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Most Beautiful Cities in Europe
Amsterdam is the capital and most populous municipality of the Netherlands. Its status as the capital is mandated by the Constitution of the Netherlands, although it is not the seat of the government, which is The Hague. Amsterdam has a population of 851,373 within the city proper, 1,351,587 in the urban area, and 2,410,960 in the Amsterdam metropolitan area. The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. The metropolitan area comprises much of the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, with a population of approximately 7 million.
Amsterdam’s name derives from Amstelredamme, indicative of the city’s origin around a dam in the river Amstel. Originating 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 (17th century), a result of its innovative developments in trade. During that time, the city was the leading centre for finance and diamonds. In the 19th and 20th centuries the city expanded, and many new neighborhoods and suburbs were planned and built. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam and the 19–20th century Defence Line of Amsterdam are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Since the annexation of municipality Sloten in 1921 by the municipality of Amsterdam, the oldest historic part of the city lies in Sloten (9th century).
As the commercial capital of the Netherlands and one of the top financial centres in Europe, Amsterdam is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group. The city is also the cultural capital of the Netherlands. Many large Dutch institutions have their headquarters there, and seven of the world’s 500 largest companies, including Philips and ING, are based in the city. In 2012, Amsterdam was ranked the second best city to live in by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and 12th globally on quality of living for environment and infrastructure by Mercer. The city was ranked 3rd in innovation by Australian innovation agency 2thinknow in their Innovation Cities Index 2009. The Amsterdam seaport to this day remains the second in the country, and the fifth largest seaport in Europe.
Famous Amsterdam residents include the diarist Anne Frank, artists Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh, and philosopher Baruch Spinoza.
Greece, the southernmost of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula. Geography has greatly influenced the country’s development. Mountains have historically restricted internal communications, but the sea has opened up wider horizons. The total land area of Greece (one-fifth of which is made up of the Greek islands) is comparable in size to England or the U.S. state of Alabama.
Greece has more than 2,000 islands, of which about 170 are inhabited; some of the easternmost Aegean islands lie just a few miles off the Turkish coast. The country’s capital is Athens, which expanded rapidly in the second half of the 20th century. Attikí (ancient Greek: Attica), the area around the capital, is now home to about one-third of the country’s entire population.
A Greek legend has it that God distributed soil through a sieve and used the stones that remained to build Greece. The country’s barren landscape has historically caused the people to migrate. The Greeks, like the Jews and the Armenians, traditionally have been a people of diaspora, and several million people of Greek descent live in various parts of the world. Xeniteia, or sojourning in foreign lands, with its strong overtones of nostalgia for the faraway homeland, has been a central element in the historical experience of the Greek people.
Europe with Castle in background.
Castles of Europe
We are addicted to travelling and some people might say we are a little bit crazy. What we like the most in this life is putting our backpacks on, and travelling around to explore any corner of this world. We believe that every little corner on Earth is worth visiting, there are no places without some kind of a special charm.
When we travel, we try to experience all the places as we were one of the local. We try to absorb as much as possible from the local culture, traditions and cuisine. When we have the chance, we try to spend some time living with local people. During our travels we have seen many beautiful landscapes, exciting cities, but what we enjoy the most is discovering these authentic places, where there might not be anything special, but you feel special there.
Our blog was born in 2012 for the occasion of our round the world trip, a dream come true. Through Surfing the Planet, apart from transmitting our passion for travelling and discovering new worlds, we also would like to help fellow travelers to choose their travel destinations and prepare their trips. We give our personal point of view on what we think is worth seeing and doing in a particular place. We also provide information and advice on more practical matters, such as where to eat or sleep and how to get from one place to another. We always share both the nice and difficult moments of our personal experience with the readers, telling anecdotes, sometimes funny stories. For top castles go to the link above.
Poland, country of central Europe. Poland is located at a geographic crossroads that links the forested lands of northwestern Europe to the sea lanes of the Atlantic Ocean and the fertile plains of the Eurasian frontier. Now bounded by seven nations, Poland has waxed and waned over the centuries, buffeted by the forces of regional history. In the early Middle Ages, Poland’s small principalities and townships were subjugated by successive waves of invaders, from Germans and Balts to Mongols. In the mid-1500s, united Poland was the largest state in Europe and perhaps the continent’s most powerful nation. Yet two and a half centuries later, during the Partitions of Poland (1772–1918), it disappeared, parceled out among the contending empires of Russia, Prussia, and Austria.
