Wednesday, 31 October 2012



Tbilisi is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Kura River. Founded in the 5th century by Vakhtang Gorgasali, the monarch of Georgia's precursor Kingdom of Iberia, Tbilisi has served, with various intervals, as Georgia's capital for nearly 1500 years and represents a significant industrial, social, and cultural center of the country. Located near the southeastern edge of Europe, Tbilisi's proximity to lucrative east-west trade routes often made the city a point of contention between various rival empires throughout history and the city's location to this day ensures its position as an important transit route for global energy and trade projects. Tbilisi's varied history is reflected in its architecture, which is a mix of medieval, classical, and Soviet structures.

According to an old legend, the present-day territory of Tbilisi was covered by forests as late as 458. One widely accepted variant of the legend of Tbilisi's founding states that King Vakhtang I Gorgasali of Georgia went hunting in the heavily wooded region with a falcon (sometimes the falcon is replaced with either a hawk or other small birds of prey in the legend). The King's falcon allegedly caught or injured a pheasant during the hunt, after which both birds fell into a nearby hot spring and died from burns. King Vakhtang became so impressed with the hot springs that he decided to cut down the forest and build a city on the location. The name Tbilisi derives from the Old Georgian word "Tpili", meaning warm. The name 'Tbili' or 'Tbilisi' ('warm location') was therefore given to the city because of the area's numerous sulphuric hot springs that came out of the ground.

Archaeological studies of the region have revealed that the territory of Tbilisi was settled by humans as early as the 4th millennium BCE. The earliest actual (recorded) accounts of settlement of the location come from the second half of the 4th century CE, when a fortress was built during King Varaz-Bakur's reign. Towards the end of the 4th century the fortress fell into the hands of the Persians after which the location fell back into the hands of the Kings of Kartli (Georgia) by the middle of the 5th century. King Vakhtang I Gorgasali (reigned in the middle and latter part of the 5th century), who is largely credited for founding Tbilisi, was actually responsible for reviving and building up the city and not founding it. The present-day location of the area which Gorgasali seems to have built up is spread out around the Metekhi cliff and the latter-day Abanotubani neighbourhood.

King Dachi I Ujarmeli, who was the successor of Vakhtang I Gorgasali, moved the capital from Mtskheta to Tbilisi according to the will left by his father. It must be mentioned that Tbilisi was not the capital of a unified Georgian state at that time (therefore did not include the territory of Colchis) and was only the capital of Eastern Georgia/Iberia. During his reign, King Dachi I was also responsible for finishing the construction of the fortress wall that lined the city's new boundaries. Beginning from the 6th century, Tbilisi started to grow at a steady pace due to the region's favourable and strategic location which placed the city along important trade and travel routes between Europe and Asia.

Tbilisi's favourable and strategic location did not necessarily bode well for its existence as Eastern Georgia's/Iberia's capital. Located strategically in the heart of the Caucasus between Europe and Asia, Tbilisi became an object of rivalry between the region's various powers such as Persia, the Byzantine Empire, Arabia and the Seljuk Turks. The cultural development of the city was therefore heavily dependent on who ruled the city at various times. Even though Tbilisi (and Eastern Georgia in general) was able to maintain a certain degree of autonomy from its conquerors, the foreign domination of the city began in the latter half of the 6th century and lasted well into the 10th century.

From 570–580, the Persians took over Tbilisi and ruled it for about a decade. In the year 627,Tbilisi was sacked by the Byzantine/Khazar armies and later, in 736–738, Arab armies entered the town under Marwan II Ibn-Muhammad. After this point, the Arabs established an emirate centered in Tbilisi. The Arab domination brought a certain order to the region and introduced a more formal/modernized judicial system into Georgia. In 764, Tbilisi, still under Arab control was once again sacked by the Khazars. In 853, the armies of Arab leader Bugha Al-Turki (Bugha the Turk) invaded Tbilisi in order to enforce its return to Abbasid allegiance. The Arab domination of Tbilisi continued until about 1050. In 1068, the city was once again sacked, only this time by the Seljuk Turks under Sultan Alp Arslan.

In 1122, after heavy fighting with the Seljuks that involved at least 60,000 Georgians and up to 300,000 Turks, the troops of the King of Georgia David the Builder entered Tbilisi. After the battles for Tbilisi concluded, David moved his residence from Kutaisi (Western Georgia) to Tbilisi, making it the capital of a unified Georgian State. From 12–13th centuries, Tbilisi became a dominant regional power with a thriving economy (with well-developed trade and skilled labour) and a well-established social system/structure. By the end of the 12th century, the population of Tbilisi had reached 100,000. The city also became an important literary and a cultural center not only for Georgia but for the larger civilized world as well. During Queen Tamar's reign, Shota Rustaveli worked in Tbilisi while writing his legendary epic poem, The Knight in the Panther's Skin. This period is often referred to as "Georgia's Golden Age" or the Georgian Renaissance.

In 1801, after the Georgian kingdom of Kartl-Kakheti joined the Russian Empire, Tbilisi became the center of the Tbilisi Governorate (Gubernia). At that time, Tbilisi was an overwhelmingly Armenian city, with Armenians forming 74.3% of the population. From the beginning of the 19th century Tbilisi started to grow economically and politically. New buildings mainly of European style were erected throughout the town. New roads and railroads were built to connect Tbilisi to other important cities in Russia and other parts of the Transcaucasus (locally) such as Batumi, Poti, Baku, and Yerevan. By the 1850s Tbilisi once again emerged as a major trade and a cultural center. 

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Tbilisi has experienced periods of significant instability and turmoil. After a brief civil war, which the city endured for two weeks from December 1991 to January 1992 (when pro-Gamsakhurdia and Opposition forces clashed with each other), Tbilisi became the scene of frequent armed confrontations between various mafia clans and illegal business entrepreneurs. Even during the Shevardnadze Era (1993–2003), crime and corruption became rampant at most levels of society. Many segments of society became impoverished because of unemployment caused by the crumbling economy. Average citizens of Tbilisi started to become increasingly disillusioned with the existing quality of life in the city (and in the nation in general). Mass protests took place in November 2003 after falsified parliamentary elections forced more than 100,000 people into the streets and concluded with the Rose Revolution. Since 2003, Tbilisi has experienced considerably more stability with decreasing crime rates, an improved economy and a real estate boom. During the 2008 South Ossetia war the Tbilisi area was hit by multiple Russian air attacks.

After the war, several large-scale projects were started, including a streetcar system, a railway bypass and a relocation of the central station and new urban highways.

