Best Libraries In The World

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Best Libraries In The World

“I have always imagined paradise will be a kind of library.” Jose Luis Borges

Libraries are not just stern places where loud conversations – even accidentally – are greeted with cut-throat looks from the opposite side of the reading table. Libraries are full of stories and anecdotes waiting to be uncovered. Their architecture and interiors are often unexpected and sometimes even astonishing.

 National Library, Beijing, China

The National Library of China is the largest in Asia and one of the largest in the world  What makes it even more special? Its collection of cultural and historical literature is vast with more than 24 million books. If you’re not after literature or a place to read, then its collection of manuscripts and inscriptions may tempt you. Among its collections are manuscripts from Song, Shang, and Ming dynasties, stone tablets known as Xiping Stone Classics, tortoise shell inscriptions, and many ancient Chinese writings.

Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

Founded in 1592, Trinity College is the oldest university in Ireland. Built between 1712 and 1732 the Old Library is the University’s earliest surviving building. The library houses Ireland’s National Treasure which is the Book Of Kells sacred manuscript created by Celtic Monks in about 800 AD which features the Four Gospels of the New Testament. It is decorated with metallic gold Celtic style writing, symbols and stunning artwork. Walking through the doors of the Long Room is suddenly overwhelming. IT is a 65 meter long gallery housing about 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books under a jaw-dropping barrel-vaulted ceiling.The weather being famously unpredictable in Dublin makes the library is a great place to stay dry.

Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This is Brazil’s most important library, a Neoclassical treasure trove chronicling the country’s history in more than nine million items. A highlight is the Teresa Cristina Maria collection: a 22,000-strong photo series, depicting key Brazilian events and notables. 

Joanine Library at University Of Coimbre, Coimbre, Portugal

Coimbra’s university, founded in 1290, is Portugal’s oldest and most distinguished university. The Baroque library was built between 1717 – 1728 and houses about 40,000 books which are – in part – protected by bats (bats eat moths). It is really impressive  The library is a Portuguese National Monument and is one of the oldest of the university.

Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève, Paris, France

Located opposite the Pantheon is the historic public library Sainte Genevieve. The steps have become somewhat famous after Woody Allen chose this location for his film Midnight In Paris.The vast collection of the Abbey  Saint Genevieve was in need of a home and it took seven years of construction in 1839 by architect Henri Labrouste. The public university library now holds around two million books and documents and the magnificent cast iron ceiling of the two story reading room is breathtaking.

National Library of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic

The National Library of the Czech Republic is part of the Clementinum, a massive complex of historical buildings that also holds the Astronomical Tower (a weather center since 1775) and the Mirror Chapel, a popular setting for classical music concerts. Regularly named one of the world’s most beautiful libraries, this Baroque marvel dates back to 1722. this The largest hall of the library is also the most impressive. Featuring a balcony with a highly ornate railing and stairs, the Library Hall is decorated in rich golds, mahogany woods, and ceiling frescoes by Jan Hiebl. The beauty is in the original details: the labels on the bookcases have been there since the 1700s and none of the features (including floors or wood trims) have been replaced since the library’s creation.The Library Hall is also home to some of the oldest books in Europe.

The Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark

The Royal Copenhagen Library known as the Black Diamond juts over the canal. The interior boasts a huge ceiling fresco and canal views. The permanent exhibition, Treasures in The Royal Library, currently includes a Gutenberg bible, philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s notes, and Hans Christian Andersen’s diary.

Bibleoteca Vasconcelos, Mexico City, Mexico

This library was designed by Alberto Kalach and the construction was completed in 2007. Inside, instead of plain white walls and carpet, you’ll see transparent walls, mismatches floors, balconies and pathways, and books, lots and lots of books.