Even at a time of national crisis, however, Polish culture remained strong; indeed, it even flourished, if sometimes far from home. Polish revolutionary ideals, carried by such distinguished patriots as Kazimierz Pułaski and Tadeusz Kościuszko, informed those of the American Revolution. The Polish constitution of 1791, the oldest in Europe, in turn incorporated ideals of the American and French revolutions. Poles later settled in great numbers in the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Australia and carried their culture with them. At the same time, Polish artists of the Romantic period, such as pianist Frédéric Chopin and poet Adam Mickiewicz, were leading lights on the European continent in the 19th century. Following their example, Polish intellectuals, musicians, filmmakers, and writers continue to enrich the world’s arts and letters.
Horseback riding with elk in Flagstaff Arizona.
While on a cruise several years back we stopped at one of the islands. Several people went snorkeling, it was a lot of fun and very relaxing.
Most Isolated Communities
Life in Mongolia
13 Amazing Animal Hybrids
Sahara desert – Hottest place on the planet.
South Africa’s wildlife wonders
The Big Five
Best known are the mammals, and the best known of these are the famous Big Five: elephant, lion, rhino, leopard and buffalo. Not that giraffe, hippo or whale are small …
South Africa’s bushveld and savannah regions are still home to large numbers of the mammals universally associated with Africa.
The Kruger National Park alone has well over 10 000 elephants and 20 000 buffaloes – in 1920 there were an estimated 120 elephants left in the whole of South Africa.
The white rhino has also been brought back from the brink of extinction and now flourishes both in the Kruger National Park and the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal. Attention now is on protecting the black rhino.
Both these parks are home to all of the Big Five, as are other major reserves in South Africa – such as Pilanesberg in North West province – and numerous smaller reserves and private game lodges.
The big cats
Aside from occupying the top rung of the predation ladder, the lion also tops the glamour stakes. Sadly, it does have one formidable enemy in humankind, which has expelled it from most of the country so that it now remains almost exclusively in conservation areas.
The beautiful leopard survives in a larger area, including much of the southern Cape and far north of the country, although numbers are small in some places.
The cheetah is the speed champ, capable of dashes of almost 100 kilometres an hour. Its population is comparatively small and confined mostly to the far north (including the Kruger National Park), the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape, and reserves in KwaZulu-Natal and North West province.
Lesser known wildlife
Other quintessentially African large animals are the hippo, giraffe, kudu, wildebeest (the famous gnu) and zebra, all frequently seen in South Africa’s conservation areas.
Heightened awareness, however, has created an increased appreciation of lesser known animals. A sighting of the rare tsessebe (a relative of the wildebeest) may cause as much excitement as the sight of a pride of lion. And while one can hardly miss a nearby elephant, spotting the shy little forest-dwelling suni (Livingstone’s antelope) is cause for self-congratulation.
On the really small scale, one could tackle the challenge of ticking off each of South Africa’s seven species of elephant shrew – a task that would take one all over the country and, probably, a long time to accomplish.
Over 200 mammal species
With well over 200 species, a short survey of South Africa’s indigenous mammals is a contradiction in terms. A few examples will help to indicate the range.
In terms of appeal, primates rate highly. In South Africa they include the nocturnal bushbabies, vervet and samango monkeys, and chacma baboons which – encouraged by irresponsible feeding and under pressure through loss of habitat – have become unpopular as raiders of homes on the Cape Peninsula.
Dassies (hyraxes, residents of rocky habitats) and meerkats (suricates, familiar from their alert upright stance) have tremendous charm, although the dassie can be an agricultural problem.
The secretive nocturnal aardvark (which eats ants and is the only member of the order Tubulidentata) and the aardwolf (which eats termites and is related to the hyaena) are two more appealing creatures, and both are found over virtually the whole country.
And for those who like their terrestrial mammals damp, there is the widely distributed Cape clawless otter, which swims in both fresh and sea water. The spotted-necked otter has a more limited territory. Both are rare, however, and difficult to spot.