                                                       Tbilisi’s Top 5:
  1. The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi  commonly known as Sameba is the main Cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Constructed between 1995 and 2004, it is the third-tallest Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in the World. Sameba is a synthesis of traditional styles dominating the Georgian church architecture at various stages in history and has some Byzantine undertones. The idea to build a new cathedral to commemorate 1,500 years of autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church and 2,000 years from the birth of Jesus emerged as early as 1989, a crucial year for the national awakening of the then-Soviet republic of Georgia. In May 1989, the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate and the authorities of Tbilisi announced an international contest for the "Holy Trinity Cathedral" project. No winner was chosen at the first round of the contest when more than a hundred projects were submitted. Finally the design by architect Archil Mindiashvili won. The subsequent turbulent years of civil unrest in Georgia deferred this grandiose plan for six years, and it was not until November 23, 1995, that the foundation of the new cathedral was laid. The construction of the church was proclaimend as a "symbol of the Georgian national and spiritual revival" and was sponsored mostly by anonymous donations from several businessmen and common citizens. On November 23, 2004, on St. George's Day, the cathedral was consecrated by Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II and high-ranking representatives of fellow Orthodox Churches of the world.
  2. Tbilisi State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre is situated on Rustaveli Avenue, in the center of Tbilisi. It is the oldest opera house in Georgia. The Tbilisi Opera has hosted opera stars such as Montserrat Caballé and José Carreras, and has held many ballet performances. On the initiative of Mikhail Vorontsov on 15 April 1847 there were laid the foundations of the building of the opera theatre, which took 4 years under the guidance of the Italian Architect, Antonio Scudieri bering completed in 1851. The theatre was built on the central square of the city of Tbilisi (the modern Liberty Square, the territory next to the municipality). Given the varied musical practices and traditions in Tbilisi, the opera theater became an important heart of the cultural life of the country. It was the first opera theater in all Transcaucasia, holding 800 spectators, and notable by its façade and interior, comparable to European theaters of the time
  3. The "Sioni" Cathedral of the Dormition is a Georgian Orthodox cathedral. Following a medieval Georgian tradition of naming churches after particular places in the Holy Land, the Sioni Cathedral bears the name of Mount Zion at Jerusalem. It is commonly known as the "Tbilisi Sioni" to distinguish it from several other churches across Georgia bearing the name Sioni. The Tbilisi Sioni Cathedral is situated in historic Sionis Kucha (Sioni Street) in downtown Tbilisi, with its eastern façade fronting the right embankment of the Mtkvari River. It was initially built in the 6th-7th centuries. Since then, it has been destroyed by foreign invaders and reconstructed several times. The current church is based on a 13th-century version with some changes from the 17th to 19th centuries. The Sioni Cathedral was the main Georgian Orthodox Cathedral and the seat of Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia until the Holy Trinity Cathedral was consecrated in 2004.
  4. The Anchiskhati Basilica of St Mary is the oldest surviving church in Tbilisi, Georgia. It belongs to the Georgian Orthodox Church and dates from the sixth century. According to the old Georgian annals, the church was built by the King Dachi of Iberia (circa 522-534) who had made Tbilisi his capital. Originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it was renamed Anchiskhati (i.e., icon of Ancha) in 1675 when the treasured icon of the Saviour created by the twelfth-century goldsmith Beka Opizari at the Ancha monastery in Klarjeti (in what is now part of northeast Turkey) was moved to Tbilisi so preserve it from an Ottoman invasion. The icon was preserved at the Basilica of St Mary for centuries (it is presently on display at the Art Museum of Georgia).
  5. Narikala is an ancient fortress overlooking Tbilisi and the Kura River. The fortress consists of two walled sections on a steep hill between the sulphur baths and the botanical gardens of Tbilisi. On the lower court there is the recently restored St Nicholas church. The fortress was established in the 4th century as Shuris-tsikhe (i.e., "Invidious Fort"). It was considerably expanded by the Umayyads in the 7th century and later, by king David the Builder (1089-1125). The Mongols renamed it "Narin Qala" (i.e., "Little Fortress"). Most of extant fortifications date from the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1827, parts of the fortress were damaged by an earthquake and demolished.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012



Timișoara is the capital city of Timiș County, in western Romania. One of the largest Romanian cities, with a population of 303,708 inhabitants (the third most populous city in the country, as of 2011), and considered the informal capital city of the historical region of Banat, Timișoara is the main social, economic and cultural center in the western part of Romania.

Timișoara was first mentioned as a place in either 1212 or 1266. The territory later to be known as Banat was conquered and annexed by the Kingdom of Hungary in 1030. Timișoara grew considerably during the reign of Charles I, who, upon his visit here in 1307, ordered the construction of a royal palace. Timișoara's importance also grew thanks to its strategic location, which facilitated control over the Banat plain. John Hunyadi established a permanent military encampment here, and moved here together with his family. In 1552, Ahmed Pasha conquered the city with a 16,000 Ottomans and transformed it into a capital city in the region. The local military commander, Stefan Losonczy, was captured and beheaded on July 27, 1552 after resisting the Ottoman invasion with just over 2,300 men.

Timișoara remained under Ottoman rule for nearly 160 years, controlled directly by the Sultan and enjoying a special status, similar to other cities in the region such as Budapest and Belgrade. During this period, Timișoara was home to a large Islamic community and produced famous historical figures such as Osman Aga of Temesvar, until Prince Eugene of Savoy conquered it in 1716. Subsequently, the city came under Austrian rule, and it remained so until the early 20th century except Ottoman occupation between 1788-1789 during the Ottoman-Hapsburg war. During this time, Timișoara evolved from a strategic fortress to an economic and industrial center: numerous factories were built, electric illumination and public transport were introduced, and railroad connections were established. The city was defortified, and several major road arteries were built to connect the suburbs with the city center, paving the way for further expansion of the city limits.

It was the first mainland European city to be lit by electric street lamps in 1884. It was also the second European and the first city in what is now Romania with horse drawn trams in 1867. Gustave Eiffel, the creator of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, drew the projects of one of Timișoara's footbridges over the Bega.

On October 31, 1918, local military and political elites establish the "Banat National Council", together with representatives of the region's main ethnic groups: Hungarians, Romanians, Serbs and Germans. In the aftermath of World War I, the Banat region was divided between the Kingdom of Romania and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and Timișoara came under Romanian administration after Serbian occupation between 1918-1919. In 1920, King Ferdinand I awarded Timișoara the status of a University Center, and the interwar years saw continuous economic and cultural development. A number of anti-fascist and anti-revisionist demonstrations also took place during this time.

During World War II, Timișoara suffered damage from both Allied and Axis bombing raids, especially during the second half of 1944. On August 23, 1944, Romania, which until then was a member of the Axis, declared war on Nazi Germany and joined the Allies. Surprised, the local Wehrmacht garrison surrendered without a fight, and German and Hungarian troops attempted to take the city by force throughout September, without success.

After the war, the People's Republic of Romania was proclaimed, and Timișoara underwent Sovietization and later, systematization. The city's population tripled between 1948 and 1992. In December 1989, Timișoara witnessed a series of mass street protests by Romanians, Hungarians and Serbs, in what was to become the Romanian Revolution of 1989.

