Under the Convention of Peking that ended the war, Western powers secured the right to establish permanent diplomatic presence in the Beijing Legation Quarter. In 1900, Beijing was again invaded by foreign powers to quell the Boxer Rebellion.

 Hall of Prayer

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (left) is shown through the Temple of Heaven. The hall is a cone-shaped wooden structure with triple eaves. Its blue-tile roof is an easily recognizable emblem of Chinese imperial architecture outside of the famed Forbidden City.

The Xinhai Revolution of 1911, aimed at replacing Qing rule with a republic, originally intended to establish its capital at Nanjing. After high-ranking Qing official Yuan Shikai forced the abdication of the Qing emperor in Beijing and ensured the success of the revolution, the revolutionaries in Nanjing accepted that Yuan should be the president of the new Republic of China and the capital remains at Beijing.

 Yuanming Yuan

At right a man visits the ruins of Yuanming Yuan in Beijing. Yuanming Yuan, known as the Old Summer Palace, was composed of three independent gardens and covered an area of about 864.8 miles with up to one hundred landscape spots. It was sacked, looted and burned to the ground by the British and French troops in October 1860.

On 31 January 1949, during the Chinese Civil War, Communist forces entered Beijing without battling. On 1 October of the same year, the Communist Party of China, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, announced in Tiananmen the creation of the People's Republic of China and renamed the city back to Beijing.

 Beijng Opera

An actor performs at left during a show at the Beijng Opera. The opera consists of literature, music, dance, martial arts, fine arts, acrobatics and many other arts available.

At the time of the founding of the People's Republic, Beijing Municipality consisted of just its urban area and immediate suburbs.

Following the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping, the urban area of Beijing has expanded greatly. Formerly within the confines of the 2nd Ring Road and the 3rd Ring Road, the urban area of Beijing is now pushing at the limits of the recently constructed 5th Ring Road and 6th Ring Road, with many areas that were formerly farmland now developed residential or commercial districts. According to a 2005 newspaper report, the size of the newly developed Beijing land was one and a half times larger than the land of old Beijing within the 2nd Ring Road.

 Beihai Park

People visit Beijing's Beihai Park, which is more than 1,000 years old and was built up through five dynasties as a royal garden. Beihai, which opened to the public in 1925, includes a 96.4-mile lake, pavilions and towers, and beautiful scenery.

On 13 July 2001, the International Olympic Committee selected Beijing as, the host for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

People native to urban Beijing speak the Beijing dialect, which belongs to the Mandarin subdivision of spoken Chinese. Beijing dialect is the basis for Standard Mandarin, the spoken language used in mainland China, Taiwan, and one of the four official languages of Singapore. Rural areas of Beijing Municipality have their own dialects akin to those of Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing Municipality.

 Beihai Park

The National Stadium, also known as the "Bird's Nest," hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games and the Summer Paralympics and served as the main venue. The 91,000-seat stadium is the world's largest steel structure.

Beijing opera, or Peking opera, is well-known throughout the nation . Commonly lauded as one of the highest achievements of Chinese culture, Beijing opera is performed through a combination of song, spoken dialogue, and codified action sequences, such as gestures, movement, fighting and acrobatics. Much of Beijing opera is carried out in an archaic stage dialect quite different from modern Standard Mandarin and from the Beijing dialect.

Siheyuans line hutongs, or alleys, which connect the interior of Beijing's old city. They are usually straight and run east to west so that doorways can face north and south for Feng Shui reasons. They vary in width - some are very narrow, enough for only a few pedestrians to pass through at a time.

Once ubiquitous in Beijing, siheyuans and hutongs are now rapidly disappearing, as entire city blocks of hutongs are leveled and replaced with high-rise buildings. Residents of the hutongs are entitled to live in the new buildings, in apartments of at least the same size as their former residences. Many complain, however, that the traditional sense of community and street life of the hutongs cannot be replaced. Residents, however, have limited control over their own property, as the government usually owns it. Some particularly historic or picturesque neighbourhoods of hutongs are being preserved and restored by the government, especially for the 2008 Olympics.

 the Great Wall

Tourists stroll on the Badaling section of the Great Wall on the outskirts of Beijing.

Beijing cuisine is the local style of cooking in Beijing. Peking Duck is perhaps the most well-known dish. The Manhan Quanxi is a rare traditional banquet originally intended for the ethnic-Manchu emperors of the Qing Dynasty; it remains very prestigious and expensive. The Fuling Jiabing is a traditional Beijing snack food, a pancake (bing) resembling a flat disk with filling, made from fu ling, (wolf, or "tuckahoe"), an ingredient common in traditional Chinese medicine. Teahouses are also common in Beijing. Chinese tea comes in many varieties and some rather expensive types of Chinese tea are said to cure an ailing body extraordinarily well.

The cloisonné (or Jingtailan, literally "Blue of Jingtai") metalworking technique and tradition is a specialty of Beijing's cultural art, and is one of the most revered traditional crafts in China. Cloisonné making requires elaborate and complicated processes which includes: base-hammering, copper-strip inlay, soldering, enamel-filling, enamel-firing, surface polishing and gilding. Beijing's lacquerware is also well known for its sophisticated and intrinsic patterns and images carved into its surface, and the various decoration techniques of lacquer includes "carved lacquer" and "engraved gold".

Younger residents of Beijing have become more attracted to the nightlife, which has flourished in recent decade, breaking prior cultural traditions that practically restricted it to the upper class.

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Berlin

 Brandenburg Gate

Berlin is the capital city and one of 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.4 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city and the eighth most populous urban area in the European Union. Located in northeastern Germany, it is the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg Metropolitan Area, comprising 5 million people from over 190 nations. Geographically embedded in the European Plains Berlin is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate. Around one third of the city´s territory is composed of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes. The Brandenburg Gate is pictured at right.

First documented in the 13th century, Berlin was successively the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia (1701–1918), the German Empire (1871–1918), the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) and the Third Reich (1933–1945). During the 1920s, Berlin was the third largest municipality in the world. After World War II, the city was divided; East Berlin became the capital of East Germany while West Berlin became a Western exclave, surrounded by the Berlin Wall (1961–1989). Following German reunification in 1990, the city regained its status as the capital of all Germany hosting 147 foreign embassies.

Berlin is a major center of culture, politics, media, and science in Europe. Its economy is primarily based on the service sector, encompassing a diverse range of creative industries, media corporations, congress and convention venues. Berlin serves as a continental hub for air and rail transport, and is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the EU. Other industries include optoelectronics, traffic engineering, IT, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals, biomedical engineering, and biotechnology.

The metropolis is home to world-renowned universities, research institutes, sporting events, orchestras, museums and personalities. The urban and historical legacy has made it a popular setting for international film productions. The city is recognized for its festivals, diverse architecture, nightlife, contemporary arts, extensive public transportation networks and a high quality of living. Berlin has evolved into a global focal point for young individuals and artists attracted by a liberal lifestyle and modern zeitgeist.

The name Berlin is of unknown origin, but may be related to the Old Polabian stem berl-"swamp".

The earliest evidence of settlements in today's Berlin central areas is a wooden beam dated from approximately 1192. The first written mention of towns in the area of present-day Berlin dates from the late 12th century. The settlement of Spandau is first mentioned in 1197, and Köpenick in 1209, though these areas did not join Berlin until 1920. The central part of Berlin can be traced back to two towns. Cölln on the Fischerinsel is first mentioned in a 1237 document, and Berlin, across the Spree in what is now called the Nikolaiviertel, is referenced in a document from 1244. The former is considered to be the "founding date". From the beginning, the two cities formed an economic and social unit. In 1307, the two cities were united politically. Over time, the twin cities came to be known simply as Berlin.

In 1435, Frederick I became the elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, which he ruled until 1440. His successor, Frederick II, established Berlin as capital of the margraviate, and subsequent members of the Hohenzollern family ruled until 1918 in Berlin, first as electors of Brandenburg, then as kings of Prussia, and finally as German emperors. In 1448 citizens rebelled in the “Berlin Indignation” against the construction of a new royal palace by Elector Frederick II Irontooth. This protest was not successful, however, and the citizenry lost many of its political and economic privileges. In 1451 Berlin became the royal residence of the Brandenburg electors, and Berlin had to give up its status as a free Hanseatic city. In 1539, the electors and the city officially became Lutheran.

 Frederick

Frederick the Great was one of Europe's enlightened monarchs.The Thirty Years' War between 1618 and 1648 had devastating consequences for Berlin. A third of the houses were damaged and the city lost half of its population. Frederick William, known as the “Great Elector”, who had succeeded his father George William as ruler in 1640, initiated a policy of promoting immigration and religious tolerance. With the Edict of Potsdam in 1685, Frederick William offered asylum to the French Huguenots. More than 15,000 Huguenots went to Brandenburg, of whom 6,000 settled in Berlin. By 1700, approximately 20 percent of Berlin's residents were French, and their cultural influence on the city was immense. Many other immigrants came from Bohemia, Poland, and Salzburg.

 Unter den Linden

Berlin became the capital of the German Empire in 1871 and expanded rapidly in the following years. (Unter den Linden in 1900 at right).

With the coronation of Frederick I in 1701 as king (in Königsberg), Berlin became the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1740 Frederick II, known as Frederick the Great (1740–1786) came to power. Berlin became, under the rule of the philosophically oriented Frederick II, a centre of the Enlightenment. Following France's victory in the War of the Fourth Coalition, Napoleon Bonaparte marched into Berlin in 1806, but granted self-government to the city. In 1815 the city became part of the new Province of Brandenburg.

The Industrial Revolution transformed Berlin during the 19th century; the city's economy and population expanded dramatically, and it became the main rail hub and economic center of Germany. Additional suburbs soon developed and increased the area and population of Berlin. In 1861, outlying suburbs including Wedding, Moabit, and several others were incorporated into Berlin. In 1871, Berlin became capital of the newly founded German Empire. On 1 April 1881 it became a city district separate from Brandenburg.

 In ruins

At the left is Berlin in ruins after World War II (Potsdamer Platz, 1945).

At the end of World War I in 1918, the Weimar Republic was proclaimed in Berlin. In 1920, the Greater Berlin Act united dozens of suburban cities, villages, and estates around Berlin into a greatly expanded city at the expense of Brandenburg. After this expansion, Berlin had a population of around four million. During the Weimar era, Berlin became internationally renown as a center of cultural transformation, at the heart of the Roaring Twenties.

On 30 January 1933 (Machtergreifung), Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power. Nazi rule destroyed Berlin's Jewish community, which had numbered 170,000 before 1933. After the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938, thousands of the city's German Jews were imprisoned in the nearby Sachsenhausen concentration camp or, in early 1943, were shipped to death camps, such as Auschwitz. During the war, large parts of Berlin were destroyed in the 1943–45 air raids and during the Battle of Berlin. After the end of the war in Europe in 1945, Berlin received large numbers of refugees from the Eastern provinces. The victorious powers divided the city into four sectors, analogous to the occupation zones into which Germany was divided. The sectors of the Western Allies (the United States, the United Kingdom and France) formed West Berlin, while the Soviet sector formed East Berlin.

People crossing the so-called "death strip" on the eastern side were at risk of being shot.All four allies retained shared responsibility for Berlin. However, the growing political differences between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union led the latter, which controlled the territory surrounding Berlin, to impose the Berlin Blockade, an economic blockade of West Berlin. The allies successfully overcame the blockade by airlifting food and other supplies into the city from 24 June, 1948 to 11 May, 1949. In 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in West Germany, and eventually included all of the American, British, and French zones, but excluded those three countries' zones of Berlin, while the Marxist-Leninist German Democratic Republic was proclaimed in East Germany. West Berlin remained a free city that was separate from the Federal Republic of Germany, and issued its own postage stamps. Airline service to West Berlin was granted only to American, British, and French airlines.

The founding of the two German states increased Cold War tensions. West Berlin was surrounded by East German territory. East Germany, however, proclaimed East Berlin (which it described only as "Berlin") as its capital, a move that was not recognized by the Western powers. Although half the size and population of West Berlin, it included most of the historic center of the city. The West German government, meanwhile, established itself provisionally in Bonn.

 Berlin Wall

The tensions between east and west culminated in the construction of the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin and other barriers around West Berlin by East Germany on 13 August 1961 and were exacerbated by a tank standoff at Checkpoint Charlie on 27 October 1961. West Berlin was now de facto a part of West Germany with a unique legal status, while East Berlin was de facto a part of East Germany.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is pictured at right.

Berlin was completely separated. It was possible for Westerners to pass from one to the other only through strictly controlled checkpoints. For most Easterners, travel to West Berlin or West Germany was no longer possible. In 1971, a Four-Power agreement guaranteed access across East Germany to West Berlin and ended the potential for harassment or closure of the routes.

In 1989, pressure from the East German population broke free across the Berlin Wall on 9 November, 1989, which was subsequently mostly demolished. Not much is left of it today; the East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain near the Oberbaumbrücke over the Spree preserves a portion of the Wall. Democracy and market economy changed East Germany and East Berlin.

On 3 October 1990 the two parts of Germany were reunified as the Federal Republic of Germany, and Berlin became the German capital according to the unification treaty. In June 1991 the German Parliament, the Bundestag, voted to move the (West) German capital back from Bonn to Berlin. In 1999, the German parliament and government began their work in Berlin.

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Bern

 Bern

The city of Bern or Berne is the Bundesstadt (federal city, de facto capital) of Switzerland, and, with about 130,000 people , the fourth most populous city in Switzerland. The Bern agglomeration, which includes 43 municipalities, has a population of 349,000. Bern is also the capital of the Canton of Bern, the second most populous of Switzerland's cantons.

The official language of Bern is German. The spoken language is the Swiss German dialect Bernese German.

The historic center of Bern has been featured in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1983, and Bern is among the world’s top ten cities for the best quality of life.

 Bern

Bern in 1638Duke Berchtold V of Zähringen founded the city on the River Aare in 1191 and allegedly named it after a bear (Bär in German) he had killed. It was made an Imperial Free City by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1218 after Berthold died without an heir. In 1353 Bern joined the young Swiss Confederation, becoming a leading member of the confederation. It invaded and conquered Aargau in 1415 and Vaud in 1536, as well as other smaller territories, thereby becoming the largest city-state north of the Alps. It was occupied by French troops in 1798 during the French Revolutionary Wars, when it was stripped of parts of its territories. In 1831 the city became the capital of the Canton of Bern and in 1848 it additionally became the Swiss capital.

The city grew out towards the west of the boundaries of the peninsula formed by the river Aare. Initially, the Zytglogge tower marked the western boundary of the city from 1191 until 1256, when the Käfigturm took over this role until 1345, which, in turn, was then succeeded by the Christoffelturm (located close to today's train station) until 1622. During the time of the Thirty Years' War two new fortifications, the so-called big and small Schanze (entrenchment), were built to protect the whole area of the peninsula.

A number of congresses of the socialist First and Second Internationals were held in Bern, particularly during World War I when Switzerland was neutral.

 Bern

To the right is the Zytglogge clock tower and the city's medieval covered shopping promenades (Lauben).

The structure of Bern's city center is largely medieval and has been recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage Site. Perhaps its most famous sight is the Zytglogge (Bernese German for "Time Bell"), an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets. It also has an impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral, the Münster, and a 15th century town hall. Thanks to 6 kilometers of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe.

Since the 16th century, the city has had a bear pit (the Bärengraben). The current pit off the far end of the Nydeggbrücke no longer contains any bears, the last being put down in 2009, shortly before the opening of the new bear pit later in the year.

The Federal Palace (Bundeshaus), built from 1857 to 1902, which houses the national parliament, government and part of the federal administration, can also be visited.

 Bern

Albert Einstein lived in an apartment at the Kramgasse 49 (left), the site of the Einsteinhaus, from 1903 to 1905, the year in which the Annus Mirabilis Papers were published.

The Garden of Roses (Rosengarten), from which a scenic panoramic view of the medieval town centre can be enjoyed, is a well-kept Rosary on a hill, converted into a park from a former cemetery in 1913.

Bern's most recent sight is the set of fountains in front of the Federal Palace. It was inaugurated on August 1, 2004.

Bern features many heritage sites of national significance. Apart from the entire Old Town and many sites within it, these include the Bärengraben, the Gewerbeschule Bern (1937), the Eidgenössisches Archiv für Denkmalpflege, the Kirchenfeld mansion district (after 1881), the Thunplatzbrunnen, the Federal Mint building, the Federal Archives, the Swiss National Library, the Historical Museum (1894), Alpine Museum, Museum of Communication and Natural History Museum.

The Universal Postal Union is situated in Bern.

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Brussels

 Brussels

Brussels is the de facto capital city of the European Union (EU) and the largest urban area in Belgium. It comprises 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels proper, which is the capital of Belgium, Flanders and the French Community of Belgium.

Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by a descendant of Charlemagne into a metropolis of more than one million inhabitants. The metropolitan area has a population of over 1.8 million, making it the largest in Belgium.

Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been an important centre for international politics. The presence of the main EU institutions as well as the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has made the city a polyglot home of `many international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants.

Although historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels became more and more French-speaking over the 19th and 20th centuries. Today a majority of inhabitants are native French-speakers, although both languages have official status. Linguistic tensions remain, and the language laws of the municipalities surrounding Brussels are an issue of much controversy in Belgium.

 Charles of Lorraine

Charles of Lorraine (left) founded what would become Brussels c. 979.

The most common theory for the etymology of Brussels is that it derives from the Old Dutch Broeksel or other spelling variants, which means marsh (broek) and home (sel) or "home in the marsh". The origin of the settlement that was to become Brussels lies in Saint Gaugericus' construction of a chapel on an island in the river Senne around 580. The official founding of Brussels is usually situated around 979, when Duke Charles of Lower Lotharingia transferred the relics of Saint Gudula from Moorsel to the Saint Gaugericus chapel. Charles would construct the first permanent fortification in the city, doing so on that same island.

The Lambert I of Leuven, Count of Leuven gained the County of Brussels around 1000 by marrying Charles' daughter. Because of its location on the shores of the Senne on an important trade route between Bruges and Ghent, and Cologne, Brussels grew quite quickly; it became a commercial centre that rapidly extended towards the upper town (St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral, Coudenberg, Sablon/Zavel area . . .), where there was a smaller risk of floods. As it grew to a population of around 30,000, the surrounding marshes were drained to allow for further expansion. The Counts of Leuven became Dukes of Brabant at about this time (1183/1184). In the 11th century, the city got its first walls.

 Grand Place

Grand Place (right) after the 1695 bombardment by the French army.

After the construction of the first walls of Brussels, in the early 13th century, Brussels grew significantly. In order to let the city expand, a second set of walls was erected between 1356 and 1383. Today, traces of it can still be seen, mostly because the "small ring", a series of roadways in downtown Brussels bounding the historic city centre, follows its former course.

In the 15th century, by means of the wedding of heiress Margaret III of Flanders with Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, a new Duke of Brabant emerged from the House of Valois (namely Antoine, their son), with another line of descent from the Habsburgs (Maximilian of Austria, later Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, married Mary of Burgundy, who was born in Brussels). Brabant had lost its independence, but Brussels became the Princely Capital of the prosperous Low Countries, and flourished.

Charles V, heir of the Low Countries since 1506, though (as he was only 6 years old) governed by his aunt Margaret of Austria until 1515, was declared King of Spain, in 1516, in the Cathedral of Saint Gudule in Brussels. Upon the death of his grandfather, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, Charles became the new archduke of the Habsburg Empire and thus the Holy Roman Emperor of the Empire "on which the sun does not set". It was in the Palace complex at Coudenberg that Charles V abdicated in 1555. This impressive palace, famous all over Europe, had greatly expanded since it had first become the seat of the Dukes of Brabant, but it was destroyed by fire in 1731.

In 1695, French troops sent by King Louis XIV bombarded Brussels with artillery. Together with the resulting fire, it was the most destructive event in the entire history of Brussels. The Grand Place was destroyed, along with 4000 buildings, a third of those in the city. The reconstruction of the city centre, effected during subsequent years, profoundly changed the appearance of the city and left numerous traces still visible today.

 Belgian Revolution

Episode of the Belgian Revolution of 1830 (left), Wappers (1834).

In 1830, the Belgian revolution took place in Brussels after a performance of Auber's opera La Muette de Portici at the La Monnaie theatre. On 21 July 1831, Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians, ascended the throne, undertaking the destruction of the city walls and the construction of many buildings. Following independence, the city underwent many more changes. The Senne had become a serious health hazard, and from 1867 to 1871 its entire urban area was completely covered over. This allowed urban renewal and the construction of modern buildings and boulevards which are characteristic of downtown Brussels today.

During the 20th century the city has hosted various fairs and conferences, including the fifth Solvay Conference in 1927 and two world fairs: the Brussels International Exposition of 1935 and the Expo '58. Brussels suffered damage from World War II, though it was minor compared to cities in Germany and the United Kingdom.

 1927 Solvay Conference

The 1927 Solvay Conference in Brussels (right) was the first world physics conference.

After the war, Brussels was modernized for better and for worse. The construction of the North-South Junction linking the main railway stations in the city was completed in 1952, while the first Brussels premetro was finished in 1969, and the first line of the Brussels Metro was opened in 1976. Starting from the early 1960s, Brussels became the de facto capital of what would become the European Union, and many modern buildings were built. Unfortunately, development was allowed to proceed with little regard to the aesthetics of newer buildings, and many architectural gems were demolished to make way for newer buildings which often clashed with their surroundings, a process known as Brusselization.

The Brussels-Capital Region was formed on 18 June 1989 after a constitutional reform in 1970. The Brussels-Capital Region was made bilingual, and it is one of the three federal regions of Belgium, along with Flanders and Wallonia.

 Grand Place  Cinquantenaire park

The architecture in Brussels is diverse, and spans from the mediaeval constructions on the Grand Place to the postmodern buildings of the EU institutions.

Main attractions include the Grand Place (left), since 1988 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Gothic town hall in the old centre, the St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral and the Laken Castle with its large greenhouses. Another famous landmark is the Royal Palace.

The Atomium is a symbolic 103-metre (338 ft) tall structure that was built for the 1958 World’s Fair. It consists of nine steel spheres connected by tubes, and forms a model of an iron crystal (specifically, a unit cell). The architect A. Waterkeyn devoted the building to science. Next to the Atomium is the Mini-Europe park with 1:25 scale maquettes of famous buildings from across Europe.

 The Manneken Pis

The Manneken Pis (right), a bronze fountain of a small peeing boy is a famous tourist attraction and symbol of the city.

The Statue of Europe Unity in Peace (French sculptor Bernard Romain):This monumental work dedicated to Europe carries a universal symbol of brotherhood,tolerance and hope.

Etterbeek Van Maerlant street.

Other landmarks include the Cinquantenaire park (right above) with its triumphal arch and nearby museums, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels Stock Exchange, the Palace of Justice and the buildings of EU institutions in the European Quarter.

Cultural facilities include the Brussels Theatre and the La Monnaie Theatre and opera house. There is a wide array of museums, from the Royal Museum of Fine Art to the Museum of the Army and the Comic Museum. Brussels also has a lively music scene, with everything from opera houses and concert halls to music bars and techno clubs.

The city centre is notable for its Flemish town houses. Also particularly striking are the buildings in the Art Nouveau style by the Brussels architect Victor Horta. Some of Brussels' districts were developed during the heyday of Art Nouveau, and many buildings are in this style. Good examples include Schaerbeek, Etterbeek, Ixelles, and Saint-Gilles. Another example of Brussels Art Nouveau is the Stoclet Palace, by the Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann. The modern buildings of Espace Leopold complete the picture.

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Bucharest

 Bucharest

Bucharest is the capital city, industrial and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country, and lies on the banks of the Dambovita River.

Bucharest was first mentioned in documents as early as 1459. Since then it has gone through a variety of changes, becoming the state capital of Romania in 1862 and steadily consolidating its position as the centre of the Romanian mass media, culture and arts. Its eclectic architecture is a mix of historical (neo-classical), interbellum (Bauhaus and Art Deco), Communist-era and modern. In the period between the two World Wars, the city's elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite earned Bucharest the nickname of the "Little Paris of the East" (Micul Paris). Although many buildings and districts in the historic centre were damaged or destroyed by war, earthquakes and Nicolae Ceausescu's program of systematization, many survived. In recent years, the city has been experiencing an economic and cultural boom.

According to January 1, 2009 official estimates, Bucharest proper has a population of 1,944,367. The urban area extends beyond the limits of Bucharest proper and has a population of 2 million people. Adding the satellite towns around the urban area, the metropolitan area of Bucharest has a population of 2.15 million people. Bucharest is the 6th largest city in the European Union by population within city limits.

Economically, Bucharest is the most prosperous in Romania and is one of the main industrial centres and transportation hubs of Eastern Europe. The city has a broad range of convention facilities, educational facilities, cultural venues, shopping arcades and recreational areas.

The city proper is administratively known as the Municipality of Bucharest, and has the same administrative level as a county, being further subdivided into six sectors.

The name of Bucur has an uncertain origin: tradition connects the founding of Bucharest with the name of Bucur who was either a prince, an outlaw, a fisherman, a shepherd, or a hunter, according to different legends. In Albanian, a language which may have historical connections with the Thracian languages, 'bukur' signifies 'beautiful'; in Romanian the word stem bucur means 'glad', 'joy'.

The official city name in full is The Municipality of Bucharest.

A native or resident of Bucharest is called Bucharester.

 Curtea Veche

The remains of Curtea Veche (left), the royal court in Bucharest during the Middle Ages.

Bucharest's history alternated periods of development and decline from the early settlements of the Antiquity and until its consolidation as capital of Romania late in the 19th century.

First mentioned as "the Citadel of Bucuresti" in 1459, it became a residence of the Wallachian prince Vlad III the Impaler. The Old Princely Court (Curtea Veche) was built by Mircea Ciobanul, and during following rules, Bucharest was established as the summer residence of the court, competing with Targoviste for the status of capital after an increase in the importance of southern Muntenia brought about by the demands of the suzerain power, the Ottoman Empire.

Burned down by the Ottomans and briefly discarded by princes at the start of the 17th century, Bucharest was restored and continued to grow in size and prosperity. Its centre was around the street "Ulita Mare", which starting 1589 was known as Lipscani. Before the 1700s, it became the most important trade centre of Wallachia and became a permanent location for the Wallachian court after 1698 (starting with the reign of Constantin Brancoveanu).

 Bucharest in 1837

Bucharest in 1837 (right).

Partly destroyed by natural disasters and rebuilt several times during the following 200 years, hit by Caragea's plague in 1813–1814, the city was wrested from Ottoman control and occupied at several intervals by the Habsburg Monarchy (1716, 1737, 1789) and Imperial Russia (three times between 1768 and 1806). It was placed under Russian administration between 1828 and the Crimean War, with an interlude during the Bucharest-centred 1848 Wallachian revolution, and an Austrian garrison took possession after the Russian departure (remaining in the city until March 1857). Additionally, on March 23, 1847, a fire consumed about 2,000 buildings of Bucharest, destroying a third of the city. The social divide between rich and poor was described at the time by Ferdinand Lassalle as making the city "a savage hotchpotch".

 Map of Bucharest, WWI

Back view of the CEC Palace and the royal guard is at left.

In 1861, when Wallachia and Moldavia were united to form the Principality of Romania, Bucharest became the new nation's capital; in 1881, it became the political centre of the newly-proclaimed Kingdom of Romania. During the second half of the 19th century, due to its new status, the city's population increased dramatically, and a new period of urban development began. The extravagant architecture and cosmopolitan high culture of this period won Bucharest the nickname of "The Paris of the East" (or "Little Paris", Micul Paris), with Calea Victoriei as its Champs-Elysees or Fifth Avenue.

Between December 6, 1916 and November 1918, it was occupied by German forces, the legitimate capital being moved to Iasi. After World War I, Bucharest became the capital of Greater Romania. In January 1941 it was the place of Legionnaires' rebellion and Bucharest pogrom. As the capital of an Axis country, Bucharest suffered heavy losses during World War II, due to Allied bombings, and, on August 23, 1944, saw the royal coup which brought Romania into the anti-German camp, suffering a short but destructive period of Luftwaffe bombings in reprisal.

During Nicolae Ceausescu's leadership (1965–1989), most of the historic part of the city was destroyed and replaced with Communist-style buildings, particularly high-rise apartment buildings. The best example of this is the development called Centrul Civic (the Civic Centre), including the Palace of the Parliament, where an entire historic quarter was razed to make way for Ceausescu's megalomaniac constructions. In 1977, a strong 7.4 on the Richter-scale earthquake claimed 1,500 lives and destroyed many old buildings. Nevertheless, some historic neighbourhoods did survive to this day.

The Romanian Revolution of 1989 began with mass anti-Ceausescu protests in Timisoara in December 1989 and continued in Bucharest, leading to the overthrow of the Communist regime. Dissatisfied with the post-revolutionary leadership of the National Salvation Front, student leagues and opposition groups organized large-scale protests continued in 1990 (the Golaniad), which were violently stopped by the miners of Valea Jiului (the Mineriad). Several other Mineriads followed, the results of which included a government change.

After the year 2000, due to the advent of Romania's economic boom, the city has modernised and is currently undergoing a period of urban renewal. Various residential and commercial developments are underway, particularly in the northern districts, while Bucharest's historic centre is currently undergoing restoration.

Treaties signed in Bucharest:

	Treaty of May 28, 1812, at the end of the Russo-Turkish War 
	Treaty of March 3, 1886, at the end of the Serbo-Bulgarian War 
	Treaty of August 10, 1913, at the end of the Second Balkan War 
	Treaty of August 4, 1916, the treaty of alliance between Romania and the Entente 
	Treaty of May 6, 1918, the treaty between Romania and the Central Powers 

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Budapest

 Budapest

At right is a panorama at night of Budapest, photographed from Gellért Hill, showing from left to right the Matthias Church, Buda Castle, Széchenyi Chain Bridge and the Parliament.

Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it serves as the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation center and is considered an important hub in Central Europe. In 2009, Budapest had 1,712,210 inhabitants, down from a mid-1980s peak of 2.1 million. The Budapest Commuter Area (or Greater Budapest) is home to 3,271,110 people. The city covers an area of 525 square kilometres (202.7 sq mi) within the city limits. Budapest became a single city occupying both banks of the river Danube with a unification on 17 November 1873 of right (west)-bank Buda and Obuda with left (east)-bank Pest.

Aquincum, originally a Celtic settlement, was the direct ancestor of Budapest, becoming the Roman capital of Lower Pannonia. Magyars arrived in the territory in the 9th century. Their first settlement was pillaged by the Mongols in 1241-42. The re-established town became one of the centers of Renaissance humanist culture in the 15th century. Following the Battle of Mohács and nearly 150 years of Ottoman rule, development of the region entered a new age of prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Budapest became a global city after the 1873 unification. It also became the second capital of Austria-Hungary, a great power that dissolved in 1918. Budapest was the focal point of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919, Operation Panzerfaust in 1944, the Battle of Budapest of 1945, and the Revolution of 1956.

Regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, its extensive World Heritage Site includes the banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, Andrássy Avenue, Heroes' Square and the Millennium Underground Railway, the second oldest in the world. Other highlights include a total of 80 geothermal springs, the world's largest thermal water cave system, second largest synagogue, and third largest Parliament building. The collections of the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts are also significant.

The city ranked 3rd (out of 65 cities) on Mastercard's Emerging Markets Index (2008), and ranked as the most livable Central/Eastern European city on EIU's quality of life index (2009). It attracts over 20 million visitors a year. The headquarters of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and the first foreign office of the CIPA will be in Budapest.

 Buda Castle

Buda Castle during the Middle Ages (left).

The first settlement on the territory of Budapest was Ak-Ink (English: Abundant Water) built by Celts. before 1 AD. It was later occupied by the Romans. The Roman settlement - Aquincum - became the main city of Lower Pannonia in 106 AD. The Romans constructed roads, amphitheaters, baths and houses with heated floors in this fortified military camp

The peace treaty of 829 added Panonia to Bulgaria due to the victory of Bulgarian army of Omurtag over Holy Roman Empire of Louis the Pious. Budapest arose out of two Bulgarian military frontier fortresses Buda and Pest, situated on the two banks of Danube. Hungarians led by Arpád settled in the territory at the end of the 9th century, and a century later officially founded the Kingdom of Hungary. Research places the probable residence of the Arpáds an early place of central power near what became Budapest. The Tatar invasion in the 13th century quickly proved that defence is difficult on a plain. King Béla IV of Hungary therefore ordered the construction of reinforced stone walls around the towns and set his own royal palace on the top of the protecting hills of Buda. In 1361 it became the capital of Hungary.

The cultural role of Buda was particularly significant during the reign of Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. The Italian Renaissance had a great influence on the city. His library, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, was Europe's greatest collection of historical chronicles and philosophic and scientific works in the 15th century, and second only in size to the Vatican Library. After the foundation of the first Hungarian university in Pécs in 1367 the second one was established in Óbuda in 1395. The first Hungarian book was printed in Buda in 1473.

 Royal Palace

Hungarian Royal Palace (picture from 1930, at right).

The Ottomans pillaged Buda in 1526, besieged it in 1529, and finally occupied it in 1541. The Turkish occupation lasted for more than 140 years. The Turks constructed some fine bathing facilities here. The unoccupied western part of the country became part of the Habsburg Empire as Royal Hungary.