One mammal whose charm is recently acquired is the wild dog or Cape hunting dog, one of Africa’s most endangered mammals. Once erroneously reviled as indiscriminate killers but now appreciated both for their ecological value and their remarkably caring family behaviour, wild dog packs require vast territories.
They are found in small numbers in the Kruger National Park and environs, northern KwaZulu-Natal (including the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park), the Kalahari, and the Madikwe reserve in North West province.
More common canine carnivores are the hyaena, jackal and bat-eared fox. Feline carnivores – besides the big cats mentioned above – include the caracal with its characteristic tufted ears, the African wild cat and the rare black-footed cat. Other flesh eaters include the civet, genet and several kinds of mongoose.
The plant eaters are well represented by various antelope, from the little duiker to the large kudu and superbly handsome sable antelope, which is found only in the most northerly regions.
Mammals take to the air, too: South Africa is well endowed with bat species.
Marine mammals and fish
And they take to the sea. The largest mammal of all – in South Africa and the world – is the blue whale, which can grow to 33 metres in length.
But of the eight whale species found in South African waters (including the dramatic black-and-white killer whale), the most frequently seen by humans is the southern right whale. This imposing creature comes into coastal bays to calve, allowing for superb land-based viewing.
The southern right whale represents one of conservation’s success stories. Once considered the “right” whale to hunt, its population became so depleted that it was designated a protected species. With the greater familiarity that their return to the coastal bays has produced, they are now as well loved as the many dolphins in our coastal waters.
South Africa’s seas are rich in fish species. Perhaps the most awesome of these is the great white shark, but this is only one of more than 2 000 species, comprising 16% of the world’s total. Various line fish, rock lobster and abalone are of particular interest to gourmets, while pelagic fish (sardines and pilchards) and hake have large- scale commercial value.
The crocodile … and other reptiles
Less generously endowed with freshwater fish – 112 named species, a mere 1.3% of the world total – South Africa nonetheless has one river-dweller that is, as much as any of the Big Five, a symbol of Africa. The crocodile still rules some stretches of river and estuary, lakes and pools, exacting an occasional toll in human life.
Other aquatic reptiles of note are the sea-roaming loggerhead and leatherback turtles, the focus of a major community conservation effort at their nesting grounds on the northern KwaZulu-Natal shoreline.
South Africa’s land reptiles include rare tortoises and the fascinating chameleon. There are well over 100 species of snake. While about half of them, including the python, are non-venomous, others – such as the puffadder, green and black mamba, boomslang and rinkhals – are decidedly so.
The country’s comparative dryness accounts for its fairly low amphibian count – 84 species. To make up for that, however, South Africa boasts over 77 000 species of invertebrates.
Birders from around the world come to South Africa to experience the country’s great variety of typically African birds, migrants, and endemics (those birds found only in South Africa).
Of the 850 or so species that have been recorded in South Africa, about 725 are resident or annual visitors, and about 50 of these are endemic or near-endemic.
Apart from the resident birds, South Africa hosts a number of intra-African migrants such as cuckoos and kingfishers, as well as birds from the Arctic, Europe, Central Asia, China and Antarctica during the year.
South Africa’s birdlife ranges from the ostrich – farmed in the Oudtshoorn district of the Western Cape, but seen in the wild mostly in the north of the country – through such striking species as the hornbills to the ubiquitous LBJs (“Little Brown Jobs”).
One small area alone, around the town of Vryheid in northern KwaZulu-Natal, offers wetlands, grasslands, thornveld and both montane and riverine forest, and around 380 species have been recorded there.
A birder need not move out of a typical Johannesburg garden to spot grey loeries, mousebirds, hoopoes, hadeda ibises, crested and black-collared barbets, Cape whiteyes, olive thrushes … or a lone Burchell’s coucal poking clumsily around a tree. And that would by no means complete the list.
Among the most spectacular birds of South Africa are the cranes, most easily spotted in wetlands – although the wattled crane is a lucky find as it is extremely uncommon. The beautiful blue crane is South Africa’s national bird, while the crowned crane is probably the flashiest of the three with its unmistakable prominent crest.
Among its larger bird species, South Africa also has several eagles and vultures. Among its most colourful are kingfishers, bee-eaters, sunbirds, the exquisite lilacbreasted roller, and the Knysna and purple-crested louries.
