Quinta da Regaleira is a land located in Sintra, a small village nearby Lisbon, Portugal. Designed by the Italian architect Luigi Manini and built in the late 1800s by the rich owner Carvalho Monteiro (also known as Monteiro the Millionaire, Brazilian-Portuguese businessman, entomologist and freemason), the estate includes Medieval, Classic, Manueline and Renaissance styles buildings.
Among palaces, gardens, caves and lakes, the Initiation Well is arguably the most picturesque construction: an inverted 27-meter tower shape well with a staircase that was actually never used as a proper well. It is believed that it was used for ceremonial purposes linked to Tarot mysticism and Masonic principles
The number of landings and steps could be also associated to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and may represent the nine skies of paradise, the nine sections of purgatory or the nine circles of hell.
In the early 1800s, thousands of ordinary people were imprisoned at Kilmainham Gaol not only for serious crimes such as murder or rape, but even for cattle stealing and other minor crimes: a fourteen-year-old boy was convicted for seven days for stealing two loaves of bread.
This jail (now a museum), located in Dublin, is famous because of its link with the history of Irish nationalism: the majority of the Irish leaders in the rebellions from 1798 to 1916, prisoners during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-1921), and anti-treaty forces during the civil war were detained there.
In May 1916, during the Easter Rising, fourteen men were sentenced to death and shot by firing squads in the Stonebreakers’ Yard of Kilmainham Gaol. Seven of them had been the signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic that was posted on Easter Monday on the walls around Dublin and read on Sackville Street (now known as O’Connell Street, renamed in honor of the nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell ) by Patrick Pearse. These were Thomas Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Patrick Pearse, Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, and Joseph Plunkett (the man who married Grace Gifford in the Gaol chapel the night before he was shot).
The firing squads in charge of the executions at Kilmainham Gaol, composed of six kneeled and other six standing soldiers were provided with just one real bullet and the rest blank, so that they wouldn’t know who shot the killing one.
After the harsh treatment of those leaders of the Easter Rising, Irish citizens began to empathize with the Rising’s cause and later, in the general United Kingdom election in 1918, the Irish republican party Sinn Féin received huge support among voters in Ireland. They refused to take their seats in the U.K. parliament, founded a separate parliament in Dublin and declared Irish independence, ratifying the Easter Rising Proclamation of the Irish Republic, leading subsequently to the War of Independence in 1921.
The official closing order of the Kilmainham Gaol was issued by the Minister for Justice of the Irish Free State in 1929.
Constructed in 1743 after the ‘Black Spring’ famine by John Glin for the Government of Irelandon commission by local landlady Katherine Conolly, the Wonderful Barn is a spectacular corkscrew-shaped grain store built to avoid shortage of grain in case of another famine period. Its construction gave employment to the impoverished local people. The building, located in Leixlip, County Kildare, is 22,25 meters high and there are 94 limestone steps to the top from the 11 meters-diameter base. Since 2006 the Wonderful Barn is placed on the World Monuments List of 100 Most Endangered Monuments.
Also known as Al-Ḥijr or Hegra, this impressive archaeological site belonged in the first century AD to the kingdom of Nabatean, a nomadic Bedouin tribe of the northern Arabian peninsula, whose capital was Raqmu, now known as the famous Petra (Jordan).
According to the Quran, it is believed that this is a cursed place, owing to the punishment with natural disasters given from Allah to the Thamud people (8th century BCE) for their idol worshipping.
The outstanding location consists of 131 rock-cut monumental tombs and was the first Arabian proclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
The site is reachable by car from the nearest towns with flight connections: al-Wajh (100 km) and al-Ula (20 km).
All visitors need a permit to visit Mada’in Saleh (you can easily obtain the permission in the Hotels near the site).
Projected by the engineer Guy Maunsell and built in 1942 during the World War II on order by the Great Britain Royal Navy in the Thames Estuary Special Defence Units program, the sea forts were equipped with radar and anti-aircraft guns; they hosted over 100 soldiers each and their purpose was to protect the coast close to London from the attack of the German air force Luftwaffe and Navy. During the war, these fortresses destroyed 22 German aircraft, 30 rockets and an S-Boot ship. Now they stay abandoned since 1958 after a period in the mid-1960s when they were occupied by the first pirate radios like Radio Sutch, Radio City, Radio 390 and Radio Essex.
The sea forts are located about 11 km from the Suffolk coast and there are boat tours organized with departure from Whitstable Harbour. Info at www.maunsellseaforts.com.
In 2008, a curious initiative by the Russian newspaper Izvestia, Radio Mayak and a Russian television channel, determined The Seven Wonders of Russia:
Mount Elbrus Volcano located in the western area of Russia, it’s the tenth most prominent mountain in the world and the highest Caucasian (5.643 m) mountain. Mount Elbrus has two twin summits, whose ascent is accessible to all climbers, though, according to many experts, it is considered dangerous because of its potential volcanic activity.
The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed Church located in the Red Square, Moscow, it’s now a museum, built from 1555 on orders from Ivan IV Vasilyevich “the Terrible” in commemoration of the capture of Astrakhan and Kazan. The cathedral, since 1990 in the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s list, is one of the most famous Russians symbols.
The Peterhof Palace Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and referred as the “Russian Versailles”, it is a series of outstanding palaces and gardens located in Saint Petersburg, built in 1714 on the orders of Peter the Great.
Mamayev Kurgan A memorial complex in the city of Volgograd commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad (World War II, 1942- 1943), built between 1959 and 1967.
The complex is dominated by the Mother Russia statue (85 m high).
The Valley of Geysers Located in the Kronotskij Natural Reserve, Kamchatka Peninsula, this spectacular valley has one of the largest concentration of geysers in the world with hundreds of living geysers and hot springs.
Discovered in the 1950’s it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site; the valley, due to its instability, is often subject to geological disasters like the events in 2007 and 2014 that had hardly damaged the landscape.
Lake Baikal Formed more than 20 million years ago and located in the southern area of Siberia, it is the largest by freshwater, the deepest (1.642 m depth) and maybe the oldest an clearest lake in the world.
The Manpupuner rock formations Also known as the Seven Strong Men Rock Formations, these seven gigantic (30-45 m high) stone pillars are located in the Pechoro-Ilychski Reserve,western Ural mountains. The pillars have bizarre shapes formed through the effects of wind, rain, ice and snow.
The Panopticon Prison: a prison model conceived in the 1780s by the British prison reformer Jeremy Bentham, where the inmates were constantly kept under surveillance. That model has considered innovative due to his efficiency despite the few staff and it was thought to improve the behavior of the inmates.
One example of the Panopticon prison was the Presidio Modelo, built on the Isla de la Juventud, in Cuba under President Gerardo Machado.
The five circular blocks, overlooked by a central watchtower with the capacity to house up to 6,000 prisoners, were inaugurated in 1926. Raul and Fidel Castro were imprisoned there from 1953 to 1955 after their revolt against the Moncada barracks. After the victory against Fulgencio Batista, Fidel Castro used the prison to house his political enemies, but after various riots and hunger strikes due to the overcrowded conditions, the Presidio Modelo was permanently closed in 1967.
The prison is now declared a national monument and serves as a museum and a school & research center.
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