In 1686, two years after the unsuccessful siege of Buda, a renewed campaign was started to enter the Hungarian capital. This time, the Holy League's army was twice as large, containing over 74,000 men, including German, Croat, Dutch, Hungarian, English, Spanish, Czech, Italian, French, Burgundian, Danish and Swedish soldiers, along with other Europeans as volunteers, artilleryman, and officers, the Christian forces reconquered Buda, and in the next few years, all of the former Hungarian lands, except areas near Timisoara (Temesvár), were taken from the Turks. In the 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz these territorial changes were officially recognized, and in 1718 the entire Kingdom of Hungary was removed from Ottoman rule.

The city was destroyed during the battle. Hungary was then incorporated into the Habsburg Empire.

The nineteenth century was dominated by the Hungarians' struggle for independence and modernization. The national insurrection against the Habsburgs began in the Hungarian capital in 1848 and was defeated a little more than a year later.

 State Opera House

The Hungarian State Opera House (left), built in the time of Austria-Hungary.

1867 was the year of Reconciliation that brought about the birth of Austria-Hungary. This made Budapest the twin capital of a dual monarchy. It was this compromise which opened the second great phase of development in the history of Budapest, lasting until World War I. In 1873 Buda and Pest were officially merged with the third part, Obuda (Ancient Buda), thus creating the new metropolis of Budapest. The dynamic Pest grew into the country's administrative, political, economic, trade and cultural hub. Budapest went from about 80% German-speaking in 1848 to about 80% Hungarian-speaking in 1880.

World War I brought the Golden Age to an end. In 1918 Austria-Hungary lost the war and collapsed; Hungary declared itself an independent republic. In 1920 the Treaty of Trianon finalized the country's partition, as a result, Hungary lost over two-thirds of its territory, about two-thirds of its inhabitants under the treaty including 3.3 million out of 10 million ethnic Hungarians.

In 1944, towards the end of World War II, Budapest was partly destroyed by British and American air raids. From 24 December 1944 to 13 February 1945, the city was besieged during the Battle of Budapest. Budapest suffered major damage caused by the attacking Soviet troops and the defending German and Hungarian troops. All bridges were destroyed by the Germans. More than 38,000 civilians lost their lives during the conflict.

 Jewish WWII Memorial

Hungarian Jewish WWII Memorial (right).

Between 20% and 40% of Greater Budapest's 250,000 Jewish inhabitants died through Nazi and Arrow Cross Party genocide during 1944 and early 1945. Despite this, modern day Budapest has the highest number of Jewish citizens per capita of any European city.

In 1949, Hungary was declared a communist People's Republic. The new Communist government considered the buildings like the Buda Castle symbols of the former regime, and during the 1950s the palace was gutted and all the interiors were destroyed.

In 1956, peaceful demonstrations in Budapest led to the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution. The Leadership collapsed after mass demonstrations began on 23 October, but Soviet tanks entered Budapest to crush the revolt. Fighting continued until early November, leaving more than 3000 dead.

From the 1960s to the late 1980s Hungary was often satirically referred to as "the happiest barrack" within the Eastern bloc, and much of the wartime damage to the city was finally repaired. Work on Erzsébet Bridge, the last to be rebuilt, was finished in 1965. In the early 1970s, Budapest Metro's East-West M2 line was first opened, followed by the M3 line in 1982. In 1987, Buda Castle and the banks of the Danube were included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Andrassy Avenue (including the Millennium Underground Railway, Hosok tere and Városliget) was added to the UNESCO list in 2002. In the 1980s the city's population reached 2.1 million. In recent times a significant decrease in habitants occurred mainly due to a massive movement to the neighbouring agglomeration in Pest county. In the last decades of the 20th century the political changes of 1989-90 concealed changes in civil society and along the streets of Budapest. The monuments of the dictatorship were taken down from public places, into Memento Park.

The neo-Gothic Parliament, containing amongst other things the Hungarian Crown Jewels. Saint Stephen's Basilica, where the Holy Right Hand of the founder of Hungary, King Saint Stephen is on display. The Hungarian cuisine and café culture: for example, Gerbeaud Café, and the Százéves, Biarritz, Fortuna, Alabárdos, Arany Szarvas, Kárpátia and the world famous Mátyás Pince Restaurants. There are Roman remains at the Aquincum Museum, and historic furniture at the Nagytétény Castle Museum.

 View of Budapest

View of Budapest (left) with the river Danube, the Parliament in the middle and the Buda hills in the background.

The Castle Hill, the River Danube embankments and the whole of Andrássy út have been officially recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Castle Hill and the Castle District; there are three churches here, six museums, and a host of interesting buildings, streets and squares. The former Royal Palace is one of the symbols of Hungary – and has been the scene of battles and wars ever since the thirteenth century. Nowadays it houses two impressive museums and the National Széchenyi Library. The nearby Sándor Palace contains the offices and official residence of the President of Hungary. The seven-hundred year-old Matthias Church is one of the jewels of Budapest. Next to it is an equestrian statue of the first king of Hungary, King Saint Stephen, and behind that is the Fisherman's Bastion, from where opens out a panoramic view of the whole city. Statues of the Turul, the mythical guardian bird of Hungary, can be found in both the Castle District and the Twelfth District.

 The Holy Crown

The Holy Crown, a key symbol of Hungary.

In Pest, arguably the most important sight is Andrássy út. As far as Kodály Korond and Oktogon both sides are lined with large shops and flats built close together. Between there and Heroes’ Square the houses are detached and altogether grander. Under the whole runs continental Europe’s oldest Underground railway, most of whose stations retain their original appearance. Heroes’ Square is dominated by the Millenary Monument, with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front. To the sides are the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Arts, and behind City Park opens out, with Vajdahunyad Castle. One of the jewels of Andrássy út is the Hungarian State Opera House. Statue Park, a theme park with striking statues of the Communist era, is located just outside the main city and is accessible by public transport.

The city is home to the largest synagogue in Europe (Dohány Street Synagogue), the largest medicinal bath in Europe (Széchenyi Medicinal Bath) and the third largest Parliament building in the world, once the largest in the world. The third largest church in Europe (Esztergom Basilica) and the second largest Baroque castle in the world (Godollo) are in the vicinity.

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Buenos Aires

 Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is the capital, and largest city, of Argentina, currently the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent. The city of Buenos Aires is not part of Buenos Aires Province, nor is it its capital; rather, it is an autonomous federal district. Greater Buenos Aires is the third-largest conurbation in Latin America, with a population of around 13 million. Buenos Aires is considered an Alpha World City listed by the Loughborough University group's (GaWC) 2008 inventory.

After the internal conflicts of the 19th century, Buenos Aires was federalised and removed from Buenos Aires Province in 1880. The city limits were enlarged to include the former towns of Belgrano and Flores, which are both now neighbourhoods of the city.

Buenos Aires (English: Fair Winds or Good Air) was originally named after the sanctuary of "Nostra Signora di Bonaria" (Italian for "Our Lady of Bonaria") in Cagliari, Sardinia. In the 1994 constitution the city became autonomous, hence its formal name: Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, in English, Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. People from Buenos Aires are called porteños (people of the port).

 Juan de Garay

Depiction of Juan de Garay and the founding of Buenos Aires, 1580 is at left.

Seaman Juan Díaz de Solís, navigating in the name of Spain, was the first European to reach the Río de la Plata in 1516. His expedition was cut short when he was killed during an attack by the native Charrúa tribe in what is now Uruguay.

The city of Buenos Aires was first established as Ciudad de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre (literally "City of Our Lady Saint Mary of the Fair Winds") on 2 February 1536 by a Spanish expedition led by Pedro de Mendoza. The city founded by Mendoza was located in what is today the San Telmo district of Buenos Aires, south of the city center.

More attacks by the indigenous peoples forced the settlers away, and in 1541 the site was abandoned. A second (and permanent) settlement was established in 1580 by Juan de Garay, who arrived by sailing down the Paraná River from Asunción (now the capital of Paraguay). He dubbed the settlement "Santísima Trinidad" and its port became "Puerto de Santa María de los Buenos Aires."

 Juan de Garay

An aerial view of the city's northside; two out of three Porteños live in apartment buildings.

From its earliest days, Buenos Aires depended primarily on trade. During most of the 17th and 18th centuries, Spain insisted that all trade to Europe pass through Lima, Peru so that taxes could be collected. This scheme frustrated the traders of Buenos Aires, and a thriving contraband industry developed. This also instilled a deep resentment in porteños towards the Spanish authorities.

Sensing these feelings, Charles III of Spain progressively eased the trade restrictions and finally declared Buenos Aires an open port in the late 1700s. The capture of Porto Bello by British forces also fueled the need to foster commerce via the Atlantic route, to the detriment of Lima-based trade. Charles's placating actions did not have the desired effect, and the porteños, some of them versed in the ideology of the French Revolution, became even more convinced of the need for Independence from Spain.

During the British invasions of the Río de la Plata, British forces attacked Buenos Aires twice, in 1806 and 1807, but were repelled both times by local militias. Ultimately, on 25 May 1810, while Spain was occupied with the Peninsular War and after a week of mostly peaceful demonstrations, the criollo citizens of Buenos Aires successfully ousted the Spanish Viceroy and established a provisional government. 25 May is now celebrated as a national holiday (May Revolution Day). Formal independence from Spain was declared in 1816.

Historically, Buenos Aires has been Argentina's main venue for liberal and free-trade ideas, while many of the provinces, especially to the northwest, advocated a more conservative Catholic approach to political and social issues. Much of the internal tension in Argentina's history, starting with the centralist-federalist conflicts of the 19th century, can be traced back to these contrasting views. In the months immediately following the 25 May Revolution, Buenos Aires sent a number of military envoys to the provinces with the intention of obtaining their approval. Many of these missions ended in violent clashes, and the enterprise fueled the tensions between the capital and the provinces.

 Florida Street  Standard Bank

In 1920, bustling Florida Street is pictured at the left, and Standard Bank's local headquarters (formerly BankBoston's) is at the right.

In the 19th century the city was blockaded twice by naval forces: by the French from 1838 to 1840, and later by a joint Anglo-French expedition from 1845 to 1848. Both blockades failed to force the city into submission, and the foreign powers eventually desisted from their demands.

During most of the 19th century, the political status of the city remained a sensitive subject. It was already capital of Buenos Aires Province, and between 1853 and 1860 it was the capital of the seceded State of Buenos Aires. The issue was fought out more than once on the battlefield, until the matter was finally settled in 1880 when the city was federalised and became the seat of government, with its Mayor appointed by the President. The Casa Rosada became the seat of the President.

In addition to the wealth generated by the fertile pampas, railroad construction in the second half of the 19th century increased the economic power of Buenos Aires as raw materials flowed into its factories. Buenos Aires became a multicultural city that ranked itself with the major European capitals. The Colón Theater became one of the world's top opera venues. The city's main avenues were built during those years, and the dawn of the 20th century saw the construction of South America's then-tallest buildings and first underground system.

 Chinese Arch

The Chinese Arch in Buenos Aires' Chinatown, at left, reflects the continuing importance of immigration in Argentina.

By the 1920s Buenos Aires was a favoured destination for immigrants from Europe, particularly Spain and Italy, as well as from Argentina's provinces and neighbouring countries. Shanty towns (villas miseria) started growing around the city's industrial areas during the 1930s, leading to pervasive social problems which contrasted sharply with Argentina's image as a country of riches. A second construction boom from 1945 to 1980 reshaped downtown and much of the city.

Buenos Aires was the cradle of Peronism: the now-mythologized demonstration of 17 October 1945 took place in Plaza de Mayo. Industrial workers of the Greater Buenos Aires industrial belt have been Peronism's main support base ever since, and Plaza de Mayo became the site for demonstrations and many of the country's political events; on 16 June 1955, however, a splinter faction of the Navy bombed the Plaza de Mayo area, killing 364 civilians. This was the only time the city was attacked from the air, and the event was followed by a military uprising which deposed President Perón, three months later.

In the 1970s the city suffered from the fighting between left-wing revolutionary movements (Montoneros, E.R.P. and F.A.R.) and the right-wing paramilitary group Triple A, supported by Isabel Perón, who became president of Argentina in 1974 after Juan Perón's death.

The military coup of 1976, led by Jorge Rafael Videla, only escalated this conflict; the "Dirty War" resulted in 30,000 desaparecidos (people kidnapped and killed by the military during the years of the junta). The silent marches of their mothers (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) are a well-known image of Argentines suffering during those times.

The dictatorship also drew up plans for a network of freeways intended to relieve the city's acute traffic gridlock. The plan, however, called for a seemingly indiscriminate razing of residential areas and, though only three of the eight planned were put up at the time, they were mostly obtrusive raised freeways that continue to blight a number of formerly comfortable neighborhoods to this day.

 Chinese Arch

The Municipal Legislature is pictured at right.

The city was visited by Pope John Paul II twice: in 1982, due to the outbreak of the Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas/Guerra del Atlántico Sur), and a second visit in 1987, which gathered crowds never before seen in the city.

On 17 March 1992 a bomb exploded in the Israeli Embassy, killing 29 and injuring 242. Another explosion, on 18 July 1994 destroyed a building housing several Jewish organizations, killing 85 and injuring many more, these incidents marked the beginning of Middle Eastern terrorism to South America.

Following a 1993 agreement, the Argentine Constitution was amended to give Buenos Aires autonomy and rescinding, among other things, the president's right to appoint the city's mayor (as had been the case since 1880). On 30 June 1996, voters in Buenos Aires chose their first elected mayor (Chief of Government). On 30 December 2004 a fire at the República Cromagnon nightclub killed almost 200 people, one of the greatest non-natural tragedies in Argentine history.

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Cairo

 Cairo

Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in North Africa and the Arab World. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a center of the region's political and cultural life. Even before Cairo was established in the tenth century, the land composing the present-day city was the site of national capitals whose remnants remain visible in parts of Old Cairo. Cairo is also associated with Ancient Egypt due to its proximity to the Great Sphinx and the pyramids in adjacent Giza.

Egyptians today often refer to Cairo as Masr, the Egyptian Arabic pronunciation of the name for Egypt itself, emphasizing the city's continued role in Egyptian influence. Cairo has the oldest and largest film and music industries in the Arab World, as well as the world's second-oldest institution of higher learning, al-Azhar University. Many international media, businesses, and organizations have regional headquarters in the city, and the Arab League has been based in Cairo for most of its existence.

With a population of 6.8 million spread over 214 square kilometers (83 sq mi), Cairo is by far the largest city in Egypt. With an additional ten million inhabitants just outside the city, Cairo resides at the center of the largest metropolitan area in Africa and the eleventh-largest urban area in the world. Cairo, like many large cities in developing countries, suffers from high levels of pollution and traffic, but its metro – currently the only on the African continent – also ranks among the fifteen busiest in the world, with over 700 million passenger rides annually.

 Fustat

A rendition of Fustat (left) from A.S. Rappoport's History of Egypt.

The area around present-day Cairo, especially Memphis, had long been a focal point of Ancient Egypt due to its strategic location just upstream from the Nile Delta. However, the origins of the modern city are generally traced back to a series of settlements in the first millennium AD. Around the turn of the 4th century, as Memphis was continuing to decline in importance, the Romans established a fortress town along the east bank of the Nile. This fortress, known as Babylon, remains the oldest structure in the city. It is also situated at the nucleus of Egypt's Coptic Christian community, which separated from the Roman and Byzantine church in the late 4th century. Many of Cairo's oldest Coptic churches, including The Hanging Church, are located along the fortress walls in a section of the city known as Coptic Cairo.

After the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 641, Rashidun commander 'Amr ibn al-'As established Fustat just north of Coptic Cairo and Babylon. At Caliph Umar's request, the Egyptian capital was moved from Alexandria to the new city. Fustat also became a regional center of Islam and home to the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, the first mosque in Egypt. When the Abbasids usurped the Umayyads in 750, they moved the capital to al-Askar, which they had built just north of Fustat. In 868, under the Tulunids, Egypt's capital was moved further north to their own settlement, al-Qatta'i. However, neither al-Askar nor al-Qatta'i achieved the prominence of Fustat; al-Askar had become indistinguishable from Fustat by the end of the 9th century, and al-Qatta'i was destroyed by the Abbasids when they recaptured Egypt in 905. With the Abbasids' second conquest, Fustat once again became the capital of Egypt.

In 969, led by General Gawhar al-Siqilli, the Fatimid Caliphate conquered Egypt and established a new fortified city northeast of Fustat. It took four years for Gawhar to build the city, initially known as al-Mansuriyyah, which was to serve as the new capital of the caliphate. During that time, Gawhar also commissioned the construction of al-Azhar Mosque, which developed into the second-oldest university in the world. Cairo would eventually became a center of learning, with the library of Cairo containing hundreds of thousands of books. When Caliph al-Mu'izz li Din Allah finally arrived from the old Fatimid capital of Mahdia in 973, the city was given its present name, al-Qahira ("The Victorious"), in reference to the caliph.

 Cairo Citadel

The Cairo Citadel, seen at right in the late 19th century, was built between 1176 and 1183.

For nearly two hundred years after Cairo was established, the administrative center of Egypt remained in Fustat. However, in 1168, the Fatamids, under the leadership of Vizier Shawar, set fire to Fustat to prevent Cairo's capture by the Crusaders. Egypt's capital was permanently moved to Cairo, which eventually expanded to include the ruins of Fustat and the previous capitals of al-Askar and al-Qatta'i. While the Fustat fire successfully protected the city of Cairo, a continuing power struggle between Shawar, King Amalric I of Jerusalem, and Syrian general Shirkuh led to the downfall of the Fatimid establishment.

In 1169, Saladin was appointed as the new vizier of Egypt and, two years later, he would seize power from the family of the last Fatimid caliph, Al-'Adid. As the first Sultan of Egypt, Saladin established the Ayyubid dynasty, based in Cairo and Damascus, and aligned Egypt with the Abbasids, who were based in Baghdad. During his reign, Saladin also constructed the Citadel, which served as the seat of Egyptian government until the mid-19th century.

In 1250, slave soldiers, known as the Mamluks, seized Egypt and, like many of their predecessors, established Cairo as the capital of their new dynasty. Continuing a practice started by the Ayyubids, much of the land occupied by former Fatimid palaces was sold and replaced by newer buildings. Construction projects initiated by the Mamluks pushed the city outward while also bringing new infrastructure to the center of the city. Meanwhile, Cairo flourished as a center of Islamic scholarship and a crossroads on the spice trade route between Europe and Asia. By 1340, Cairo had a population of close to half a million, making it the largest city west of China.

 Al-Azhar University

Al-Azhar University (left) attained its primacy among Islamic schools during the Ottoman period.

Although it avoided Europe's stagnation during the Late Middle Ages, Cairo could not escape the Black Death, which struck the city more than fifty times between 1348 and 1517. During its initial, and most deadly, waves, approximately 200,000 people were killed by the plague,and, by the 15th century, Cairo's population had been reduced to between 150,000 and 300,000. The city's status was further diminished after Vasco da Gama discovered a sea route around the Cape of Good Hope, thereby allowing spice traders to avoid Cairo.

Cairo's political influence diminished significantly after the Ottomans supplanted Mamluk power over Egypt in 1517. By the 16th century, Cairo also had high-rise apartment buildings where the two lower floors were for commercial and storage purposes and the multiple stories above them were rented out to tenants.

Under the Ottomans, Cairo expanded south and west from its nucleus around the Citadel. The city was the second-largest in the empire, behind only Istanbul, and, although migration was not the primary source of Cairo's growth, twenty percent of its population at the end of the 18th century consisted of religious minorities and foreigners from around the Mediterranean. Still, when Napoleon arrived in Cairo in 1798, the city's population was less than 300,000, forty percent lower than it was at the height of Mamluk—and Cairene—influence in the mid-14th century.

The French occupation was short-lived as British and Ottoman forces, including a sizable Albanian contingent, recaptured the country in 1801. The British vacated Egypt two years later, leaving the Ottomans, the Albanians, and the long-weakened Mamluks jostling for control of the country. Continued civil war allowed an Albanian named Muhammad Ali Pasha to ascend to the role of commander and eventually, with the approval of the religious establishment, viceroy of Egypt in 1805.

 high-rise buildings Today, high-rise buildings line the eastern edge of the Nile in central Cairo.

The immense debt resulting from Isma'il's projects provided a pretext for increasing European control, which culminated with the British invasion in 1882. The city's economic center quickly moved west toward the Nile, away from the historic Islamic Cairo section and toward the contemporary, European-style areas built by Isma'il. Europeans accounted for five percent of Cairo's population at the end of the 19th century, by which point they held most top governmental positions.

The British departed Cairo following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, but the city's rapid growth showed no signs of abating. Seeking to accommodate the increasing population, President Gamal Abdel Nasser redeveloped Midan Tahrir and the Nile Corniche, and improved the city's network of bridges and highways. Meanwhile, additional controls of the Nile fostered development within the island of Gezira and along the city's waterfront. The metropolis began to encroach on the fertile Nile Delta, prompting the government to build desert satellite towns and devise incentives for city-dwellers to move to them.

Despite these efforts, Cairo's population has doubled since the 1960s, reaching close to seven million (with an additional ten million in its urban area). Concurrently, Cairo has established itself as a political and economic hub for North Africa and the Arab World, with many multinational businesses and organizations, including the Arab League, operating out of the city.

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Cape Town

 Cape Town

Cape Town (Afrikaans: Kaapstad; Xhosa: iKapa) is the second most populous city in South Africa, and the largest in land area, forming part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality. It is the provincial capital of the Western Cape, as well as the legislative capital of South Africa, where the National Parliament and many government offices are situated. Cape Town is famous for its harbour as well as its natural setting in the Cape floral kingdom, including such well-known landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point. Cape Town is Africa's most popular destination for tourism.

Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a victualling (supply) station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa, India, and the Far East. Jan van Riebeeck's arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa. Cape Town quickly outgrew its original purpose as the first European outpost at the Castle of Good Hope, becoming the economic and cultural hub of the Cape Colony. Until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the development of Johannesburg, Cape Town was the largest city in South Africa.

As of 2007 the city had an estimated population of 3.5 million. Cape Town's land area of 2,455 square kilometres (948 sq mi) is larger than other South African cities, resulting in a comparatively lower population density of 1,425 inhabitants per square kilometre (3,690 /sq mi).

 Jan van Riebeeck

A painting (left) of the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in Table Bay (by Charles Bell).

There is no certainty as to when humans first occupied the area prior to the first visits of Europeans in the 15th century. The earliest known remnants in the region were found at Peers cave in Fish Hoek and date to between 15,000 and 12,000 years ago. Little is known of the history of the region's first residents, since there is no written history from the area before it was first mentioned by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1486. Vasco da Gama recorded a sighting of the Cape of Good Hope in 1497, and the area did not have regular contact with Europeans until 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck and other employees of the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Verenigde Oost-indische Compagnie, VOC) were sent to the Cape to establish a way-station for ships travelling to the Dutch East Indies, and the Redout Duijnhoop (later replaced by the Castle of Good Hope). The city grew slowly during this period, as it was hard to find adequate labour. This labour shortage prompted the city to import slaves from Indonesia and Madagascar. Many of these became ancestors of the first Cape Coloured communities.

During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, the Netherlands was repeatedly occupied by France, and Great Britain moved to take control of Dutch colonies. Britain captured Cape Town in 1795, but the Cape was returned to the Netherlands by treaty in 1803. British forces occupied the Cape again in 1806 following the battle of Bloubergstrand. In the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814, Cape Town was permanently ceded to Britain. It became the capital of the newly formed Cape Colony, whose territory expanded very substantially through the 1800s.

The discovery of diamonds in Griqualand West in 1867, and the Witwatersrand Gold Rush in 1886, prompted a flood of immigrants to South Africa. Conflicts between the Boer republics in the interior and the British colonial government resulted in the Second Boer War of 1899-1902, which Britain won. In 1910, Britain established the Union of South Africa, which unified the Cape Colony with the two defeated Boer Republics and the British colony of Natal. Cape Town became the legislative capital of the Union, and later of the Republic of South Africa.

 Nobel Square

Nobel Square at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (right).

In the 1948 national elections, the National Party won on a platform of apartheid (racial segregation) under the slogan of "swart gevaar". This led to the Group Areas Act, which classified all areas according to race. Formerly multi-racial suburbs of Cape Town were either purged of unlawful residents or demolished. The most infamous example of this in Cape Town was District Six. After it was declared a whites-only region in 1965, all housing there was demolished and over 60,000 residents were forcibly removed. Many of these residents were relocated to the Cape Flats and Lavender Hill. Under apartheid, the Cape was considered a "Coloured labour preference area", to the exclusion of "Bantus", i.e. blacks.

Cape Town was home to many leaders of the anti-apartheid movement. On Robben Island, a former penitentiary island 10 kilometres from the city, many famous political prisoners were held for years. In one of the most famous moments marking the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela made his first public speech in decades on 11 February 1990 from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall hours after being released. His speech heralded the beginning of a new era for the country, and the first democratic election was held four years later, on 27 April 1994. Nobel Square in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront features statues of South Africa's four Nobel Peace Prize winners - Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. Since 1994, the city has struggled with problems such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, a surge in violent drug-related crime and more recent xenophobic violence. At the same time, the economy has surged to unprecedented levels due to the boom in the tourism and the real estate industries.

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Casablanca

 Casablanca

Casablanca, Spanish for white (blanca) house (casa) ; nicknamed by locals: Caza; Antique and original name in Amazigh: Anfa ) is a city in western Morocco, located on the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the Greater Casablanca region.

With an official population of over 3.1 million (not including the expansive slums), Casablanca is Morocco's largest city as well as its chief port. It's also the biggest city in the Maghreb. Casablanca is considered the economic capital of Morocco because it is the heart of Moroccan business; the political capital is Rabat.

Casablanca hosts headquarters and main industrial facilities for the leading Moroccan and international companies based in Morocco. Industrial statistics show Casablanca retains its historical position as the main industrial zone of the country. The Port of Casablanca is one of the largest artificial ports in the world, and the largest port of North Africa. It is also the primary naval base for the Royal Moroccan Navy.

The area which is today Casablanca was settled by Berbers by at least the 7th century. A small independent kingdom, in the area then named Anfa, arose in the area around that time in response to Arab Muslim rule, and continued until it was conquered by the Almoravids in 1068.

During 14th century, under the Merinids, Anfa rose in importance as a port. In the early 15th century, the town became an independent state once again, and emerged as a safe harbour for pirates and privateers, leading to it being targeted by the Portuguese, who destroyed the town in 1468.

The Portuguese used the ruins of Anfa to build a military fortress in 1515. The town that grew up around it was called "Casa Branca", meaning "White House" in Portuguese.

Between 1580-1640, Casa Blanca was part of Spain, and later it became part of Portugal again. The European Colonists eventually abandoned the area completely in 1755 following an earthquake which destroyed most of the town.

The town was finally reconstructed by sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah (1756-1790), the grandson of Moulay Ismail and ally of George Washington.

In the 19th century, the area's population began to grow as Casablanca became a major supplier of wool to the booming textile industry in Britain and shipping traffic increased (the British, in return, began importing Morocco's now famous national drink, gunpowder tea). By the 1860s, there were around 5,000 residents, and the population grew to around 10,000 by the late 1880s. Casablanca remained a modestly-sized port, with a population reaching around 12,000 within a few years of the French conquest and arrival of French colonialists in the town, at first administrators within a sovereign sultanate, in 1906. By 1921, this was to rise to 110,000, largely through the development of bidonvilles.

 Boulevard de Paris

A view on the Boulevard de Paris in central Casablanca (left).

Boulevard Mohamed el Hansali in 1950sIn June 1907, the French attempted to build a light railway near the port and passing through a graveyard. Residents attacked the French workers, and riots ensued. French troops were landed in order to restore order, which was achieved only after severe damage to the town. The French then took control of Casablanca. This effectively began the process of colonizations, although French control of Casablanca was not formalised until 1910.

The famous 1942 film Casablanca underlined the city's colonial status at the time—depicting it as the scene of a power struggle between competing European powers, carried out with little reference to the local population. The film's vast cosmopolitan cast of characters (American, French, German, Czech, Norwegian, Bulgarian, Russian and some other nationalities) includes only a single (uncredited) local character, "Abdul" the doorman whose role is marginal.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Casablanca was a major centre of anti-French rioting. A terrorist bomb on Christmas Day of 1953 caused many casualties.

Casablanca was an important strategic port during the Second World War and hosted the Casablanca Conference in 1943, in which Churchill and Roosevelt discussed the progress of the war. Casablanca was the site of a large American air base, which was the staging area for all American aircraft for the European Theater of Operations during World War II.

 Blvd Mohamed el Hansali

Boulevard Mohamed el Hansali in 1950s (right).

Morocco gained independence from France on the 2nd of March, 1956.

In 1930, Casablanca hosted a Grand Prix. The race was held at the new Anfa Racecourse. In 1958, the race was held at Ain-Diab circuit - (see Moroccan Grand Prix). In 1983, Casablanca hosted the Mediterranean Games.

The city is now developing a tourism industry. Casablanca has become the economic and business capital of Morocco, while Rabat is the political capital.

In March 2000, women's groups organised demonstrations in Casablanca proposing reforms to the legal status of women in the country. 40,000 women attended, calling for a ban on polygamy and the introduction of divorce law (divorce being a purely religious procedure at that time). Although the counter-demonstration attracted half a million participants, the movement for change started in 2000 was influential on King Mohammed VI, and he enacted a new Mudawana, or family law, in early 2004, meeting some of the demands of women's rights activists.

On May 16, 2003, 33 civilians were killed and more than 100 people were injured when Casablanca was hit by a multiple suicide bomb attack carried out by Moroccans and claimed by some to have been linked to al-Qaeda.

A string of suicide bombings struck the city in early 2007. A suspected militant blew himself up at a Casablanca internet cafe on March 11, 2007. On April 10, three suicide bombers blew themselves up during a police raid of their safe house. Two days later, police set up barricades around the city and detained two more men who had escaped the raid. On April 14, two brothers blew themselves up in downtown Casablanca, one near the American Consulate, and one a few blocks away near the American Language Center. Only one person was injured aside from the bombers, but the Consulate was closed for more than a month.

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Chicago

 Chicago

Chicago is the largest city in the U.S. state of Illinois, and with more than 2.8 million people, the 3rd largest city in the United States. Located on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan and next to Indiana, Chicago is the third-most densely populated major city in the U.S. and anchor to the world's 26th largest metropolitan area with over 9.6 million people across three states. Except for the southwest corner of O'Hare Airport in DuPage County, the city of Chicago is located in Cook County.

 Downtown hub

After a series of wars with the local Native Americans, Chicago was founded in 1833, near a portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed. The city became a major transportation and telecommunications hub in North America.Today, the city (pictured at left with the business loop, chicago river, and Michigan Avenue intersection near left-center) retains its status as a major hub, both for industry and infrastructure, with its O'Hare International Airport as the second busiest airport in the world. In modern times, the city has taken on an additional dimension as a center for business and finance and is listed as one of the world's top ten Global Financial Centers. Chicago is a stronghold of the Democratic Party and has been home to influential politicians, including the current President of the United States, Barack Obama. The World Cities Study Group at Loughborough University rated Chicago as an, "alpha world city."

 Lighthouse  Navy Pier

To the left is the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse and on the right is a picture of the Navy Pier.

In 2007, the city attracted 32.8 million domestic visitors and about 1.15 million foreign visitors. Making use of its abundant resources, Chicago has a heritage for hosting major international, national, regional, and local events that include commerce, culture, entertainment, politics, and sports.

Globally recognized, Chicago has numerous nicknames, which reflect the impressions and opinions about historical and contemporary Chicago. The best known include: "Chi-town"; "Chi-city"; the "Windy City" with reference to Chicago politicians and residents boasting about their city; "Second City," due to the city generally being the second most prestigious in the nation in terms of culture, entertainment, and finance; and because for much of the twentieth century Chicago's population was the second largest of any city in the United States, and the "City of Big Shoulders", referring to its numerous skyscrapers (whose steel frame designs were largely pioneered in Chicago), described as being husky and brawling.

Chicago has also been called "the most American of big cities".

 Shabbona

During the mid 18th century the area was inhabited by a native American tribe known as the Potawatomis (to the left is pictured Shabbona, a Potowatomi chief), who had taken the place of the Miami and Sauk and Fox peoples. The first known non-indigenous permanent settler in Chicago, Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, who was a man of mixed African and European heritage born in Saint-Domingue (modern day Haiti), arrived in the 1770s, married a Potawatomi woman, and founded the area’s first trading post. In 1795, following the Northwest Indian War, an area that was to be part of Chicago was turned over by some Native Americans in the Treaty of Greenville to the United States for a military post. In 1803 the United States Army built Fort Dearborn, which was destroyed in the 1812 Fort Dearborn massacre. The Ottawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi later ceded additional land to the United States in the 1804 Treaty of St. Louis. The Potawatomi were eventually forcibly removed from their land following the Treaty of Chicago in 1833. On August 12, 1833, the Town of Chicago was organized with a population of around 200. Within seven years it grew to a population of over 4,000. The City of Chicago was incorporated on March 4, 1837. The name "Chicago" is a French rendering of the Native American word shikaakwa, meaning “wild onion”, from the Miami-Illinois language. Some historians believe that Native Americans used the word "Checagou" to describe, not merely the pungent smell of wild onion, but anything great or powerful. They would have used this word to describe La Salle's Fort Crevecoeur since it would have been the most impressive structure in the area. The first known reference to the site of the current city of Chicago as "Checagou" was by La Salle himself around 1679 in a memoir written about the time.

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Copenhagen

 Copenhagen

Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,167,569 (2009) and a metropolitan population of 1,875,179 (2009). Copenhagen is situated on the islands of Zealand and Amager.