Tuscany Italy (Pienza)
Touring California wine country
Top 8 Places to Visit San Francisco
The Calgary area was inhabited by pre-Clovis people whose presence has been traced back at least 11,000 years. Before the arrival of Europeans, the area was inhabited by the Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan and the Tsuu T’ina First Nations peoples, all of which were part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. In 1787, cartographer David Thompson spent the winter with a band of Peigan encamped along the Bow River. He was a Hudson’s Bay Company trader and the first recorded European to visit the area. John Glenn was the first documented European settler in the Calgary area, in 1873.
Most Beautiful Places in France
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and one of its 32 local government council areas. Located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth’s southern shore, it is Scotland’s second most populous city and the seventh most populous in the United Kingdom. The 2014 official population estimates are 464,990 for the city of Edinburgh, 492,680 for the local authority area, and 1,339,380 for the city region as of 2014. Recognized as the capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century, Edinburgh is home to the Scottish Parliament and the seat of the monarchy in Scotland. The city is also the annual venue of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and home to national institutions such as the National Museum of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery. It is the largest financial center in the UK after London.
Traveling on the Orient-Express
Nuremberg, a city in northern Bavaria, is distinguished by medieval architecture such as the fortifications and stone towers of its Altstadt (Old Town). At the northern edge of the Altstadt, surrounded by red-roofed buildings, stands Kaiserburg Castle. The Hauptmarkt (central square) contains the Schöner Brunnen, the gilded “beautiful fountain” with tiers of figures, and Frauenkirche, a 14th-century Gothic church.
Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country. The area of the whole city amounts to more than 13,840 hectares, including 1,075 hectares off the coast, at Zeebrugge. The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO. It is oval and about 430 hectares in size. The city’s total population is 117,073, of whom around 20,000 live in the city centre. Source: wikipedia
Cathedral far right dome
The Florence cathedral is the fourth largest church in the world (after St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Paul’s in London, and the Milan cathedral).
How long does it take to build something of such mammoth proportions and extraordinary beauty?
A mere 140 years!
The official name of the basilica is Santa Maria del Fiore, which means ”Saint Mary of the Flower’, but it is commonly referred to as the ‘Duomo’.
Mary of course is the virgin mother, and the flower is a reference to both Jesus and the city of Florence’s Latin name of Florentia (=florid).
The cathedral was started in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio who was assigned the commission of building a spectacular basilica for Florence.
The city wanted to compete with neighboring towns of Siena and Pisa, and the goal was to make a church that would outshine these cities’ impressive basilicas.
Looking at the Florence cathedral today, nobody can deny that this goal was certainly achieved.
In reality though, the building of the basilica actually took much more than 140 years…read on about the most impressive of Florence churches.
In the eleventh century Florence already had a main cathedral called Santa Reparata.
However, after the building of a new baptistery right in front of the church, Santa Reparata was considered too small and modest-looking for a growing city like Firenze.
Moreover, the neighboring cities of Pisa and Siena were expanding and building increasingly larger and more ornate religious and civic buildings.
The Florence government felt something had to be done to beat the competition.
Arnolfo di Cambio, architect of the moment (who also worked on Palazzo Vecchio and Santa Croce church) was hired to build a cathedral that would have no equals.
The Wool Guild – one of the city’s largest corporations of merchants – was put in charge of supervising the work on the church.
A special organization was set up to oversee all the work by the guild members called the Opera del Duomo (works of the Duomo), OPA for short (O – Per – A).
This is why – when you visit the Florence cathedral – you will notice the symbol of the wool guild in the church’s decoration, a lamb holding a cross, the emblem of the OPA.
Since the church took so long to build, di Cambio never saw his design brought to fruition however.
After his death, construction was taken over by Giotto, then Andrea Pisano and lastly Francesco Talenti.
The first stone was laid on September 8, 1296 and the cathedral was consecrated on March 25, 1436 by Pope Eugenius IV.
The Duomo is entirely covered in 3 shades of marble: white, green and pink, all from Tuscany.
Because of its geometric and striped pattern, it has even been described as a church wearing pyjamas!
Although the Florence cathedral is for the most part Gothic, due to the long period of its construction there is also the influence of other architectural styles.
The sides of the church have blind rounded arches, typical of Romanesque buildings, whereas the pointed arches of the doors and windows are Gothic.