                                                     Timisoara’s Top 5:
  1. The St George's Cathedral, or The Dome is located at Piaţa Unirii, in the centre of town. The cathedral's foundation stone was put on 6th of August 1736. It was designed by Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach from Vienna, then Hans Lechner continued the building from 1750. It was finished by two architects from Timişoara, Johann Theodor Kostka and Carl Alexander Steinlein in 1774. The Dome was built in Austrian baroque style and it was dedicated to Saint George, the dioceses patron saint. The picture located at the high altar was painted by Michelangelo Unterberger, the director of fine arts academy of Vienna, illustrating the patron saint. The side altars were painted by Johann Nepomuk Schöpf in 1772.  The precious oil-lamps were made by Josef Moser. The organ was made by Leopold Wegenstein, and it provides an impressive experience for the ears. The cathedrals bells were renewed in Germany in 1998.
  2. The Huniade Castle is the oldest monument of Timişoara, built between 1443 and 1447 by John Hunyadi over the old royal castle dating from the 14th century (built during the reign of Charles of Anjou). It currently houses the History Section and the Natural Sciencies Section of the Banat Museum.
  3. The Millennium Church is located in the Fabric quarter of Timişoara, near the main Traian square. The church was built in the Neo-Romanesque style by Lajos Ybl, the foundation-stone being placed in 1896. It was sanctified on 13th of October 1901 by Sándor Dessewffy. The main towers are 65m high, the central cupola 45m, and the capacity is for 3,000 people. The bell was made by Antal Novotny. The altar-piece was painted by György Vastagh and its organ was made by Leopold Wegenstein.
  4. Memorial Museum of the 1989 Revolution (Muzeul Revolutiei). The Memorial Museum exhibits uniforms of Romanian militia and military, written testimonies of witnesses and participants in the Revolution, official and personal documents, an audio-visual archive, a library and a collection of newspapers. A video charting the rise and fall of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu may be shown on request.
  5. The Timişoara Orthodox Cathedral (Catedrala Ortodoxă) is a Romanian Orthodox cathedral built between 1937 and 1940. It is dedicated to the Three Holy Hierarchs, Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom. It has 11 towers, of which the central and the highest has a height of 96 meters. It is home to many valuable religious objects such as old icons and early writings in Romanian, such as the 1648 Noul Testament de la Bălgrad ("The New Testament of Bălgrad") and the 1643 Cazania lui Varlaam ("The Homiliary of Metropolitan Varlaam"). The building's style is quite unusual among Romanian Orthodox buildings, although it is partly based on local religious tradition and partly on Byzantine architecture (the style developed by Moldavian and Byzantine artisans transplanted and adapted).

Friday, 26 October 2012



Tirana is the capital and the largest city of Albania. Modern Tirana was founded as an Ottoman town in 1614 by Sulejman Bargjini, a local ruler from Mullet. Tirana became Albania’s capital city in 1920 and has a population of 400,000, with metro area population of 763,634. The city is host to public institutions and private universities, and is the center of the political, economical, and cultural life of the country.

The area occupied by Tirana has been populated since Paleolithic times dating back 10,000 to 30,000 years ago as suggested by evidence from tools found near Mount Dajt's quarry and in Pellumba Cave. As argued by various archaeologists, Tirana and its suburbs are filled with Illyrian toponyms as its precincts are some of the earliest regions in Albania to be inhabited.

The oldest discovery in downtown Tirana was a Roman house, later transformed into an aisleless church with a mosaic-floor, dating back to the 3rd century A.D., with other remains found near a medieval temple at Shengjin Fountain in eastern suburbs. A castle possibly called Tirkan or Theranda whose remnants are found along Murat Toptani Street, was built by Emperor Justinian in 520 AD and restored by Ahmed Pasha Toptani in the 18th century. The area had no special importance in Illyrian and classical times. In 1510, Marin Barleti, an Albanian Catholic priest and scholar, in the biography of the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg, Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi Epirotarum principis (The story of life and deeds of Skanderbeg, the prince of Epirotes), referred to this area as a small village.

Records from the first land registrations under the Ottomans in 1431–32 show that Tirana consisted of 60 inhabited areas, with nearly 2,028 houses and 7,300 inhabitants. In 1614, Sulejman Bargjini, a local ruler established the Ottoman town with a mosque, a commercial centre, and a hammam (Turkish sauna). The town was located along caravan routes and grew rapidly in importance until the early 19th century.

During this period, the Et'hem Bey Mosque built by Molla Bey of Petrela, was constructed. It employed the best artisans in the country and was completed in 1821 by Molla's son, who was also Sulejman Bargjini's grandnephew. In 1800, the first newcomers arrived in the settlement, the so-called ortodoksit. They were Vlachs from villages near Korçë and Pogradec who settled around modern day Park on the Artificial Lake. They started to be known as the llacifac and were the first Christians to arrive after the creation of the town. After Serb reprisals in the Debar region, thousands of locals fled to Tirana. In 1807, Tirana became the center of the Sub-Prefecture of Krujë-Tirana. After 1816, Tirana languished under the control of the Toptani family of Krujë. Later, Tirana became a Sub-Prefecture of the newly created Vilayet of Shkodër and Sanjak of Durrës. In 1889, the Albanian language started to be taught in Tirana's schools, while the patriotic club Bashkimi was founded in 1908. On 28 November 1912, the national flag was raised in agreement with Ismail Qemali. During the Balkan Wars, the town was temporarily occupied by the Serbian army, and it took part in uprising of the villages led by Haxhi Qamili. In 1917, the first city outline was compiled by Austro-Hungarian architects.

On 8 February 1920, the Congress of Lushnjë proclaimed Tirana as the temporary capital of Albania which had acquired independence in 1912. The city retained that status permanently on 31 December 1925. In 1923, the first regulatory city plan was compiled by Austrian architects. The center of Tirana was the project of Florestano de Fausto and Armando Brasini, well known architects of the Benito Mussolini period in Italy. Brasini laid the basis for the modern-day arrangement of the ministerial buildings in the city centre. The plan underwent revisions by Albanian architect Eshref Frashëri, Italian architect Castellani, and Austrian architects Weiss and Kohler. The rectangular parallel road system of Tirana e Re district took shape while the northern portion of the main Boulevard was opened.

Tirana experienced events such as intermittent attacks from the army of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and forces of Zogu on the Shkalla e Tujanit (Step of Tujan). In 1924, Tirana was at the center of a coup d'état led by Fan S. Noli. Since 1925, when they were banned in Turkey, the Bektashis, an order of dervishes who take their name from Haji Bektash, a Sufi saint of the 13th and 14th centuries, made Tirana their primary settlement. Modern Albanian parliamentary building served as a club of officers. It was there that in September 1928, Zog of Albania was crowned King Zog I, King of the Albanians.