 The Library Of  Alexandria, Alexandria,  Egypt

The ancient library of Alexandria was built by the order of Ptolemy ll in the third century BC. It contained 700,000 books and was the greatest library in the world at that time. This was the first public governmental library in history. Any scholar such as Archimedes who studies in the library of Alexandria had to leave a copy of his writings in the library. This was one of the reasons the library was rich with books, researchers, and studies that were contemporary at the time. There were many theories as to how the library burned -one was that it was Julius Caesar. Centuries later, Hosny Mubarak made an international architectural design competition to build a library on that site.  The prize was sixty thousand American dollars which was won by Snohetta, a Norwegian architectural firm. The oval shape of the library from outside is a symbol of the continuity of life. The library is surrounded by a great wall that was made out of Aswan Granite and it contains writing and inscriptions in 120 languages. The objective of the new library is the same objective of the old library: to act as a public research library and to support the people of the Arab world and the Middle East to retain their old position as scholars and researchers in different fields of science.

NY Public Library, NY, USA

The New York Public Library  which opened in 1911  by combining the collections of the Astor and Lenox Libraries with a $2.4 million trust from Samuel J. Tilden that was given to, “establish and maintain a free library and reading room in the city of New York.”It was the largest marble building in the United States and  home to over one million books.The Beaux Artes building is located at Fifth Avenue and 42nd St. Two stone lions guard the entrance. Though originally named Astor and Lennox,  Mayor Fiorello La Guardia renamed them Patience and Fortitude during the Great Depression.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Best Ruins That I Have Visited So Far

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 Best Ruins That I Have Visited So Far.

“The shattered wall,
the broken tower
have a story to tell –
from the touchstones of ruins
and ancient texts
we make a pilgrimage.” Michael Alexander,

Architectural ruins connect us to the past and bring history alive. There is something about visiting the sites of these ancient civilizations that fascinates me. You can see the potential that people all over the world and thousands of years ago had for greatness. Some of these amazing structures were built long before all the machinery, transport and communication tools that we have now. 

 Peru, Machu Picchu

The purpose of Machu Picchu will always remain a mystery. It is probably a religious and spiritual site.  The Inca trail leading up to Machu Picchu (it takes four days  of camping out in the Andes if you want to do it) was built to always face the snow-capped mountains because that is what they worshipped .How they transported all that granite up there  remains a mystery. It is believed that they quarried  it on site. No other civilization has managed to assemble so many colossal stone blocks so seamlessly cut with stones or bronze.  There is no mortar holding them together and they are earthquake-proof constructions.

 Chile, Easter Island, Rapa Nui Park

Who carved such enormous statues? How did they move them and raise them up onto platforms? The missionary’s stories, the explorer’s diaries, the archaeologist’s shovel, the anthropologist’s bones and the Rapa Nui oral tradition have all revealed something of the story. No one agrees on any of the answers to these questions. Archaeologists have proposed methods for moving the statues, using various combinations of log rollers, sledges and ropes .In the Rapa Nui oral tradition, the Moai were infused with mana, a spiritual force from the ancestors and the Moai walked.The Rapa Nui stories make just as much sense of the unknown as the scientific theories. There is no proof that it did not happen that way.

Turkey, Cappodocia

The dramatic landscape is the result of volcanic eruptions that happened millions  years ago. Wind and water eroded the land leaving these odd surreal land formations, fairy chimneys, caves and underground cities. Goreme Open Air Museum is a group of cave churches and monasteries from the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. The most famous and most restored one is Karanlik Killse (Dark Church) which is filled with elaborate Byzantine frescoes. Early Christians escaping from Roman persecution found shelter in Cappadocia.

Turkey, Ephesus

The ancient city of Ephesus was built in the tenth century. It was a large city (over 250,000 inhabitants in the first century BC) and a major port for trade routes into Asia Minor. Ephesus was known in antiquity for its sacred shrines, the most famous being the temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (only foundations and sculptural fragments remain). Ephesus came under Roman control in 129 BC, and continued to prosper under Emperor Augustus as capital of the Roman province of Asia. It was also an important centre of early Christianity and its greatest Christian monument was the 4th century church of St. John the Evangelist.