And of course, the cathedral’s most emblematic feature, its dome – the cupola by Brunelleschi – is wholly Renaissance.
Lastly, the facade is neo-Gothic, as it was only completed in the 19th century, 400 years after the consecration of the cathedral. To read more go to website above.
Gaudí’s work is admired by architects around the World as being one of the most unique and distinctive architectural styles.
His work has greatly influenced the face of Barcelona architecture and you will see stunning examples of Gaudí’s work all around the city centre.
Iron gate entrance to Gaudí’s Palau Güell
Antoni Gaudí was born in Reus in 1852 and received his Architectural degree in 1878.
From the early beginnings his designs were radically different from those of his contemporaries. Gaudí was not so much influenced by other architect’s ideas but more by forms of nature.
Casa Batlló famous “skull and bones” balconies. The façade colours were inspired by natural corals.
You will see that most of Gaudí’s constructions have an organic look to them. This basic concept of using nature as the primary influences for his creativity is reflected in the use of the natural curved construction stones, twisted iron sculptures, and organic-like shapes – all of which are characteristic traits of Gaudí’s architecture.
If you look at the Façade of Casa Batlló for instance you will see that the balconies look like sculls and the supports on the windows look like bones. The multicoloured tiles that are used to decorate the walls of Casa Batlló were taken from the colours of natural corals.
Gaudí adorned many of his buildings with coloured tiles arranged in mosaic patterns. This adds another important dimension to his buildings which is so often overlooked by architects – the use of colour.
Gaudí dragon at Park Güell.
The combination of original design, interesting shaped stonework, and vibrant colours in Gaudí’s work give the viewer a truly breathtaking visual experience.
Colonnades designed by Gaudí at Park Güell
To give you an outline of Gaudí’s style we have prepared three separate pages reviewing a selection of Gaudí’s work.
Morocco (the full Arabic name is Al Mamlakah al Maghribiyah which translates into “The Western Kingdom” ) is located on the North West coast of Africa and has ports in the North Atlantic Ocean as well as the Mediterranean Sea. It is the third most populous Arab country. Morocco shares the largest part of its border with Algeria to the East and Western Saharah to the South. Morocco is divided into sixteen regions. Each region is further divided into provinces and prefectures. The capital of Morocco is Rabat and its largest city is Casablanca. The national currency is the Moroccan Dirham.
For U.S. citizens and British citizens, passports are required for entry into Morocco, but a visa is not required for stays up to three months. Mohammed V International Airport (CMD) is the main international airport and is located in Nouasseur, which is approximately 25 km (15 miles) from Casablanca. There are also some 60 regional airports throughout the country. Royal Air Maroc is the national air carrier. For U.S. travelers, Delta and Continental offer regularly scheduled flights. From the United Kingdom and Europe, flights are offered by Air France, Easy Jet, and Ryanair into many Moroccan destinations. For domestic flights within Morocco, travelers rely upon the company called Regional Air Lines. Travelling to Morocco is also accomplished by ship with cruise lines, such as Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, offering itineraries with regular stops at Morocco’s main port in Casablanca. For more information about travel, see our flights and hotels sections.
Morocco has a variety of accommodations from which to choose. In the larger cities, such as Casablanca and Tangier, there are a number of international hotels including the Ramada, Sheraton and Hyatt Regency. However, throughout all of the major cities and in the metropolitan centers of Morocco, excellent five star hotels that offer the luxury of their international counterparts but with local charm and hospitality are available. Many travellers find that the best accommodations in Morocco are Riads, which are traditional Morocco homes that have been converted into small hotels and private guest houses. Riads are usually located inside the older districts throughout Morocco which are steeped in culture.
Morocco is a land rich in natural beauty and unforgettable places that are both fascinating to visit and intriguing to explore. For those who want to immerse themselves in Moroccan culture and history there are hundreds of mosques, palaces, and historical sites to visit. Some of the favorites on our list include the ancient city of Asilah, the Grottoes of Hercules, and the El Bahia Palace. Equally memorable is the Moroccan landscape, which is framed by several impressive destinations such as the Sahara Desert and stunning mountain ranges such as the High Atlas, the Chefchaouen Mountains and the Oregano Mountains, which offer outdoor activities such as snow skiing, hiking, climbing, and adventure travel. For travelers wanting the relaxation of seaside towns and beaches, the Moroccan coast is home to spectacular fishing villages such Dakhla and swimming beaches such as Plage Quemada and Lalla Fatma.