The period between the 1930s and 1940s was characterized by the completion of the above architectural projects, clashes between occupying forces and local resistance, and the coming to power of the communists. In 1930, the northern portion of modern Dëshmorët e Kombit (National Martyrs) Boulevard finished and named Zog I Boulevard. Meanwhile, the ministerial complex, boulevard axis, Royal Palace (Palace of the Brigades), former municipal building, and the National Bank were still under construction. The latter is the work of renown Italian architect Vittorio Ballio Morpurgo. In addition, Tirana served as the venue for the signing between Fascist Italy and Albania of the Pact of Tirana.

In 1939, Tirana was captured by Fascist forces appointing a puppet government. In the meantime, Italian architect Gherardo Bosio was asked to elaborate on previous plans and introduce a new project in the area of present day Mother Teresa Square. By the early 1940s, the southern portion of the main boulevard and surrounding buildings were finished and renamed with Fascist names. A failed assassination attempt was carried towards Victor Emmanuel III of Italy by a local resistance activist during a visit in Tirana. In November 1941, Enver Hoxha founded the Communist Party of Albania.

The town soon became the center of the Albanian communists who mobilized locals against Italian fascists and later Nazi Germans, while spreading ideological propaganda. On 17 November 1944, the town was liberated after a fierce battle between the Communists and German forces. The Nazis eventually withdrew and the communists seized power.

From 1944 to 1991, the city experienced ordered development with a decline in architectural quality. Massive socialist-styled apartment complexes and factories began to be built, while Skanderbeg Square was redesigned with a number of buildings being demolished. For instance, Tirana's former Old Bazaar and the Orthodox Cathedral were razed to the ground for the erection of the Soviet-styled Palace of Culture. The Italian-built municipal building was detonated and the National Historical Museum was constructed instead, while the structure housing the Parliament of Albania during the monarchy was turned into a children's theater.

The northern portion of the main boulevard was renamed Stalin Boulevard and his statue erected in the city square. As private car ownership was banned, mass transport consisted mainly of bicycles, trucks, and buses. After Hoxha's death, a museum in the form of a pyramid was constructed in his memory by the government.

Prior and after the procclamation of Albania's self-isolationist policy, a number of high-profile figures paid visits to the city such as former Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev, former Premier of the People's Republic of China, Zhou Enlai and lately former Minister for Foreign Matters of the German Democratic Republic, Oskar Fischer. In 1985, Tirana served as the ceremonial venue of Enver Hoxha's funeral. A few years later, Mother Teresa became the first religious figure to visit the country following Albania's long declared atheist stance. She laid respect to her parents resting at a local cemetery. Starting at Student City and ending at Skanderbeg Square with the toppling of Enver Hoxha's statue, the city saw significant demonstrations by University of Tirana students demanding political freedoms.

The period following the fall of communism until the late 1990s is often described negatively in terms of urban development even though significant utility investments were made. Kiosks and apartment buildings started to be erected on public areas.

During this period, Tirana was transformed from a centrally planned economy into a market economy. Private car ownership was reinstated and businesses re-established. However poor city lighting and road quality became major problems as mud, potholes, street floods, and dust became permanent features on the streets. However, all buildings and apartments were denationalized, second-hand buses introduced, and modern water, telephone, and electrical systems built during 1992–1996 which form the backbone of modern Tirana. Enver Hoxha's Museum (Pyramid) was dismantled in 1991 and renamed in honor of persecuted activist Pjeter Arbnori.

On the political aspect, the city witnessed a number of events. Personalities visited the capital such as former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and Pope John Paul II. The former visit came amidst the historical setting after the fall of communism, as hundreds of thousands were chanting in Skanderbeg Square Baker's famous saying of "Freedom works!". Pope John Paul II became the first leading religious figure to visit Tirana after Mother Teresa's visit few years ago. During the Balkans turmoil in the mid 1990s, the city experienced dramatic events such as the unfolding of the 1997 unrest in Albania, and a failed coup d'etat on 14 September 1998. In 1999, following the Kosovo War, Tirana Airport became a NATO airbase serving its mission in the former Yugoslavia.

In 2000, former Tirana mayor Edi Rama undertook a campaign to demolish illegal buildings around the city centre and on Lana River banks to bring the area to its pre-1990 state. In addition, Rama led the initiative to paint the façades of Tirana's buildings in bright colours, although much of their interiors continue to degrade. Public transport was privatized and newer second hand buses were introduced. Municipal services were expanded, a richer calendar of events introduced, and a Municipal Police force established. Most main roads underwent reconstruction such the Ring Road (Unaza), Kavaja Street, and the main boulevard. Common areas between apartment buildings were brought back to normality after decades of neglect, while parks, city squares, and sports recreational areas were renovated giving Tirana a more European look.

Some critics argue that traditional houses are being threatened by continuous construction of apartment buildings while some green areas are being used for the construction of skyscrapers. In fact, Rama has been accused by critics of political corruption while issuing building permits, but he has dismissed the claims as baseless. Decreasing urban space and increased traffic congestion have become major problems as a general construction chaos is observed in Tirana.

In 2007, U.S. President George W. Bush marked the first time that such a high ranking American official visited Tirana. A central Tirana street was named in his honor. In 2008, the 2008 Gërdec explosions were felt in the capital as windows were shattered and citizens shaken. In 21 January 2011, Albanian police clashed with opposition supporters in front of the Government building as cars were set on fire, three persons killed, and 150 wounded.

Although much has been achieved, critics argue that there is no clear vision on Tirana's future. some of the pressing issues facing Tirana are loss of public space due to illegal and chaotic construction, unpaved roads in suburban areas, degradation of Tirana's Artificial Lake, rehabilitation of Skanderbeg Square, an ever present smog, the construction of a central bus station, and public parking lots. Plans include the continuation of the legalization process of illegal buildings, construction of the southwestern portion of the Big Ring Road, a tram system, and the rehabilitation of the Tirana Train Station area.