First documented in the 11th century, Copenhagen became the capital of Denmark in the beginning of the 15th century and during the 17th century under the reign of Christian IV it became an important regional centre. With the completion of the transnational Oresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Oresund Region. Within this region, Copenhagen and the Swedish city of Malmo are in the process of growing into one common metropolitan area. With around 2.7 million inhabitants within a 50 km radius, Copenhagen is one of the most densely populated areas in Northern Europe. Copenhagen is the most visited city of the Nordic countries with 1.3 million international tourists in 2007.

Copenhagen is a major regional center of culture, business, media, and science. In 2008 Copenhagen was ranked #4 by Financial Times-owned FDi magazine on their list of Top 50 European Cities of the Future after London, Paris and Berlin. In the 2008 Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index, published by MasterCard, Copenhagen was ranked 14th in the world and 1st in Scandinavia. In the The 2008 Global Cities Index, Copenhagen was ranked 36th in the world, 15th in Europe, and 2nd in Scandinavia. Life science, information technology and shipping are important sectors and research & development plays a major role in the city's economy. Its strategic location and excellent infrastructure with the largest airport in Scandinavia located 14 minutes by train from the city centre, has made it a regional hub and a popular location for regional headquarters as well as conventions. As a result, Copenhagen ranks 3rd in Western Europe and 1st in the Nordic countries for attracting head offices.

Copenhagen has repeatedly been recognized as one of the cities with the best quality of life and in 2008 it was singled out as the Most Liveable City in the World by international lifestyle magazine Monocle on their Top 25 Most Liveable Cities 2008 list. It is also considered one of the world's most environmentally friendly cities. The water in the inner harbor is so clean that it can be swum in, and 36% of all citizens commute to work by bicycle, every day cycling a total of 1.1 million km.

 Copenhagen c. 1895  Amalienborg

Copenhagen c. 1895, (left) and at right is Amalienborg as seen from Marmorkirken.

Since the turn of the millennium Copenhagen has seen a strong urban and cultural development and has been described as a boom town. This is partly due to massive investments in cultural facilities as well as infrastructure and a new wave of successful designers, chefs and architects. Travellers have voted Copenhagen the cleanest city in Europe.

From its humble origins as a fishing village, through its heyday as the glittering capital of the Danish Empire, to its current position as one of the world's premier design capitals, the stories and characters of Copenhagen's history can be discovered in its sumptuous palaces, copper-roofed town houses and atmospheric cobbled squares. From the Viking Age there was a fishing village by the name of "Havn" (harbour) at the site. Recent archeological finds indicate that by the 11th century, Copenhagen had already grown into a small town with a large estate, a church, a market, at least two wells and many smaller habitations spread over a fairly wide area. Many historians believe that the town dates to the late Viking age, and was possibly founded by Sweyn I Forkbeard. From the middle of the 12th century it grew in importance, after coming into the possession of the Bishop Absalon, who fortified it in 1167, the year traditionally marking the foundation of Copenhagen. The excellent harbour encouraged Copenhagen's growth until it became an important centre of commerce.

The city's origin as a harbour and a place of commerce is reflected in its name. Its original designation, from which the contemporary Danish name is derived, was Kopmannaehafn, "merchants' harbour". The English name for the city is derived from its Low German name, Kopenhagen. The element hafnium is also named for Copenhagen, whose Latin name is Hafnia.

It was repeatedly attacked by the Hanseatic League as the Germans took notice. In 1254, it received its charter as a city under Bishop Jakob Erlandsen. During 1658-59 it withstood a severe siege by the Swedes under Charles X and successfully repelled a major assault. In 1801 a British fleet under Admiral Sir Hyde Parker fought a major battle, the Battle of Copenhagen, with the Danish Navy in Copenhagen harbour. It was during this battle that Lord Nelson famously "put the telescope to the blind eye" in order not to see Admiral Parker's signal to cease fire.

 Havnegade Havnegade, Copenhagen, c. 1900.

When a British expeditionary force bombarded Copenhagen in 1807, to gain control of the Danish Navy, the city suffered great damage and hundreds of people were killed. The devastation was so great because Copenhagen relied on an old defence-line rendered virtually useless by the increase in shooting range available to the British. Not until the 1850s were the ramparts of the city opened to allow new housing to be built around The Lakes (Danish: Soerne) which bordered the old defence system to the west. This dramatic increase of space was long overdue, not only because the old ramparts were out of date as a defence system, but also because of bad sanitation in the old city. Before the opening, Copenhagen Center was inhabited by approximately 125,000 people, peaking in the census of 1870 (140,000); today the figure is around 25,000. In 1901, Copenhagen expanded further, incorporating communities with 40,000 people, and in the process making Frederiksberg an enclave within Copenhagen.

During World War II, Copenhagen was occupied by German troops along with the rest of the country from 9 April 1940 until 4 May 1945. In August 1943, when the government's collaboration with the occupation forces collapsed, several ships were sunk in Copenhagen Harbour by the Royal Danish Navy to prevent them being used by the Germans. The city has grown greatly since the war, in the seventies using the so-called five-finger-plan of commuter train lines to surrounding towns and suburbs.

Since the summer of 2000, Copenhagen and Swedish city Malmo have been connected by a toll bridge/tunnel (Oresund Bridge), which allows both rail and road transit. As a result, Copenhagen has become the centre of a larger metropolitan area which spans both nations. The construction of the bridge has led to many changes to the public transport system and extensive redevelopment of Amager, south of the main city.

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Dublin

 Dublin

Dublin is the largest city (being a primate city) and capital of Ireland. It is officially known in Irish as Baile Atha Cliath or Ath Cliath; the English name comes from the Irish Dubh Linn meaning "black pool". It is located near the midpoint of Ireland's east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey and at the centre of the Dublin Region. Originally founded as a Viking settlement, it evolved into the Kingdom of Dublin and became the island's primary city following the Norman invasion. Today, it is ranked 23rd (down from 10th in 2008) in the Global Financial Centres Index, has one of the fastest growing populations of any European capital city, and is listed by the GaWC as a global city, with a ranking of Alpha - which places Dublin amongst the top 25 cities in the world. Dublin is a historical and contemporary cultural centre for the island of Ireland as well as a modern centre of education, the arts, administrative function, economy and industry.

The name Dublin is derived from the Irish name Dubh Linn (meaning "black pool"). The common name for the city in Modern Irish is Baile Atha Cliath (meaning "town of the hurdled ford"). Ath Cliath is a place-name referring to a fording point of the Liffey in the vicinity of Heuston Station. Baile Atha Cliath was an early Christian monastery which is believed to have been situated in the area of Aungier Street currently occupied by Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church.

The subsequent Scandinavian settlement was on the River Poddle, a tributary of the Liffey, to the East of Christchurch, in the area now known as Wood Quay. The Dubh Linn was a lake used by the Scandinavians to moor their ships and was connected to the Liffey by the Poddle. The Dubh Linn and Poddle were covered during the early 1700s, and as the city expanded they were largely forgotten about. The Dubh Linn was situated where the Castle Garden is now located, opposite the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle.

Tain Bo Cuailgne also known as The Cattle Raid of Cooley refers to Dublind rissa ratter Ath Cliath, meaning Dublin, which is called Ath Cliath. In the Irish language, Dubh is correctly pronounced as Duv or Duf. The city's original pronunciation is preserved in Old Norse as Dyflin, Old English as Difelin, and modern Manx as Divlyn. Historically, in the traditional Gaelic script used for the Irish language, bh was written with a dot over the b, rendering 'Dub Linn' or 'Dublinn'. Those without a knowledge of Irish omitted the dot and spelled the name as Dublin.

The neutrality of this section is disputed.

 Dublin Castle  Dublin by night

Dublin Castle is pictued at left, and Dublin at night is at right.

The writings of the Greek astronomer and cartographer Ptolemy provide perhaps the earliest reference to human habitation in the area now known as Dublin. In around A.D. 140 he referred to a settlement he called Eblana Civitas. The settlement 'Dubh Linn' dates perhaps as far back as the first century BC and later a monastery was built there, though the town was established in about 841 by the Norse. The modern city retains the Anglicised Irish name of the former and the original Irish name of the latter.

Dublin was ruled by the Norse for most of the time between 841 and 999, when it was sacked by Brian Boru, the King of Cashel. Although Dublin still had a Norse king after the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, Norse influence waned under a growing Celtic supremacy until the conquest of Ireland which was launched from Britain in 1169-1172. The last high king (Ard Rí) of Dublin also had control of local city administration via its Corporation from the Middle Ages. This represented the city's guild-based oligarchy until it was reformed in the 1840s on increasingly democratic lines.

 Custom House

The Custom House on the north bank of the River Liffey is on the left.

From the 17th century the city expanded rapidly, helped by the Wide Streets Commission. Georgian Dublin was, for a short time, the second city of the British Empire after London and the fifth largest European city. Much of Dublin's most notable architecture dates from this time. In 1759, the founding of the Guinness brewery at St. James's Gate resulted in a considerable economic impact for the city. For much of the time since its foundation, the Guinness brewery was the largest employer in the city but Catholics were confined to the lower echelons of employment at Guinness and only entered management level in the 1960s. After Irish independence the Guinness Corporate headquarters were moved to London in the 1930s to avoid Irish taxation and a rival brewery to Dublin was opened in London at Park Royal to supply the UK. In 1742 Handel's "Messiah" was performed for the first time in New Musick Hall in Fishamble Street with 26 boys and five men from the combined choirs of St.Patrick's and Christ Church cathedrals participating.

After the Act of Union, 1800, Belfast developed much faster than Dublin during this period on a mixture of international trade, factory-based linen cloth production and shipbuilding.

The Easter Rising of 1916 took place in several parts of the city, bringing much physical destruction to the city centre. The Anglo-Irish War and Irish Civil War contributed even more destruction, leaving some of its finest buildings in ruins. The Irish Free State government rebuilt the city centre and located the Dáil (parliament) in Leinster House.

 Carlisle Bridge

Carlisle Bridge c. 1840 (at right), showing the extent of the Wide Streets Commission interventions, with unified commercial terraces marching from the river towards the GPO.

The formation of the new state resulted in changed fortunes for Dublin. It benefitted more from independence than any Irish city, though it took a long time to become obvious. Through The Emergency (World War II), until the 1960s, Dublin remained a capital out of time: the city centre in particular remained at an architectural standstill, even nicknamed the last 19th Century City of Europe. This made the city ideal for historical film production, with many productions including The Blue Max and My Left Foot capturing the cityscape in this period. This became the foundation of later successes in cinematography and film-making. With increasing prosperity, modern architecture was introduced to the city, though a vigorous campaign started in parallel to restore the Georgian greatness of Dublin's streets, rather than lose the grandeur forever. Since 1997, the landscape of Dublin has changed immensely, with enormous private sector and state development of housing, transport, and business. (See also Development and Preservation in Dublin). Some well-known Dublin street corners are still named for the pub or business which used to occupy the site before closure or redevelopment.

Since the beginning of Anglo-Norman rule in the 12th century, the city has functioned as the capital of the island of Ireland in the varying geopolitical entities:

	the Lordship of Ireland (1171–1541) 
	the Kingdom of Ireland (1541–1800) 
	the island as part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801–1922) 
	the Irish Republic (1919–1922),

From 1922, following the partition of Ireland, it became the capital of the Irish Free State (1922–1949) and now is the capital of the Republic of Ireland. One of the memorials to commemorate that time is the Garden of Remembrance.

In a 2003 European-wide survey by the BBC, questioning 11,200 residents of 112 urban and rural areas, Dublin was the best capital city in Europe to live in.

A person from either the city or county of Dublin is often referred to as a "Dub".

The city has a world-famous literary history, having produced many prominent literary figures, including Nobel laureates William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett. Other influential writers and playwrights from Dublin include Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and the creator of Dracula, Bram Stoker. It is arguably most famous, however, as the location of the greatest works of James Joyce. His most celebrated work, Ulysses, is set in Dublin and full of topical detail. Dubliners is a collection of short stories by Joyce about incidents and characters typical of residents of the city in the early part of the 20th century. Additional widely celebrated writers from the city include J.M. Synge, Seán O'Casey, Brendan Behan, Maeve Binchy, and Roddy Doyle. Ireland's biggest libraries and literary museums are found in Dublin, including the National Print Museum of Ireland and National Library of Ireland.

Dublin is also the focal point for much of Irish Art and the Irish artistic scene. The Book of Kells, a world-famous manuscript produced by Celtic Monks in A.D. 800 and an example of Insular art, is on display in Trinity College. The Chester Beatty Library houses the famous collection of manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and decorative arts assembled by American mining millionaire (and honorary Irish citizen) Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). The collections date from 2700 B.C. onwards and are drawn from Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Work by local artists is often put on public display around St. Stephen's Green, the main public park in the city centre. In addition large art galleries are found across the city, including the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery, the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery, The City Arts Centre, The Douglas Hyde Gallery, The Project Arts Centre and The Royal Hibernian Academy.

Three branches of the National Museum of Ireland are located in Dublin: Archaeology in Kildare Street, Decorative Arts and History in Collins Barracks and Natural History in Merrion Street.

 Temple Bar

Temple Bar (right), the city's centre for nightlife and entertainment.There is a vibrant nightlife in Dublin and it is reputedly one of the most youthful cities in Europe - with estimates of 50% of inhabitants being younger than 25. Furthermore in 2007, and again in 2009, Dublin was voted the friendliest city in Europe. Like the rest of Ireland, there are pubs right across the city centre. The area around St. Stephen's Green - especially Harcourt Street, Camden Street, Wexford Street and Leeson Street - is a centre for some of the most popular nightclubs and pubs in Dublin.

The internationally best-known area for nightlife is the Temple Bar area just south of the River Liffey. To some extent, the area has become a hot spot for tourists, including stag and hen parties from Britain. It was developed as Dublin's cultural quarter (an idea proposed by local politician Charlie Haughey), and does retain this spirit as a centre for small arts productions, photographic and artists' studios, and in the form of street performers and intimate small music venues.

 Moore Street market

Moore Street market is at left.

Dublin is a popular shopping spot for both Irish people and tourists. Dublin city centre has several shopping districts, including Grafton Street, Henry Street, Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, Jervis Shopping Centre, and the newly refurbished Ilac Shopping Centre. On Grafton Street, the most famous shops include Brown Thomas and its sister shop BT2. Brown Thomas also contains "mini-stores" such as Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton on its Wicklow Street frontage.

 The River Liffey

Dublin city is the location of large department stores, such as Clerys on O'Connell Street, Arnotts on Henry Street, Brown Thomas on Grafton Street and Debenhams (formerly Roches Stores) on Henry Street. Grafton Street is nearly as renowned for its buskers and street-performers as for its fine shopping.

The River Liffey (right) divides the city into Northside and Southside.

A north-south division has traditionally existed in Dublin for some time, with the dividing line being the River Liffey. The Northside is traditionally seen by some as working-class (with the exception of a few suburbs) while the Southside is seen as middle and upper middle class (again, with the exception of a few suburbs).

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Edinburgh

 Edinburgh

Edinburgh (Scottish Gaelic: Dùn Èideann) is the capital city of Scotland. It is the second largest city in Scotland and the seventh-most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council is one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. It is pictured at right from Calton Hill.

Located in the south-east of Scotland, Edinburgh lies on the east coast of the Central Belt, along the Firth of Forth, near the North Sea. Owing to its spectacular, rugged setting and vast collection of Medieval and Georgian architecture, including numerous stone tenements, it is often considered one of the most picturesque cities in Europe.

The city forms part of the City of Edinburgh council area; the city council area includes urban Edinburgh and a 30-square-mile (78 km2) rural area.

 Parliament

The new Scottish Parliament building is at left. The city was one of the major centres of the Enlightenment, led by the University of Edinburgh, earning it the nickname Athens of the North. The Old Town and New Town districts of Edinburgh were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. There are over 4,500 listed buildings within the city. In the 2008 mid year population estimates, Edinburgh had a total resident population of 471,650. Edinburgh is well-known for the annual Edinburgh Festival, a collection of official and independent festivals held annually over about four weeks from early August. The number of visitors attracted to Edinburgh for the Festival is roughly equal to the settled population of the city. The most famous of these events are the Edinburgh Fringe (the largest performing arts festival in the world), the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Other notable events include the Hogmanay street party (31 December), Burns Night (25 January), St. Andrew's Day (30 November), and the Beltane Fire Festival (30 April).

The city attracts 1 million overseas visitors a year, making it the second most visited tourist destination in the United Kingdom, after London.

In a 2009 YouGov poll, Edinburgh was voted the "most desirable city in which to live in the UK".

Humans have settled the Edinburgh area from at least the Bronze Age, leaving traces of primitive stone settlements at Holyrood, Craiglockhart Hill and the Pentland Hills for example. Influenced through the Iron Age by Hallstatt and La Tene Celtic cultures from central Europe, by the time the Romans arrived in Lothian at the beginning of the 1st millennium AD, they discovered a Celtic, Brythonic tribe whose name they recorded as Votadini, likely to be a Latin version of the name they called themselves.

The city's name is most likely Celtic in origin, possibly Cumbric or a variation of it. It is first mentioned in the late 6th century in the heroic poems of the Gododdin (a later Brythonic form of 'Votadini'), named as both Eidyn and Din Eidyn and also described as Eidyn ysgor or Eidyn gaer, i.e. the stronghold or fort of Eidyn. All these forms use 'Eidyn' as a proper name, and the same is true for later translations made by invading Bernicians and Scots, typified in a note from the 9th century's Life of St Monenna, 'Dunedene, which is in English, Edineburg'.

This Celtic root is contrary to the often-cited theory that the city was named after the Bernician King of Northumbria, Edwin, who was killed in AD 633. However it is extremely unlikely that Edwin had any connection with Edinburgh, despite the expansion of his kingdom during his reign. Although centuries later some, such as Symeon of Durham in the 12th century, referred to the city in terms such as Edwinesburch, this hypothesis has been largely discredited as 'folk-etymology', the invention of a connection where there is none, most likely for political reasons. Indeed rigorous etymological research supports the Celtic route theory.

Nevertheless there is no doubt that the Angles of Northumbria did have significant influence over south east Scotland, notably from AD 638 when it appears the Gododdin stronghold of Din Eidyn was sieged. Though far from exclusive, this influence continued over three centuries. It was not until c. AD 950 when, during the reign of Indulf, son of Constantine, the city, referred to at this time in the Pictish Chronicle as 'oppidum Eden', fell to the Scots and finally remained under their jurisdiction.

It is worth noting that during this period of Germanic influence in south east Scotland, when the city's name gained its Germanic suffix, 'burgh', the seeds for the language we know today as Scots were sown.

 Arthur's Seat

Downtown Edinburgh is situated by Arthur's Seat, a great mound, pictured at right.

By the 12th century Edinburgh was well established, founded upon the famous castle rock, the volcanic crag and tail geological feature shaped by 2 million years of glacial activity. Flourishing alongside it to the east, another community developed around the Abbey of Holyrood, known as Canongate. In the 13th century these both became Royal Burghs and through the late medieval period Edinburgh grew quickly.

In 1492 King James IV of Scotland undertook to move the Royal Court from Stirling to Holyrood, making Edinburgh the national capital.

Edinburgh continued to flourish economically and culturally through the Renaissance period and was at the centre of the 16th century Scottish Reformation and the Wars of the Covenant a hundred years later.

In 1603 King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English and Irish thrones, fulfilling his ambition to create a united kingdom under the Stewart Monarchy. Although he retained the Parliament of Scotland in Edinburgh, he marched to London to rule from his throne there. He ordered that every public building in the land should bear his family's emblem, the red lion rampant, and to this day the most common name for a public house in Britain is the Red Lion.

In 1639, disputes between the Presbyterian Covenanters and the Anglican Church led to the Bishops' Wars, a prelude to the English Civil War, and the brief occupation of Edinburgh by the Commonwealth forces of Oliver Cromwell.

In 17th-century Edinburgh, a defensive wall, built in the 16th century, largely as protection against English invasion following James IV's defeat at Flodden (hence its moniker, the Flodden Wall) still defined the boundaries of the city . Due to the restricted land area available for development, the houses increased in height instead. Buildings of 11 stories were common, and there are records of buildings as high as 14 stories, an early version of the modern-day skyscraper. Many of the stone-built structures can still be seen today in the Old Town.

In 1707 the Act of Union was ratified by a narrow margin in the Scottish Parliament, however many Scots had opposed it and the people of Edinburgh rioted at the news. It would be almost 300 years before the Parliament was reinstated.

 Edinburgh  Coat of Arms

From early times, and certainly from the 14th century, Edinburgh (like other royal burghs of Scotland) used armorial devices in many ways, including on seals. However in 1732, the ‘achievement’ or ‘coat of arms’ was formally granted by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. These arms were used by Edinburgh Town Council until the reorganisation of local government in Scotland in May 1975, when it was succeeded by the City of Edinburgh District Council and a new coat of arms, based on the earlier one, was granted. In 1996, further local government reorganisation resulted in the formation of the City of Edinburgh Council, and again the coat of arms was updated (pictured at left).

During the Jacobite rising of 1745, Edinburgh was briefly occupied by Jacobite forces before their march into England.

 Edinburgh 1802

An 1802 illustration of Edinburgh from the west is at right.

However following their ultimate defeat at Culloden, there was a period of reprisals and pacification, largely directed at the Catholic Highlanders. In Edinburgh the Hanoverian monarch attempted to gain favour by supporting new developments to the north of the castle, naming streets in honour of the King and his family; George Street, Frederick Street, Hanover Street and Princes Street, named in honour of George IV's two sons.

Edinburgh is noted for its fine architecture, and the New Town for its Georgian architecture in particular.

Following the controversial Act of Union in 1707, Scotland was both galvanised by a desire to retain its national identity and culture and quick to recognise the opportunities now presented by access to formerly guarded English international trading routes. These factors and others contributed to the blossoming of the Scottish Enlightenment during the second half of the 18th century, arguably Edinburgh's most successful period. The city was at the heart of it and renowned throughout Europe at this time, as a hotbed of talent and ideas and a beacon for progress. Celebrities from across the continent would be seen in the city streets, among them famous Scots such as David Hume, Walter Scott, Robert Adam, David Wilkie, Robert Burns, James Hutton and Adam Smith. Edinburgh became a major cultural centre, earning it the nickname Athens of the North because of the Greco-Roman style of the New Town's architecture, as well as the rise of the Scottish intellectual elite who were increasingly leading both Scottish and European intellectual thought.

In the 19th century, Edinburgh, like many cities, industrialised, but did not grow as fast as Scotland's second city, Glasgow, which replaced it as the largest city in the country, benefitting greatly at the height of the British Empire.

Following two World Wars and the dismantling of the British Empire, the second half of the 20th century saw much civil unrest throughout Scotland and including in Edinburgh. However in 1992 Edinburgh hosted the European Union Treaty Summit and the city once again had a taste of being a bona fide national capital. In 1997 it was agreed the Scottish Parliament would sit again and in 1999 it did. With the election of an SNP Scottish Government in 2007 there is a sign that Scots are seriously considering the reinstatement of full sovereignty to their Parliament. However, independence or not, the Parliament alone has given new impetus to the city where it belongs.

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Hong Kong

 Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China. Situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour. With land mass of 1,104 km2 (426 sq mi) and a population of seven million people, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. The city's population is 95% ethnic Chinese and 5% from other groups.

Under the principle of "one country, two systems", Hong Kong runs on economic and political systems different from those of mainland China. Hong Kong is one of the world's leading international financial centres, with a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation, free trade and minimum government intervention under the ethos of positive non-interventionism. The Hong Kong dollar is the 9th most traded currency in the world.

Hong Kong's independent judiciary functions under the common law framework. Its political system is governed by the Basic Law of Hong Kong, its constitutional document. It has a burgeoning multi-party system, and its legislature is partly elected through universal suffrage. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong is the head of government.

Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the First Opium War (1839–1842). Originally confined to Hong Kong Island, the colony's boundaries were extended in stages so as to include the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories by 1898. It was occupied by the Japanese during the Pacific War, after which the British resumed control until 1997, when China regained sovereignty. The Basic Law stipulates that Hong Kong shall enjoy a "high degree of autonomy" in all matters except foreign relations and military defence.

The name "Hong Kong" is an approximate phonetic rendering of the Cantonese pronunciation of the spoken Cantonese or Hakka name, meaning "fragrant harbour" in English.

Before 1842, the name Hong Kong originally referred colloquially to a small inlet (now Aberdeen Harbour/Little Hong Kong) between the island of Ap Lei Chau and the south side of Hong Kong Island. The inlet was one of the first points of contact between British sailors and local fishermen.

The reference to fragrance may refer to the harbour waters sweetened by the fresh water estuarine influx of the Pearl River, or to the incense factories lining the coast to the north of Kowloon which was stored around Aberdeen Harbour for export, before the development of Victoria Harbour. In 1842, the Treaty of Nanking was signed, and the name Hong Kong was first recorded on official documents to encompass the entirety of the island.

While pockets of settlements had taken place in the Hong Kong region, with archaeological findings dating back thousands of years, regularly written records were not made until the engagement of Imperial China and the British colony in the territory. Starting out as a fishing village, salt production site and trading ground, it would evolve into a military port of strategic importance and eventually an international financial centre that enjoys the world's 6th highest GDP (PPP) per capita, supporting 33% of the foreign capital flows into China.

Human settlement in the area now known as Hong Kong dates back to the late Paleolithic and early Neolithic era, but the name Hong Kong did not appear on written record until the Treaty of Nanking of 1842. The area's earliest recorded European visitor was Jorge Álvares, a Portuguese explorer who arrived in 1513.

In 1839 the refusal by Qing Dynasty authorities to import opium resulted in the First Opium War between China and Britain. Hong Kong Island became occupied by British forces in 1841, and was formally ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Nanking at the end of the war. The British established a crown colony with the founding of Victoria City the following year. In 1860, after China's defeat in the Second Opium War, the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutter's Island were ceded to Britain under the Convention of Peking. In 1898, under the terms of the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory, Britain obtained a 99-year lease of Lantau Island and the adjacent northern lands, which became known as the New Territories. Hong Kong's territory has remained unchanged to the present./p>  Hong Kong  Japanese troops

Hong Kong in the late nineteenth century (pictured at left) was a major trading post of the British Empire.

Japanese troops entering Hong Kong led by Lt. Gen. Takashi Sakai and Vice Admiral Masaichi Niimi in December 1941 is at the right.

During the first half of the 20th century, Hong Kong was a free port, serving as an entrepôt of the British Empire. The British introduced an education system based on their own model, while the local Chinese population had little contact with the European community of wealthy tai-pans settled near Victoria Peak.

In conjunction with its military campaign in the Second World War, the Empire of Japan invaded Hong Kong on 8 December 1941. The Battle of Hong Kong ended with British and Canadian defenders surrendering control of the colony to Japan on 25 December. During the Japanese occupation, civilians suffered widespread food shortages, rationing, and hyper-inflation due to forced exchange of currency for military notes. Hong Kong lost more than half of its population in the period between the invasion and Japan's surrender in 1945, when the United Kingdom resumed control of the colony.

Hong Kong's population recovered quickly as a wave of migrants from China arrived for refuge from the ongoing Chinese Civil War. When the People's Republic of China was proclaimed in 1949, more migrants fled to Hong Kong in fear of persecution by the Communist Party. Many corporations in Shanghai and Guangzhou also shifted their operations to Hong Kong.

As textile and manufacturing industries grew with the help of population growth and low cost of labour, Hong Kong rapidly industrialised, with its economy becoming driven by exports, and living standards rising steadily. The construction of Shek Kip Mei Estate in 1953 marked the beginning of the public housing estate programme, designed to cope with the huge influx of immigrants. Trade in Hong Kong accelerated even further when Shenzhen, immediately north of Hong Kong, became a special economic zone of the PRC, and established Hong Kong as the main source of foreign investment to China. With the development of the manufacturing industry in southern China beginning in the early 1980s, Hong Kong's competitiveness in manufacturing declined and its economy began shifting toward a reliance on the service industry, which enjoyed high rates of growth in the 1980s and 1990s, and absorbed workers released from the manufacturing industry.

In 1983, Hong Kong was reclassified from a British crown colony to a dependent territory. However with the lease of the New Territories due to expire within two decades, the governments of Britain and China were already discussing the issue of Hong Kong's sovereignty. In 1984 the two countries signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, agreeing to transfer sovereignty to the People's Republic of China in 1997, and stipulating that Hong Kong would be governed as a special administrative region, retaining its laws and a high degree of autonomy for at least fifty years after the transfer. The Hong Kong Basic Law, which would serve as the constitutional document after the transfer, was ratified in 1990, and the transfer of sovereignty occurred at midnight on 1 July 1997, marked by a handover ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Hong Kong's economy was affected by the Asian financial crisis, and the H5N1 avian influenza, both in 1997. After a gradual recovery, Hong Kong suffered again due to an outbreak of SARS in 2003. Today, Hong Kong continues to serve as an important global financial centre, but faces uncertainty over its future role with a growing mainland China economy, and its relationship with the PRC government in areas such as democratic reform and universal suffrage.

 Hong Kong  Japanese troops

At left is a statue on the Avenue of Stars, a tribute to Hong Kong cinema. To the right is a picture of Chi Lin Nunnery in Diamond Hill.

Hong Kong is frequently described as a place where "East meets West", reflecting the culture's mix of the territory's Chinese roots with the culture brought to it during its time as a British colony. One of the more noticeable contradictions is Hong Kong's balancing of a modernised way of life with traditional Chinese practices. Concepts like feng shui are taken very seriously, with expensive construction projects often hiring expert consultants, and are often believed to make or break a business. Other objects like Ba gua mirrors are still regularly used to deflect evil spirits, and buildings often lack any floor number that has a 4 in it, due to its similarity to the word for "die" in the Chinese language. The fusion of east and west also characterises Hong Kong's cuisine, where dim sum, hot pot and fast food restaurants coexist with haute cuisine.

Hong Kong is a recognised global centre of trade, and calls itself an 'entertainment hub'. Its martial arts film genre gained a high level of popularity in the late 1960s and 1970s. Several Hollywood performers and martial artists have originated from Hong Kong cinema, notably Bruce Lee, Chow Yun-Fat, Jackie Chan, and Yuen Woo-ping. A number of Hong Kong film-makers have also achieved widespread fame in Hollywood, such as John Woo, Wong Kar-wai and Stephen Chow. Homegrown films such as Chungking Express, Infernal Affairs, Shaolin Soccer, Rumble in the Bronx, and In the Mood for Love have gained international recognition. Hong Kong is the centre for Cantopop music, which draws its influence from other forms of Chinese music and Western genres, and has a multinational fanbase.

The Hong Kong government supports cultural institutions such as the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Also, the government's Leisure and Cultural Services Department subsidises and sponsors international performers brought to Hong Kong. Many international cultural activities are organised by the government, consulates, and privately.

Hong Kong has two licensed terrestrial broadcasters – ATV and TVB. There are three local and a number of foreign suppliers of cable and satellite services. The production of Hong Kong's soap dramas, comedy series and variety shows reach audiences throughout the Chinese-speaking world. Magazine and newspaper publishers in Hong Kong distribute and print in both Chinese and English, with a focus on sensationalism and celebrity gossip. The media is relatively free from official interference compared to mainland China, although the Far Eastern Economic Review points to signs of self-censorship by journals whose owners have close ties to or business interests in the PRC, but state that even Western media outlets are not immune to growing Chinese economic power.

Hong Kong offers wide recreational and competitive sport opportunities despite its limited land area. It sends delegates to international competition, namely the Olympic Games and Asian Games, and played host to the equestrian events during the 2008 Summer Olympics. There are major multipurpose venues like Hong Kong Coliseum and MacPherson Stadium. Hong Kong's steep terrain makes it ideal for hiking, with expansive views over the territory, and its rugged coastline provides many beaches for swimming.

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Lima

 Lima

Lima is the capital and largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, on a coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It forms a contiguous urban area with the seaport of Callao. Lima is the 5th–largest city in Latin America, behind São Paulo, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and Rio de Janeiro.

Lima was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535, as La Ciudad de los Reyes, or "The City of Kings." It became the most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru and, after the Peruvian War of Independence, was made the capital of the Republic of Peru. Today around one-third of the Peruvian population lives in the metropolitan area.

According to early Spanish chronicles the Lima area was once called Ichma, after its original inhabitants. However, even before the Inca occupation of the area in the 15th century, a famous oracle in the Rímac valley had come to be known by visitors as Limaq, which means "talker" in coastal Quechua). This oracle was eventually destroyed by the Spanish and replaced with a church, but the name persisted in the local language, thus the chronicles show "Límac" replacing "Ychma" as the common name for the area.

Modern scholars speculate that the word "Lima" originated as the Spanish pronunciation of the native name Limaq. Linguistic evidence seems to support this theory as spoken Spanish consistently rejects stop consonants in word-final position. The city was founded in 1535 under the name City of the Kings (Spanish: Ciudad de los Reyes) because its foundation was decided on January 6, date of the feast of the Epiphany. Nevertheless, this name quickly fell into disuse and Lima became the city's name of choice; on the oldest Spanish maps of Peru, both Lima and Ciudad de los Reyes can be seen together as names for the city.

It is worth noting that the river that feeds Lima is called Rímac, and many people erroneously assume that this is because its original Inca name is "Talking River" (the Incas spoke a highland variety of Quechua). However, the original inhabitants of the valley were not the Incas, and this name is actually an innovation arising from an effort by the Cuzco nobility in colonial times to standardize the toponym so that it would conform to the phonology of Cuzco Quechua. Later, as the original inhabitants of the valley died out and the local Quechua became extinct, the Cuzco pronunciation prevailed. In modern times, Spanish-speaking locals do not see the connection between the name of their city and the name of the river that runs through it. They often assume that the valley is named after the river; however, Spanish documents from the colonial period show the opposite to be true.

