Buildings and Architecture in Europe
The new wooden church at Peri monastery in the outskirts of Săpânța village (yes, the one with the Merry Cemetery) is simply towering. Official signs modestly claim that the 75 m tall wooden church is the tallest wooden building in Europe, but we can't think of any other wooden building worldwide that beats it. Some might argue that the church's stone base disqualifies it, making another Romanian wooden church in Surdești the tallest (72 m). As you probably have figured out, wooden churches are not something new to this region. Wherever you go in northern Romania, you will see beautiful, old wooden churches - though not all are this tall.
The Cathedral of Christ the Savious, the tallest Orthodox church in the world, towers majestically above the Moscow River embankment and is one of the city's most memorable sights. Inside it is even more impressive, the decor reaching almost outlandish levels of grandeur and opulence. This is in strong contrast to the piousness of those who come here to worship, humble crossing themselves before pictures of saints, kissing icons and even prostrating themselves. The cathedral was built over almost fifty years in the Ninteenth Century but after Lenin's Death Stalin had it blown up and planned to build the 350 metre tall Palace of the Soviets in its place, complete with a 100 metre tall Lenin statue. They never got beyond digging the foundation hole, however, which kept flooding. After Stalin's death Krushchev decided to simply convert it into the world's largest open air swimming pool. It served this purpose until in 1990 the Church was allowed to build a very accurate reconstruction of the original Cathedral on the site.
The UFO Bridge, or more correctly New Bridge (Nova Most), is a strange sight - and even more in Bratislava where such daring architectures are unusual. The construction was finished in 1972 and is actually just a bridge with a "flying saucer"-like structure on top of the tower that holds the cables. The UFO holds a restaurant not surprisingly called U-F-O.
Alhambra is probably the most famous palace in Spain. It's sprawling over a hilltop and was built over several stages, when one ruler built upon what a previous ruler had left, but it was the Moorish emir of Granada who constructed the palace we know today in the 13th and 14th centuries. It's an exquisite example of Islamic architecture and the elaborated tile mosaics have made Alhambra famous among mathematicians. It can be proven mathematically that there only exist 17 different geometric patterns (wallpaper groups) and most of them (all?) are found in Alhambra. But you don't need to be a mathematician to enjoy the rich ornamented halls and lavish gardens of Alhambra - which of course is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We're not sure why concert halls always has to be spectacular buildings, but Tenerife's version certain lives up to the stereotype. It was completed in 2003 and resemble a bit of Sydney Opera House with big white semi-domes, but the large hanging arch certainly makes it stand out and iconic. As it's made in concrete, it's best appreciated from a distance. The rocks in front of it have famous musicians painted on them (however, some are spelled incorrectly, like Shopin and Witney) and there are a couple of historical buildings too (Castillo de San Juan and Casa de la Pólvora), which were part of the old defence complex.
Gaudi’s Park Güell is one of the top sights in Barcelona, which means loads of tourists. It was built by industry mogul Güell, who hired Gaudi to design it. Original there should have been 60 houses, but the project was never completed. Today, there are only a few houses, 86 columns, some cave corridors, and of course the famous bench made of mosaic. Entrance tickets need to be bought (do it online to skip the queue) to get access to the rather small section of Gaudi's wicked constructions, but the rest of the park can be visited free of charge. Gaudi's work in Barcelona is enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Gaudi's half-finished gigant fairytale church is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Barcelona. From the outside the tall spires rise high above the scaffolding, which still cover some of the church. The interior on the other hand is almost finished, so it's well worth to buy the entrance ticket (do it online) to glance at the giant tainted glass and columns that are too tall to measure by eyesight. Even though Gaudi spend the last 43 years of his life on the church, it was only the facade and one spire that were finished when he died in 1926. It's expected that the church will be complete in 2028. Along with Gaudi's other work in Barcelona, it's enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This 38-story skyscraper is very different from anything else in Barcelona. It was designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel and completed in 2005. With its slender round bullet shape, Torre Agbar resembles a bit the Gherkin in London. Currently, Torre Agbar's 144 m makes it the highest building in Barcelona, but it will be surpassed by the Sagrada Familia (170 m) once that's complete. Though the public has no access to the inside of Torre Agbar, it's still an impressive sight, particularly at night when the tower is illuminated by 4,500 glass panels. The constant colour change makes it look like a giant lava lamp.
As the single building on Akdamar Island, in the middle of Lake Van, Akdamar Church has an absolutely gorgeous location. Probably one of the most iconic of any Armenian church. Originally named the Cathedral of the Holy Cross the church dates back to the 10th century. It was used as a shooting range by the Turkish military in the first part of the 20th century before it was finally restored during 2005 and 2006. It now functions as a museum. Climbing the island's hill provides good views of both the church and Lake Van. Remember to bring your bathing suit as the island also offers some hidden beaches on its eastern side.
It's no secret Turkey is a country full of wonderful palaces and castle-like places. Sadly, mass tourism is quite common at many places, often diminishing the experience. So one would think that a place important enough to be on the back of the old 100 Turkish Lira note would be overrun with tourists. But about as far east as you can go in the country, near the village of Doğubeyazıt, sits a true treasure. Ishak Pasha palace (İshak Paşa Sarayı) would be worth the visit for its setting alone. Perched on a mountain outcropping, overlooking the valley below, it is rather pretty. But the building, started in 1685, has been very tastefully renovated as well. The myriad of rooms from harems to dungeons to great halls are virtually empty as few tourist make it out this far.