                                                        Tirana’s Top 5:
  1. The Et'hem Bey Mosque  Construction was started in 1789 by Molla Bey and it was finished in 1823 by his son Haxhi Ethem Bey, great-grandson of Sulejman Pasha. Closed under communist rule, the mosque reopened as a house of worship in 1991, without permission from the authorities. 10,000 courageous people dared to attend and remarkably the police did not interfere. The event was a milestone in the rebirth of religious freedom in Albania. Take a look at the frescoes outside and in the portico which depict trees, waterfalls and bridges - motifs rarely seen in Islamic art. Take your shoes off before entering the inner room. During the totalitarianism of the Socialist People's Republic of Albania, the mosque was closed. On January 18, 1991, despite opposition from communist authorities, 10,000 people entered carrying flags. This was at the onset of the fall of communism in Albania. The frescoes of the mosque depict trees, waterfalls and bridges; still life paintings are a rarity in Islamic art. Tours of the mosque are given daily, though not during prayer service.
  2. Fortress of Justinian or simply known as Tirana Castle (Albanian: Kalaja e Tiranës) is a castle in Tirana. Its history dates back before 1300 and is a remnant from the Byzantine-era. The fortress is the place where the main east-west and north-south roads crossed, and formed the heart of Tirana. About all that's left of the fortress above ground is a 6m-high Ottoman-era wall, covered in vines. The recently uncovered wall foundations will be incorporated into the pedestrianised street
  3. The Clock Tower of Tirana  was built in 1822 by Haxhi Et'hem Bey, who also finished the building of the Et'hem Bey Mosque. The stairs have 90 steps that go in a spiral fashion. It is 35 metres (115 ft) tall and was the tallest building in Tirana at the time.
    The clock tower originally had a bell from Venice that marked the time every hour. In 1928 the Municipality of Tirana purchased a new clock in Germany to replace the existing one. The clock was destroyed by bombardments during World War II and was replaced in 1946 with a Roman numeral clock from a church in Shkoder, Albania. In 1970 the Roman numeral clock was replaced by a Chinese clock. The tower underwent renovation in 1981 and also in 1999. Access to the top of the tower has been available free of charge since 1996.
  4. The National Historical Museum is the country's largest museum. It was opened on 28 October 1981 and is 27,000 square metres in size, while 18,000 square metres are available for expositions. The museum was designed by Albanian architect, Enver Faja.
    The construction of the museum required the demolition of the former Tirana Municipal Building. The gigantic mosaic appearing at the main entrance is entitled The Albanians.
    The National Historical Museum includes the following pavilions: Antiquity, Medieval, Rilindja Kombetare, Iconography, Culture of Albania, Albanian Resistance of World War II, and Communist genocide.
  5. The Tanners' Bridge is an 18th century Ottoman period stone footbridge. The bridge was once part of the Shëngjergj Road that linked Tirana with the eastern highlands. The Shëngjergj Road furnished the city with agricultural produce and livestock. The bridge went across the Lanë stream and was adjacent to the area of butchers and leather workers. The Lanë was rerouted in the 1930s and the bridge was neglected. In the 1990s the bridge was restored to its former glory and is now used by pedestrians only.

Thursday, 25 October 2012



Toledo is a municipality located in central Spain, 70 km south of Madrid. It is the capital of the province of Toledo. It is also the capital of autonomous community of Castile–La Mancha. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage as one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire and place of coexistence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures, as well as the place where harsh religious persecutions were held against the Jews by the Visigoths.

Having been populated since the Bronze Age, Toledo (Toletumin Latin) grew in importance during Roman times, being a main commercial and administrative centre in the Roman province of Tarraconensis. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Toledo served as the capital city of Visigothic Spain, beginning with Liuvigild (Leovigild), and was the capital of Spain until the Moors conquered Iberia in the 8th century.

Under the Caliphate of Cordoba, Toledo was the center of numerous insurrections dating from 761 to 857. The Banu Qasi gained nominal control of the city until 920 and in 932 Abd-ar-Rahman III captured the city following an extensive siege. Toledo experienced a period known as La Convivencia, i.e. the co-existence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Under Arab rule, Toledo was called Tulaytulah. After the fall of the Caliphate, Toledo was the capital city of one of the richest Taifas of Al-Andalus. Its population was overwhelmingly Muladi, and, because of its central location in the Iberian Peninsula, Toledo took a central position in the struggles between the Muslim and Christian rulers of northern Spain. The conquest of Toledo by Alfonso VI of Castile marked the first time a major city in Al-Andalus had fallen to Christian forces; it served to sharpen the religious aspect of the Christian reconquest.

On May 25, 1085, Alfonso VI of Castile took Toledo and established direct personal control over the Moorish city from which he had been exacting tribute, ending the medieval Taifa's Kingdom of Toledo. This was the first concrete step taken by the combined kingdom of Leon-Castile in the Reconquista by Christian forces. After Castilian conquest, Toledo continued to be a major cultural centre; its Arab libraries were not pillaged, and a tag-team translation centre was established in which books in Arabic would be translated from Arabic or Hebrew to Spanish by Muslim and Jewish scholars, and from Spanish to Latin by Castilian scholars, thus letting long-lost knowledge spread through Christian Europe again. 

For some time during the 16th century, Toledo served as the capital city of Castile, and the city flourished. However, soon enough the Spanish court was moved, first to Valladolid and then to Madrid, thus letting the city's importance dwindle until the late 20th century, when it became the capital of the autonomous community of Castile–La Mancha. Nevertheless, the economic decline of the city helped to preserve its cultural and architectural heritage. 

Today, because of this rich heritage, Toledo is one of Spain's foremost cities, receiving thousands of visitors yearly.

Toledo has been a traditional sword-making, steel-working center since about 500 BC, and came to the attention of Rome when used by Hannibal in the Punic Wars. Soon, it became a standard source of weaponry for Roman Legions. Toledo steel was famed for its very high quality alloy, whereas Damascene steel, a competitor from the Middle Ages on, was famed for a specific metal-working technique.

Toledo's cuisine is grouped with that of Castile–La Mancha, well-set in its traditions and closely linked to hunting and grazing. A good number of recipes are the result of a combination of Moorish and Christian influences.

Some of its specialties include lamb roast or stew, cochifrito, alubias con perdiz (beans with partridge) and perdiz estofoda (partridge stew), carcamusa, migas, gachas manchegas, andtortilla a la magra. Two of the city's most famous food productions are Manchego cheese and marzipan, which has a Protected Geographical Indication (mazapán de Toledo).