Culture and Heritage
Moroccan culture is rich is history, the arts and sciences. Throughout Morocco there is a wide choice of museums such as The Museum of Antiquities and The Ethnographic Museum in Tetouan. Another favorite stop is the Museum of Moroccan Art, which houses on display unique collections of glass objects, manuscripts, exquisite carpets, jewelry, pottery and ancient manuscripts. For those enjoying live performances, Morocco has may wonderful theatres that present classic, translated and reworked productions of western classics such as Shakespeare to modern productions of Moroccan plays that are filled with the country’s tradition and folklore. Unique theatrical venues include Alliance Franco-Marocaine Theater and the Teatro de Cervantes. Popular outdoor festivals also abound with performances held at the Marrakech Popular Arts Festival and the Amazigh Theater Festival in Casablanca. Seekers of outdoor adventure may wish to explore the wonderful national parks and reserves of Morocco, such as Souss Massa National Park and the Mediterranean Intercontinental Biosphere Reserve established through UNESCO. A more detailed review f these and other parks can be found by reading our section on National Parks.
We proudly offer hundreds of pages of information about Morocco as well as sources for the best travel deals. We invite you to search our hundreds of pages of travel guides for ideas and be sure to look for special offers for the best rates on flights, hotels, and car rentals.
The Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of northwestern Africa, are rugged volcanic isles known for their black- and white-sand beaches. Tenerife, the largest island, is dominated by the sometimes-snowy active volcano Mt. Teide, which has its own astronomical observatory and is part of Teide National Park. Tenerife hosts a huge pre-Lent Carnival in the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
The regularity and richness of the annual Nile River flood, coupled with semi-isolation provided by deserts to the east and west, allowed for the development of one of the world’s great civilizations. A unified kingdom arose circa 3200 B.C., and a series of dynasties ruled in Egypt for the next three millennia. The last native dynasty fell to the Persians in 341 B.C., who in turn were replaced by the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines. It was the Arabs who introduced Islam and the Arabic language in the 7th century and who ruled for the next six centuries. A local military caste, the Mamluks took control about 1250 and continued to govern after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517. Following the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt became an important world transportation hub, but also fell heavily into debt. Ostensibly to protect its investments, Britain seized control of Egypt’s government in 1882, but nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Empire continued until 1914. Partially independent from the UK in 1922, Egypt acquired full sovereignty with the overthrow of the British-backed monarchy in 1952. The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1971 and the resultant Lake Nasser have altered the time-honored place of the Nile River in the agriculture and ecology of Egypt. A rapidly growing population (the largest in the Arab world), limited arable land, and dependence on the Nile all continue to overtax resources and stress society. The government has struggled to meet the demands of Egypt’s growing population through economic reform and massive investment in communications and physical infrastructure.
Argentina, officially the Argentine Republic, is a country located in southeastern South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with its neighbor Chile to the west, the country is also bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Drake Passage to the south. With a mainland area of 2,780,400 km², Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the second largest in Latin America, and the largest Spanish-speaking one. The country is subdivided into twenty-three provinces and one autonomous city, Buenos Aires, which is the federal capital of the nation as decided by Congress. The provinces and the capital have their own constitutions, but exist under a federal system. Source: http://wikipedia.org
The Philippines’ aboriginal inhabitants arrived from the Asian mainland around 25,000 BC They were followed by waves of Indonesian and Malayan settlers from 3000 BC onward. By the 14th century AD , extensive trade was being conducted with India, Indonesia, China, and Japan.
Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain, explored the Philippines in 1521. Twenty-one years later, a Spanish exploration party named the group of islands in honor of Prince Philip, who was later to become Philip II of Spain. Spain retained possession of the islands for the next 350 years.
The Philippines were ceded to the U.S. in 1899 by the Treaty of Paris after the Spanish-American War. Meanwhile, the Filipinos, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, had declared their independence. They initiated guerrilla warfare against U.S. troops that persisted until Aguinaldo’s capture in 1901. By 1902, peace was established except among the Islamic Moros on the southern island of Mindanao.
