Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A cow-free day

If you tuned in today hoping for rural scenes and farm animals, sorry. Today we will see cities, buildings and landmarks but nary a duck, pig or chicken. I know I'm going to have the barnyard animals all up in arms, but just calm down, guys. You know you'll get your day in the sun soon. No need to start a petition.

Narodno Sabranie Square in Sofia, the capital and largest city in Bulgaria. Vitosha Mountain in the distance is a popular place for hiking and skiing.

Red Square and the Nikolskaya (St. Nicholas) tower of the Kremlin, Moscow. It's interesting to realize that this tower was built in 1492, the year of Columbus's "discovery" of America.

Leander's Tower, also known as The Maiden's Tower in Istanbul, Turkey.  There are many legends about how this tower got its name.  Here are a couple of them:

According to the most popular Turkish legend, a sultan had a much beloved daughter. One day, an oracle prophesied that she would be killed by a venomous snake on her 18th birthday. The sultan, in an effort to thwart his daughter's early demise by placing her away from land so as to keep her away from any snakes, had the tower built in the middle of the Bosphorus to protect his daughter until her 18th birthday.

On the 18th birthday of the princess, the sultan brought her a basket of exotic sumptuous fruits as a birthday gift, delighted that he had been able to prevent the prophecy from coming true. Upon reaching into the basket, however, an asp that had been hiding among the fruit bit the young princess and she died in her father's arms, just as the oracle had predicted. Hence the name Maiden's Tower.

The older name Leander's Tower comes from another story about a maiden: the ancient Greek myth of Hero and Leander. Hero was a priestess of Aphrodite who lived in a tower at Sestos, at the edge of the Hellespont (Dardanelles). Leander, a young man from Abydos, on the other side of the strait, fell in love with her and would swim every night across the Hellespont to be with her. Hero would light a lamp every night at the top of her tower to guide his way.

Succumbing to Leander's soft words, and to his argument that Aphrodite, as goddess of love, would scorn the worship of a virgin, Hero allowed him to make love to her. This routine lasted through the warm summer. But one stormy winter night, the waves tossed Leander in the sea and the breezes blew out Hero's light, and Leander lost his way and was drowned. Hero threw herself from the tower in grief and died as well. The name Maiden's Tower might also have its origins in this ancient story.

Gouda, The Netherlands, is known primarily for its cheese, but also for its candles, smoking pipes, and syrup waffles (Stroopwafel), made from two thin layers of baked batter with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle.

Aachen, Germany, home of the Aachen Cathedral which for 600 years, from 936 to 1531, was the church of coronation for 30 German kings and 12 queens.

Strasbourg Cathedral, in Strasbourg, France.  When construction on the cathedral was finished in 1439, it became the world's tallest building, surpassing the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Ciechocinek, Poland.  During World War II the town functioned as one big military hospital and a health resort for German citizens (known to Germans as Hermannsbad from 1939 until 1945). Experts considered the local saline springs to be of extreme therapeutic value.

Sentjur, Slovenia.  Its name means "Saint George" and it is named after the legendary dragonslayer.

Imperial Rome.  This is just to show you how long I've been collecting post cards. 

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