                                                        Toledo’s Top 5:
  1. The Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo  is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Toledo, Spain. The cathedral of Toledo is one of the three 13th-century High Gothic cathedrals in Spain and is considered, in the opinion of some authorities, to be the magnum opus of the Gothic style in Spain. It was begun in 1226 under the rule of Ferdinand III and the last Gothic contributions were made in the 15th century when, in 1493, the vaults of the central nave were finished during the time of the Catholic Monarchs. It was modeled after the Bourges Cathedral, although its five naves plan is a consequence of the constructors' intention to cover all of the sacred space of the former city mosque with the cathedral, and of the former sahn with the cloister. It also combines some characteristics of the Mudéjar style, mainly in the cloister, and with the presence of multifoiled arches in the triforium. The spectacular incorporation of light and the structural achievements of the ambulatory vaults are some of its more remarkable aspects. It is built with white limestone from the quarries of Olihuelas, near Toledo.
  2. The Palacio de Galiana is a palace on the borders of the Tagus River. It was built on the site of an earlier summer villa and garden of Al-Mamun, the king of the Taifa of Toledo, in the thirteenth century by king Alphonso X. The palace was built in the Mudéjar style and retains many characteristics of Moorish architecture in the Al-Andalus era. The palace consists of a hall divided into three parallel naves with rooms at each end linked by a passageway. The name of the palace, Galiana, is derived from a fictive character, Aisha Galiana, the daughter of an imaginary Moorish king Aljafra. She figures in medieval chansons and subsequently in the works of Cervantes and Lope de Vega.
  3. The Puerta de Bisagra Nueva ("The New Bisagra Gate") is the best known city gate of Toledo. The gate is of Moorish origin, but the main part was built in 1559 by Alonso de Covarrubias. It carries the coat of arms of the emperor Charles V. It superseded the Puerta Bisagra Antigua as the main entrance to the city.
  4. Santa María la Blanca (literally Saint Mary the White) is a museum and former synagogue in Toledo. Erected in 1180, it is disputably considered the oldest synagogue building in Europe still standing. It is now owned and preserved by the Catholic Church. Its stylistic and cultural classification is unique as it was constructed under the Christian Kingdom of Castile by Islamic architects for Jewish use. It is considered a symbol of the cooperation that existed among the three cultures that populated the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages.
  5. The Alcázar of Toledo is a stone fortification located in the highest part of Toledo. Once used as a Roman palace in the 3rd century, it was restored under Charles I and Philip II of Spain in the 1540s. In 1521, Hernán Cortés was received by Charles I at the Alcázar, following Cortes' conquest of the Aztecs. During the Spanish Civil War, Colonel José Moscardó Ituarte held the building against overwhelming Spanish Republican forces in the Siege of the Alcázar.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012



Tournai is a Walloon city and municipality of Belgium located 85 kilometres southwest of Brussels, on the river Scheldt, in the province of Hainaut.

Along with Tongeren, Tournai is the oldest city in Belgium and it has played an important role in the country's cultural history.

Tournai, known as Tornacum, was a place of minor importance in Roman times, a stopping place where the Roman road from Cologne on the Rhine to Boulogne on the coast crossed the river Scheldt. It was fortified under Roman Emperor Maximian in the third century, when the Roman border defence was withdrawn to the string of outposts along the road. It came into the possession of the Salian Franks in 432. Under king Childeric I, who was buried or reburied there, Tournai was the capital of the Frankish empire. In 486, Clovis moved the center of power to Paris. In turn, a native son of Tournai, Eleutherius, became bishop of the newly created bishopric of Tournai, extending over most of the area west of the Scheldt. In 862 Charles the Bald, first king of Western Francia and still to become Holy Roman Emperor, would make Tournai the seat of the County of Flanders.

After the partition of the Frankish empire by the Treaties of Verdun (843) and of Meerssen (870), Tournai remained in the western part of the empire, which in 987 became France. The city participated in eleventh-century rise of towns in the Low Countries, with a woollen cloth industry based on English wool, which soon made it attractive to wealthy merchants. An ambitious rebuilding of the cathedral was initiated in 1030. The commune's drive for independence from the local counts succeeded in 1187, and the city was henceforth directly subordinated to the French Crown, as the seigneurie de Tournaisis, as the city's environs are called. The stone Pont des Trous over the Scheldt, with defensive towers at either end, was built in 1290, replacing an earlier wooden structure.

During the 15th century, the city's textile trade boomed and it became an important supplier of tapestry. The art of painting flourished too: Jacques Daret, Robert Campin and Rogier van der Weyden all came from Tournai. It was conquered in 1513 by Henry VIII of England, making it the only Belgian city ever to have been ruled by England. It was also represented in the 1515 Parliament of England. The city was handed back to French rule in 1519.

In 1521, Emperor Charles V added the city to his possessions in the Low Countries, leading to a period of religious strife and economic decline. During the 16th century, Tournai was a bulwark of Calvinism, but eventually it was conquered by the Spanish governor of the Low Countries, the Duke of Parma, following a prolonged siege in 1581. After the fall of the city, its Protestant inhabitants were given one year to sell their possessions and emigrate, a policy that was at the time considered relatively humane, since very often religious opponents were simply massacred.

One century later, in 1668, the city briefly returned to France under Louis XIV in the Treaty of Aachen. After the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1713, under terms of the Treaty of Utrecht the former Spanish Netherlands, including Tournai, came into possession of the Austrian Habsburgs. From 1815 on, following the Napoleonic Wars, Tournai formed part of the United Netherlands and after 1830 of newly independent Belgium. Badly damaged in 1940, Tournai has since been carefully restored.

                                                        Tournai’s Top 5:
  1. The Cathedral of Our Lady is Roman Catholic church, see of the Diocese of Tournai. It has been classified both as a Wallonia's major heritage since 1936 and as a World Heritage Site since 2000. There was a diocese centered at Tournai from the late 6th century and this structure of local blue-gray stone occupies rising ground near the south bank of the Scheldt, which divides the city of Tournai into two roughly equal parts. Begun in the 12th century on even older foundations, the building combines the work of three design periods with striking effect, the heavy and severe character of the Romanesque nave contrasting remarkably with the Transitional work of the transept and the fully developed Gothic of the choir. The transept is the most distinctive part of the building, with its cluster of five bell towers and apsidal (semicircular) ends.
  2. The belfry of Tournai is a freestanding bell tower of medieval origin, 72 metres in height with a 256-step stairway. This landmark building is one of a set of belfries of Belgium and France registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Construction of the belfry began around 1188 when King Philip Augustus of France granted Tournai its town charter, conferring among other privileges the right to mount a communal bell to ring out signals to the townsfolk. The tower in its original form was evocative of the feudal keep, with a square cross section and crenelated parapet. It served in part as a watchtower for spotting fires and enemies. The growing city saw fit to expand the belfry in 1294, raising it by an additional stage, and buttressing its corners with four polygonal towerlets. A soldier statue was placed atop each towerlet, and a dragon icon surmounted the entire structure. The dragon, symbol of power and vigilance, also adorns other old tower tops in Belgium, including those of the Cloth Hall of Ypres and the belfry of Ghent.
  3. The Museum of Fine Arts Inaugurated on Sunday 17th June 1928, the Museum of Fine Arts is a building created by the genius for spatial conception, Belgian great Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta. He conceived it especially for presenting the very rich collections bequeathed to the city by the Brussels mecenas Henri Van Cutsem, deceased in 1904. The combinaition of the rooms that radiate from the central polygonal entrance hall is so original that the building itself deserves a visit. The collections shown include many ancient paintings, which added to the works bequeathed by Henri Van Cutsem, together with purchases, deposits, gifts and legacies, permit to offer the visitors an interesting overvieuw of the pictorial production history from the 15th century up to now.
  4. Tournai Town Hall Before 1940, the accesses of the Town Hall contained some visible vestiges of the Gothic cloister erected in around 1500 by Abbot Jean le Flameng and a garden that was open towards the municipal park. The deambulatory of the cloister’s only remaining wing was adulterated by the addition of a floor and by the obstruction of its ogival bays by bricks and bars, as well as by its division into administrative offices.
    After the Second World War, the restoration of the building gave the deambulatory back all of its imposing presence with its brick and stone vaults and enabled its original Gothic appearance to be returned to it. One can still admire, on one of the keystones, Jean le Flameng’s coat of arms.
  5. The Pont des Trous is one of the country’s most prestigious monuments of mediaeval military architectural remains. This former aqueduct belonged to the second municipal precinct and defended the Scheldt with its enormous grids. The architectural structure includes two towers: The one known as The Bourdiel (1281) on left bank and the other, known as The Thieulerie, on the right bank (1302-1304). The curtain wall is perforated with bays and arrow-slits.  This bridge has had its fair share of ups and downs. In 1340, an attack on the city by King Edward III of England damaged its pillars. Later, in 1940, the English blew it up. At the time of its reconstruction in 1947, the towers and pillars were elevated by 2.40 metres in order to facilitate the passage of the ships.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012