 City Walls

Lima City Walls were built between 1684 and 1687 by viceroy Melchor de Navarra y Rocafull. In the pre-Columbian era, the location of what is now the city of Lima was inhabited by several Amerindian groups under the Ychsma polity, which was incorporated into the Inca Empire in the 15th century. In 1532, a group of Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro defeated the Inca ruler Atahualpa and took over his Empire. As the Spanish Crown had named Pizarro governor of the lands he conquered, he chose the Rímac valley to found his capital on January 18, 1535 as Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings). In August 1536, the new city was besieged by the troops of Manco Inca, however, the Spaniards and their native allies defeated the Inca rebels.

 Balconies

Balconies were a major feature of Lima's architecture during the colonial period.

Over the next few years, Lima gained prestige as it was designated capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru and site of a Real Audiencia in 1543. During the next century Lima flourished as the center of an extensive trade network which integrated the Viceroyalty with the Americas, Europe and the Far East. However, the city was not free from dangers; powerful earthquakes destroyed most of the city in 1687. A second threat was the presence of pirates and privateers in the Pacific Ocean, which led to the building of the Lima City Walls between 1684 and 1687. The 1687 earthquake marked a turning point in the history of Lima as it coincided with a recession in trade and economic competition by other cities such as Buenos Aires.

In 1746, a powerful earthquake severely damaged Lima and destroyed Callao, forcing a massive rebuilding effort under Viceroy José Antonio Manso de Velasco. In the later half of the 18th century, the ideas of the Enlightenment on public health and social control shaped the development of the city. During this period, Lima was adversely affected by the Bourbon Reforms as it lost its monopoly on overseas trade and its control over the important mining region of Upper Peru. This economic decline made the city's elite dependent on royal and ecclesiastical appointment and thus, reluctant to advocate independence.

A combined expedition of Argentine and Chilean patriots under General José de San Martín managed to land south of Lima in 1820 but did not attack the city. Faced with a naval blockade and the action of guerrillas on land, Viceroy José de la Serna was forced to evacuate the city on July 1821 to save the Royalist army. Fearing a popular uprising and lacking any means to impose order, the city council invited San Martín to enter Lima and signed a Declaration of Independence at his request. However, the war was not over; in the next two years the city changed hands several times and suffered exactions from both sides.

 Jiron de la Union

The Jiron de la Union was Lima's most important street for the first half of the 20th century.

After the war of independence, Lima became the capital of the Republic of Peru but economic stagnation and political turmoil brought urban development to a halt. This hiatus ended in the 1850s, when increased public and private revenues from guano exports led to a rapid expansion of the city. However, the export-led economic expansion also widened the gap between rich and poor, fostering social unrest. During the 1879–1883 War of the Pacific, Chilean troops occupied Lima, looting public museums, libraries and educational institutions. At the same time, angry mobs attacked wealthy citizens and the Asian population; sacking their properties and businesses. After the war, the city underwent a process of renewal and expansion from the 1890s up to the 1920s. During this period the urban layout was modified by the construction of big avenues which crisscrossed the city and connected it with neighboring towns.

In 1940, an earthquake destroyed most of the city, which at that time was mostly built out of adobe and quincha. In the 1940s, Lima started a period of rapid growth spurred by immigration from the Andean regions of Peru. Population, estimated at 0.6 million in 1940, reached 1.9M by 1960 and 4.8M by 1980. At the start of this period, the urban area was confined to a triangular area bounded by the city's historic center, Callao and Chorrillos; in the following decades settlements spread to the north, beyond the Rímac River, to the east, along the Central Highway, and to the south. Immigrants, at first confined to slums in downtown Lima, led this expansion through large-scale land invasions which gave rise to the proliferation of shanty towns, known as pueblos jóvenes.

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Lisbon

 Lisbon

Lisbon is the capital and largest city of Portugal. It is considered an alpha global city and is the seat of the district of Lisbon and the main city of the Lisbon region. Its municipality, which matches the city proper excluding the larger continuous conurbation, has a municipal population of 564,477 in 84.8 km2 (33 sq mi), while the Lisbon Metropolitan Area in total has around 2.8 million inhabitants, and 3.34 million people live in the broader agglomeration of Lisbon Metropolitan Region (includes cities ranging from Leiria to Setúbal).

Due to its economic output, standard of living, and market size, the Grande Lisboa (Greater Lisbon) subregion is considered the second most important financial and economic centre in the Iberian Peninsula. The Lisbon region is the wealthiest region in Portugal and it is well above the European Union's GDP per capita average – it produces 37% of the Portuguese GDP. It is also the political centre of the country, as seat of government and residence of the Head of State.

The city was under Roman rule from 205 BC, when it was already a 1000 year old town. Julius Caesar made it a municipium called Felicitas Julia, adding to the name Olissipo. Ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the 5th century, it was captured by Moors in the 8th century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques reconquered the city for the Christians and since then it has been a major political, economic and cultural center of Portugal. Unlike most capital cities, Lisbon's status as the capital of Portugal has never been granted or confirmed officially – by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the Constitution of Portugal.

 Castle of Saint George

The Castle of Saint George (left) has played an important role in the history of Lisbon throughout the ages, for example, by protecting its citizens or being the residence of the royal family.During the Neolithic the region was inhabited by Iberian-related peoples, who also lived in other regions of Atlantic Europe at the time. They built religious monuments called megaliths. Dolmens and menhirs still survive in the countryside around the city.

The Indo-European Celts invaded after the first millennium BC and intermarried with the Pre-Indo-European population, giving a rise to Celtic-speaking local tribes such as the Cempsi.

Archaeological findings suggest that some Phoenician influence existed in the place since 1200 BC, leading some historians to the theory that a Phoenician trading post might have occupied the centre of the present city, on the southern slope of the Castle hill. The magnificent harbour provided by the estuary of the river Tagus made it an ideal spot for a settlement to provide foodstuffs to Phoenician ships travelling to the tin islands (modern Isles of Scilly) and Cornwall.

The new city might have been named Allis Ubbo or "safe harbor" in Phoenician, according to one of several theories for the origin of its name. Another theory is that it took its name from the pre-Roman name of the River Tagus, Lisso or Lucio.

 Lisbon Cathedral

Lisbon Cathedral, built after 1147 over the remnants of the mosque of the Islamic period.

During the Punic wars, after the defeat of Hannibal (whose troops included members of the Conii) the Romans decided to deprive Carthage of its most valuable possession, Hispania (the name given by the Romans to the whole of the Iberian Peninsula). After the defeat of the Carthaginians by Scipio Africanus in Eastern Hispania, the pacification of the West was led by Consul Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus.

He obtained the alliance of Olissipo which sent men to fight alongside the Legions against the Celtic tribes of the Northwest. In return, Olissipo was integrated in the Empire under the name of Felicitas Julia, a Municipium Cives Romanorum. It was granted self-rule over a territory going as far away as 50 kilometres (30 miles), exempted from taxes, and its citizens given the privileges of Roman citizenship.

It was in the newly created province of Lusitania, whose capital was Emerita Augusta. The attacks by the Lusitanians during the frequent rebellions over the next couple of centuries weakened the city, and a wall was built.

During the time of Augustus the Romans built a great Theatre; the Cassian Baths underneath the current Rua da Prata; Temples to Jupiter, Diana, Cybele, Tethys and Idae Phrygiae (an uncommon cult from Asia Minor), besides temples to the Emperor; a large necropolis under Praça da Figueira; a large Forum and other buildings such as insulae (multi-storied apartment buildings) in the area between the modern Castle hill and Downtown.

Many of these ruins were first unearthed during the middle Eighteenth century, when the recent discovery of Pompeii made Roman Archeology fashionable among Europe's upper classes.

Economically strong, Olissipo was known for its garum, a sort of fish sauce highly prized by the elites of the Empire and exported in Amphorae to Rome and other cities. Wine, salt and its famously fast horses were also exported.

The city came to be very prosperous through suppression of piracy and technological advances, which allowed a boom in the trade with the newly Roman Provinces of Britannia (particularly Cornwall) and the Rhine, and through the introduction of Roman culture to the tribes living by the river Tagus in the interior of Hispania.

The city was ruled by an oligarchical council dominated by two families, the Julii and the Cassiae. Petitions are recorded addressed to the Governor of the province in Emerita and to the Empreror Tiberius, such as one requesting help dealing with "sea monsters" allegedly responsible for shipwrecks.

The Roman Sertorius led a large rebellion against the Dictator Sulla early in the Roman Period.

Among the majority of Latin speakers lived a large minority of Greek traders and slaves.

The city was connected by a broad road to Western Hispania's two other large cities, Bracara Augusta in the province of Tarraconensis (today's Portuguese Braga), and Emerita Augusta, the capital of Lusitania (now Mérida in Spain).

Olissipo, like most great cities in the Western Empire, was a centre for the dissemination of Christianity. Its first attested Bishop was St. Potamius (c. 356), and there were several martyrs killed by the pagans during the great persecutions; Maxima, Verissimus and Julia are the most significant names.

At the end of the Roman domain, Olissipo was one of the first Christian cities. It suffered invasions from the Sarmatian Alans and the Germanic Vandals, who controlled the region from 409 to 429. The Germanic Suebi, who established a kingdom in Gallaecia (modern Galicia and northern Portugal), with capital in Bracara Augusta (Braga), from 409 to 585, also controlled the region of Lisbon for long periods of time.

In 585 the Suebi kingdom was included in the Germanic Visigothic kingdom of Toledo, that comprised all of the Iberian Peninsula. Lisbon was then called Ulishbona.

On August 6, 711 Lisbon was taken by the Moors, under whose rule the city flourished. The Moors, who were Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East, built many mosques and houses as well as a new city wall, currently named the Cerca Moura. The city kept a diverse population including Christians, Berbers, Arabs, Jews and Saqalibas.

The Moorish influence is still present in Alfama, the old part of Lisbon that survived the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Many placenames are derived from Arabic; the Alfama, the oldest existing district of Lisbon, for example, is derived from the Arabic "al-hamma".

In 1147, as part of the Reconquista, crusader knights led by Afonso I of Portugal, sieged and reconquered Lisbon. The city, with around 154,000 residents at the time, returned to Christian rule.

The reconquest of Portugal and re-establishment of Christianity is one of the most significant events in Lisbon's history; although it is known through the chronicle Expugnatione Lyxbonensi, attributed to Osburnus, that there was a bishop in the town that was killed by the crusaders and that the population was praying to the Virgin Mary when afflicted with plague, which indicates that the Mozarab population followed the Mozarabic rite. Arabic lost its place in everyday life. Any remaining Muslim population were gradually converted to Roman Catholicism, or expelled, and the mosques were turned into churches. (Though in Portuguese historiography this was often mentioned as "turning the mosques back into churches", in fact many of the structures concerned were built as mosques to begin with.)

 Padrão dos Descobrimentos  Belém Tower

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos is a contemporary monument dedicated to the Portuguese Age of Discovery and is pictured at left. At right is Belém Tower, a symbol of the Portuguese Age of Discovery.

It received its first Foral in 1179. Periodic raiding expeditions were sent from Al-Andalus to ravage the Iberian Christian kingdoms, bringing back booty and slaves. In raid against Lisbon in 1189, the Almohad caliph Yaqub al-Mansur took 3,000 female and child captives. Lisbon became the capital city of Portugal in 1255 due to its central location in the new Portuguese territory. The first Portuguese university was founded in Lisbon in 1290 by Dinis I of Portugal as Estudo Geral (General Study). The university was transferred several times to Coimbra, where it was installed definitively in the 16th century (today's University of Coimbra).

During the last centuries of the Middle Ages, the city expanded substantially and became an important trading post with both northern Europe and Mediterranean cities.

Most of the Portuguese expeditions of the age of discovery left from Lisbon during the 15th to 17th centuries, including Vasco da Gama's departure to India in 1497. In 1506, thousands of "New Christians" (converted Jews) were massacred in Lisbon. The 16th century marks the golden age for Lisbon. The city became the European hub of commerce with Africa, India, the Far East and, later, Brazil, exploring riches like spices, slaves, sugar, textiles and other goods. This was the time of the exuberant Manueline style, which has left its mark in two 16th century Lisbon monuments, the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, both of which were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Portugal lost its independence to Spain in 1580 after a succession crisis, and the 1640 revolt that restored the Portuguese independence took place in Lisbon. In the early 18th century, gold from Brazil allowed King John V to sponsor the building of several Baroque churches and theatres in the city.

 São Bento Palace

In 1834 the Assembly of the Republic was installed in the São Bento Palace (left).In the first years of the 19th century, Portugal was invaded by the troops of Napoléon Bonaparte, making Queen Maria I and Prince-Regent João (future John VI) flee temporarily to Brazil. Considerable property was pillaged by the invaders.

The city felt the full force of the Portuguese liberal upheavals, beginning its tradition of cafés and theatres.

Lisbon was the centre of the republican coup of October 5, 1910 which instated the Portuguese Republic. Previously, it was also the stage of the regicide of Carlos I of Portugal (1908).

The city refounded its university in 1911 after centuries of inactivity in Lisbon, incorporating reformed former colleges and other non-university higher education schools of the city (such as the Escola Politécnica – now Faculdade de Ciências). Today there are 3 public universities in the city (University of Lisbon, Technical University of Lisbon and New University of Lisbon), a public university institute (ISCTE – Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa) and a polytechnic institute (IPL – Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa).

During World War II Lisbon was one of the very few neutral, open European Atlantic ports, a major gateway for refugees to the U.S. and a spy nest. More than 100,000 refuges were able to flee Nazi Germany via Lisbon.

In 1974, Lisbon was the central destination point of the Carnation Revolution maneuvers, the end of the Portuguese Corporative Regime (Estado Novo).

In 1988, a fire near the historical centre of Chiado greatly disrupted normal life in the area for about 10 years.

In 1994, Lisbon was the European Capital of Culture.

Expo '98 was held in Lisbon. The timing was intended to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama's sea voyage to India.

 Treaty of Lisbon

In 2007 the Treaty of Lisbon was signed in this city, which initiated a new chapter in the history of the European Union.The Lisbon Agenda was a European Union agreement on measures to revitalize the EU economy, signed in Lisbon in March 2000.

On the 7 July 2007, Lisbon held the ceremony of the "New 7 Wonders Of The World" election, in Luz stadium, with live transmission for millions of people all over the world.

In October 2007 Lisbon hosted the 2007 EU Summit, where agreement was reached regarding a new EU governance model. The resulting Treaty of Lisbon was signed on the 13 December 2007 and will come in to force on 1 December 2009.

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London

 Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament, is where members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons meet to conduct business.

 London  London

Two aerial views of London (old right, new left) shows the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and the financial district. The UK's capital city is home to more than 7.5 million people.

London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom. A major settlement for two millennia, its history goes back to its founding by the Romans, who called it Londinium.

London's core, the ancient City of London, the 'square mile', retains its mediaeval boundaries. Since at least the nineteenth century, the name "London" has also referred to the metropolis developed around it.

Today, the bulk of this conurbation forms the London region and the Greater London administrative area, with its own elected mayor and assembly.

 River Thames

A river runs through it. Pedestrians walk along the south bank of the River Thames. The Thames flows along some of the major sights in London, such as the Houses of Parliament, pictured, Big Ben, the Tower of London and the London Eye.

London is a leading global city and one of the world's largest financial centres with the largest city GDP in Europe. Central London is home to the headquarters of most of the UK's top 100 listed companies (the FTSE 100) and more than 100 of Europe's 500 largest. London's influence in politics, finance, education, entertainment, media, fashion, the arts and culture in general contributes to its global position. It is a major tourist destination for both domestic and overseas visitors.

 Haymarket theater

The Haymarket theater, which dates back to 1720, has been the site of several theatrical innovations, including the first matinee performance.

London hosted the 1908 and 1948 Summer Olympics and will host the 2012 Summer Olympics. London contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; the historic settlement of Greenwich; the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's Church.

 Buckingham Palace

At the end of The Mall is Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty The Queen resides.

London has a diverse range of peoples, cultures, and religions, and more than 300 languages are spoken within its boundaries. In July 2007 it had an official population of 7,556,900 within the boundaries of Greater London, making it the most populous municipality in the European Union. The Greater London Urban Area (the second largest in the EU) has a population of 8,278,251. while the metropolitan area (the largest in the EU) has an estimated total population of between 12 million and 14 million.

 The Thames

The London Underground network, administered by Transport for London, is the most extensive underground railway network in the world, London Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest airport by number of international passengers and the airspace is the busiest of any urban centre in the world.

The etymology of London is uncertain. It is an ancient name and can be found in sources from the 2nd century. It is recorded c. 121 as Londinium, which points to Romano-British origin. The earliest attempted explanation, now disregarded, is attributed to Geoffrey of Monmouth in Historia Regum Britanniae. The name is described as originating from King Lud, who had allegedly taken over the city and named it Kaerlud.

 Trafalgar Square

To the right is the very heart of London. Summer crowds gather in Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery. At the center of Trafalgar Square is Nelson's Column, which commemorates the 1805 battle of Trafalgar.

From 1899 it was commonly accepted that the name was of Celtic origin and meant place belonging to a man called *Londinos; this explanation has since been rejected. Richard Coates put forward an explanation in 1998 that it is derived from the pre-Celtic Old European lowonida, meaning 'river too wide to ford', and suggested that this was a name given to the part of the River Thames which flows through London; from this, the settlement gained the Celtic form of its name, Lowonidonjon. Until 1889 the name officially only applied to the City of London, however since then it has also referred to the County of London and now Greater London.

 National Gallery

The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square houses the national collection of Western European paintings dating back to the 13th century. Admission to the museum is free.

Although there is evidence of scattered Brythonic settlements in the area, the first major settlement was founded by the Romans in 43 AD. This lasted for just seventeen years and around 61, the Iceni tribe led by Queen Boudica stormed it, burning it to the ground. The next, heavily planned incarnation of the city prospered and superseded Colchester as the capital of the Roman province of Britannia in 100.

 Tower of London  Tower Bridge

At right is the Tower of London is a historic castle that early in its history served as a royal residence but is probably most well-known for its use as a place of imprisonment. King Henry VIII executed two of his wives there, and before she became queen, Elizabeth I was held captive there by her half-sister, Queen Mary I.

At left, Tower Bridge, which officially opened in 1894, is one of the most iconic landmarks of London.

At its height during the 2nd century, Roman London had a population of around 60,000. By the seventh century, the Anglo-Saxons had created a new settlement called Lundenwic approximately 1,000 yards (910 m) upstream from the old Roman city, around what is now Covent Garden.

 Royal Observatory

The historic Royal Observatory, Greenwich, is the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian of the World, making it the official starting point for each new day and year.

It is likely that there was a harbour at the mouth of the River Fleet for fishing and trading, and this trading grew until the city was overcome by the Vikings and forced to relocate the east, back to the location of the Roman Londinium, in order to use its walls for protection. Viking attacks continued to increase, until 886 when Alfred the Great recaptured London and made peace with the Danish leader, Guthrum. The original Saxon city of Lundenwic became Ealdwic ("old city"), a name surviving to the present day as Aldwych, which is in the modern City of Westminster.

 Westminster Abbey  Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is one of London's oldest and most important buildings and a World Heritage Site. It has been home to Royal coronations, marriages and funerals since the 11th century.

Canute took control of the English throne in 1016, controlling the city and country until 1035, when his death resulted in a reversion to Saxon control under his pious stepson Edward the Confessor, who re-founded Westminster Abbey and the adjacent Palace of Westminster. By this time, London had become the largest and most prosperous city in England, although the official seat of government was still at Winchester. Following a victory at the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror, the then Duke of Normandy, was crowned King of England in the newly finished Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. William granted the citizens of London special privileges, while building what is now known as the Tower of London, in the south-east corner of the city, to keep them under control.

 British Museum

Visitors to the British Museum are seen walking inside the modern enclosure in 2009. The museum houses millions of objects on human history and culture, including the Rosetta Stone. Admission is free.

In 1097, William II began the building of Westminster Hall, close by the abbey of the same name. The hall became the basis of a new Palace of Westminster, the prime royal residence throughout the Middle Ages. Westminster became the seat of the royal court and government, while its distinct neighbour, the City of London, was a centre of trade and commerce and flourished under its own unique administration, the Corporation of London. In 1100 its population was around 18,000; by 1300 it had grown to nearly 100,000.

There was an increasing population of Jews, until the edict of King Edward I in 1290, expelled them from England. Disaster struck during the Black Death in the mid-14th century, when London lost nearly a third of its population. Apart from the invasion during the Peasants' Revolt in 1381, London remained relatively untouched by the various civil wars during the Middle Ages.

 Great Fire of London

The Great Fire of London (left) destroyed many parts of the city in 1666.

During the Tudor period the Reformation produced a gradual shift to Protestantism, with much of London passing from church to private ownership. Mercantilism grew and monopoly trading companies such as the British East India Company were established, with trade expanding to the New World. London became the principal North Sea port, with migrants arriving from England and abroad. The population rose from an estimated 50,000 in 1530 to about 225,000 in 1605.

In the 16th century William Shakespeare and his contemporaries lived in London at a time of hostility to the development of the theatre. By the end of the Tudor period in 1603, London was still very compact. There was an assassination attempt on James I in Westminster, through the Gunpowder Plot on 5 November 1605. London was plagued by disease in the early 17th century, culminating in the Great Plague of 1665–1666, which killed up to 100,000 people or a fifth of the population.

 Globe Theatre  Globe Theatre

The Globe Theatre was built in 1599 and is associated with playwright William Shakespeare's company of actors. The oiginal theater burnt down in 1613. It was replaced by a second theater, which later closed. The current Globe was founded by American director Sam Wanamaker and opened in 1997.

Left, the Globe Theatre is dedicated to the exploration of William Shakespeare's works.

The Great Fire of London broke out in the City and quickly swept through the wooden buildings. Rebuilding took over ten years and was supervised by Robert Hooke as Surveyor of London. In 1708 Christopher Wren's masterpiece, St. Paul's Cathedral was completed. During the Georgian era new districts such as Mayfair were formed in the west; and new bridges over the Thames encouraged the development in South London. In the east, the Port of London expanded downstream.

 St Paul's Cathedral  London Symphony Orchestra

St Paul's Cathedral is seen from the Millennium Bridge. The Anglican cathedral sits on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in London's historic core. To the left the London Symphony Orchestra rehearsing at Saint Paul's Cathedral.

In 1762 George III acquired Buckingham House and it was enlarged over the next 75 years. During the 18th century, London was dogged by crime and the Bow Street Runners were established in 1750 as a professional police force. The coffee house became a popular place to debate ideas, with growing literacy and the development of the printing press making news widely available; and Fleet Street became the centre of the British press.

“ You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. ”
—Samuel Johnson

 Blitz

At right is a London street hit during the Blitz of World War II.

London was the world's largest city from about 1831 to 1925. Rising traffic congestion led to the creation of the world's first local urban rail network.

The Metropolitan Board of Works oversaw infrastructure expansion. It was replaced in 1889 by the London County Council, London's first elected city-wide administration.

 Greenwich foot tunnel

The Greenwich foot tunnel runs under the River Thames between Cutty Sark Gardens and Island Gardens, on the Isle of Dogs.

The Blitz and other bombing by the German Luftwaffe during World War II killed over 30,000 Londoners and destroyed large tracts of housing and other buildings across London. Immediately after the war, the 1948 Summer Olympics were held at the original Wembley Stadium, at a time when the city had barely recovered from the war.

 Globe Theatre  Globe Theatre

At right, visitors walk along the Cedar Vista in sight of the Pagoda at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. While at left is Little Venice, is a tranquil canal area that is home to waterside cafes and pubs.

In 1951 the Festival of Britain was held on the South Bank. The Great Smog of 1952 led to the Clean Air Act 1956, which ended the "pea-souper" fogs for which London had been notorious. From the 1950s onwards, London became home to a large number of immigrants, largely from Commonwealth countries such as Jamaica, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, making London one of the most diverse cities in Europe.

 Camden Town

Shoppers and tourists flock to the eclectic mix of retail outlets in the north London district of Camden Town. The area has been immortalized in many films and recently has become a popular haunt of musicians and supermodels.

Starting in the mid-1960s, London became a centre for the worldwide youth culture, exemplified by the Swinging London subculture associated with Carnaby Street. The role of trendsetter was revived during the Punk era. In 1965 London's political boundaries were expanded to take into account the growth of the urban area and a new Greater London Council was created. During The Troubles in Northern Ireland, London was subjected to terrorist attacks by the Provisional IRA. Racial inequality was highlighted by the 1981 Brixton riot. Greater London's population declined steadily in the decades after World War II, from an estimated peak of 8.6 million in 1939 to around 6.8 million in the 1980s. The principal ports for London moved downstream to Felixstowe and Tilbury, with the London Docklands area becoming a focus for regeneration.

 Blitz

The Thames Barrier (left) was completed in the 1980s to protect London against tidal surges from the North Sea. The Greater London Council was abolished in 1986, which left London as the only large metropolis in the world without a central administration. In 2000, London-wide government was restored, with the creation of the Greater London Authority. To celebrate the start of the 21st century, the Millennium Dome and London Eye were constructed. On 7 July 2005, several London Underground trains and a bus were bombed in a series of terrorist attacks.


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Madrid

 Madrid

Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. It is the third-most populous municipality in the European Union after Greater London and Berlin, and its metropolitan area is the third-most populous in the European Union after Paris and London.

The city is located on the river Manzanares in the centre of both the country and the Community of Madrid (which comprises the city of Madrid, its conurbation and extended suburbs and villages); this community is bordered by the autonomous communities of Castile and León and Castile-La Mancha. As the capital city of Spain, seat of government, and residence of the Spanish monarch, Madrid is also the political centre of Spain. The current mayor is Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón from the People's Party (PP). He has been in office since 2003, when he left the Presidency of the Autonomous Community of Madrid and stood as the candidate to replace outgoing mayor José María Alvarez del Manzano, also from the PP. In the last local elections of 2007, Ruiz-Gallardón increased the PP majority in the City Council to 34 seats out of 57, taking 55.5% of the popular vote and winning in all but two districts.

Due to its economic output, standard of living, and market size, Madrid is considered the major financial centre of the Iberian Peninsula; it hosts the head offices of the vast majority of the major Spanish companies, as well as the headquarters of three of the world's 100 largest companies (Telefónica, Repsol-YPF, Banco Santander).

While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighbourhoods and streets. Its landmarks include the huge Royal Palace of Madrid; the Teatro Real (Royal theatre) with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro park, founded in 1631; the imposing 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain's historical archives; an archaeological museum; and three superb art museums: Prado Museum, which hosts one of the finest art collections in the world, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen- Bornemisza Museum, housed in the renovated Villahermosa Palace.

The population of the city is roughly 3.2 million (as of December 2005), while the estimated urban area population is 5.1 million. The entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area (urban area and suburbs) is calculated to be 5.84 million. The city spans a total of 698 km² (234 sq mi).

 Royal Palace  Alfonso XII

The Royal Palace of Madrid is pictured at left, and the Monument to Alfonso XII at the Parque del Retiro is at right.

There are several theories regarding the origin of the name "Madrid". According to legend Madrid was founded by Ocno Bianor (son of King Tyrrhenius of Tuscany and Mantua) and was named "Metragirta" or "Mantua Carpetana". Others contend that the original name of the city was "Ursaria" ("land of bears" in Latin), due to the high number of these animals that were found in the adjacent forests, which, together with the strawberry tree ("madroño" in Spanish), have been the emblem of the city from the Middle Ages.

 Metrópolis Building  Fountain of Apollo

The Metrópolis Building is at left; Fountain of Apollo or of the Four Seasons, at the Paseo del Prado at right.

Nevertheless, it is now commonly believed that the origin of the current name of the city comes from the 2nd century B.C. The Roman Empire established a settlement on the banks of the Manzanares river. The name of this first village was "Matrice" (a reference to the river that crossed the settlement). Following the invasions of the Germanic Sueves, Vandals and Alans during the fifth century A.D., the Roman Empire could not defend its territories on the Iberian Peninsula, and were therefore overrun by the Visigoths. The barbarian tribes subsequently took control of "Matrice". In the 7th century the Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula saw the name changed to "Mayrit", from the Arabic term "Mayra" (referencing water as a "trees" or "giver of life") and the Ibero-Roman suffix "it" that means "place". The modern "Madrid" evolved from the Mozarabic "Matrit", which is still in the Madrilenian gentilic.

Although the site of modern-day Madrid has been occupied since pre-historic times, in the Roman era this territory belonged to the diocese of Complutum (present-day Alcalá de Henares). There are archeological remains of a small village during the visigoth epoch, whose name might have been adopted later by Arabs. The origins of the modern city come from the 9th century, when Muhammad I ordered the construction of a small palace in the same place that is today occupied by the Palacio Real. Around this palace a small citadel, al-Mudaina, was built. Near that palace was the Manzanares, which the Muslims called al-Majrit, "source of water"). From this came the naming of the site as Majerit, which later evolved into the modern-day spelling of Madrid. The citadel was conquered in 1085 by Christian king Alfonso VI of Castile in his advance towards Toledo. He reconsecrated the mosque as the church of the Virgin of Almudena (almudin, the garrison's granary). In 1329, the Cortes Generales first assembled in the city to advise Alfonso XI of Castile. Sephardi Jews and Moors continued to live in the city until they were expelled at the end of the 15th century. After troubles and a large fire, Henry III of Castile (1379–1406) rebuilt the city and established himself safely fortified outside its walls in El Pardo. The grand entry of Ferdinand and Isabella to Madrid heralded the end of strife between Castile and Aragon.

 Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor.

The Kingdom of Castile, with its capital at Toledo, and the Crown of Aragon, with its capital at Zaragoza, were welded into modern Spain by the Catholic Monarchs (Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon).

Though their grandson Charles I of Spain (also known as Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) favoured Seville, it was Charles' son, Philip II (1527–1598) who moved the court to Madrid in 1561. Although he made no official declaration, the seat of the court was the de facto capital. Seville continued to control commerce with Spain's colonies, but Madrid controlled Seville.

Aside from a brief period, 1601-1606, when Felipe III installed his court in Valladolid, Madrid's fortunes have closely mirrored those of Spain.

 Calle de Alcalá

Calle de Alcalá is at right.

During the Siglo de Oro (Golden Century), in the 16th/17th century, Madrid bore little resemblance to other European capitals, as the population of the city was economically dependent on the business of the court itself, and there was no other significant activity.

In the late 1800s, Isabel II could not suppress the political tension that would lead to yet another revolt, the First Spanish Republic. This was later followed by the return of the monarchy to Madrid, then the creation of the Second Spanish Republic, preceding the Spanish Civil War.

Madrid was one of the most heavily affected cities of Spain by the Civil War (1936–1939). The city was a stronghold of the Republicans from July 1936. Its western suburbs were the scene of an all-out battle in November 1936 and it was during the Civil War that Madrid became the first city to be bombed by airplanes specifically targeting civilians in the history of warfare. (See Siege of Madrid (1936-39)).

During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, especially during the 1960s, the south of Madrid became very industrialized, and there were massive migrations from rural areas of Spain into the city. Madrid's south-eastern periphery became an extensive working class settlement, which was the base for an active cultural and political reform.

After the death of Franco, emerging democratic parties (including those of left-wing and republican ideology) accepted King Juan Carlos I as both Franco's successor and as the heir of the historic dynasty - in order to secure stability and democracy. This led Spain to its current position as a constitutional monarchy, with Madrid as capital.

Benefiting from increasing prosperity in the 1980s and 1990s, the capital city of Spain has consolidated its position as an important economic, cultural, industrial, educational, and technological center on the European continent.

 Plaza de Castilla

The Gran Vía and Alcalá Street is at left.

Madrid is notable for its nightlife and night clubs. On weekends, Madrilenian youth are known for dancing all night long, stopping only to go home, take a shower, shave, and go to work.

What is also popular is the practice of meeting in parks or streets with friends and drinking alcohol together (this is called 'botellón', from 'botella', bottle), but in recent years, drinking in the street is punished with a fine and now young madrileños drink together all around the city instead of in better-known places. Many places host bands (concerts in Madrid). Nightlife and young cultural awakening flourished after the death of Franco, especially during the 80s while Madrid's mayor Enrique Tierno Galván (PSOE) was in office, at this time is well-known the cultural movement called la movida and it initially gathered around Plaza del Dos de Mayo. Nowadays, the Malasaña area is known for its alternative scene. Some of the most popular night destinations include the neighbourhoods of: Bilbao, Tribunal, Alonso Martinez or Moncloa, together with Puerta del Sol area (including Opera and Gran Via, both adjacent to the popular square) and Huertas (barrio de Las Letras), destinations which are also filled with tourists day and night. The district of Chueca has also become a hot spot in the Madrilenian night life.

The Auditorio Nacional de Música is the main venue for classical music concerts in Madrid, is home to the Spanish National Orchestra, the Chamartín Symphony Orchestra and the venue for the symphonic concerts of the Community of Madrid Orchestra and the Madrid Symphony Orchestra. It is also the principal venue for orchestras on tour playing in Madrid. The performs RTVE Symphony Orchestra at the Teatro Monumental.

The Teatro Real is the main opera house in Madrid and its resident orchestra is the Madrid Symphony Orchestra. The Teatro de la Zarzuela is mainly devoted to Zarzuela (the Spanish traditional musical theatre genre), as well as operetta and recitals. The resident orchestra of the theatre is the Community of Madrid Orchestra.

