the great city

angkor thom

Though Angkor Wat is the largest of the Angkor temples, 12th century Angkor Thom is the most dramatic. Covering close to 4 square miles, Angkor Thom – literal translation: the Great City – was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. Encircled by 25-foot tall walls and flanked by a moat, there are gates at each of the four cardinal points, from which roads lead to the striking Bayon temple at the center of the city.

angkor thom - bayon temple

angkor thom  - prasat chrung

angkor thom - gate

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live blog: knights of the rhodes table

The biggest medieval city in Europe, the picturesque old town of Rhodes is an unexpected delight. A rabbit’s warren of narrow streets and buildings of traditional architecture, much of the town as it appears today was built by the Knights of St. John at the end of the Byzantine era. Following the conquest of the Holy Land by Islamic forces, the crusading Knights retreated to Rhodes, over which they claimed sovereignty, fortifying the northern tip of the island with the castle, towers, bridges, and gates that still stand. The Knights would later move again, weathering a name change and establishing a more famous state on the island of Malta. What they left behind saw an invasion of the Turks, who built mosques, public baths and mansions for the new patrons, followed by Italian colonizers after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and British bombs during World War II. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988, it’s a minor miracle so much of the town’s architecture has managed to survive 700 years of relentless give and take. For that, the flaneur in me was quite grateful this afternoon.

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the nature of art

Little did I know until today that the Canadian city of Calgary is actually named for a small village on the western coast of Mull. Originally called Fort Brisebois, the future home of the famous Stampede was later christened Fort Calgary in 1876 by Colonel James MacCleod, a local boy from nearby Dornoch who later emigrated and made good, rising to become Commissioner of the Royal Mounted Police. Aided by a transcontinental railroad and the discovery of oil, the Canadian city quickly grew beyond its namesake in terms of global importance, yet the little Scottish town nevertheless kept a few charms in store that continue to remain real gems. One of those is Calgary Art in Nature, a by-donation sculpture park within a coastal woodland. Set up to provoke an awareness of art in nature, the park has evolved into a product of both nature and man’s efforts, a working environment, a cultural landscape chockablock with site specific stimulation. And it makes for a really pleasant stroll, too – especially if you continue walking onwards to the pristine white sand beach of Calgary’s sheltered bay.

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culture shock: nairobi

Hello, culture shock! After a smog-filled ride through a maze of lawless traffic – and an unsettling check of the car’s undercarriage for explosives – I’m ensconced in the five-star Sankara tower high above the poverty and pedestrian mayhem below. It’s a bewildering juxtaposition, as though someone has tweaked the Photoshop settings to super high-contrast: prosperity and poverty are vividly cheek by jowl. To wit, Sankara’s architecturally impressive rooftop pool-by-day and lounge-by-night. Cantilevered out over the city center, it has a groovy glass bottom for the perfect fish-eyed view of the chaos heaving below.

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