The first U.S. civilian governor-general was William Howard Taft (1901–1904). The Jones Law (1916) established a Philippine legislature composed of an elective Senate and House of Representatives. The Tydings-McDuffie Act (1934) provided for a transitional period until 1946, at which time the Philippines would become completely independent. Under a constitution approved by the people of the Philippines in 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines came into being with Manuel Quezon y Molina as president.
On Dec. 8, 1941, the islands were invaded by Japanese troops. Following the fall of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s forces at Bataan and Corregidor, Quezon instituted a government-in-exile that he headed until his death in 1944. He was succeeded by Vice President Sergio Osmeña. U.S. forces under MacArthur reinvaded the Philippines in Oct. 1944 and, after the liberation of Manila in Feb. 1945, Osmeña reestablished the government.
Chile’s current population is not only descended from its indigenous people and Spanish colonizers, but also from European, Asian, and South American immigrants. Centuries of immigrants and settlers have shaped the population of this country. Currently, there are close to 18 million people living in Chile, roughly 90% of which live in cities and bigger towns. Chile’s capital Santiago is indeed the center of the country and home to almost one-third of the country’s population.
About 10–11% of the population belongs to indigenous groups, like the Mapuche, the largest of these groups. The Mapuche live in Chile’s Araucanía region in the south. The Aymara and Atacameño peoples can mostly be found in the northern deserts and mountains, while the Alcalufe and Yaghan live on the Tierra del Fuego. On Easter Island, unique Polynesian traditions prevail with the Rapa Nui.
Different Tongues and Traditions
Spanish is, of course, the official language of Chile. However, among indigenous people linguistic traditions still prevail. For instance, among the Mapuches, Mapudungun is spoken widely. Aymara, Quechua, and Alcalufe are also still popular indigenous languages in Chile, as is Rapa Nui, which is spoken on Easter Island.
Much like other Latin American countries, Chile is predominantly Catholic. In fact, 70% of the population identifies as Catholic and a good 15% are Protestant. Yet, expats living in Chile who are not Catholic need not worry. Religious diversity is not only respected but protected in Chile.
Hong Kong is a popular tourist destination in southeastern Asia, with a mixture of Eastern and Western cultural influences. It has four main areas: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the New Territories and a group of smaller islands. The words Hong Kong mean “Fragrant Harbor,” so named because of its deep-water harbor, which has contributed to Hong Kong’s success as a center for international trade and finance.
At a little more than 420 square miles, Hong Kong is about six times the size of Washington, D.C. It lies between mainland China and the South China Sea. It is comprised of more than 200 islands, with terrain that varies from steep mountains to flat lowlands.
Hong Kong is subject to typhoons and has yearly monsoons, with rainy, hot weather beginning in spring and lasting through the summer. The winters are humid, mild and cool.
The average life expectancy in Hong Kong is just more than 81 years, which ranks it the sixth highest in the world. For comparison, the United States is ranked 50th, with a life expectancy of 78 years.
The population of Hong Kong numbers more than 7 million people, with 95 percent of the population of Chinese descent and a small percentage of Filipino or Indonesian descent.
The official languages of Hong Kong include English and the Cantonese dialect of Chinese.
Ten percent of the population of Hong Kong is Christian, while the remaining 90 percent practice Buddhism, Taoism or other local religions.
After defeating China in the Opium Wars, The United Kingdom was given control over Hong Kong in 1842. Under British control, Hong Kong grew into an important trade, banking and finance center for all of Asia. The Chinese government regained control over Hong Kong in 1997, awarding Hong Kong status as a Special Administrative Region.
The government of Hong Kong is based on English Common Law and is a limited democracy. While the People’s Republic of China maintains control over its foreign and defense policies, Hong Kong is allowed freedom of governance in its financial and social affairs.
Hong Kong maintains a free market economy and serves as a conduit for many of mainland China’s financial interactions with the rest of the world. Hong Kong has a large service economy specializing in international business, banking, trade and tourism.
Hong Kong has few natural resources to export. Its main exports are electronic goods, watches and clocks and textiles, such as clothing and footwear.
The Philippines officially the Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas), is a sovereign island country in Southeast Asia situated in the western Pacific Ocean. It consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both part of Metro Manila. Source: Wikipedia
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