Other concert venues for classical music are the Fundación Joan March and the Auditorio 400, devoted to contemporary music.

Madrid hosts the largest Plaza de Toros (bullring) in Spain, Las Ventas, established in 1929. Las Ventas is considered by many to be the world center of bullfighting and has a seating capacity of almost 25,000. Madrid's bullfighting season begins in March and ends in October. Bullfights are held every day during the festivities of San Isidro (Madrid's patron saint) from the middle of March to the middle of June, and every Sunday, and public holiday, the rest of the season. The style of the plaza is Neomudéjar. Las Ventas also hosts music concerts and other events outside of the bullfighting season.

	May 15, San Isidro Labrador (Madrid's patron saint). 
	June 13, San Antonio de la Florida. 
	July 16-25, Virgen del Carmen festivities (Patron saint of the sea). 
	August 6-14, Virgen de la Paloma festivities (Madrid's patron saint) 
	August 7, San Cayetano (Cascorro neighbourhood's patron saint). 
	August 10, San Lorenzo (Lavapiés neighbourhood's patron saint). 
	November 9, Virgen de la Almudena festivities (Madrid's patron saint). 

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Miami

 Miami

Miami is a major city located on the Atlantic coast in southeastern Florida, in the United States. Miami is the county seat of Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida. The Miami Urbanized Area (as defined by the Census Bureau) was the fifth most populous urbanized area in the U.S. in the 2000 census with a population of 4,919,036. The United Nations estimated that in 2007, Miami had become the fourth largest urbanized area in the United States, behind New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

 Miami

Hot spot - Thousands of people will descend on Miami Beach ahead of Super Bowl XLIV between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. The city will host a number of private and public events ahead of the big game.

Miami is well-known as a global city because of its importance in finance, commerce, culture, fashion, print media, entertainment, the arts and international trade. An international center for popular entertainment in television, music, fashion, film, and the performing arts, Miami also has a powerful influence internationally. The city is also home to the largest concentration of international banks in the United States, as well as home to many international company headquarters, and television studios.

 Lifeguard towers

Lifeguard towers on Miami Beach are colorful and easy to distinguish. Lifeguards care over swimmers who play nearby, and the towers make a great meeting place when surrounded by an endless area of sand, surf and beach umbrellas.

 Port of call

Port of call - Frequent cruisers can be forgiven for seeing Biscayne Bay and Miami simply as a departure point. However, the area offers a wealth of activities and events that can satisfy tourists with a variety of different interests.

The city's Port of Miami is the number one cruise/passenger port in the world and is known for accommodating the largest volume of cruise ships in the world, and is home to many major cruise line headquarters.

 Wet and wild

Wet and wild - Jet skis cruise along Biscayne Bay near Miami Beach Marina. Tourists visiting the Bay can enjoy a number of recreational activities, including snorkeling, sailing, kayaking and more.

The Miami area was first inhabited for more than one thousand years by the Tequestas, but was later claimed for Spain in 1566 by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. A Spanish mission was constructed one year later in 1567. In 1836, Fort Dallas was built, and the Miami area subsequently became a site of fighting during the Second Seminole War.

 The American Riviera

Life's a beach - South Beach, also nicknamed "The American Riviera," is well-known for celebrities, chic lifestyles and, of course, beaches. The man-made beach runs along the Atlantic Ocean for miles.

Miami holds the distinction of being the only major city in the United States founded by a woman, Julia Tuttle, who was a local citrus grower and a wealthy Cleveland native. The Miami area was better known as "Biscayne Bay Country" in the early years of its growth. Some published reports described the area as a promising wilderness. The area was also characterized as "one of the finest building sites in Florida." The Great Freeze of 1894-1895 hastened Miami's growth, as the crops of the Miami area were the only ones in Florida that survived. Julia Tuttle subsequently convinced Henry Flagler, a railroad tycoon, to expand his Florida East Coast Railroad to the region. Miami was officially incorporated as a city on July 28, 1896 with a population of just over 300.

 Miami Carnival

Colorful celebration - A dancer wears a costume as she participates in the Miami Carnival. The carnival has been an annual event since 1984. It has grown from a small neighborhood festival to an international event bringing live bands and calypsonians from the islands.

Miami prospered during the 1920s with an increase in population and infrastructure but weakened after the collapse of the Florida land boom of the 1920s, the 1926 Miami Hurricane and the Great Depression in the 1930s. When World War II began, Miami, well-situated due to its location on the southern coast of Florida, played an important role in the battle against German submarines. The war helped to expand Miami's population; by 1940, 172,172 people lived in the city.

 Sun Life Stadium

Home field - Miami's Sun Life Stadium will host Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7. The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints will face off in their quest to become world champions.

After Fidel Castro rose to power in 1959, many Cubans sought refuge in Miami, further increasing the population. In the 1980s and 1990s, various crises struck South Florida, among them the Arthur McDuffie beating and the subsequent riot, drug wars, Hurricane Andrew, and the Elián González uproar. Nevertheless, in the latter half of the 20th century, Miami became a major international, financial, and cultural center.

Miami and its metropolitan area grew from just over one thousand residents to nearly five and a half million residents in just 110 years (1896-2006). The city's nickname, The Magic City, comes from this rapid growth. Winter visitors remarked that the city grew so much from one year to the next that it was like magic.

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Moscow

 Moscow

Moscow is the capital and the largest city of Russia. It is also the largest metropolitan area in Europe, and ranks among the largest urban areas in the world. Moscow is a major political, economic, cultural, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the world, a global city. It is also the seventh largest city proper in the world, a megacity. The population of Moscow (as of 1 June 2009) is 10,524,400.

It is located by the Moskva River in the Central Federal District, in the European part of Russia. Moscow sits on the junction of three geological platforms. Historically, it was the capital of the former Soviet Union, Russian Empire, Tsardom of Russia and the Grand Duchy of Moscow. It is the site of the Moscow Kremlin, one of the World Heritage Sites in the city, which serves as the residence of the President of Russia. The Russian parliament (the State Duma and the Federation Council) and the Government of Russia also sit in Moscow.

Moscow is a major economic centre and is home to one of the largest numbers of billionaires in the world; in 2008 Moscow was named the world's most expensive city for foreign employees for the third year in a row, however, in 2009, Moscow moved to third after Tokyo and Osaka came in first and second, respectively.

It is home to many scientific and educational institutions, as well as numerous sport facilities. It possesses a complex transport system, that includes 3 international airports, 9 railroad terminals, and the world's second busiest (after Tokyo) metro system which is famous for its architecture and artwork. Its metro is the busiest single-operator subway in the world.

Over time, the city has earned a variety of nicknames, most referring to its pre-eminent status in the nation: The Third Rome, Whitestone, The First Throne, The Forty Forties.

A person from Moscow is called a Muscovite in English, Moskvich in Russian.

The city is named after the river (literally "the city by the Moskva River"). The origin of the name is unknown, although several theories exist. One of the theories suggests the city and the river were named after the Baltic tribes of Moskvas, those were similar to the ancient Galindians and to the modern Lithuanians. Another theory suggests that the source of the name is an ancient Finnic language, in which it means “dark” and “turbid”. The first Russian reference to Moscow dates from 1147 when Yuri Dolgoruki called upon the prince of the Novgorod-Severski to “come to me, brother, to Moscow.”

 Yuri Dolgoruki

At left is a monument to the city's founder, Yuri Dolgoruki.

Nine years later, in 1156, Prince Yuri Dolgoruki of Rostov ordered the construction of a wooden wall, which had to be rebuilt multiple times, to surround the emerging city. After the sacking of 1237–1238, when the Mongols burned the city to the ground and killed its inhabitants, Moscow recovered and became the capital of the independent Vladimir-Suzdal principality in 1327. Its favourable position on the headwaters of the Volga River contributed to steady expansion. Moscow developed into a stable and prosperous principality, known as Grand Duchy of Moscow, for many years and attracted a large number of refugees from across Russia.

Under Ivan I the city replaced Tver as a political centre of Vladimir-Suzdal and became the sole collector of taxes for the Mongol-Tatar rulers. By paying high tribute, Ivan won an important concession from the Khan. Unlike other principalities, Moscow was not divided among his sons but was passed intact to his eldest. However, Moscow's opposition against foreign domination grew. In 1380, prince Dmitry Donskoy of Moscow led a united Russian army to an important victory over the Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo which was not decisive, though. Only two years later Moscow was sacked by khan Tokhtamysh. In 1480, Ivan III had finally broken the Russians free from Tatar control, allowing Moscow to become the centre of power in Russia. Under Ivan III the city became the capital of an empire that would eventually encompass all of present-day Russia and other lands.

In 1571, the Crimean Tatars attacked and sacked Moscow, burning everything but the Kremlin.

In 1609, the Swedish army led by Count Jacob De la Gardie and Evert Horn started their march from Veliky Novgorod toward Moscow to help Tsar Vasili Shuiski, entered Moscow in 1610 and suppressed the rebellion against the Tsar, but left it early in 1611, following which the Polish-Lithuanian army invaded. During the Polish–Muscovite War (1605–1618) hetman Stanislaw Zólkiewski entered Moscow after defeated Russians in the Battle of Klushino. The 17th century was rich in popular risings, such as the liberation of Moscow from the Polish-Lithuanian invaders (1612), the Salt Riot (1648), the Copper Riot (1662), and the Moscow Uprising of 1682.

The plague of 1654–1656 killed half the population of Moscow. The city ceased to be Russia’s capital in 1712, after the founding of Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great near the Baltic coast in 1703. The Plague of 1771 was the last massive outbreak of plague in central Russia, claiming up to 100,000 lives in Moscow alone. During the French invasion of Russia in 1812, the Muscovites burned the city and evacuated, as Napoleon’s forces were approaching on 14 September. Napoleon’s army, plagued by hunger, cold and poor supply lines, was forced to retreat and was nearly annihilated by the devastating Russian winter and sporadic attacks by Russian military forces.

 Moscow Fire

The French invasion of Russia in 1812 resulted in the firing of Moscow, painting of Smirnov A.F., 1813.

In January 1905, the institution of the City Governor, or Mayor, was officially introduced in Moscow, and Alexander Adrianov became Moscow’s first official mayor. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, on 12 March 1918 Moscow became the capital of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and of the Soviet Union less than five years later. During World War II (known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War), after the German invasion of the USSR, the Soviet State Defense Committee and the General Staff of the Red Army was located in Moscow.

 Moscow Fire

Red Square, painting of Fedor Alekseev, 1802 is at left.

In 1941, sixteen divisions of the national volunteers (more than 160,000 people), twenty-five battalions (18,500 people) and four engineering regiments were formed among the Muscovites. That November, the German Army Group Centre was stopped at the outskirts of the city and then driven off in the Battle of Moscow. Many factories were evacuated, together with much of the government, and from 20 October the city was declared to be under siege. Its remaining inhabitants built and manned antitank defences, while the city was bombarded from the air. Joseph Stalin refused to leave the city, meaning the general staff and the council of people's commissars remained in the city as well. Despite the siege and the bombings, the construction of Moscow's metro system continued through the war, and by the end of the war several new metro lines were opened.

In 1980, it hosted the Summer Olympic Games, which was boycotted by the United States and several other Western countries due to the Soviet Union's involvement in Afghanistan in late 1979. In 1991, Moscow was the scene of the failed coup attempt by the government members opposed to the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev. When the USSR was dissolved in the same year, Moscow continued to be the capital of Russia.

Since then, the emergence of a market economy in Moscow has produced an explosion of Western-style retailing, services, architecture, and lifestyles. In 1998, it hosted the first World Youth Games.

 House of Music

The Moscow International House of Music is at right.

One of the most notable art museums in Moscow is the Tretyakov Gallery, which was founded by Pavel Tretyakov, a wealthy patron of the arts who donated a large private collection to the city. The Tretyakov Gallery is split into two buildings. The Old Tretyakov gallery, the original gallery in the Tretyakovskaya area on the south bank of the Moskva River, houses the works of the classic Russian tradition. The works of famous pre-Revolutionary painters, such as Ilya Repin, as well as the works of early Russian icon painters can be found in the Old Tretyakov Gallery. Visitors can even see rare originals by early-fifteenth century iconographer Andrei Rublev.The New Tretyakov gallery, created in Soviet times, mainly contains the works of Soviet artists, as well as of a few contemporary artists, but there is some overlap with the Old Tretyakov Gallery for early twentieth century art. The new gallery includes a small reconstruction of Vladimir Tatlin's famous Monument to the Third International and a mixture of other avant-garde works by artists like Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky. Socialist realism features can also be found within the halls of the New Tretyakov Gallery.

Another art museum in the city of Moscow is the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, which was founded by, among others, Marina Tsvetaeva's father. The State Historical Museum of Russia is a museum of Russian history located between Red Square and Manege Square in Moscow.

Moscow is also the heart of Russian performing arts, including ballet and film. There are ninety-three theatres, 132 cinemas and twenty-four concert-halls in Moscow. There are also two large circuses in Moscow: Moscow State Circus and Moscow Circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard named after Yuri Nikulin.

Soviet films are integral to film history and the Mosfilm studio was at the heart of many Soviet classic films as it is responsible for both artistic and mainstream productions.

Other popular attractions include the Moscow Zoo, home to nearly a thousands species and more than 6,500 specimens. Each year, the zoo attracts more than 1.2 million visitors. The long days will also afford one more time to cover the immense wealth of historical, cultural or simply popular sites in Moscow.

There is a vibrant night life in Moscow. The major and one of the most popular nightlife areas is around Tverskaya Street.

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New York

 New York

New York is the most populous city in the United States, and the center of the New York metropolitan area, which is among the most populous urban areas in the world. A leading global city, New York exerts a powerful influence over worldwide commerce, finance, culture, fashion and entertainment. As host of the United Nations headquarters, it is also an important center for international affairs. The city is often referred to as New York City to differentiate it from the state of New York, of which it is a part.

Located on a large natural harbor on the Atlantic coast of the Northeastern United States, the city consists of five boroughs: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. The city's 2007 estimated population exceeds 8.3 million people, and with a land area of 305 square miles (790 km2), New York City is the most densely populated major city in the United States. The New York metropolitan area's population is also the nation's largest, estimated at 18.8 million people over 6,720 square miles (17,400 km2). Furthermore, the Combined Statistical Area containing the Greater New York metropolitan area contained 22.155 million people as of 2008 Census estimates, also the largest in the United States.

New York was founded as a commercial trading post by the Dutch in 1624. The settlement was called New Amsterdam until 1664 when the colony came under English control. New York served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790. It has been the country's largest city since 1790.

 New York

Many districts and landmarks in the city have become well-known to outsiders. The Statue of Liberty greeted millions of immigrants as they came to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Wall Street, in Lower Manhattan, has been a dominant global financial center since World War II and is home to the New York Stock Exchange. The city has been home to several of the tallest buildings in the world, including the Empire State Building (left) and the twin towers of the former World Trade Center.

The City is the birthplace of many cultural movements, including the Harlem Renaissance in literature and visual art; abstract expressionism (also known as the New York School) in painting; hip hop, punk, salsa, disco and Tin Pan Alley in music; and is the home of Broadway theater.

New York is notable among American cities for its high use of mass transit, most of which runs 24 hours per day, and for the overall density and diversity of its population. In 2005, nearly 170 languages were spoken in the city and 36% of its population was born outside the United States. The city is sometimes referred to as "The City that Never Sleeps", while other nicknames include The Capital of the world, Gotham, and the Big Apple.

 New York, 1660

Lower Manhattan in 1660, when it was part of New Amsterdam is to the right. North is to the right in the picture.

The region was inhabited by about 5,000 Lenape Native Americans at the time of its European discovery in 1524 by Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian explorer in the service of the French crown, who called it "Nouvelle Angoulême" (New Angoulême). European settlement began with the founding of a Dutch fur trading settlement, later called "Nieuw Amsterdam" (New Amsterdam), on the southern tip of Manhattan in 1614. Dutch colonial Director-General Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from the Lenape in 1626 for a value of 60 guilders (about $1000 in 2006); a legend, now disproved, says that Manhattan was purchased for $24 worth of glass beads. In 1664, the English conquered the city and renamed it "New York" after the English Duke of York and Albany. At the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War the Dutch gained control of Run (a much more valuable asset at the time) in exchange for the English controlling New Amsterdam (New York) in North America. By 1700, the Lenape population had diminished to 200.

New York City grew in importance as a trading port while under British rule. The city hosted the seminal John Peter Zenger trial in 1735, helping to establish the freedom of the press in North America. In 1754, Columbia University was founded under charter by George II of Great Britain as King's College in Lower Manhattan. The Stamp Act Congress met in New York in October of 1765 as the Sons of Liberty organized in the city, skirmishing over the next ten years with British troops stationed there.

During the American Revolutionary War the area emerged as the theater for a series of major battles known as the New York Campaign. After the upper Manhattan Battle of Fort Washington in 1776 the city became the British military and political base of operations in North America, and a haven for Loyalist refugees, until military occupation ended in 1783. A major fire during the occupation led to the destruction of about a quarter of the city. The assembly of the Congress of the Confederation made New York City the national capital shortly after the war: the Constitution of the United States was ratified and in 1789 the first President of the United States, George Washington, was inaugurated; the first United States Congress and the United States Supreme Court each assembled for the first time in 1789, and the United States Bill of Rights drafted, all at Federal Hall on Wall Street. By 1790, New York City had surpassed Philadelphia as the largest city in the United States.

 Central Park  Central Park

Central Park was the first public park built in America. Its 843 acres include 136 acres of woodlands, 250 acres of lawns, and 150 acres of water in 7 waterbodies, making up 6 percent of Manhattan's total acreage. Central Park was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965 and a New York City Landmark in 1974. More than 25 million visitors enjoy Central Park each year. To the right people relax in Central Park. It includes walking tracks, ice-skating rinks, and numerous grassy areas. There are 51 sculptures in the Park and 36 bridges and arches.

In the 19th century, the city was transformed by immigration and development. A visionary development proposal, the Commissioners' Plan of 1811, expanded the city street grid to encompass all of Manhattan, and the 1819 opening of the Erie Canal connected the Atlantic port to the vast agricultural markets of the North American interior. Local politics fell under the domination of Tammany Hall, a political machine supported by Irish immigrants. Public-minded members of the old merchant aristocracy lobbied for the establishment of Central Park, which became the first landscaped park in an American city in 1857. A significant free-black population also existed in Manhattan, as well as in Brooklyn. Slaves had been held in New York through 1827, but during the 1830s New York became a center of interracial abolitionist activism in the North. New York's black population was over 16,000 in 1840. By 1860, New York had over 200,000 Irish, one quarter of the city's population.

 Carnegie Hall  Yankee Stadium

The celebrated Carnegie Hall opened in 1891, with Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky conducting the inaugural concert. Some of the most popular classical musicians, as well as dancers, authors and politicians have appeared on its stage. To the right is where the New York Yankees play against the rivals.

Anger at military conscription during the American Civil War (1861–1865) led to the Draft Riots of 1863, one of the worst incidents of civil unrest in American history.In 1898, the modern City of New York was formed with the consolidation of Brooklyn (until then an independent city), the County of New York (which then included parts of the Bronx), the County of Richmond, and the western portion of the County of Queens. The opening of the New York City Subway in 1904 helped bind the new city together. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the city became a world center for industry, commerce, and communication. However, this development did not come without a price. In 1904, the steamship General Slocum caught fire in the East River, killing 1,021 people on board. In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the city's worst industrial disaster, took the lives of 146 garment workers and spurred the growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and major improvements in factory safety standards.

 Chrysler Building  Central Park

The Chrysler Building (seen from the roof of the Met Life building), was completed in 1930. It was the first man-made structure to stand taller than 1,000 feet (1,046 feet). It was also the world's tallest, before being surpassed in height by the Empire State Building at 1,250 feet. To the right is Saint Patrick's Cathedral, the largest decorated gothic-style Catholic Cathedral in the U.S. The Cathedral's construction began in 1858, and opened its doors in 1879.

In the 1920s, New York City was a major destination for African Americans during the Great Migration from the American South. By 1916, New York City was home to the largest urban African diaspora in North America. The Harlem Renaissance flourished during the era of Prohibition, coincident with a larger economic boom that saw the skyline develop with the construction of competing skyscrapers. New York City became the most populous urbanized area in the world in early 1920s, overtaking London, and the metropolitan area surpassed the 10 million mark in early 1930s becoming the first megacity in human history. The difficult years of the Great Depression saw the election of reformer Fiorello LaGuardia as mayor and the fall of Tammany Hall after eighty years of political dominance.

 Rockefeller Plaza  George Washington Bridge

Rockefeller Center (pictured at left) is a complex of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres (89,000 m2) between 48th and 51st streets in New York City. Built by the Rockefeller family, it is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan, spanning the area between Fifth Avenue and Seventh Avenue. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. The George Washington Bridge (known informally as the GW Bridge, the GWB, the GW, or the George) is a suspension bridge spanning the Hudson River, connecting the Washington Heights neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan in New York City to Fort Lee in New Jersey by means of Interstate 95, U.S. Route 1/9. U.S. Route 46, which is entirely in New Jersey, ends halfway across the bridge at the state border.

Returning World War II veterans created a postwar economic boom and the development of huge housing tracts in eastern Queens. New York emerged from the war unscathed and the leading city of the world, with Wall Street leading America's ascendance as the world's dominant economic power, the United Nations headquarters (completed in 1950) emphasizing New York's political influence, and the rise of abstract expressionism in the city precipitating New York's displacement of Paris as the center of the art world.

In the 1960s, New York suffered from economic problems, rising crime rates, which reached a peak in the 1970s. In the 1980s, resurgence in the financial industry improved the city's fiscal health. By the 1990s, crime rates dropped dramatically, many American transplants and waves of new immigrants arrived from Asia and Latin America. Important new sectors, such as Silicon Alley, emerged in the city's economy and New York's population reached an all-time high in the 2000 census.

 New York

The city was one of the sites of the September 11, 2001 attacks, when nearly 3,000 people died in the destruction of the World Trade Center. A new 1 World Trade Center (previously known as the Freedom Tower), along with a memorial and three other office towers, will be built on the site (featured at left) and is scheduled for completion in 2013. On December 19, 2006, the first steel columns were installed in the building's foundation. Three other high-rise office buildings are planned for the site along Greenwich Street, and they will surround the World Trade Center Memorial, which is under construction. The area will also be home to a museum dedicated to the history of the site.

 New York

Ellis Island was the main facility for immigrants, entering the United States in the late 19th Century to the mid 20th Century. The facility operated from January 1, 1892, until November 12, 1954. It is owned by the Federal government and is now part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. More than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island, between 1892 and 1954. The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States to mark the Centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. The idea of giving a colossal representation of republican virtues to a "sister" republic, across the sea, served as a focus for the republican cause against other politicians. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor on October 28, 1886.

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Ottawa

 Ottawa

Ottawa is the capital of Canada and a municipality within the Province of Ontario. Located in the Ottawa Valley in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario, the city lies on the southern banks of the Ottawa River, a major waterway forming the local boundary between the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The 2006 Census recorded the population at 812,129, making it the fourth largest municipality in the country and second largest in Ontario. Connected by several bridges to its Quebec neighbour, the City of Gatineau on the northern shores of the Ottawa River, the two cities had a combined 2006 population of over 1,130,000, making it the country's fourth largest metropolitan area.

There is no federal capital district in Canada. Although it does not constitute a separate administrative district, Ottawa is part of the federally designated National Capital Region (NCR), which encompasses Ottawa, Gatineau, and surroundings areas, having a population of over 1,451,000. The National Capital Commission is a federal crown corporation charged with the responsibility of planning and managing the federal government's interests in the NCR.

As with other national capitals, the word "Ottawa" is also used to refer by metonymy to the country's federal government, especially as opposed to provincial or municipal authorities.

The Ottawa region was long the residence of the Odawa or Odaawaa First Nations people. The Odawa are an Algonquin people who called the river the Kichi Sibi or Kichissippi meaning "Great River" or "Grand River". Historical evidence indicates that the Algonquins over time have occupied portions of the lands of the Ottawa River watershed and travelled through surrounding territory as a hunting and gathering society. The Algonquins of Ontario assert that they never surrendered its territory by treaty, sale, or conquest and have made such claims since 1772. In 1983, the Algonquins of Golden Lake (Pikwàkanagàn) presented to the Government of Canada a claim to Aboriginal rights and title within the Ontario portion of the Ottawa and Mattawa River watersheds. Negotiations are ongoing.

 aerial view,Parliament

1920 aerial view of the Parliament buildings (without the Peace Tower), and old Union station in the background (left).

Early European explorers of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers sought new territories, claimed lands in the names of their kings and queens, and sought western passages to India and Asia as well as gold and other precious commodities. Among the first of commercial enterprises to evolve in the New World after fishing, the fur trade industry, largely influenced by the Hudson Bay Company, used the Ottawa River and its tributaries as the local conveyance for the delivery of fur products to Europe via Montreal and Quebec City.

The first settlement in the region was led by Philemon Wright, a New Englander from Woburn Massachusetts who, on March 7, 1800 arrived with his own and five other families along with twenty-five labourers to start an agricultural community on the north bank of the Ottawa River at the portage to the Chaudière Falls. Food crops were not sufficient to sustain the community and Wright began harvesting trees as a cash crop when he determined that he could transport timber by river from the Ottawa Valley to the Montreal and Quebec City markets, which also exported to Europe. His first raft of squared timber and sawn lumber arrived in Quebec City in 1806.

Liked by many European nations for its extremely straight and strong trunk in heavy construction for shipbuilding and housing as well as for furniture, the white pine (Pinus strobus) was found throughout the Ottawa Valley, soon booming based almost exclusively upon the timber trade. By 1812, the timber trade had overtaken the fur trade as the leading economic activity in the area as Ottawa became a centre for lumber milling and square-cut lumber in Canada and North America.

In the years following the War of 1812, in addition to settling some military regiment families (such as the 100th Regiment of Foot (Prince Regent's County of Dublin Regiment) at Richmond, Ontario), the government began sponsored immigration schemes which brought over Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants to settle the Ottawa area, which began a steady stream of Irish immigration there in the next few decades. Along with French Canadians who crossed over from Quebec, these two groups provided the bulk of workers involved in the Rideau Canal project and the booming timber trade, both instrumental in putting Ottawa on the map.

 Wellington Street

1845 painting of Wellington Street looking east, by Thomas Burrowes, one of the street's first residents is at right.

The region's population grew significantly when the canal was completed by Colonel John By in 1832. It was intended to provide a secure route between Montreal and Kingston on Lake Ontario, by-passing the stretch of the St. Lawrence River bordering New York State (the U.S invasions of Canada in the War of 1812 being a recent memory). Construction of the canal began at the northern end, where Colonel By set up a military barracks on what later became Parliament Hill, and laid out a townsite that soon became known as Bytown. Original city leaders of Bytown include a number of Wright's sons,most notably Ruggles Wright. Nicholas Sparks, Braddish Billings and Abraham Dow were the first to settle on the Ontario side of the Ottawa river.

The west side of the canal became known as "Uppertown" where the Parliament buildings are located, while the east side of the canal (wedged between the canal and Rideau River) was known as the "Lowertown". At that time, Lowertown was a crowded, boisterous shanty town, frequently receiving the worst of disease epidemics, such as the Cholera outbreak in 1832, and typhus in 1847.

Bytown was renamed Ottawa in 1855, when it was incorporated as a city.

After World War I much of the National Capital was in disrepair. Many of the old wooden frame structured buildings had been neglected during the war and the area was in need of many upgrades. French urban planner Jacques Greber was hired to work on a master plan for the National Capital Region (the Greber Plan). Jacques Greber was the creator of the National Capital Greenbelt, as well as many other projects throughout the NCR.

 Parliament Hill

The Centre Block, on Parliament Hill (left).

On December 31, 1857, Queen Victoria was asked to choose a common capital for the Province of Canada (modern day Ontario and Quebec) and chose Ottawa. While Ottawa is now a major metropolis and Canada's fourth largest city, at the time it was a sometimes unruly logging town in the hinterland, far away from the colony's main cities, Quebec City and Montreal in Canada East, and Kingston and Toronto in Canada West.

The Queen's advisers suggested she pick Ottawa for many important reasons: first, it was the only settlement of any significant size located right on the border of Canada East and Canada West (the post 1841 name for the then united regions formerly known as Upper and Lower Canada, today the Quebec/Ontario border), making it a compromise between the two colonies and their French and English populations; second, the War of 1812 had shown how vulnerable major Canadian cities were to American attack, since they were all located very close to the border while Ottawa was (then) surrounded by a dense forest far from the border; third, the government owned a large parcel of land on a spectacular spot overlooking the Ottawa River. Ottawa's position in the back country made it more defensible, while still allowing easy transportation via the Ottawa River to Canada East, and the Rideau Canal to Canada West. Two other considerations were that Ottawa was at a point nearly exactly midway between Toronto and Quebec City (~500 km/310 mi) and that the small size of the town made it less likely that politically motivated mobs could go on a rampage and destroy government buildings, as had been the case in the previous Canadian capitals. The Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal network meant that Ottawa could be supplied by water from Kingston and Montreal without going along the potentially treacherous US-Canada border.

 War memorial

National War memorial (right).

After World War I much of the National Capital was in disrepair. Many of the old wooden frame structured buildings had been neglected during the war and the area was in need of many upgrades. The original Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa was destroyed by fire on February 3, 1916. French urban planner Jacques Greber was hired to work on a master plan for the National Capital Region (the Greber Plan). Jacques Greber was the creator of the National Capital Greenbelt, as well as many other projects throughout the NCR. The House of Commons and Senate were temporarily relocated to the recently constructed Victoria Memorial Museum, currently the Canadian Museum of Nature, located about 1 km (1 mi) south of Parliament Hill on McLeod Street at Metcalfe Street. A new Centre Block was completed in 1922, the centrepiece of which is a dominant Gothic revival styled structure known as the Peace Tower which has become a common emblem of the city.

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Paris

 Paris

Paris is the capital of France and the country's most populous city. It is situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region (also known as the "Paris Region"; French: Région parisienne). The city of Paris, within its administrative limits largely unchanged since 1860, has an estimated population of 2,203,817 (January 2006), but the Paris aire urbaine (or metropolitan area) has a population of 11,769,433 (January 2006), and is one of the most populated metropolitan areas in Europe.

 Jouffroy  Louis Vuitton

An important settlement for more than two millennia, Paris is today one of the world's leading business and cultural centres, and its influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities. To the left is the Louis Vuitton department store which is located on the stunning Champs-Elysees, one of the world's most famous and beautiful streets; to the right is where local art, food and other goods are sold in passage Jouffroy, across Boulevard Montmartre. Originally designed to protect pedestrians from mud and horse-drawn vehicles, the passages (shopping arcades), are located between the Grands Boulevards and the Louvre.

Paris and the Paris Region, with €533.6 billion (US$731.3 billion) in 2007, produces more than a quarter of the gross domestic product (GDP) of France. According to 2005 estimates, the Paris urban agglomeration is Europe's biggest city economy, and is fifth in the world's list of cities by GDP. The Paris Region hosts 38 of the Fortune Global 500 companies in several business districts, notably La Défense, the largest purpose-built business district in Europe. Paris also hosts many international organizations such as UNESCO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the informal Paris Club.

 Arc de Triomphe  Bateau Mouche

Paris is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with 45 million tourists every year in the Paris Region, 60% of whom are foreign visitors. There are numerous iconic landmarks among its many attractions, along with world-famous institutions and popular parks. The Arc de Triomphe stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Elysees, and is pictured at right; a "Bateau Mouche" tourist boat, on left, travels near the Paris Justice court. These boat tours are a popular, but relaxing way to view the sights of Paris along the Seine River. The arch honors soldiers who fought for France. The names of generals and wars fought can be found on the inside and top of the arc. Underneath, is the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I .

The name Paris derives from that of its inhabitants, the Gaulish tribe known as the Parisii. The city was called Lutetia (lutetja) (more fully, Lutetia Parisiorum, "Lutetia of the Parisii"), during the first- to sixth-century Roman occupation, but during the reign of Julian the Apostate (360–363) the city was renamed Paris.

Others consider that the name of the Parisii tribe comes from the Celtic Gallic word parisio meaning "the working people" or "the craftsmen." Since the early 20th century, Paris has been known as Paname (panam) in French slang (Moi j'suis d'Paname, i.e. "I'm from Paname"), a slang name that has been regaining favor with young people in recent years.

 Paris lit

Paris has many nicknames, but its most famous is "La Ville-Lumière" (most often translated as "The City of Light"), a name it owes first to its fame as a centre of education and ideas during the Age of Enlightenment, and later to its early adoption of street lighting. The Eiffel Tower and the Hotel des Invalides are illuminated at dusk with in Paris, and pictured at left.

Paris' inhabitants are known in English as "Parisians" and in French as Parisiens. Parisians are often pejoratively called Parigots, a term first used in 1900 by those living outside the Paris region, but now the term may be considered endearing by Parisians themselves.

 Gargoyles

To the right is a picture of the famous stone gargoyles of Notre Dame. They serve as decorations as well as drain pipes, carrying rain from the roof of the famous Cathedral for more than 600 years. Superstitious people claim that the grotesque figures also frighten away evil spirits.