Trieste is a city and seaport in northeastern Italy. It is situated towards the end of a narrow strip of land lying between the Adriatic Sea and Italy's border with Slovenia, which lies almost immediately south and east of the city. Trieste is located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste and throughout history it has been influenced by its location at the crossroads of Germanic, Latin and Slavic cultures. It is the capital of the autonomous region Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trieste province.

Originally an Illyrian settlement the town was later captured by the Carni. From 177 BC Tergeste was under the Romans. It was granted the status of colony under Julius Caesar, who recorded its name as Tergeste in his Commentarii de bello Gallico (51 BC). During Roman times, Tergeste was defined an "Illyrian city" by Artemidorus of Ephesus, a Greek geographer, and "Carnic" by Strabo.

In imperial times the border of "Roman Italia" moved from the Timavo river to Formione (today Risano). The Roman Tergeste lived a flourishing period due to its position as a crossroad from Aquileia, the main Roman city in the area, and Istria, and as a port as well, some ruins of which are still visible. Augustus built a line of walls around the city in 33-32 BC, while Trajan built a theatre in the 2nd century AD.In the Early Christian era it remained a flourishing center, and after the end of the Western Roman Empire (in 476), Trieste was a Byzantine military outpost. In 567 AD the city was destroyed by the Lombards, in the course of their invasion of northern Italy. In 788 it became part of the Frankish kingdom, under the authority of their count-bishop. From 1081 the city came loosely under the Patriarchate of Aquileia, developing into a free commune by the end of the 12th century.

After two centuries of war against the nearby major power, the Republic of Venice (which occupied it briefly from 1369 to 1372), the main citizens of Trieste petitioned Leopold III of Habsburg, Duke of Austria to become part of his domains. The agreement of cessation was signed in October 1382, in St. Bartholomew's church in the village of Šiška, today one of the city quarters of Ljubljana. The citizens, however, maintained a certain degree of autonomy up until the 17th century.

Following an unsuccessful Habsburg invasion of Venice in the prelude to the War of the League of Cambrai, the Venetians occupied Trieste again in 1508, and under the terms of the peace were allowed to keep the city. The Habsburg Empire recovered Trieste a little over one year later, however, when conflict resumed.

Trieste became an important port and trade hub. In 1719, it was made a free port within the Habsburg Empire by Emperor Charles VI, and remained a free port until 1 July 1891. The reign of his successor, Maria Theresa of Austria, marked the beginning of a flourishing era for the city.

Trieste was occupied by French troops three times during the Napoleonic Wars, in 1797, 1805 and in 1809. Between 1809 and 1813, it was annexed to the Illyrian Provinces, interrupting its status of free port and losing its autonomy. The municipal autonomy was not restored after the return of the city to the Austrian Empire in 1813. Following the Napoleonic Wars, Trieste continued to prosper as the Free Imperial City of Trieste (Reichsunmittelbare Stadt Triest), a status that granted economic freedom, but limited its political self-government.  With the introduction of the constitutionalism in the Austrian Empire in 1860, the municipal autonomy of the city was restored, with Trieste became capital of the Adriatisches Küstenland, the Austrian Littoral region.

Together with Trento, Trieste was a main focus of the irredentist movement, which aimed for the annexation to Italy of all the lands they claimed were inhabited by an Italian speaking population. Many local Italians enrolled voluntarily in the Royal Italian Army (a notable example is the writer Scipio Slataper).

Miramar Castle
After the end of World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved, and many of its border areas, including the Austrian Littoral, were disputed among its successor states. On November 3, 1918, the Armistice of villa Giusti was signed ending hostilities between Italy and Austria-Hungary. Trieste was occupied by the Italian Army (warmly welcomed by the Italian portion of the local population) after the Austro-Hungarian troops had been ordered to lay down their arms, a day before the Armistice was due to enter into effect, effectively allowing the Italians to claim the region had been taken before the cessation of hostilities (a similar situation occurred in South Tyrol). Trieste was officially annexed to the Kingdom of Italy only with theTreaty of Rapallo in 1920. Immediately a policy of "deslavification" started with the Italianisation of the Slovene toponyms. The region reorganized under a new administrative unit, known as the Julian March (Venezia Giulia).

The union to Italy, however, brought a loss of importance to the city, as the new state border deprived it of its former hinterland. The Slovene ethnic group (around 25% of the population according to the 1910 census) suffered persecution by rising Italian Fascism. The period of violent persecution of Slovenes began with riots in April 13, 1920, which were organized as a retaliation for the assault on Italian occupying troops in Split by the local Croatian population. Many Slovene-owned shops and buildings were destroyed during the riots, which culminated when a group of Italian Fascists, led by Francesco Giunta, burned down the Narodni dom ("National House"), the community hall of Trieste's Slovenes.

After the emergence of the Fascist regime in 1922, an official policy of Italianization continued. Public use of the Slovene language was prohibited, by 1927 all Slovene associations were dissolved, while names and surnames of Slavic and German origin were Italianized by the end of 1930.

Several artistic and intellectual subcultures continued to swarm even under the repressive Fascist regime. In the 1920s, the city was home to an important avant-gardist movement in visual arts, centered around the futurist Tullio Crali and the constructivist Avgust Černigoj. In the same period, Trieste consolidated its role as one of the centres of modern Italian literature, with authors such as Umberto Saba, Biagio Marin, Giani Stuparich, and Salvatore Satta. Among the non-Italian authors and intellectuals that remained in Trieste, the most notable were the Austrian Julius Kugy and the Slovene Boris Pahor. Intellectuals were frequently associated with Caffè San Marco, a cafè in the city still open today.