 Turkey, Pergamon

Pergamon was one of the key Roman cities of Anatolia and the well-preserved remains hint at the grand spectacle that the city was during its glory days. Excavations reach back to the second century B.C. It  has one of the largest libraries in the world and one of the steepest theatres.

Cambodia, Ta Prohm 

Yes,Ta Prohm is the temple where Angelina Jolie played Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Ta Promh has been left the way it was originally found.  It was built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The jungle had completely engulfed the entire complex when it was discovered in the last century. It was amazing to see how the massive trees have grown around and atop the structures, their roots seemingly strangling and holding up the temple’s towers and other buildings.

Cambodia, Angor Wat

Angor Wat is the largest temple in the world and the world’s largest religious building constructed of stone. It is often described as one of the most extraordinary architectural creations ever built, with its intricate bas-reliefs, strange acoustics and magnificent soaring towers. It was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. Angkor Wat was shifted from Hindu to Buddhist use sometime around the late 13th century. The temple is still used by Buddhists today. It is architecturally and artistically breathtaking. No photograph can capture the immensity of this monument.

Jordan, Petra

 Petra is a city of rose-colored stone, carved out of rock by the Nabateans in the third century BC. Like Macchu Picchu, there isn’t a lot of information known about it. It is one of the dryest places on earth and how they got water for the thirty thousand people who lived here is a mystery. Stephen Spielberg brought it to us in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. 

Thailand, Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was the old capital of the Thai kingdom from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century.  The site resembles a  graveyard of temples,  headless Buddhas (beheaded by the Burmese in the thirteenth century) and ruins showing what it might have looked like.

Myanmar, Bagan

Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay region of Myanmar. From the ninth to the thirteenth centuries, the city was the capital of the Pagan kingdom. During the kingdom’s height between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day.

Mexico, Tulum

The ancient walled city perched on the edge of a cliff in Quintana Roo overlooking the Caribbean ocean was a major trading and religious centre between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries. Tulum was built to be a seaport fortress, with steep ocean cliffs providing protection from the East, and a large limestone wall enclosing the rest of the city on three sides. 

Acropolis, Greece

The Acropolis looms over Athens, and is impossible not to recognize.This citadel includes the famous white-columned Parthenon, as well as the fifth century, Propylaia, Erechtheion and Temple of Athena Nike. The Parthenon temple was dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom and war who planted the first olive tree on this very spot to found the city of Athens.

Italy, Colosseum

The Colosseum has been regarded as an iconic symbol of Rome since the Middle Ages.  Built in eighty A.D, it is a massive structure and is the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire. Being able to seat close to 50,000 spectators, it was the premier venue for wild beast shows and bloody gladiator combat.

Italy, Forum

Once the centre of public and political life in Ancient Rome, the Forum is a sprawling labyrinth of ancient ruins, including the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Titus and the House of the Vestals. You’re standing in the very center of the ancient city, surrounded by the remains of famous temples and political buildings. The people of Rome saw the funeral of Julius Caesar here, along with the execution of Cicero and countless triumphal processions.

 Italy, Pantheon

The Pantheon was built as a temple dedicated to the worship of  Roman gods. In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV and Emperor Phocas converted it into the Christian church we see today. The Pantheon is considered a rotunda, a circular drum structure. Perfect mathematically, the Pantheon’s dome has an opening in the center.  In fact, the Pantheon in Rome still holds the world record for having the largest unsupported concrete dome.

Croatia, Diocletians Palace 

Diocletian’s Palace was built in the fourth century as a retirement seaside residence for the Roman Emperor, his family and seven hundred or so servants and guards in Split. The rectangular structure (520 x 620 feet) was two stories, fronted the sea and was built more like a fort than a palace. It is the most complete Roman ruins of a palace in existence today. It is not a museum .Three thousand people live and work on the grounds and there are many shops and restaurants. It is best seen when not besieged  by cruise ships.

Fly safe,

JAZ