The earliest archaeological signs of permanent habitation in the Paris area date from around 4200 BC. The Parisii, a sub-tribe of the Celtic Senones, inhabited the area near the river Seine from around 250 BC. The Romans conquered the Paris basin in 52 BC, with a permanent settlement by the end of the same century on the Left Bank Sainte Geneviève Hill and the Île de la Cité. The Gallo-Roman town was originally called Lutetia, but later Gallicised to Lutèce. It expanded greatly over the following centuries, becoming a prosperous city with a forum, palaces, baths, temples, theatres, and an amphitheatre. The collapse of the Roman empire and the fifth-century Germanic invasions sent the city into a period of decline. By 400 AD, Lutèce, by then largely abandoned by its inhabitants, was little more than a garrison town entrenched into the hastily fortified central island. The city reclaimed its original appellation of "Paris" towards the end of the Roman occupation. The Frankish king Clovis I established Paris as his capital in 508.

 Louvre

The Louvre fortress from the early 15th century illuminated manuscript Book of Hours, Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, month of October. The intricate ceiling of the Appolo Gallery at Paris' Louvre Museum is at the left, and is reflected in a display case in the foreground. Built in 1661, the gallery was not fully completed until 1851. In all, over twenty artists worked on the decoration. The Appolo Gallery gallery contains more than two centuries of French art, and houses such wonders as the French Crown Jewels, including the famous Régent (140 carats) and Sancy (53 carats) diamonds, as well as the 105-carat Côte de Bretagne ruby.

Paris' population was around 200,000 when the Black Death arrived in 1348, killing as many as 800 people a day, and 40,000 died from the plague in 1466. Paris lost its position as seat of the French realm during occupation of the English-allied Burgundians during the Hundred Years' War, but regained its title when Charles VII of France reclaimed the city from English rule in 1436. Paris from then became France's capital once again in title, but France's real centre of power would remain in the Loire Valley until King François I returned France's crown residences to Paris in 1528.

 Sacred Heart Catholic church  Notre Dame Cathedral

To the left is the Sacred Heart Catholic church (Basilique Sacré-Coeur), Paris' highest point, in Montmartre. The view at the top of the dome is excellent - 271 feet above Montmartre Hill - and is the second-highest viewpoint after the Eiffel Tower; to the right is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, the Notre Dame Cathedral, attracting 13 million visitors each year. The name Notre Dame means "Our Lady" in French. During the French Wars of Religion, Paris was a stronghold of the Catholic party. In August 1572, under the reign of Charles IX, while many noble Protestants were in Paris on the occasion of the marriage of Henry of Navarre, the future Henry IV, to Marguerite de Valois, sister of Charles IX, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre occurred; begun on 24 August, it lasted several days and spread throughout the country. During the Fronde, Parisians rose in rebellion and the royal family fled the city (1648). King Louis XIV then moved the royal court permanently to Versailles in 1682. A century later, Paris was the centre stage for the French Revolution, with the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 and the overthrow of the monarchy in September 1792.

Paris was occupied by Russian Cossack and Kalmyk cavalry units upon Napoleon's defeat on the 31st of March 1814; this was the first time in 400 years that the city had been conquered by a foreign power. The ensuing Restoration period, or the return of the monarchy under Louis XVIII (1814-1824) and Charles X, ended with the July Revolution Parisian uprising of 1830. The new 'constitutional monarchy' under Louis-Philippe ended with the 1848 "February Revolution" that led to the creation of the Second Republic.

Throughout these events, cholera epidemics in 1832 and 1849 affected the population of Paris; the 1832 epidemic alone claimed 20,000 of the then-population of 650,000.

 Jardin des Tuileries  Tuileries Palace

The Jardin des Tuileries, pictured at left, is Paris's most central garden. It's fountains, sculptures, cafes, formal gardens, and central location, makes it a popular destination for visitors and locals. To the right is Tuileries Palace, which encloses the western end of the Louvre and the formal gardens that make up Jardin des Tuileries park, stretching from the Louvre to the Place de Concorde, and bordered by the Seine.

The greatest development in Paris' history began with the Industrial Revolution creation of a network of railways that brought an unprecedented flow of migrants to the capital from the 1840's. The city's largest transformation came with the 1852 Second Empire under Napoleon III; his préfet Haussmann levelled entire districts of Paris' narrow, winding medieval streets to create the network of wide avenues and neo-classical façades that still make much of modern Paris; the reason for this transformation was twofold, as not only did the creation of wide boulevards beautify and sanitize the capital, it also facilitated the effectiveness of troops and artillery against any further uprisings and barricades that Paris was so famous for.

The Second Empire ended in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), and a besieged Paris under heavy bombardment surrendered on the 28th of January 1871. The discontent of Paris' populace with the new armistice-signing government seated in Versailles resulted in the creation of a Parisian "Commune" government, supported by an army in large part created from members of the City's former National Guard, that would both continue resistance against the Prussians and oppose the government "Versaillais" army. The result was a bloody Semaine Sanglante that resulted in the death, many by summary execution, of roughly 20,000 "communards" before the fighting ended on May 28th 1871. The ease at which the Versaillais army overtook Paris owed much to Baron Haussmann's earlier renovations.

 Magasins du Printemps dome  Centre Pompidou

This elaborate stained-glass cupola (dome) on the left is inside Magasins du Printemps department store, located above the main restaurant in the store. Installed in 1923, it is composed of 3,185 individual pieces of stained glass. To the right is a view of the Centre Pompidou. Its 1977 factory style architecture contrasts with the surrounding buildings of Paris' oldest district near Notre-Dame cathedral. It has a public library, and the French National Museum of Modern Art.

France's late 19th-century Universal Expositions made Paris an increasingly important centre of technology, trade and tourism. Its most famous were the 1889 Universal Exposition to which Paris owes its "temporary" display of architectural engineering prowess, the Eiffel Tower, a structure that remained the world's tallest building until 1930; the 1900 Universal Exposition saw the opening of the first Paris Métro line.

 Moulin Rouge  Big Palace

The cabaret Moulin Rouge was built in 1889, in Paris' red-light district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy. The Moulin Rouge is best known as the birthplace of the can-can dance. On the right is the Grand Palais (Big Palace) was built for the World Fair of 1900. The building is best known for its enormous glass-domed roof, making it one of Paris’ most recognizable landmarks. The Grand Palais was the work of three different architects, and is currently the largest existing ironwork and glass structure in the world.

During World War I, Paris was at the forefront of the war effort, having been spared a German invasion by the French and British victory at the First Battle of the Marne in 1914. In 1918–1919, it was the scene of Allied victory parades and peace negotiations. In the inter-war period Paris was famed for its cultural and artistic communities and its nightlife. The city became a gathering place of artists from around the world, from exiled Russian composer Stravinsky and Spanish painters Picasso and Dalí to American writer Hemingway. On 14 June 1940, five weeks after the start of the Battle of France, Paris fell to German occupation forces, who remained there until the city was liberated in August 1944 after a resistance uprising, two and a half months after the Normandy invasion. Central Paris endured World War II practically unscathed, as there were no strategic targets for Allied bombers (train stations in central Paris are terminal stations; major factories were located in the suburbs). Also, German General von Choltitz did not destroy all Parisian monuments before any German retreat, as ordered by Adolf Hitler, who had visited the city in 1940.

In the post-war era, Paris experienced its largest development since the end of the Belle Époque in 1914. The suburbs began to expand considerably, with the construction of large social estates known as cités and the beginning of the business district La Défense. A comprehensive express subway network, the RER, was built to complement the Métro and serve the distant suburbs, while a network of freeways was developed in the suburbs, centred on the Périphérique expressway circling around the city.

Since the 1970s, many inner suburbs of Paris (especially the north and eastern ones) have experienced deindustrialization, and the once-thriving cités have gradually become ghettos for immigrants and oases of unemployment. At the same time, the city of Paris (within its Périphérique expressway) and the western and southern suburbs have successfully shifted their economic base from traditional manufacturing to high-value-added services and high-tech manufacturing, generating great wealth for their residents whose per capita income is among the highest in Europe. The resulting widening social gap between these two areas has led to periodic unrest since the mid-1980s, such as the 2005 riots which largely concentrated in the north-eastern suburbs.

 Gare Du Nord train station  Place Vendome

The high-speed rail network in France, pictured left, is based at the Gare Du Nord train station in Paris. The name was derived by the idea that travelers would be able to travel to Belgium, Netherlands, Northern Germany and the Scandinavian countries. It is the busiest railway station in Europe, and the third -busiest in the world. To the right is the Place Vendome, an octagonal square located to the north of the Tuileries Gardens and east of the Eglise de la Madeleine. The bronze spiral column at the center of the square was constructed in 1810 by Napoleon to celebrate the French army’s victory at Austerlitz. Within the square are apartments, and posh hotels and high-end retailers, including Cartier, Chanel, and Bulgari.

In order to alleviate social tensions in the inner suburbs and revitalise the metropolitan economy of Paris, several plans are currently underway. The office of Secretary of State for the Development of the Capital Region was created in March 2008 within the French government. Its office holder, Christian Blanc, is in charge of overseeing President Nicolas Sarkozy's plans for the creation of an integrated Grand Paris ("Greater Paris") metropolitan authority, as well as the extension of the subway network to cope with the renewed growth of population in Paris and its suburbs, and various economic development projects to boost the metropolitan economy such as the creation of a world-class technology and scientific cluster and university campus on the Saclay plateau in the southern suburbs.

In parallel, President Sarkozy also launched in 2008 an international urban and architectural competition for the future development of metropolitan Paris. Ten teams which bring together architects, urban planners, geographers, landscape architects will offer their vision for building a Paris metropolis of the 21st century in the Kyoto Protocol era and make a prospective diagnosis for Paris and its suburbs that will define future developments in Greater Paris for the next 40 years. The goal is not only to build an environmentally sustainable metropolis but also to integrate the inner suburbs with the central City of Paris through large-scale urban planning operations and iconic architectural projects.

Meanwhile, in an effort to boost the global economic image of metropolitan Paris, several skyscrapers (300 m (984 ft) and higher) have been approved since 2006 in the business district of La Défense, to the west of the city proper, and are scheduled to be completed by the early 2010s. Paris authorities also made public they are planning to authorise the construction of skyscrapers within the city proper by relaxing the cap on building height for the first time since the construction of the Tour Montparnasse in the early 1970s.

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Rio de Janeiro

 Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro ("River of January", is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America. The city was the capital of Brazil for nearly two centuries, from 1763 to 1822 during the Portuguese colonial era, and from 1822 to 1960 as an independent nation. It is also the former capital of the Portuguese Empire (1808–1821). Commonly known as just Rio, the city is also nicknamed A Cidade Maravilhosa, or "The Marvelous City."

 Statue of Christ  Parade

Rio de Janeiro is famous for its natural settings, its carnival celebrations, samba and other music, and hotel-lined tourist beaches, such as Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon. Some of the most famous landmarks in addition to the beaches include the giant statue of Christ (at left) known as Christ the Redeemer ('Cristo Redentor') atop Corcovado mountain, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World; Sugarloaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar) with its cable car; the Sambódromo, a giant permanent parade stand used during Carnival ( a part of a Carnival parade is at right) and Maracanã stadium, one of the world's largest football stadiums. Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympics, and will be the first South American city to host the event and the second in Latin America 48 years after Mexico City hosted in 1968.

The city also boasts the largest and second largest urban forests in the world: Floresta da Tijuca, or "Tijuca Forest." and (almost connected to the first) the forest in Parque Estadual da Pedra Branca, or White Stone State Park. The Galeão-Antônio Carlos Jobim International Airport, commonly known simply as Galeão connects Rio de Janeiro with many Brazilian cities and also operates several international flights.

Despite its charm and beauty, Rio is reputed to be one of the most violent cities in the world and motivated movies such as Bus 174, City of God and Elite Squad portraying severe social issues. Much of the violent crime is concentrated in the favelas or shantytowns but it also spills into middle- and upper-income neighborhoods.  Guanabara Bay

Guanabara Bay was first discovered on January 1, 1502 (hence Rio de Janeiro, "January River") by a Portuguese expedition under explorer Gaspar de Lemos who was a captain of a ship in Pedro Álvares Cabral's fleet. Allegedly the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci participated as observer at the invitation of King Manuel I in the latter's expedition. The region of Rio was inhabited by the Tupi, Puri, Botocudo and Maxakalí peoples.

The Portuguese mariners named Rio thus because they thought the bay was the mouth of a big river that they did not explore at the time and provisionally called "the river of January" ("Rio de Janeiro"), and where they eventually erected a settlement. The small colony that dealt with the native tribes grew and became a more permanent urban center. The city proper was founded on March 1, 1565.

Until early in the 18th century, the city was threatened or invaded by several, mostly French, pirates and buccaneers, such as Jean-François Duclerc and René Duguay-Trouin.

 Carioca Aqueduct

Carioca Aqueduct, built in the first half of the 18th century. In the late 17th century, still during the Sugar Era, the Bandeirantes found gold and diamonds in the neighboring captaincy of Minas Gerais, thus Rio de Janeiro became a much more practical port for exporting wealth (gold, precious stones, besides the sugar) than Salvador, Bahia, which is much farther to the northeast. And so in 1763, the colonial administration in Portuguese America was moved from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro. The city remained primarily a colonial capital until 1808, when the Portuguese royal family and most of the associated Lisbon nobles, fleeing from Napoleon's invasion of Portugal, moved to Rio de Janeiro. The kingdom's capital was transferred to the city, which, thus, became the only European capital outside of Europe. As there was no physical space or urban structure to accommodate hundreds of noblemen who arrived suddenly, many inhabitants were simply evicted from their homes. There was a large influx of African slaves to Rio de Janeiro: in 1819, there were 145,000 slaves in the captaincy. In 1840, the number of slaves reached 220,000 people.

When Prince Pedro I proclaimed the independence of Brazil in 1822, he decided to keep Rio de Janeiro as the capital of his new empire. Rio continued as the capital of Brazil after 1889, when the monarchy was replaced by a republic.

 Soaking up sun  Relaxing in Rio

Until the early years of the 20th century, the city was largely limited to the neighborhood now known as the historic Downtown business district, on the mouth of Guanabara Bay. The city's center of gravity began to shift south and west to the so-called Zona Sul (South Zone) in the early part of the 20th century, when the first tunnel was built under the mountains located between Botafogo and the neighborhood now known as Copacabana. That beach's natural beauty, combined with the fame of the Copacabana Palace Hotel, the luxury hotel of the Americas in the 1930s, helped Rio to gain the reputation it still holds today as a beach party town (though, this reputation has been somewhat tarnished in recent years by favela violence resulting from the narcotics trade). Plans for moving the nation's capital city to the territorial centre had been occasionally discussed, and when Juscelino Kubitschek was elected president in 1955, it was partially on the strength of promises to build a new capital. Though many thought that it was just campaign rhetoric, Kubitschek managed to have Brasília built, at great cost, by 1960. On April 21 that year the capital of Brazil was officially moved from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília.

Between 1960 and 1975 Rio was a city-state under the name State of Guanabara (after the bay it borders). However, for administrative and political reasons, a presidential decree known as "The Fusion" removed the city's federative status and merged it with the State of Rio de Janeiro - the territory surrounding the city whose capital was Niterói-, in 1975. Even today, some Cariocas advocate the return of municipal autonomy.

It was announced on October 2, 2009 that Rio would host the 2016 Olympic Games, beating competitors Chicago, Tokyo, and Madrid.

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Rome

 Rome

Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated municipality (central area), with over 2.7 million residents in 1,285.3 km2 (496.3 sq mi), while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat to be 3.46 million. The metropolitan area of Rome is estimated by OECD to have a population of 3.7 million. It is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber river within the Lazio region of Italy. The city has been one of history's most powerful and important centres, being the home of the emperor during the Roman Empire and the Italian government. The city also has a significant place in Christianity and is the present day home of the Roman Catholic Church and the site of the Vatican City, an independent city-state run by the Catholic Church. Due to this, the city has often been nicknamed "Caput Mundi" (Latin for "Capital of the World") and "The Eternal City". Also, Rome is widely regarded as one of the world's most beautiful ancient cities.

 City Hall  Rome from above

Rome from above - This aerial shot of Rome, at right, shows the Vittoriano Monument, dedicated to the Italian king Vittorio Emmanuelle II, in the background. At left is the City hall. Two tourists rest next to a statue in front of the Campidoglio, Rome's city hall. The statue, one of a set of two, was built by Italian artist Matteo Bartolani in 1588 and is meant to represent Rome's Tiber River.

Rome's history as a city spans over two and a half thousand years, as one of the founding and most powerful cities of Western Civilisation. It was the centre of the Roman Empire, which dominated Europe, North Africa and the Middle East for over four hundred years from the 1st Century BC until the 4th Century AD, and during the Ancient Roman era, the city was the most powerful in Europe. During the Middle-Ages, Rome was home to some of the most powerful popes, such as Alexander VI and Leo X, who transformed the city into a modern centre of the arts and one of the major centres of the Italian Renaissance, along with Florence.

 Basilica  Basilica's interior

Papal Basilica of St. Peter - The Papal Basilica of St. Peter, left, is illuminated in Vatican City, an enclave of Rome. The basilica, until recently, was the largest church ever built. The holy place stands where St. Peter was crucified and buried.

At right is the Basilica's interior - Shafts of light fill the interior of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Tourists who plan to visit the basilica should take note of a strictly enforced dress code, which includes no shorts, bare shoulders or miniskirts.

The current-day version of St Peter's Basilica was built and the Sistine Chapel's ceiling was painted by artist Michelangelo (below right). Famous artists and architects, such as Bramante, Leonardo da Vinci, Bernini and Raphael resided for some time in Rome, contributing to its impressive Renaissance and Baroque architecture. As a modern city, it has been capital of the unified Italy since 1870, and grew mainly in two periods either side of World War II. As it is one of the few major European cities that escaped the war relatively unscathed, central Rome remains essentially Renaissance and Baroque in character. Rome has had an immense historic influence to the world and modern society over the ages, particularly during ancient times, mainly in subjects such as architecture, art, culture, politics, literature, law, philosophy and religion.

 Sistine Chapel's ceiling

Modern Rome is a bustling cosmopolitan metropolis, and is Italy's capital of politics, economy, and media. Rome is a city rich in history, art and culture, and the vastity of its priceless monuments and treasures lead it to have many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Its modern and ancient global influence in politics, literature, culture, music, religion, education, fashion, cinema and cuisine lead it to being an Alpha- world city, according to Loughborough University and GaWC in 2008, and, is the only Alpha global city in Italy, except Milan. The city is home to the Cinecittà Studios, which are the largest film and television production facilities in continental Europe, and famous classic films, such as "La Dolce Vita" and "Ben Hur" have been filmed in the city. Currently, and since the 1957 Treaty of Rome, the metropolis serves as one of Europe's major political centres, with worldwide organizations such as FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFT), and the NATO Defence College being headquartered in the city. Rome is also Italy's capital of business and finance, along with Milan. The Rome metropolitan area has a GDP of Euro 109 billion, and according to a 2008 study, the city is the world's 35th richest city by purchasing power, with a GDP of Euro 94.376 billion ($121.5 billion), and is the world's 18th most expensive city (in 2009). Italian mega-companies, such as Eni, Enel, Telecom Italia, Agip and Alitalia, are headquartered in the city. Were Rome a country, it would be the world's 52nd biggest economy, and would have a GDP near the size of that of Egypt. The city, also had, in 2003, Italy's 2nd highest GDP per capita (after Milan), that of €29,622 (US 37,412), which is 134.1% of the EU GDP per capita average.

The city hosted the 1960 Olympic Games, with great success, and is also an official candidate for the 2020 Olympic Games.

 Vatican Museum  Basilica's interior

Rome is the third-most-visited tourist destination in the European Union, and its historic centre is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Monuments and museums such as the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum, right, are amongst the world's 50 most visited tourist destinations (the Vatican Museums receiving 4.2 million tourists and the Colosseum receiving 4 million tourists every year). The main staircase of Vatican Museum, at left, forms a tightening spiral as it descends. The museum is located in the Vatican Palace, which popes have called home since the 1300s. The Colosseum, right, is one of the most recognized structures not just in Rome, but in all of Europe. The building was inaugurated in 80 A.D.

There is geological evidence of human occupation of the Rome area from at least 14000 years, but the dense layer of much younger debris obscures paleolithic and neolithic sites. Evidence of stone tools, pottery and stone weapons attest to at least 10000 years of human presence. The power of the well known tale of Rome's legendary foundation tends also to deflect attention from its actual, and much more ancient, origins.

 Romulus and Remus

Capitoline Wolf suckles the infant twins Romulus and Remus at left.

Rome's early history is shrouded in legend. According to Roman tradition, the city was founded by the twins Romulus and Remus on 21 April 753 BC.

The legendary origin of the city's name is the traditional founder and first ruler. It is said that Romulus and Remus decided to build a city. After an argument, Romulus killed his brother Remus. Then he named it after himself, Rome. More recently, attempts have been made to find a linguistic root for the name Rome. Possibilities include derivation from Greek language word meaning bravery, courage; possibly the connection is with a root rum -, "teat", with possible reference to the totem wolf that adopted and suckled the cognately-named twins Romulus and Remus. Etruscan gives us the word Rumach, "from Rome", from which Ruma can be extracted. Its further etymology, as with that of most Etruscan words, remains unknown. The Basque scholar Manuel de Larramendi thought that the origin could be related to the Basque language word orma (modern Basque kirreal), "wall".

 Roman Forum  Basilica's interior

The Roman Forum, left, is located between the Palatine Hill and Capitoline Hill. The ancient city's most important and oldest structures were situated in or near the Forum, including many shrines and temples.

At right is the Piazza del Campidoglio. It was designed during the 16th century by Michelangelo Buonarroti. The piazza is located atop Capitol Hill in Rome. The structure seen today dates back to 1560.

Archaeological evidence supports the view that Rome grew from pastoral settlements on the Palatine Hill built in the area of the future Roman Forum. While some archaeologists argue that Rome was indeed founded in the middle of the 8th century BC, the date is subject to controversy. The original settlement developed into the capital of the Roman Kingdom (ruled by a succession of seven kings, according to tradition), and then the Roman Republic (from 510 BC, governed by the Senate), and finally the Roman Empire (from 27 BC, ruled by an Emperor). This success depended on military conquest, commercial predominance, as well as selective assimilation of neighbouring civilisations, most notably the Etruscans and Greeks. From its foundation Rome, although losing occasional battles, had been undefeated in war until 386 BC, when it was briefly occupied by the Gauls. According to the legend, the Gauls offered to deliver Rome back to its people for a thousand pounds of gold, but the Romans refused, preferring to take back their city by force of arms rather than ever admitting defeat, after which the Romans recovered the city in the same year.

 Roman Empire

The Roman Empire (right) at its greatest extent under Trajan in AD 117.

The Roman Empire really began when Emperor Augustus (63 BC - AD 14; also known as Octavian) founded the principate in 27 BC, which was a monarchy system which was headed by an emperor holding power for life, rather than making himself dictator like Julius Caesar had done, which had resulted in his assassination on 15 March, 44 BC. At home, Emperor Augustus started off a great programme of social, political and economic reform and grand-scale reconstruction of the city of Rome.

 Castel Sant'Angelo  Altar of Peace

The city became dotted with impressive and magnificent new buildings, palaces, fora and basilicae. At left the Castel Sant'Angelo, sitting above the Tiber River, was built by the Emperor Hadrian as a tomb for himself and his successors. The Mausoleum was later completed by Antoninus Pius in 139 A.D. At right is the Ara Pacis Augustae, or Altar of Peace, which dates back to 9 B.C. The altar was built to celebrate the advent of peace under the reign of Augustus, Rome's first emperor. Augustus became a great and enlightened patron of the arts, and his court was surrounded by Virgil, Horace and Propertius. His rule also established the Pax Romana, a long period of relative peace which lasted approximately 200 years. To follow him were emperors such as Caligula, Nero, Trajan, and Hadrian, to name a few. Roman emperor Nero was well-known for his extravagance, cruelty, tyranny, and the myth that he was the emperor who "fiddled while Rome burned" during the night of 18 to 19 July 64 AD.

 Villa Borghese  Villa Medicis

Villa Borghese (left) - The area now known as Villa Borghese was originally started as a vineyard in the 1500s, but was purchased by cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V, in 1605 and turned into a park. Rome obtained Villa Borghese in 1903, and it was opened to the public.

At right the Villa Medicis is a 16th Century garden located on the Pincian Hill at the top of the Spanish Steps. The gardens are complemented by statues and fountains.

Roman dominance expanded over most of Europe and the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, while its population surpassed one million inhabitants. For almost a thousand years, Rome was the most politically important, richest, and largest city in the Western world. After the Empire started to decline and was split, it lost its capital status to Milan and then to Ravenna, and was surpassed in prestige by the Eastern capital of the Roman Empire Constantinople whose inhabitants continued to call themselves Roman until the capture of the city by the Ottomans under Sultan Mehmet II in 1453.

 Spanish Steps  Sack of Rome

The Spanish Steps, left, connect Piazza di Spagna to Trinita dei Monti, a French church. Once a gathering place for beautiful men and women hoping to be chosen as artists' models, the Spanish Steps are now used as a catwalk for an annual summertime fashion show.

15th century miniature (right) depicting the Sack of Rome.

With the reign of Constantine I, the 'Bishop of Rome' gained political as well as religious importance, eventually becoming known as the Pope and establishing Rome as the centre of the Catholic Church. After the Sack of Rome in 410 AD by Alaric I and the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, Rome alternated between Byzantine and Germanic control. Its population declined to a mere 20,000 during the Early Middle Ages, reducing the sprawling city to groups of inhabited buildings interspersed among large areas of ruins and vegetation. Rome remained nominally part of the Byzantine Empire until 751 AD, when the Lombards finally abolished the Exarchate of Ravenna. In 756, Pepin the Short gave the Pope temporal jurisdiction over Rome and surrounding areas, thus creating the Papal States. In 846, Muslim Arabs invaded Rome and looted St. Peter's Basilica.

The latter half of the 15th century saw the seat of the Italian Renaissance move to Rome from Florence. The Papacy wanted to equal and surpass the grandeur of other Italian cities and to this end created ever more extravagant churches, bridges, squares and public spaces, including a new Saint Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, Ponte Sisto (the first bridge to be built across the Tiber since antiquity), and Piazza Navona. The Popes were also patrons of the arts engaging such artists as Michelangelo, Perugino, Raphael, Ghirlandaio, Luca Signorelli, Botticelli, and Cosimo Rosselli.

 The Tempietto

The Tempietto (San Pietro in Montorio) at right, which is an excellent example of Italian Renaissance architecture.

The period was also infamous for papal corruption, with many Popes fathering children, and engaging in nepotism and simony. The corruption of the Popes and the extravagance of their building projects led, in part, to the Reformation and, in turn, the Counter-Reformation. Popes, such as Alexander VI, were well-known for their decadence, wild parties, extravagance and immoral lives. However, under these extravagant and rich popes, Rome was transformed into a centre of art, poetry, music, literature, education and culture. Rome became able to compete with other major European cities of the time in terms of wealth, grandeur, the arts, learning and architecture.

The Italian Renaissance in Rome more or less began when the end of the French captivity came in 1377, and the return of the papacy to Rome. Pope Martin V (1417-1431), planned to renew the Roman Catholic Church, and pursue new spiritual and political reforms. Martin V and his successors began to follow these new instructions, and Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) really began to plan out much of the Renaissance-style urban re-development of the city.

 Giuseppe Garibaldi

Giuseppe Garibaldi (left) defends Rome against the French in 1849.

The rule of the Popes was interrupted by the short-lived Roman Republic (1798), which was built under the influence of the French Revolution. During Napoleon's reign, Rome was annexed into his empire and was technically part of France. After the fall of Napoleon's Empire, new states were created in Italy through the Congress of Vienna of 1814. The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Naples and Sicily) under Bourbon Ferdinand IV, the restored Papal States, and the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia under King Charles-Albert. The two regions of Venetia and Lombardy were given to the Austrians under their direct control for some time.

Another Roman Republic arose in 1849, within the framework of revolutions of 1848. Two of the most influential figures of the Italian unification, Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi, fought for the short-lived republic. However, the actions of these two great men would not have resulted in unification without the sly leadership of Camille Cavour, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia.

Rome became caught up in the nationalistic turmoil of the 19th century and twice gained and lost a short-lived independence. Rome became the focus of hopes of Italian reunification when the rest of Italy was reunited under the Kingdom of Italy with a temporary capital at Florence. In 1861, Rome was declared the capital of Italy even though it was still under the control of the Pope. During the 1860s, the last vestiges of the Papal States were under the French protection Napoleon III. And it was only when this was lifted in 1870, owing to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, that Italian troops were able to capture Rome through Porta Pia (see capture of Rome). Afterwords, Pope Pius IX declared himself as prisoner in the Vatican, and in 1871, the capital of Italy was moved from Florence, to Rome.

 German troops

German troops occupying Rome in 1943.

Soon after World War I, Rome witnessed the rise to power of Italian Fascism guided by Benito Mussolini, who marched on the city in 1922, eventually declaring a new Empire and allying Italy with Nazi Germany. This was a period of rapid growth in population, from 212,000 people at the time of unification to more than 1,000,000, but this trend was halted by World War II, during which Rome was damaged by both Allied forces bombing and Nazi occupation. After the execution of Mussolini and the end of the war, a 1946 referendum abolished the monarchy in favour of the Italian Republic.

Rome grew momentously after the war, as one of the driving forces behind the "Italian economic miracle" of post-war reconstruction and modernization. It became a fashionable city in the 1950s and early 1960s, the years of la dolce vita ("the sweet life"), with popular classic fims such as Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, Roman Holiday and La Dolce Vita. being filmed in the city's iconic Cinecittà Studios. A new rising trend in population continued until the mid-1980s, when the commune had more than 2,800,000 residents; after that, population started to slowly decline as more residents moved to nearby suburbs.

Many of the monuments of Rome were restored by the Italian state and by the Vatican for the 2000 Jubilee.

 Capitole Museum   Pantheon

Capitole Museum (left) - Antique statue fragments sit inside the Capitole Museum yard, located at the Square of Campidoglio, in Rome. The Capitole Museum contains an antique collection began in 1471 by pope Sixte IV.

At right is the Pantheon. According to the Web site italyguides.it, it is the Roman monument that holds the most and best preserved records, and is "the most copied and imitated of all ancient works."

Being the capital city of Italy, Rome hosts all the principal institutions of the nation, like the Presidency of the Republic, the government (and its single Ministeri), the Parliament, the main judicial Courts, and the diplomatic representatives of all the countries for the states of Italy and the Vatican City (curiously, Rome also hosts, in the Italian part of its territory, the Embassy of Italy for the Vatican City, a unique case of an Embassy within the boundaries of its own country). Many international institutions are located in Rome, notably cultural and scientific ones - such as the American Institute, the British School, the French Academy, the Scandinavian Institutes, the German Archaeological Institute - for the honour of scholarship in the Eternal City, and humanitarian ones, such as the FAO. Rome, also hosts major international and worldwide political and cultural organizations, such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFT), and the NATO Defence College.

Rome is currently an alpha- world city, along with Chicago, Istanbul, Frankfurt, Athens, Zurich, Mexico City, Prague, Budapest, Amsterdam, Vienna and Dublin, to name a few.

 Trevi Fountain   Vittorio Emmanuele II

Trevi Fountain (left) - Legend has it that if a visitor throws a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome, he or she is ensured a return. About 3,000 euros are tossed into the fountain each day, according to the BBC.

The Vittorio Emmanuele II monument is seen at sunset, right. With nearly 3,000 years of history, Rome continues to live up to its motto of "The Eternal City," being one of the founding cities of Western civilization.

Rome today is one of the most important tourist destinations of the world, due to the incalculable immensity of its archaeological and artistic treasures, as well as for the charm of its unique traditions, the beauty of its panoramic views, and the majesty of its magnificent "villas" (parks). Among the most significant resources: plenty of museums - (Musei Capitolini, the Vatican Museums, Galleria Borghese, and a great many others) — aqueducts, fountains, churches, palaces, historical buildings, the monuments and ruins of the Roman Forum, and the Catacombs. Rome is the 3rd most visited city in the EU, after London and Paris, and receives an average of 7-10 million tourists a year, which sometimes doubles on holy years. The Colosseum (4 million tourists) and the Vatican Museums (4.2 million tourists) are the 39th and 37th (respectively) most visited places in the world, according to a recent study.

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San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco is the fourth most populous city in California and the 12th most populous city in the United States, with a 2008 estimated population of 808,976. The only consolidated city-county in California, it encompasses a land area of 46.7 square miles (121 km2) on the northern end of the San Francisco Peninsula, making it the second most densely populated city in the United States. San Francisco is also the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the larger San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.4 million people.

In 1776, the Spanish established a fort at the Golden Gate and a mission named for Francis of Assisi on the site. The California Gold Rush in 1848 propelled the city into a period of rapid growth, increasing the population in one year from 1,000 to 25,000, and thus transforming it into the largest city on the West Coast at the time. After three-quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire (picture at left), San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later. During World War II, San Francisco was the port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalizing attitudes, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as an epicenter of liberal activism in the United States.

Cablecar

Today, San Francisco is a popular international tourist destination, renowned for its chilly summer fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of Victorian and modern architecture and its famous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the cable cars (left), and Chinatown. The city is also a principal banking and finance center, and the home of over 30 international financial institutions, helping to make San Francisco fifteenth in the world's list of cities by GDP and eighth in the United States.

The earliest archaeological evidence of inhabitation of the territory of the city of San Francisco dates to 3000 BC. People of the Ohlone language group occupied Northern California from at least the 6th century. Though their territory had been claimed by Spain since the early 16th century, they would have relatively little contact with Europeans until 1769, when, as part of an effort to colonize Alta California, an exploration party led by Don Gaspar de Portola learned of the existence of San Francisco Bay.