With the invasion and occupation of Yugoslavia in April 1941, World War Two came close to Trieste. Starting from the winter of 1941, the first Yugoslav partisan units appeared in Trieste province, although the resistance movement did not reach the city itself until late 1943.

After the Italian armistice in September 1943, the city was occupied by German troops. Trieste became nominally part of the newly constituted Italian Social Republic, but it was de facto ruled by Nazi Germany: the Nazis created the Operation Zone of the Adriatic Littoral out of former Italian north-eastern regions, with Trieste as the administrative center. The new administrative entity was headed by Friedrich Rainer. Under the Nazi occupation, the only concentration camp with a crematorium on Italian soil was built in a suburb of Trieste, at the Risiera di San Sabba, on 4 April 1944. Around 3,000 Jews, South Slavs and Italian anti Fascists were killed in the Risiera, while thousands of others were imprisoned before being transferred to other concentration camps.

The city saw intense Italian and Yugoslav partisan activity, and suffered from Allied bombings. The city's Jewish community was deported to extermination camps, where most of them died.

On April 30, 1945, the Italian anti-Fascist National Liberation Committee (Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale, or CLN) of don Marzari and Savio Fonda, constituted of approximately 3,500 volunteers, incited a riot against the German occupiers. On May 1, Allied forces of the Yugoslav Partisans' 8th Dalmatian Corps arrived and took over most of the city, except for the courts and the castle of San Giusto, where the German garrisons refused to surrender to any force other than New Zealanders. The 2nd New Zealand Division continued to advance towards Trieste along Route 14 around the northern coast of the Adriatic sea and arrived in the city the next day. The German forces capitulated on the evening of May 2, but were then turned over to the Yugoslav forces.

The Yugoslavs held full control of the city until June 12, a period known in the Italian historiography as the "forty days of Trieste".During this period, hundreds of local Italians and anti-Communist Slovenes were arrested by the Yugoslav authorities, and many of them disappeared. These included former Fascists and Nazi collaborators, but also Italian nationalists, and any other real or potential opponents of Yugoslav Communism. Some were interned in Yugoslav concentration camps (in particular at Borovnica, Slovenia), while others were murdered and thrown into the potholes ("foibe") on the Karst plateau.

After an agreement between the Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito and the British Field Marshal Harold Alexander, the Yugoslav forces withdrew from Trieste, which came under a joint British-U.S. military administration. The Julian March was divided between Anglo-American and Yugoslav military administration until September 1947, when the Paris Peace Treaty established the Free Territory of Trieste.

In 1947, Trieste was declared an independent city state under the protection of the United Nationsas the Free Territory of Trieste. The territory was divided into two zones, A and B, along the Morgan Line, established in 1945.

From 1947 to 1954, the A Zone was governed by the Allied Military Government, composed of the American "Trieste United States Troops" (TRUST), commanded by Major General Bryant E. Moore, the commanding general of the American 88th Infantry Division, and the "British Element Trieste Forces" (BETFOR), commanded by Sir Terence Airey, who were the joint forces commander and also the military governors. Zone A covered almost the same area of the current Italian Province of Trieste, except for four small villages south of Muggia, which were given to Yugoslavia after the dissolution of the Free Territory in 1954. Zone B, which remained under the military administration of the Yugoslav People's Army, was composed of the north-westernmost portion of the Istrian peninsula, between the river Mirna and the Debeli Rtič cape.

In 1954, the Free Territory of Trieste was dissolved. The vast majority of Zone A, including the city of Trieste, was ceded to Italy. Zone B became part of Yugoslavia, along with four villages from the Zone A and was divided among the Socialist Republic of Slovenia and Croatia. The annexation of Trieste to Italy was officially announced on 26 October 1954, and was welcomed by the majority of the Trieste population.

The final border line with Yugoslavia, and the status of the ethnic minorities in the areas, was settled in 1975 with the Treaty of Osimo. This line is now the border between Italy and Slovenia.

                                                        Trieste’s Top 5:
  1. Trieste Cathedral dedicated to Saint Justus, is the cathedral and main church of Trieste. It is the seat of the Bishop of Trieste. The first religious edifice on the site was built in the 6th century. Between the 9th and 11th centuries, two basilicas were erected on the ruins of the old church, the first dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption and the second, the cathedral, to Saint Justus (San Giusto). The original design of the latter building was subsequently lengthened. In the 14th century the two basilicas were joined by means of the demolition of one nave of either basilica and the construction of a simple asymmetrical façade, dominated by a delicately worked Gothic rose window, as ornate as the new bell tower, using the Romanesque debris stones found on the site and friezes of arms.
  2. Miramar Castle The Schloß Miramar, on the waterfront 8 km from Trieste, was built between 1856 and 1860 from a project by Carl Junker working under Archduke Maximilian. The Castle gardens provide a setting of beauty with a variety of trees, chosen by and planted on the orders of Maximilian, that today make a remarkable collection. Features of particular attraction in the gardens include two ponds, one noted for its swans and the other for lotus flowers, the Castle annexe ("Castelletto"), a bronze statue of Maximilian, and a small chapel where is kept a cross made from the remains of the "Novara", the flagship on which Maximilian, brother of Emperor Franz Josef, set sail to become Emperor of Mexico. Much later, the castle was also the home of Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, the last commander of Italian forces in East Africa during the Second World War. During the period of the application of the Instrument for the Provisional Regime of the Free Territory of Trieste, as establish in the Treaty of Peace with Italy (Paris 10/02/1947), the castle served as headquarters for the United States Army's TRUST force.
  3. Grotta Gigante ("Giant Cave"), also known as Riesengrotteor as Grotta di Brisciachi, is a giant cave on the Italian side of the Trieste Carso, in the municipality of Sgonico. Its central cavern is 107 metres (351 ft) high, 65 metres (213 ft) wide and 130 metres (430 ft) long putting it in the 1995 Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest tourist cave. The cave contains many large stalactites and stalagmites, many of exceptional beauty. A feature of the stalagmites is their "dish-pile" appearance, formed by water dropping from up to 80 m (260 ft) above and depositing calcium carbonate over a wide area.
  4. The Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi is an opera house named after the composer Giuseppe Verdi. Privately constructed, it was inaugurated as the Teatro Nuovo to replace the smaller 800-seat "Cesareo Regio Teatro di San Pietro" on 21 April 1801 with a performance of Johann Simon Mayr's Ginevra di Scozia. Initially, the Nuovo had 1,400 seats.
  5. The Roman theatre lies at the foot of the San Giusto hill, facing the sea. The construction partially exploits the gentle slope of the hill, and much of the theatre is made of stone. The topmost portion of the amphitheatre steps and the stage were supposedly made of wood. The statues that adorned the theatre, brought back to light in the 1930s, are now preserved at the Town Museum. Three inscriptions from the Trajan period mention a certain Q. Petronius Modestus, someone closely connected to the development of the theatre, which was erected during the second half of the 1st century.