Mission Dolores

Seven years later, in 1776, an expedition led by Juan Bautista de Anza selected the site for the Presidio of San Francisco, which Jose Joaquin Moraga would soon establish. Later the same year, the Franciscan missionary Francisco Palóu founded the Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores) which is pictured at left. The Yelamu tribal group of the Ohlone, who had had several villages in the area, were among those brought to live and work at the mission and be converted into the Catholic faith.

Upon independence from Spain in 1821, the area became part of Mexico. Under Mexican rule, the mission system gradually ended and its lands began to be privatized. In 1835, Englishman William Richardson erected the first independent homestead, near a boat anchorage around what is today Portsmouth Square. Together with Alcalde Francisco de Haro, he laid out a street plan for the expanded settlement, and the town, named Yerba Buena, began to attract American settlers. Commodore John D. Sloat claimed California for the United States on July 7, 1846, during the Mexican-American War, and Captain John B. Montgomery arrived to claim Yerba Buena two days later. Yerba Buena was renamed San Francisco the next year, and Mexico officially ceded the territory to the United States at the end of the war. Despite its attractive location as a port and naval base, San Francisco was still a small settlement with inhospitable geography.

Portsmouth Square in 1851The California Gold Rush brought a flood of treasure seekers. With their sourdough bread in tow, prospectors accumulated in San Francisco over rival Benicia, raising the population from 1,000 in 1848 to 25,000 by December 1849. The promise of fabulous riches was so strong that crews on arriving vessels deserted and rushed off to the gold fields, leaving behind a forest of masts in San Francisco harbor. California was quickly granted statehood, and the U.S. military built Fort Point at the Golden Gate and a fort on Alcatraz Island to secure the San Francisco Bay. Silver discoveries, including the Comstock Lode in 1859, further drove rapid population growth. With hordes of fortune seekers streaming through the city, lawlessness was common, and the Barbary Coast section of town gained notoriety as a haven for criminals, prostitution, and gambling.

Many San Francisco entrepreneurs sought to capitalize on the wealth generated by the Gold Rush. Among the winners were the banking industry which saw the founding of Wells Fargo in 1852 and the Bank of California in 1864. The development of the Port of San Francisco established the city as a center of trade. Catering to the needs and tastes of the growing population, Levi Strauss opened a dry goods business and Domingo Ghirardelli began manufacturing chocolate. Immigrant laborers made the city a polyglot culture, with Chinese railroad workers creating the city's Chinatown quarter. The first cable cars carried San Franciscans up Clay Street in 1873. The city's sea of Victorian houses began to take shape, and civic leaders campaigned for a spacious public park, resulting in plans for Golden Gate Park. San Franciscans built schools, churches, theaters, and all the hallmarks of civic life. The Presidio developed into the most important American military installation on the Pacific coast. By the turn of the century, San Francisco was a major city known for its flamboyant style, stately hotels, ostentatious mansions on Nob Hill, and a thriving arts scene.

SF Fire

"Not in history has a modern imperial city been so completely destroyed. San Francisco is gone." – Jack London after the 1906 earthquake and fire (left). At 5:12 am on April 18, 1906, a major earthquake struck San Francisco and northern California. As buildings collapsed from the shaking, ruptured gas lines ignited fires that would spread across the city and burn out of control for several days. With water mains out of service, the Presidio Artillery Corps attempted to contain the inferno by dynamiting blocks of buildings to create firebreaks. More than three-quarters of the city lay in ruins, including almost all of the downtown core. Contemporary accounts reported that 498 people lost their lives, though modern estimates put the number in the several thousands. More than half the city's population of 400,000 were left homeless. Refugees settled temporarily in makeshift tent villages in Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, on the beaches, and elsewhere. Many fled permanently to the East Bay.

The Palace of Fine Arts at the 1915 Panama-Pacific ExpositionRebuilding was rapid and performed on a grand scale. Rejecting calls to completely remake the street grid, San Franciscans opted for speed. Amadeo Giannini's Bank of Italy, later to become Bank of America, provided loans for many of those whose livelihoods had been devastated. The destroyed mansions of Nob Hill became grand hotels. City Hall rose again in splendorous Beaux Arts style, and the city celebrated its rebirth at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915.

Alcatraz

In ensuing years, the city solidified its standing as a financial capital; in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash, not a single San Francisco-based bank failed. Indeed, it was at the height of the Great Depression that San Francisco undertook two great civil engineering projects, simultaneously constructing the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge, completing them in 1936 and 1937 respectively. It was in this period that the island of Alcatraz (right), a former military stockade, began its service as a federal maximum security prison, housing notorious inmates such as Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, and Robert Franklin Stroud, The Birdman of Alcatraz. San Francisco later celebrated its regained grandeur with a World's Fair, the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939–40, creating Treasure Island in the middle of the bay to house it.

Oakland Bay Bridge

The Oakland Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco is pictured at left. Treasure Island, where I was stationed for a while during WWII. is situated in the Bay, with entrances and exits to it from the bridge.

During World War II, the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard became a hub of activity, and Fort Mason became the primary port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater of Operations. The explosion of jobs drew many people, especially African Americans from the South, to the area. After the end of the war, many military personnel returning from service abroad and civilians who had originally come to work decided to stay. The UN Charter creating the United Nations was drafted and signed in San Francisco in 1945 and, in 1951, the Treaty of San Francisco officially ended the war with Japan.

Urban planning projects in the 1950s and 1960s saw widespread destruction and redevelopment of west side neighborhoods and the construction of new freeways, of which only a series of short segments were built before being halted by citizen-led opposition. The Transamerica Pyramid was completed in 1972, and in the 1980s the Manhattanization of San Francisco saw extensive high-rise development downtown. Port activity moved to Oakland, the city began to lose industrial jobs, and San Francisco began to turn to tourism as the most important segment of its economy. The suburbs experienced rapid growth, and San Francisco underwent significant demographic change, as large segments of the white population left the city, supplanted by an increasing wave of immigration from Asia and Latin America. Over this period, San Francisco became a magnet for America's counterculture. Beat Generation writers fueled the San Francisco Renaissance and centered on the North Beach neighborhood in the 1950s. Hippies flocked to Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s, reaching a peak with the 1967 Summer of Love. In the 1970s, the city became a center of the gay rights movement, with the emergence of The Castro as an urban gay village, the election of Harvey Milk to the Board of Supervisors, and his assassination, along with that of Mayor George Moscone, in 1978.

The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused destruction and loss of life throughout the Bay Area. In San Francisco, the quake severely damaged structures in the Marina and South of Market districts and precipitated the demolition of the damaged Embarcadero Freeway and much of the damaged Central Freeway, allowing the city to reclaim its historic downtown waterfront.

During the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, startup companies invigorated the economy. Large numbers of entrepreneurs and computer application developers moved into the city, followed by marketing and sales professionals, changing the social landscape as once-poorer neighborhoods became gentrified. When the bubble burst in 2001, many of these companies folded, and their employees left, although high technology and entrepreneurship continue to be mainstays of the San Francisco economy.

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Santiago

Santiago

Santiago (Spanish: Santiago de Chile), is the capital and largest city of Chile, and the centre of its largest conurbation (Greater Santiago). It is located in the country's central valley, at an elevation of 520 m (1,700 ft) AMSL. Although Santiago is the capital, legislative bodies meet in nearby Valparaíso.

Chile's steady economic growth has transformed Santiago into one of Latin America's most modern metropolitan areas, with extensive suburban development, dozens of shopping malls, and impressive high-rise architecture. It is an Alpha World City and has some of Latin America's most modern transportation infrastructure, such as the growing Santiago Metro (underground train system) and the new Costanera Norte, a toll-based highway system that passes below downtown and connects the Eastern and Western extremes of the city in a 25-minute drive. Santiago is the regional headquarters to many multinationals, and also a regional financial centre.

Santiago founding

1541 founding of Santiago (left).

Santiago was founded by Spanish Conquistador Pedro de Valdivia on February 12, 1541 with the name Santiago del Nuevo Extremo, as a homage to Saint James and Extremadura, Valdivia's birth place in Spain. The founding ceremony was held on Huelén Hill (later renamed Cerro Santa Lucía). Valdivia chose the location of Santiago because of its climate, abundant vegetation and the ease with which it could be defended—the Mapocho River then split into two branches and rejoined further downstream, forming an island. The Inca ruler Manco Cápac II warned the new rulers that his people Indigenous people would be hostile to the occupiers. The Spanish invaders had to battle against hunger caused by this resistance. Pedro de Valdivia ultimately succeeded in stabilizing the food supply and other resources needed for Santiago to thrive.

The floor of the new town consisted of straight roads of 12 Varas (14.35 m) width, in equal intervals of 138 Varas (165.08 m) or perpendicular to each other were. With nine roads in the east-west direction and 15 in the north-south direction, there were 126 Blocks that formed the so-called "Manzanas" or square cut.

The resistance of the indigenous population continued and resulted in a series of further conflicts. On the September 11 of 1541 began an organised uprising of Picunche and Michimalongo-led attack on Santiago, which lead to a war of three years. At the time the Conquistadores were in a very precarious situation. Suffering from persistent food shortages and were in almost complete isolation from the rest of the world.

Pedro de Valdivia sent in January of 1542 an emissary, Alonso de Monroy, with five tabs to Peru to request help. After 20 harsh months for the Conquistadors, De Monroy, was back from Peru with a reinforcement goods. This stopped the isolated and demoralized situation of the soldiers in Santiago. The uprising ultimately failed and the indigenous population moved down South and the city remained relatively safe.

Map of Santiago

Map of Santiago (right) at the beginning of the colonial eighteenth century. The South is located at the top of the image.

While Santiago was on the verge of extinction by the Indian attack, an earthquake and a series of floods, the city began to settle rapidly. Of the 126 blocks designed by Gamboa, in 1558 and had been occupied forties, and in 1580, the full quote while the land near hosted tens of thousands of head of livestock. In the architectural field, they begin to build the first important buildings in the city, highlighting the start of construction in stone of the first Cathedral in 1561 and the Church of San Francisco in 1572, both being built mainly in Adobe and stone.

The bridge Calicanto

The bridge Calicanto over the Mapocho River (left) was the main symbol of the city, after its opening in 1779.

In 1767, the corregidor Luis Manuel de Zañartu, began one of the major architectural works throughout the colonial period: the Bridge Calicanto, which helped unite the city.

In 1780, Governor Agustín de Jáuregui hired the Italian architect Toesca Joaquin, who designed, among other important works, the facade of the Cathedral, La Moneda. The government of Bernardo O'Higgins also opened the road to Valparaíso in 1791.

Battle of Maipú

Battle of Maipú 1818 (right).

On 12 February 1817 the Battle of Chacabuco was held in Colina, which is located just north of Santiago. There Argentine and Chilean independence armies, led by José de San Martín and Bernardo O'Higgins fought the Spanish royalists. Chile subsequently proclaimed on the same day its independence.

During the authoritarian era of the so-called Republic (from 1830 to 1891) the school system was introduced and the cultural life started to flourish. In 1843 the Universidad de Chile was founded. In 1888 another university Universidad Pontificia Católica was also founded. By 1885 there were 189,322 people living in Santiago.

Map of Santiago

Map of Santiago in 1895 (left).

Santiago in 1891During the years of the Republican era, institutions were created primarily for educational reasons and they became milestones of the planning period, as the University of Chile (Universidad de Chile), the Normal School of preceptors, the School of Arts and Crafts and the Quinta Normal, which included the Museum of Fine Arts (now Museum of Science and Technology) and the National Museum of Natural History. In 1851, the first telegraph system connecting the capital with the Port of Valparaiso was inaugurated.

A new momentum in the urban development of the capital took place during the so-called "Liberal Republic" and the administration of the city's mayor, Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna. Among the main works during this period are the remodeling of the Cerro Santa Lucia which despite its central location was in very poor shape.

In an effort to transform Santiago, Vicuña Mackenna began construction of the "Camino de Cintura" that surrounded the whole city, which until then had an extension similar to the current commune of Santiago. A new redevelopment of Alameda Ave. finally enshrined the central artery of the city.

With the work of European landscapes in 1873, O'Higgins Park opened. The park, with a public access, became an point of interest in Santiago due to the large gardens, lakes and carriages. Similarly, other important buildings were opened during this era, such as the Teatro Municipal which had many operas, and the Riding Club. At the same time, James received the International Exposition, held in 1875 in the grounds of the Quinta Normal.

Santa Lucía Santa Lucía (right).

In terms of transportation, the city became the main hub of the railways at the national level. The first railroad reached the city on September 14, 1857 in an emerging Central Station of Santiago, which would be opened permanently in 1884. During those years, the city was connected by rail to Valparaiso and rail crossing much of the country from north to south. With regards to urban transport, the streets of Santiago were paved and there were 1,107 cars in 1875. While 45,000 people used tram services as in daily basis.

Alameda Alameda in 1906 (left).

Santiago City centreIn the following decades, Santiago flourished and continued to grow with high rise. In 1940, the city accumulated 952,075 inhabitants, in 1952 this figure reached 1,350,409 inhabitants, the census of 1960 totaled 1,907,378 Santiago. This growth was reflected in the urbanization of rural areas on the periphery, where they settled middle-class families with low and stable housing: in 1930, the urban area had an area of 6,500 hectares, which in 1960 came to 20,900 and 1980 came to 38,296. Although most of the communities continued to grow, it is mainly concentrated in outlying communities such as Canyon to the west, north and Conchalí the tank and the Farm to the south. In the case of the upper class, it began to approach the sector of the pre-Las Condes and La Reina. The centre, by contrast, has lost population, leaving more space for the development of trade, banking and government activities.

The growth took place without any regulation and started only to be implemented during the 1960s with the creation of various development plans of the Greater Santiago, which reflect the new reality of a city much larger . In 1958 the Plan was launched in Santiago and inter proposing the organization of urban territory, setting a limit of 38,600 hectares and semi-urban, for a maximum population of 3,260,000 inhabitants, the construction of new roads (such as Avenida Américo Vespucio Circunvalación and the Pan American highway), the widening of the existing and the establishment of "industrial cordons. The celebration of the World Cup in 1962 gave new impetus to the improvement works of the city. In 1966 he established the Metropolitan Park of Santiago in the Cerro San Cristóbal and MINVU began eradicating callampas populations and construction of new homes and remodeling San Borja, which was built near the Diego Portales Building.

In 1967 was inaugurated the new International Airport Pudahuel, and after years of discussion, in 1969 it would begin construction of the Metro de Santiago, the first phase would run under the western section of the Alameda and would be inaugurated in 1975. Metro became one of the most prestigious of the city and in subsequent years to expand, reaching two perpendicular lines at the end of 1978. Telecommunications have an important development, as reflected by the construction of the Torre Entel, which since its construction in 1975 would be one of the symbols of the capital to be the tallest structure in the country for two decades.

After the coup of 1973 and the establishment of the military regime, urban planning had no major changes until the start of 1980, when the government adopted a neoliberal economic model and the role of organizer of the state going to market. In 1979 the master plan is amended, extending the urban radio to more than 62,000 hectares for housing development, causing a further expansion of the city, arriving at 40,619 has extended the early 1990s, especially in the area Florida in the 1992 census became the country's most populous municipality with 328,881 inhabitants. Meanwhile, a strong earthquake struck the city on March 3, 1985, which caused few casualties but left many homeless and destroyed many old buildings.

Sanhattan

Sanhattan, a financial district in eastern Santiago (right).

Starting in 1981, Santiago (and Chile as a whole), went into a deep economic and financial crisis. The Chilean solution to the crisis was heterodox in the sense that many policies appeared to have been arbitrary, and policy mistakes were made and corrected along the way. However, the economy recovered relatively quickly, and since has built a strong financial sector that allowed the country to avoid the financial turmoil observed during 1995 and 1997-98 in other emerging market economies.

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Shanghai

Shanghai

Shanghai is the largest city in China and the largest city proper in the world, with a population of over 20 million people in its metropolitan area.

Originally a fishing and textiles town, Shanghai grew to importance in the 19th century due to its favorable port location and as one of the cities opened to foreign trade by the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. The city flourished as a center of commerce between east and west, and became a multinational hub of finance and business by the 1930s. After 1990, the economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping resulted in intense re-development and financing in Shanghai, and in 2005 Shanghai became the world's largest cargo port.

Bund Sightseeing Tunnel Yuyuan Garden

The city is a tourist destination renowned for its historical landmarks such as the Bund and City God Temple, its modern and ever-expanding Pudong skyline including the Oriental Pearl Tower. At left is a picture of a unique way to get from one side of the Huangpu River to the other, visitors can venture through the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, where light effects are projected onto the walls of the tourist attraction. Let your garden grow - Yuyuan Garden (right), reportedly first built in 1559 as a private garden, is considered as the masterpiece of architecture and gardening art in southern China. The garden covers an area of about 5 acres with over 40 beautiful scenes including the Grand Rockery, Heralding Spring Hall, Jade Magnificence Hall and Lotus Pool. Today, Shanghai is the largest center of commerce and finance in mainland China, and has been described as the "showpiece" of the world's fastest-growing major economy.

Going to the dogs Yuyuan Garden

To the right a visitor gazes at a Chinese ancient Buddhist statue at Shanghai Museum. The facility, founded in 1952, boasts a collection of 120,000 pieces of art. To the left: Going to the dogs - A dog sits in the basket of his owner's bicycle in a market in an old part of Shanghai.

The two Chinese characters in the name "Shanghai", literally mean "high, top, up, on, or above" and "sea". The earliest occurrence of this name dates from the Song Dynasty (11th century), at which time there was already a river confluence and a town with this name in the area. There are disputes as to how the name should be interpreted, but official local histories have consistently said that it means "the upper reaches of the sea". Due to the changing coastline, Chinese historians have concluded that in the Tang Dynasty Shanghai was literally on the sea, hence the origin of the name. Another reading, especially in Mandarin, also suggests the sense of "go onto the sea," which is consistent with the seaport status of the city. A more poetic name for Shanghai switches the order of the two characters, Haishang, and is often used for terms related to Shanghainese art and culture.

Shanghai is commonly abbreviated in Chinese as Hu. The single character Hu appears on all motor vehicle license plates issued in Shanghai today. This is derived from Hu Du, the name of an ancient fishing village that once stood at the confluence of Suzhou Creek and the Huangpu River back in the Tang Dynasty. The character Hu is often combined with that for Song, as in Wusong Kou, Wu Song River, and Songjiang to form the nickname Song Hu. For example, the Japanese attack on Shanghai in August 1937 is commonly called the Song Hu Battle. Another early name for Shanghai was Hua Ting, now just the name of a four star hotel in the city. One other commonly used nickname Shen is derived from the name of Chunshen Jun, a nobleman and locally-revered hero of the Chu Kingdom in the 3rd century BC whose territory included the Shanghai area. Sports teams and newspapers in Shanghai often use the character Shen in their names. Shanghai is also commonly called Shencheng. The city has also had various nicknames in English, including "Paris of the East".

Modern market

During the Song Dynasty (AD 960–1279) Shanghai was upgraded in status from a village (cun) to a market town (zhen) in 1074, and in 1172 a second sea wall was built to stabilize the ocean coastline, supplementing an earlier dike. From the Yuan Dynasty in 1292 until Shanghai officially became a city for the first time in 1297, the area was designated merely as a county (xian) administered by the Songjiang prefecture. Pictured at left are thousands of shoppers as they walk along the modern pedestrian mall of Nanjing road, the main shopping street in Shanghai, quite different from when it was upgraded to a market town.

Two important events helped promote Shanghai's development in the Ming Dynasty. A city wall was built for the first time during in 1554, in order to protect the town from raids by Japanese pirates. It measured 10 meters high and 5 kilometers in circumference. During the Wanli reign (1573–1620), Shanghai received an important psychological boost from the erection of a City God Temple (Cheng Huang Miao) in 1602. This honor was usually reserved for places with the status of a city, such as a prefectural capital (fu), and was not normally given to a mere county town (zhen) like Shanghai. The honor was probably a reflection of the town's economic importance, as opposed to its low political status.

During the Qing Dynasty, Shanghai became the most important sea port in the whole Yangtze Delta region. This was a result of two important central government policy changes. First of all, Emperor Kangxi (1662–1723) in 1684 reversed the previous Ming Dynasty prohibition on ocean going vessels, a ban that had been in force since 1525. Secondly, Emperor Yongzheng in 1732 moved the customs office (hai guan) for Jiangsu province from the prefectural capital of Songjiang city to Shanghai, and gave Shanghai exclusive control over customs collections for the foreign trade of all Jiangsu province. As a result of these two critical decisions, Professor Linda Cooke Johnson has concluded that by 1735 Shanghai had become the major trade port for all of the lower Yangzi River region, despite still being at the lowest administrative level in the political hierarchy.

The importance of Shanghai grew radically in the 19th century, as the city's strategic position at the mouth of the Yangtze River made it an ideal location for trade with the West. During the First Opium War (1839–1842), British forces temporarily held Shanghai. The war ended with the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing, opened the treaty ports, Shanghai included, for international trade. The Treaty of the Bogue signed in 1843, and the Sino-American Treaty of Wangsia signed in 1844 together allowed foreign nations to visit and trade on Chinese soil, the start of the foreign concessions.

Embracing heritage In 1854 the Shanghai Municipal Council was created to manage the foreign settlements. In 1860-1862, during a civil war Shanghai had been invaded two times. In 1863, the British settlement, located to the south of Suzhou creek (Huangpu district), and the American settlement, to the north of Suzhou creek (Hongkou district), joined in order to form the International Settlement. The French opted out of the Shanghai Municipal Council, and maintained its own French Concession, located to the south of the International Settlement, which still exists today as a popular attraction. (Embracing heritage - A view of the Xintiandi bar and restaurant area that has rebuilt traditional style Shanghai houses in the French Concession area of Shanghai is pictured at right).

Citizens of many countries and all continents came to Shanghai to live and work during the ensuing decades; those who stayed for long periods - some for generations - called themselves "Shanghailanders". In the 1920s and 1930s, almost 20,000 so-called White Russians and Russian Jews fled the newly-established Soviet Union and took up residence in Shanghai. These Shanghai Russians constituted the second-largest foreign community. By 1932, Shanghai had become the world's fifth largest city and home to 70,000 foreigners. In the 1930s, some 30,000 Jewish refugees from Europe arrived in the city.

Nuts! Get your nuts! Laohuzao

Nuts! Get your nuts! - A trader (left) from a nut and grain stall in the old Chinese city quarter, waits for customers, while senior citizens enjoy tea with their bird cages put aside at a Laohuzao teahouse at an alleyway. Laohuzao is a traditional store which sells hot water for residents and also serves as a teahouse and bathhouse in eastern China, dating back to when wood and coal was the only available fuel source. Laohuzao is also called tiger stove because of its bulky shape with windows on the stove chamber shaped like tiger eyes and a chimney reminiscent of a tail.

The Sino-Japanese War concluded with the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which elevated Japan to become another foreign power in Shanghai. Japan built the first factories in Shanghai, which were soon copied by other foreign powers. Shanghai was then the most important financial center in the Far East.

Under the Republic of China (1911–1949), Shanghai's political status was finally raised to that of a municipality on July 14, 1927. Although the territory of the foreign concessions was excluded from their control, this new Chinese municipality still covered an area of 828.8 square kilometers, including the modern-day districts of Baoshan, Yangpu, Zhabei, Nanshi, and Pudong. Headed by a Chinese mayor and municipal council, the new city governments first task was to create a new city center in Jiangwan town of Yangpu district, outside the boundaries of the foreign concessions. This new city center was planned to include a public museum, library, sports stadium, and city hall.

On 27 May 1949, the Communist People's Liberation Army took control of Shanghai, which was one of only three former Republic of China (ROC) municipalities not merged into neighbouring provinces over the next decade (the others being Beijing and Tianjin).

Shanghai South Railway Station Jim Mao Tower

During the 1950s and 1960s, Shanghai became an industrial center and center for revolutionary leftism, and has grown and grown ever since. Pictured at left is the round, transparent roof of the station hall, reflected on the floor at the Shanghai South Railway Station. The first circular railway station in the world was unveiled in 2006, and serves as a transportation hub connected by subways, bus lines and taxis. At right is the Jim Mao Tower which is the world's fifth-tallest building, and is situated near the Shanghai World Financial Center, the second-tallest building in the world, in Pudong Lujiazui Financial District.

Shanghai is often regarded as the center of finance and trade in mainland China. Modern development began with the economic reforms in 1992, a decade later than many of the Southern Chinese provinces, but since then Shanghai quickly overtook those provinces and maintained its role as the business center in mainland China. Shanghai also hosts the largest share market in mainland China.

Shanghai South Railway Station

As in many other areas in China, Shanghai is undergoing a building boom. Shanghai bristles with high-rise buildings. It will be in the international spotlight while hosting the 2010 World's Fair. The modern architecture is notable for its unique style, especially in the highest floors, with several top floor restaurants which resemble flying saucers.

The population of Shanghai is 19,213,200. Most Shanghainese residents are the descendants of immigrants from the two adjacent provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang who moved to Shanghai in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, regions that generally also speak Wu Chinese.

Dumplings

At right a Chinese cook arranges baskets used to steam dumplings behind the window of a restaurant in Shanghai. You can find squid on a stick, vegetable dumplings, rice noodles and other delectable dishes when roaming the streets of Shanghai.

The vernacular language is Shanghainese, a dialect of Wu Chinese, while the official language is Standard Mandarin. The local dialect is mutually unintelligible with Mandarin, and is an inseparable part of the Shanghainese identity.

New Year's celebrations

Due to its cosmopolitan history, Shanghai has a rich blend of religious heritage as shown by the religious buildings and institutions still scattered around the city. Taoism has a presence in Shanghai in the form of several temples, including the City God Temple, at the heart of the old city, and a temple dedicated to the Three Kingdoms general Guan Yu. The Wenmiao is a temple dedicated to Confucius. Buddhism has had a presence in Shanghai since ancient times. Longhua temple, the largest temple in Shanghai, and Jing'an Temple, were first founded in the Three Kingdoms period.

At right women pray before a Buddhist statue during New Year's celebrations at Longhua Temple. Many Chinese people believe ringing bells, burning incenses and praying at temples bring good luck and happiness.

Shanghai is also an important center of Christianity in China. Churches belonging to various denominations are found throughout Shanghai and maintain significant congregations.

Better City, Better Life

Today people don't see pagodas, farmers in rice paddies and Mao-suited masses pedaling bicycles through grim city streets. Shanghai has worked to express the theme of the World's Fair: "Better City, Better Life." While Beijing and Hong Kong are considered the educational centers of China, Shanghai is also home to some of the country's most prestigious universities, including Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Tongji University.

Shanghai has an extensive public transport system, largely based on buses, trolleybuses, taxis, and a rapidly expanding metro system. All of these public transport tools can be accessed using the Shanghai Public Transportation Card, which uses radio frequencies so the card does not have to physically touch the scanner.

Shopping therapy Looking at antiques

At left a woman looks at goods at an outlet of the French fashion brand Hermes in Shanghai, and at right a visitor holding a baby walks out of a shop at the Dongtai Lu antique market.

The Shanghai Metro rapid-transit system and elevated light rail has eleven lines at present and extends to every core urban district as well as neighbouring suburban districts such as Songjiang, Minhang and Jiading. It is one of the fastest-growing metro systems in the world. Shanghai also has the world's most extensive bus system with nearly one thousand bus lines, operated by numerous transportation companies.

Taxis in Shanghai are plentiful and government regulation has set taxi fares at an affordable rate for the average resident.

Shanghai has two commercial airports: Hongqiao International and Pudong International, the latter of which has the third highest traffic in China, following Beijing Capital International Airport and Hong Kong International Airport.

The Bund Shanghai has a rich collection of buildings and structures of various architectural styles. The Bund, China's Wall Street, is pictured at left as tourists walk along a pathway beside the historic street located by the bank of the Huangpu River. The area contains a rich collection of early 20th century architecture, ranging in style from neoclassical HSBC Building to the art deco Sassoon House. A number of areas in the former foreign concessions are also well preserved, most notably the French Concession. Shanghai has one of the worlds largest number of Art Deco buildings as a result of the construction boom during the 1920s and 30s.

Despite rampant redevelopment, the old city still retains some buildings of a traditional style, such as the Yuyuan Garden (pictured above), an elaborate traditional garden in the Jiangnan style.

exhibition center

The city also has some beautiful examples of Soviet neoclassical architecture. These buildings were mostly erected during the period from the founding of the People's Republic in 1949 until the Sino-Soviet Split in the late 1960s. Pictured is Shanghai's exhibition center, completed in 1955. It was originaly a gift from the Soviet people to China, and was formerly known as the hall of the Sino-Soviet friendship. It is the only major example of the Socialist realist style of Russian architecture left.

The Shanghai School is a very important Chinese school of traditional arts during the Qing Dynasty and the whole of the twentieth century. Under efforts of masters from this school, traditional Chinese art reached another climax and continued to the present in forms of the "Chinese painting" or guohua for short. The Shanghai School challenged and broke the literati tradition of Chinese art, while also paying technical homage to the ancient masters and improving on existing traditional techniques. Members of this school were themselves educated literati who had come to question their very status and the purpose of art, and had anticipated the impending modernization of Chinese society. In an era of rapid social change, works from the Shanghai School were widely innovative and diverse, and often contained thoughtful yet subtle social commentary.

Bridge of Nine Turns Jade Buddha Temple

Turn left, then right ... People visit the Bridge of Nine Turns at Chenghuang Temple, a famous place to enjoy the flavor of Shanghai food, left, and at right is the peaceful, and easy feeling of Bonzai trees and bronze lanterns in the courtyard of the Jade Buddha Temple.

Shanghai has hosted a number of world events, including the 2007 Summer Special Olympics and a Live Earth concert. The Shanghai International Film Festival is annually held in the city.

The city is the host of the Expo 2010 World's Fair between May 1 and October 2010. Shanghai awaits . . . The World Expo 2010 will run from May 1 through October 31, with about 70 million visitors expected to attend.

Should you want to view scenes from the World's Fair then
click here.

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Stockholm

Stockholm

At the right is an etching of Stockholm as a flourishing place of commerce around 1690. Stadsholmen, today's Old Town in the middle.

Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden. It is the site of the national Swedish government, the Riksdag (parliament), and the official residence of the Swedish monarch as well as the prime minister. Since 1980, the monarch has resided at Drottningholm Palace outside of Stockholm and uses the Royal Palace of Stockholm as his workplace and official residence. As of 2009, the Stockholm metropolitan area is home to approximately 22% of Sweden's population, and contributes 28% of Sweden's gross domestic product. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden with a population of 825,057 in the municipality (2009), 1.25 million in the urban area (2005), and 2 million in the metropolitan area (2009).

Drottningholm Palace

Drottningholm Palace is at left.

Founded circa 1250, Stockholm has long been one of Sweden's cultural, media, political, and economic centres. Its strategic location on 14 islands on the south-central east coast of Sweden at the mouth of Lake Malaren, by the Stockholm archipelago, has been historically important. Stockholm has been nominated by GaWC as a global city, with a ranking of Alpha. In The 2008 Global Cities Index, Stockholm ranked 24th in the world, 10th in Europe, and first in Scandinavia. Stockholm is known for its beauty, its buildings and architecture, its abundant open water and many parks. It is sometimes referred to as Venice of the North. Stockholm is the second most visited city in the Nordic countries, with around one million visitors in 2006.

Stockholm's location appears in Norse sagas as Agnafit, and in Heimskringla in connection with the legendary king Agne. The earliest written mention of the name Stockholm dates from 1252, by which time the mines in Bergslagen made it an important site in the iron trade. The first part of the name (stock) means log in Swedish, although it may also be connected to an old German word (Stock), meaning fortification. The second part of the name (holm) means islet, and is thought to refer to the islet Helgeandsholmen in central Stockholm. The city is said to have been founded by Birger Jarl to protect Sweden from a sea invasion by foreign navies, and to stop the pillage of towns such as Sigtuna on Lake Malaren.

Stockholm's core, the present Old Town (Gamla Stan) was built on the central island next to Helgeandsholmen from the mid-13th century onward. The city originally rose to prominence as a result of the Baltic trade of the Hanseatic League. Stockholm developed strong economic and cultural linkages with Lübeck, Hamburg, Gdansk, Visby, Reval and Riga during this time. Between 1296 and 1478 Stockholm's City Council was made up of 24 members, half of whom were selected from the town's German-speaking burghers.

The strategic and economic importance of the city made Stockholm an important factor in relations between the Danish Kings of the Kalmar Union and the national independence movement in the 15th century. The Danish King Christian II was able to enter the city in 1520. On November 8, 1520, a massacre of opposition figures, called the Stockholm Bloodbath, took place and set off further uprisings that eventually led to the breakup of the Kalmar Union. With the accession of Gustav Vasa in 1523 and the establishment of a royal power, the population of Stockholm began to grow, reaching 10,000 by 1600.

The 17th century saw Sweden grow into a major European power, reflected in the development of the city of Stockholm. From 1610 to 1680, the population multiplied sixfold. In 1634, Stockholm became the official capital of the Swedish empire. Trading rules were also created that gave Stockholm an essential monopoly over trade between foreign merchants and other Swedish and Scandinavian territories.

In 1710 the Black Death reached Stockholm. After the end of the Great Northern War the city stagnated. Population growth halted and economic growth slowed. However, Stockholm maintained its role as the political centre of Sweden and continued to develop culturally under Gustav III. The royal opera is a good architectural example of this era.

By the second half of the 19th century, Stockholm had regained its leading economic role. New industries emerged, and Stockholm transformed into an important trade and service centre, as well as a key gateway point within Sweden. The population also grew radically during this time, mainly through immigration. At the end of the century, less than 40% of the residents were Stockholm-born. Settlement began to expand outside of the city limits. In the 19th century, a number of scientific institutes opened in Stockholm, including the Karolinska Institute, and the General Art and Industrial Exposition was held in 1897.

During the latter half of the 20th century, Stockholm became a modern, technologically-advanced, and ethnically diverse city. Many historical buildings were torn down, including the entire historical district of Klara, and replaced with modern architecture. Throughout the century, many industries shifted away from work-intensive activities into more high-technology and service-industry areas.

The city continued to expand and new districts were created, such as Rinkeby, and Tensta, some with high proportions of immigrants.

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Sydney

Sydney

Sydney is the largest city in Australia, and the state capital of New South Wales. Sydney has a metropolitan area population of approximately 4.4 million and an area of approximately 12,000 square kilometres (4,633 sq mi). Its inhabitants are called Sydneysiders, and Sydney is often called "the Harbour City". It is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for immigrants to Australia.

The site of the first British colony in Australia, Sydney was established in 1788 at Sydney Cove by Arthur Phillip, commodore of the First Fleet. The city is built on hills surrounding Sydney Harbour – an inlet of the Tasman Sea on Australia's south-east coast. It is home to the iconic Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and its beaches. The metropolitan area is surrounded by national parks, and contains many bays, rivers and inlets.

The city is home to many prominent parks, such as Hyde Park, Royal Botanical Gardens and national parks. This is a major factor, along with Sydney Harbour that has led to the city’s reputation as one of the most beautiful in the world.

Sydney is considered an alpha+ world city, as listed by the Loughborough University group's 2008 inventory, is ranked 16th among global cities by Foreign Policy's 2008 Global Cities Index and is an international centre for commerce, arts, fashion, culture, entertainment, education and tourism. According to the Mercer cost of living survey, Sydney is Australia’s most expensive city, and the 66th most expensive in the world. Sydney also ranks among the top 10 most livable cities in the world according to Mercer Human Resource Consulting and The Economist.

Sydney is a significant international financial centre and has been ranked 14th within the top 50 global financial cities as surveyed by the Mastercard Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index (2007), and 1st within Australia. Sydney is also an international fashion and creative industry hub and is Australia's fashion capital.

Sydney has hosted major international sporting events, including the 1938 British Empire Games, 2000 Summer Olympics and the final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup. The main airport serving Sydney is Sydney Airport.

Aborigines

Artwork depicting the first contact between the Gweagal Aborigines and Captain James Cook on the shores of the Kurnell Peninsula (left).

Radio carbon dating suggests that the Sydney region has been inhabited by indigenous Australians for at least 30,000 years. The traditional Indigenous inhabitants of Sydney Cove are the Cadigal people, whose land once stretched from south of Port Jackson to Petersham. While estimates of the population numbers prior to the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 remains contentious, approximately 4,000–8,000 Aboriginal people lived in the Sydney region prior to contact with British settlers. The British called the Indigenous people the "Eora", because being asked where they came from, these people would answer: "Eora", meaning "here", or "from this place" in their language. There were three language groups in the Sydney region, which were divided into dialects spoken by smaller clans. The principal languages were Darug (the Cadigal, original inhabitants of the City of Sydney, spoke a coastal dialect of Darug), Dharawal and Guringai. Each clan had a territory, the location of said territory determined the resources available. Although urbanisation has destroyed much evidence of these settlements (such as shell middens), a number of Sydney rock engravings, carvings and rock art remain visible in the Hawkesbury sandstone of the Sydney basin.

Sydney circa 1828

Sydney circa 1828, looking north over Hyde Park towards the harbour (right).

In 1770, British sea Captain Lieutenant James Cook landed in Botany Bay on the Kurnell Peninsula. It is here that Cook made first contact with an Aboriginal community known as the Gweagal. Under instruction from the British government, a convict settlement was founded by Arthur Phillip, who arrived at Botany Bay with a fleet of 11 ships on 18 January 1788. This site was soon determined to be unsuitable for habitation, owing to poor soil and a lack of reliable fresh water. Phillip subsequently founded the colony one inlet further up the coast, at Sydney Cove on Port Jackson on 26 January 1788. He named it after the British Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney, in recognition of Sydney's role in issuing the charter authorising Phillip to establish a colony. The original name was intended to be Albion until Phillip decided upon Sydney.

In April 1789 a disease, thought to be smallpox, killed an estimated 500 to 1000 Aboriginal people between Broken Bay and Botany Bay. There was violent resistance to British settlement, notably by the warrior Pemulwuy in the area around Botany Bay, and conflicts were common in the area surrounding the Hawkesbury River. By 1820 there were only a few hundred Aborigines and Governor Macquarie had begun initiatives to 'civilise, Christianise and educate' the Aborigines by removing them from their clans. Macquarie's tenure as Governor of New South Wales was a period when Sydney was improved from its basic beginnings. Roads, bridges, wharves and public buildings were constructed by British and Irish convicts, and by 1822 the town had banks, markets, well-established thoroughfares and an organised constabulary. The 1830s and 1840s were periods of urban development, including the development of the first suburbs, as the town grew rapidly when ships began arriving from Britain and Ireland with immigrants looking to start a new life in a new country. On 20 July 1842 the municipal council of Sydney was incorporated and the town was declared the first city in Australia, with John Hosking the first elected mayor.The first of several Australian gold rushes started in 1851, and the port of Sydney has since seen many waves of people arriving from around the world.

International Exhibition

The International Exhibition of 1879 at the Garden Palace (left).

Rapid suburban development began in the last quarter of the 19th century with the advent of steam powered tramways and railways. With industrialisation Sydney expanded rapidly, and by the early 20th century it had a population well of more than a million. The Great Depression hit Sydney badly. One of the highlights of the Depression era, however, was the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. There has traditionally been a rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne since the gold rushes of the 1850s made the capital of Victoria Australia's largest and richest city. Sydney overtook Melbourne in population in the early years of the 20th century, and has remained the largest city in Australia since this time. During the 1970s and 1980s Sydney's CBD with the Reserve Bank and Australian Stock Exchange clearly surpassed Melbourne as the nation's financial capital. Throughout the 20th century, especially in the decades immediately following World War II, Sydney continued to expand as large numbers of European and later Asian immigrants populated the metropolitan area.

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Tokyo

Tokyo

Tokyo is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan and is located on the eastern side of the main island Honshu. Tokyo's government also administers the twenty-three special wards of Tokyo, each governed as a city, that cover the area that was once the city of Tokyo in the eastern part of the prefecture.

The population of the special wards is over 8 million people, with the total population of the prefecture exceeding 12 million. The prefecture is the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, the world's most populous metropolitan area with 35 to 39 million people (depending on definition) and the world's largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of US$1.479 trillion at purchasing power parity in 2008.

Tokyo was described by Saskia Sassen as one of the three "command centers" for the world economy, along with London and New York City. This city is considered an alpha+ world city, listed by the GaWC's 2008 inventory and ranked fourth among global cities by Foreign Policy's 2008 Global Cities Index. In 2009 Tokyo was named the world's most expensive city for expatriate employees, according to the Mercer and Economist Intelligence Unit cost-of-living surveys and named the third Most Liveable City and the World’s Most Livable Megalopolis by the magazine Monocle.

Tokyo is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family.

Tokyo was originally known as Edo, meaning estuary. Its name was changed to Tokyo when it became the imperial capital in 1868. During the early Meiji period, the city was also called "Tokei", an alternative pronunciation for the same Chinese characters representing "Tokyo". Some surviving official English documents use the spelling "Tokei"; however, this pronunciation is now obsolete.

Tokugawa Ieyasu

Tokugawa Ieyasu is at left.

Tokyo was originally a small fishing village named Edo. In 1457, Ota Dokan built Edo Castle. In 1590, Tokugawa Ieyasu made Edo his base and when he became shogun in 1603, the town became the center of his nationwide military government. During the subsequent Edo period, Edo grew into one of the largest cities in the world with a population topping one million by the 18th century.

see left

At the right from top left: Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo, National Diet Building, Shinjuku, Shibuya, the Tokyo Tower.

It became the de facto capital of Japan even while the emperor lived in Kyoto, the imperial capital. After about 263 years, the shogunate was overthrown under the banner of restoring imperial rule. In 1869, the 17-year-old Emperor Meiji moved to Edo. Tokyo was already the nation's political and cultural center, and the emperor's residence made it a de facto imperial capital as well with the former Edo Castle becoming the Imperial Palace. The city of Tokyo was established, and continued to be the capital until it was abolished as a municipality in 1943 and merged with the "Metropolitan Prefecture" of Tokyo.

Central Tokyo, like Osaka, has been designed since about 1900 to be centered around major train stations in a high-density fashion, so suburban railways were built relatively cheaply at street level and with their own right-of-way. This differs from many cities in the United States that are low-density and automobile-centric. Though expressways have been built in Tokyo, the basic design has not changed.

Tokyo went on to suffer two major catastrophes in the 20th century, but it recovered from both. One was the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, which left 140,000 dead or missing, and the other was World War II. The bombing of Tokyo in 1944 and 1945, with 75,000 to 200,000 killed and half of the city destroyed, were almost as devastating as the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

After the war, Tokyo was completely rebuilt, and showcased to the world during the 1964 Summer Olympics. The 1970s brought new high-rise developments such as Sunshine 60, a new and controversial airport at Narita in 1978 (some distance outside city limits), and a population increase to about 11 million (in the metropolitan area).

Tokyo's subway and commuter rail network became one of the busiest in the world as more and more people moved to the area. In the 1980s, real estate prices skyrocketed during a real estate and debt bubble. The bubble burst in the early 1990s, and many companies, banks, and individuals were caught with mortgage backed debts while real estate was shrinking in value. A major recession followed, making the 1990s Japan's "lost decade" from which it is now slowly recovering.

Tokyo still sees new urban developments on large lots of less profitable land. Recent projects include Ebisu Garden Place, Tennozu Isle, Shiodome, Roppongi Hills, Shinagawa (now also a Shinkansen station), and the Marunouchi side of Tokyo Station. Buildings of significance are demolished for more up-to-date shopping facilities such as Omotesando Hills.

Land reclamation projects in Tokyo have also been going on for centuries. The most prominent is the Odaiba area, now a major shopping and entertainment center. Various plans have been proposed for transferring national government functions from Tokyo to secondary capitals in other regions of Japan, in order to slow down rapid development in Tokyo and revitalize economically lagging areas of the country. These plans have been controversial within Japan and have yet to be realized.

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Vienna

Vienna

Vienna is the capital of the Republic of Austria and also one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.7 million (2.3 million within the metropolitan area, which means more than 25% of Austria's population), and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 10th largest city by population in the European Union. Vienna is host to many major international organizations such as the United Nations and OPEC. Vienna lies in the east of Austria and is close to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2005 an Economist Intelligence Unit study of 127 world cities ranked it first equal with Vancouver for the quality of life. This assessment was mirrored by the Mercer Survey in 2009.

The English name of Vienna, the official German name Wien, and the names of the city in most languages, are thought to be derived from the Celtic name of a settlement, but opinions vary on the precise origin. Some claim that the name comes from Vedunia, meaning "forest stream", which subsequently became Venia, Wienne and Wien. Others claim that the name comes from the name of the Roman settlement Vindobona, probably meaning "white base/bottom", which became Vindovina, Viden and Wien.

The name of the city in Hungarian (Becs), Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian (Bec) and Ottoman Turkish (Bec) appears to have a different, Slavonic, origin.

Roman ruins

Roman ruins at Michaelerplatz is pictured at left.

Vienna in 1493 (from the Nuremberg Chronicle).Founded around 500 BC, Vienna was originally a Celtic settlement. In 15 BC, Vienna became a Roman frontier city (Vindobona) guarding the Roman Empire against Germanic tribes to the north.

In the 13th century, Vienna came under threat from the Mongolian Empire, which stretched over much of present-day Russia and China. However, due to the death of its leader, Ogedei Khan, the Mongolian armies receded from the European frontier and did not return.

During the Middle Ages, Vienna was home to the Babenberg Dynasty, and in 1440, it became the resident city of the Habsburg Dynasties. It eventually grew to become the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and a cultural centre for arts and science, music and fine cuisine. It was occupied by Hungary between 1485-1490. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman armies were stopped twice outside Vienna.

View of Vienna

View of Vienna in 1758, by Canaletto (right).

In 1804, Vienna became the capital of the Austrian Empire and continued to play a major role in European and world politics, including hosting the 1814 Congress of Vienna. After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, Vienna remained the capital of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the latter half of the 19th century, the city developed what had previously been the bastions and glacis into the Ringstraße, a major prestige project. Former suburbs were incorporated, and the city of Vienna grew dramatically.

In 1918, after World War I, Vienna became capital of the First Austrian Republic. During the 1920s and 1930s, it was a bastion of socialism in Austria, and was known as the "Red Vienna." The city was a stage to the Austrian Civil War of 1934, when Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss sent the Austrian Army to shell civilian housing occupied by the socialist militia. In 1938, after a triumphant entry into Austria, Adolf Hitler famously spoke to the Austrian people from the balcony of the Neue Burg, a part of the Hofburg at the Heldenplatz. Between 1938 and the end of the Second World War, Vienna lost its status as a capital to Berlin.

In 1945, the Soviets successfully launched the Vienna Offensive against the Germans who were holding Vienna. The city was besieged for about two weeks before it fell to the Soviets. After 1945, Vienna again became the capital of Austria. It was initially divided into zones by the four powers (or the four prevailing nations), and was governed by the Allied Commission for Austria. The four-power occupation of Vienna differed in some respects from the four-power occupation of Berlin: the central area of Vienna had an international zone in which the four powers alternated on a monthly basis. When the Berlin blockade occurred in 1948, Vienna was even more vulnerable because there was no airport in the western sectors. However, despite fears, the Soviets did not blockade Vienna. Some have argued that this was because the Potsdam Agreement gave written rights of land access to the western sectors, whereas no such written guarantees had been given regarding Berlin. The true reason will, however, always remain a matter of speculation. During the 10 years of foreign occupation, Vienna became a hot-bed for international espionage between the Western and Eastern blocs. The atmosphere of four-power Vienna is captured in the Graham Greene novel The Third Man and by the movie which followed.

In the 1970s, Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky inaugurated the Vienna International Centre, a new area of the city created to host international institutions. Vienna has regained a part of its former international relevance by hosting international organizations, such as the United Nations (UNIDO, UNOV, CTBTO and UNODC), the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Imperial Court Theatre State Opera

State Opera (Staatsoper), venue of the annual ball (right); Imperial Court Theatre (Burgtheater) is at left.

Art and culture have a long tradition in Vienna, including theater, opera, classical music and fine arts. The Burgtheater is considered one of the best theaters in the German-speaking world alongside its branch, the Akademietheater. The Volkstheater Wien and the Theater in der Josefstadt also enjoy good reputations. There is also a multitude of smaller theaters, in many cases devoted to less mainstream forms of performing arts, such as modern, experimental plays or cabaret.

Since 2000, held annually the European and International Deaf Theater Festival is organized by ARBOS - Company for Music and Theatre in Vienna. Coinciding with the festival and the European Deaf Theater Conference will be held, organized by the Network Deaf Theatre Network Europe Vienna.

Vienna is also home to a number of opera houses, including the Theater an der Wien, the Staatsoper and the Volksoper, the latter being devoted to the typical Viennese operetta. Classical concerts are performed at well known venues such as the Wiener Musikverein, home of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Wiener Konzerthaus. Many concert venues offer concerts aimed at tourists, featuring popular highlights of Viennese music (particularly the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss).

In recent years, the Theater an der Wien has become widely known for hosting premieres of musicals, although it has recently devoted itself to the opera again. The most successful musical by far was "Elisabeth", which was later translated into several other languages and performed all over the world. The Haus der Musik ("house of music") opened in 2000.

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Washington, D.C.

Washington

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, the District, or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States, founded on July 16, 1790. Article One of the United States Constitution provides for a federal district, distinct from the states, to serve as the permanent national capital. The City of Washington was originally a separate municipality within the federal territory until an act of Congress in 1871 established a single, unified municipal government for the whole District. It is for this reason that the city, while legally named the District of Columbia, is known as Washington, D.C. The city shares its name with the U.S. state of Washington, which is located on the country's Pacific coast.

Washington

The Washington Monument (left) sits on one end of the National Mall, with the Capitol on the other end in Washington D.C. The monument, one of the city's earliest attractions, was built to honor George Washington, the first U.S. president, and was finished in 1884.

Statue of Freedom

The plaster model of the Statue of Freedom, which was used to cast the statue atop the U.S. Capitol Dome, and other statues are on display in the Emancipation Hall of the Capitol Visitor Center, which opened in 2008.

American sculptor Thomas Crawford created the model in 1858. It was shipped in five separate pieces from Crawford's Rome studio.

The city is located on the north bank of the Potomac River and is bordered by the states of Virginia to the southwest and Maryland to the other sides. The District has a resident population of 599,657; because of commuters from the surrounding suburbs, its population rises to over one million during the workweek. The Washington Metropolitan Area, of which the District is a part, has a population of 5.3 million, the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the country.

Kogod Courtyard

The Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard, with its elegant glass canopy designed by world renowned architect Norman Foster, is at the historic Patent Office Building that houses the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.

Foster worked with the Smithsonian to create an innovative enclosure for the 28,000-square-foot space at the center of the building that is sensitive to the historic structure. The "floating" roof does not rest on the original building, which was built in phases between 1836 and 1868.

Jefferson Memorial

In the spring, blooming cherry trees frame the front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial at the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The memorial is modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.

The centers of all three branches of the federal government of the United States are located in the District, as are many of the nation's monuments and museums. Washington, D.C. hosts 174 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The headquarters of other institutions such as trade unions, lobbying groups, and professional associations are also located in the District.

WWII Memorial

The pillars that represent different states of the U.S. lie at the World War II Memorial. The memorial, which commemorates the sacrifice and celebrates the victory of "the greatest generation," was designed by Friedrich St.Florian and opened to the public in 2004.

The city is governed by a mayor and a 13-member city council. However, the United States Congress has supreme authority over Washington, D.C., and may overturn local laws. Residents of the District therefore have less self-governance than residents of the states. The District has a non-voting, at-large Congressional delegate, but no senators. D.C. residents could not vote in presidential elections until the ratification of the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1961.

FDR Memorial

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial near the National Mall traces 12 years of U.S. history with four outdoor rooms, each one devoted to one of FDR's terms of office and feature a sculpture inspired by him. Here, at the beginning of the memorial, is a statue showing Roosevelt seated in a wheelchair like the one he used.

An Algonquian people known as the Nacotchtank inhabited the area around the Anacostia River where Washington now lies when the first Europeans arrived in the 17th century; however, Native American people had largely relocated from the area by the early 18th century. Georgetown was chartered by the Province of Maryland on the north bank of the Potomac River in 1751. The town would be included within the new federal territory established nearly 40 years later. The City of Alexandria, Virginia, founded in 1749, was also originally included within the District.

National Cathedral

The National Cathedral is the sixth largest cathedral in the world. It was designed in an English Gothic style and features gargoyles, angels, mosaics and more than 200 stained glass windows. There is even a sculpture of Darth Vader on top of the cathedral's west tower.

Officially named the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, it's a cathedral of the Episcopal Church, but it honors all faiths.

James Madison expounded the need for a federal district on January 23, 1788, in his "Federalist No. 43", arguing that the national capital needed to be distinct from the states in order to provide for its own maintenance and safety. An attack on the Congress at Philadelphia by a mob of angry soldiers, known as the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, had emphasized the need for the government to see to its own security. Therefore, the authority to establish a federal capital was provided in Article One, Section Eight, of the United States Constitution, which permits a "District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States". The Constitution does not, however, specify a location for the new capital. In what later became known as the Compromise of 1790, Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson came to an agreement that the federal government would assume war debt carried by the states, on the condition that the new national capital would be located in the Southern United States.

Lafayette Park

Tourists walk among the blooming tulips in Lafayette Park across from the White House. Mild temperatures in the spring often bring tourists out in great numbers.

On July 16, 1790, the Residence Act provided for a new permanent capital to be located on the Potomac River, the exact area to be selected by President Washington. As permitted by the U.S. Constitution, the initial shape of the federal district was a square, measuring 10 miles (16 km) on each side, totaling 100 square miles (260 km2). During 1791–92, Andrew Ellicott and several assistants, including Benjamin Banneker, surveyed the border of the District with both Maryland and Virginia, placing boundary stones at every mile point; many of the stones are still standing. A new "federal city" was then constructed on the north bank of the Potomac, to the east of the established settlement at Georgetown. On September 9, 1791, the federal city was named in honor of George Washington, and the district was named the Territory of Columbia, Columbia being a poetic name for the United States in use at that time. Congress held its first session in Washington on November 17, 1800.

The Georgetown

U.S. park rangers dressed in period costumes guide "The Georgetown" up the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal using mules for power during the first canal tour of the season in the Georgetown section of D.C. The Georgetown is an 1870s-period replica used by the park service for tours that depict the history of the canal and the families who lived and worked on it.

The Organic Act of 1801 officially organized the District of Columbia and placed the entire federal territory, including the cities of Washington, Georgetown, and Alexandria, under the exclusive control of Congress. Further, the unincorporated territory within the District was organized into two counties: the County of Washington to the east of the Potomac and the County of Alexandria to the west. Following this Act, citizens located in the District were no longer considered residents of Maryland or Virginia, thus ending their representation in Congress.

Union Station

When Union Station was completed in 1908, it was one of the largest train stations in the world -- if put on its side, the Washington Monument could lay within the station's concourse. It is considered one of the best examples of Beaux-Arts architecture.

In the 1980s, the building was redeveloped as a bustling retail center and intermodal transportation facility. It currently houses Amtrak headquarters and more than 130 shops and restaurants.

American Indian Museum

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian is the first national museum dedicated to the perservation, study, culture and history of Native Americans. The museum's massive collections include more than 800,000 works of aesthetic, religious and historical significance and span all major culture areas of the Americas.

On August 24–25, 1814, in a raid known as the Burning of Washington, British forces invaded the capital during the War of 1812, following the sacking and burning of York (modern-day Toronto). The Capitol, Treasury, and White House were burned and gutted during the attack. Most government buildings were quickly repaired, but the Capitol, which was at the time largely under construction, was not completed in its current form until 1868.

U.S. Capitol

People look at the U.S. Capitol at sunset. Around the world, the building, which houses the U.S. Congress, is a symbol of America's democracy. It also includes an important collection of American art and has important architectural significance.

Since 1800, the District's residents have protested their lack of voting representation in Congress. To correct this, various proposals have been offered to return the land ceded to form the District back to Maryland and Virginia. This process is known as retrocession. However, such efforts failed to earn enough support until the 1830s when the District's southern county of Alexandria went into economic decline partly due to neglect by Congress. Alexandria had been a major market in the American slave trade, and rumors circulated that abolitionists in Congress were attempting to end slavery in the District; such an action would have further depressed Alexandria's slavery-based economy. Unhappy with Congressional authority over Alexandria, in 1840 residents began to petition for the retrocession of the District's southern territory back to Virginia. The state legislature complied in February 1846, partly because the return of Alexandria provided two additional pro-slavery delegates to the Virginia General Assembly. On July 9, 1846, Congress agreed to return all the District's territory south of the Potomac River to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

U.S. Capitol dome

Sunlight illiminates the dome of the U.S. Capitol. In the eye of the dome is a fresco by Constantino Brumidi called "Apotheosis of Washington," which sits 180 feet above the Rotunda floor.

Confirming the fears of pro-slavery Alexandrians, the Compromise of 1850 outlawed the slave trade in the District, though not slavery itself. By 1860, approximately 80% of the city's African American residents were free blacks. The outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 led to notable growth in the District's population due to the expansion of the federal government and a large influx of freed slaves. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act, which ended slavery in the District of Columbia and freed about 3,100 enslaved persons, nine months prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. By 1870, the District's population had grown to nearly 132,000. Despite the city's growth, Washington still had dirt roads and lacked basic sanitation; the situation was so bad that some members of Congress proposed moving the capital elsewhere.

Lincoln Memorial

Thousands of tourists visit the Lincoln Memorial each year. The memorial, which honors President Abraham Lincoln, sits prominently on the western part of the National Mall and offers great views of the other presidential sites. It includes a large sculpture of Lincoln and inscriptions of two of his speeches, "The Gettysburg Address" and his "Second Inaugural Address."

With the Organic Act of 1871, Congress created a new government for the entire federal territory. This Act effectively combined the City of Washington, Georgetown, and Washington County into a single municipality officially named the District of Columbia. Even though the City of Washington legally ceased to exist after 1871, the name continued in use and the whole city became commonly known as Washington, D.C. In the same Organic Act, Congress also appointed a Board of Public Works charged with modernizing the city In 1873, President Grant appointed the board's most influential member, Alexander Shepherd, to the new post of governor. That year, Shepherd spent $20 million on public works ($357 million in 2007), which modernized Washington but also bankrupted the city. In 1874, Congress abolished Shepherd's office in favor of direct rule. Additional projects to renovate the city were not executed until the McMillan Plan in 1901.

Mount Vernon

A candle sits in a lamp lighting the way for guests arriving to George Washington's Mount Vernon estate as Ben Schulz, left, and Steve Stuart wait for the gates to open Dec. 4, 2004, in Mount Vernon, Va.

The estate, Washington's former home, is 16 miles south of D.C. on the banks of the Potomac River. Visitors can see 20 structures and 50 acres of gardens as they existed in 1799, a museum, the tombs of George and Martha Washington, and his greenhouse.

U.S. Marine Memorial

The U.S. Marine Memorial, left, and the Washington Monument, center, are silhouetted against the sky as the sun rises over D.C.

The District's population remained relatively stable until the Great Depression in the 1930s when President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal legislation expanded the bureaucracy in Washington. World War II further increased government activity, adding to the number of federal employees in the capital; by 1950, the District's population had reached a peak of 802,178 residents. The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1961, granting the District three votes in the Electoral College for the election of President and Vice President, but still no voting representation in Congress.

Tomb of the Unknowns

A sentinel from the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry marches as the sun rises above the Tomb of the Unknowns on Aug. 26, 2009, at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. More than 300,000 veterans from all of the nation's wars are buried on the grounds.

The Tomb of the Unknowns, where three unknown servicemen are buried, is one of the most visited sites at the cemetery.

After the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968, riots broke out in the District, primarily in the U Street, 14th Street, 7th Street, and H Street corridors, centers of black residential and commercial areas. The riots raged for three days until over 13,000 federal and national guard troops managed to quell the violence. Many stores and other buildings were burned; rebuilding was not complete until the late 1990s.

Tomb of the Unknowns

There is nothing more beautiful than the springtime along the Mall.

In 1973, Congress enacted the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, providing for an elected mayor and city council for the District. In 1975, Walter Washington became the first elected and first black mayor of the District. However, during the later 1980s and 1990s, city administrations were criticized for mismanagement and waste. In 1995, Congress created the District of Columbia Financial Control Board to oversee all municipal spending and rehabilitate the city government. The District regained control over its finances in September 2001 and the oversight board's operations were suspended.

Air and Space Museum

Aircraft are displayed in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. The hangar features hundreds of artifacts installed illustrating its four main themes: rocketry and missiles; human spaceflight; application satellites and space science. The centerpiece of the hangar is the Space Shuttle Enterprise.

On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 and deliberately crashed the plane into the Pentagon in nearby Arlington, Virginia. United Airlines Flight 93, believed to be destined for Washington, D.C., crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers tried to recover control of the plane from hijackers.

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Wellington

Wellington

Wellington is the capital city and third most populous urban area of New Zealand. The urban area is situated on the southwestern tip of the country's North Island, and lies between Cook Strait and the Rimutaka Range. It is home to 386,000 residents, with an additional 3,700 residents living in the surrounding rural areas.

The Wellington urban area is the major population centre of the southern North Island, and is the seat of the Wellington Region - which in addition to the urban area covers the Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa. The urban area lie across four cities. Wellington City, on the peninsula between Cook Strait and Wellington Harbour, contains the central business district and about half of Wellington's population. Porirua City on Porirua Harbour to the north is notable for its large Maori and Pacific Island communities. Lower Hutt City and Upper Hutt City are suburban areas to the northeast, together known as the Hutt

Valley. The 2009 Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranked Wellington 12th place in the world on its list.

Wellington was named after Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington and victor of the Battle of Waterloo. The Duke's title comes from the town of Wellington in the English county of Somerset.

In Maori, Wellington goes by three names. Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara refers to Wellington Harbour and means "the great harbour of Tara". Poneke is a transliteration of Port Nick, short for Port Nicholson (the city's central marae, the community supporting it and its kapa haka have the pseudo-tribal name of Ngati Poneke). Te Upoko-o-te-Ika-a-Maui, meaning The Head of the Fish of Maui (often shortened to Te Upoko-o-te-Ika), a traditional name for the southernmost part of the North Island, derives from the legend of the fishing up of the island by the demigod Maui.

Wellington also has nicknames including The Harbour Capital, Wellywood and the Windy City .

Wellington is New Zealand's political centre, housing Parliament and the head offices of all Government Ministries and Departments, plus the bulk of the foreign diplomatic missions that are based in New Zealand.

Wellington's compact city centre supports an arts scene, café culture and nightlife much larger than many cities of a similar size. It is an important centre of New Zealand's film and theatre industry, and second to Auckland in terms of numbers of screen industry businesses. Te Papa Tongarewa (the Museum of New Zealand), the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Museum of Wellington City & Sea and the biennial New Zealand International Arts Festival are all sited there.

Wellington has the 12th best quality of living in the world in 2009, a ranking holding steady from 2007, according to a 2007 study by consulting company Mercer. Of cities with English as the primary language, Wellington ranked fourth in 2007. Of cities in the Asia Pacific region, Wellington ranked third (2009) behind Auckland and Sydney, Australia. Of New Zealand cities only Auckland rated higher with a ranking of fourth best in the world in 2009, rising slightly from fifth in 2006 and 2007. Wellington became much more affordable, in terms of cost of living relative to cities worldwide, with its ranking moving from 93rd (more expensive) to 139th (less expensive) in 2009, probably as a result of currency fluctuations during the global economic downturn from March 2008 to March 2009. "Foreigners get more bang for their buck in Wellington, which is among the cheapest cities in the world to live", according to a 2009 article, which reported that currency fluctuations make New Zealand cities affordable for multi-national firms to do business, and elaborated that "New Zealand cities were now more affordable for expatriates and were competitive places for overseas companies to develop business links and send employees".

Legend recounts that Kupe discovered and explored the district in about the tenth century.

The Old Shebang

"The Old Shebang" on Cuba Street ca 1883 (left).

European settlement began with the arrival of an advance party of the New Zealand Company on the ship Tory, on 20 September 1839, followed by 150 settlers on the Aurora on 22 January 1840. The settlers constructed their first homes at Petone (which they called Britannia for a time) on the flat area at the mouth of the Hutt River. When that proved swampy and flood-prone they transplanted the plans, which had been drawn without regard for the hilly terrain.

Beehive

New Zealand government "Beehive" and the Parliament Buildings (right).

Wellington suffered serious damage in a series of earthquakes in 1848 and from another earthquake in 1855. The 1855 Wairarapa earthquake occurred on a fault line to the north and east of Wellington. It ranks as probably the most powerful earthquake in recorded New Zealand history, with an estimated magnitude of at least 8.2 on the Richter scale. It caused vertical movements of two to three metres over a large area, including raising an area of land out of the harbour and turning it into a tidal swamp. Much of this land was subsequently reclaimed and is now part of Wellington's central business district. For this reason the street named Lambton Quay now runs 100 to 200 metres (325 to 650 ft) from the harbour. Plaques set into the footpath along Lambton Quay mark the shoreline in 1840 and thus indicate the extent of the uplift and reclamation.

The area has high seismic activity even by New Zealand standards, with a major fault line running through the centre of the city, and several others nearby. Several hundred more minor fault lines have been identified within the urban area. The inhabitants, particularly those in high-rise buildings, typically notice several earthquakes every year. For many years after the 1855 earthquake, the majority of buildings constructed in Wellington were made entirely from wood. The 1996-restored Government Buildings, near Parliament is the largest wooden office building in the Southern Hemisphere. While masonry and structural steel have subsequently been used in building construction, especially for office buildings, timber framing remains the primary structural component of almost all residential construction. Residents also place their hopes of survival in good building regulations, which gradually became more stringent in the course of the twentieth century.

former High Court bldg

The historic former High Court building, future home of the Supreme Court of New Zealand.

In 1865, Wellington became the capital of New Zealand, replacing Auckland, which William Hobson had established as the capital in 1841. Parliament first sat in Wellington on 7 July 1862, but the city did not become the official capital for some time. In November 1863 the Premier Alfred Domett moved a resolution before Parliament (in Auckland) that ". . . it has become necessary that the seat of government ... should be transferred to some suitable locality in Cook Strait." Apparently there was concern that the southern regions, where the gold fields were located, would form a separate colony. Commissioners from Australia (chosen for their neutral status) pronounced the opinion that Wellington was suitable because of its harbour and central location. Parliament officially sat in Wellington for the first time on 26 July 1865. The population of Wellington was then 4,900.

Wellington is the seat of New Zealand's highest court, the Supreme Court of New Zealand. The historic former High Court building is to be enlarged and restored for the court's use.

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