Theme Week Laos

21 September 2020 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Theme Weeks, UNESCO World Heritage

Mekong River flowing through Luang Prabang © flickr.com - Allie Caulfield/cc-by-2.0

Mekong River flowing through Luang Prabang © flickr.com – Allie Caulfield/cc-by-2.0

Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao: Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxôn Lao), is a socialist state and the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. At the heart of the Indochinese peninsula, Laos is bordered by Myanmar and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southeast and Thailand to the west and southwest. It is a one-party socialist republic, espousing Marxism–Leninism governed by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, under which non-governmental organizations have routinely characterized the country’s human rights record as poor, citing repeated abuses such as torture, restrictions on civil liberties, and persecution of minorities. There is a distinct rainy season from May to November, followed by a dry season from December to April. Local tradition holds that there are three seasons (rainy, cold and hot) as the latter two months of the climatologically defined dry season are noticeably hotter than the earlier four months. The capital and largest city of Laos is Vientiane and other major cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Pakse (Geography of Laos and List of cities in Laos). In 1993 the Laos government set aside 21 percent of the nation’s land area for habitat conservation preservation. The country is one of four in the opium poppy growing region known as the “Golden Triangle“. According to the October 2007 UNODC fact book Opium Poppy Cultivation in South East Asia, the poppy cultivation area was 15 square kilometres (5.8 sq mi), down from 18 square kilometres (6.9 sq mi) in 2006.   read more…

Theme Week Luxembourg

24 August 2020 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Theme Weeks

Luxemburg City © Streppel/cc-by-sa-3.0

Luxemburg City © Streppel/cc-by-sa-3.0

Luxembourg (Luxembourgish: Lëtzebuerg, French: Luxembourg; German: Luxemburg), officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is a landlocked country in Western Europe. It is bordered by Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east, and France to the south. Its capital, Luxembourg City, is one of the four official capitals of the European Union (together with Brussels, Frankfurt, and Strasbourg) and the seat of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the highest judicial authority in the EU. Its culture, people, and languages are highly intertwined with its neighbours, making it essentially a mixture of French and German cultures, as evident by the nation’s three official languages: French, German, and the national language of Luxembourgish. The repeated invasions by Germany, especially in World War II, resulted in the country’s strong will for mediation between France and Germany and, among other things, led to the foundation of the European Union.   read more…

Theme Week Dordogne

20 July 2020 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Theme Weeks

Domme during morning fog © Ghezoart - www.GhezoArt.be/cc-by-sa-3.0

Domme during morning fog © Ghezoart – www.GhezoArt.be/cc-by-sa-3.0

Dordogne is a department in Southwestern France, with its prefecture in Périgueux. The department is located in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees and is named after the river Dordogne that runs through it. It corresponds roughly with the historically and culinary significant ancient county of Périgord. It had a population of 416,909 in 2013. The Dordogne department is rich in archaeological sites (Dolmens of Cantegrel, Dolmens Peyre Levade) and caves as well as rock shelter with petroglyphs, rock paintings and sculptures from the Stone Age, troglodytic buildings and villages, as well as other natural caves that are open to the public. Attractions are also some castles, numerous chateaus (list of castles and chateaus in the Dordogne) and various abbeys.   read more…

Theme Week Pakistan

22 June 2020 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Theme Weeks, UNESCO World Heritage

Prime Minister's Secretariat Building in Islamabad © Maqsoodgujjer/cc-by-sa-4.0

Prime Minister’s Secretariat Building in Islamabad © Maqsoodgujjer/cc-by-sa-4.0

Pakistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia. It is the world’s fifth-most populous country with a population exceeding 212.2 million. By area, it is the 33rd-largest country, spanning 881,913 square kilometres (340,509 square miles). Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre (650-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China to the northeast. It is separated narrowly from Tajikistan by Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor in the northwest, and also shares a maritime border with Oman.   read more…

Theme Week Afghanistan

25 May 2020 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Theme Weeks, UNESCO World Heritage

Landscapes of Afghanistan © PD-USGov-USAID - PD-USGov-Military-Army - PD-USGov-Military-Army-USACE

Landscapes of Afghanistan © PD-USGov-USAID – PD-USGov-Military-Army – PD-USGov-Military-Army-USACE

Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country in South and Central Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south; Iran to the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north; and China to the northeast. Occupying 652,000 square kilometers (252,000 sq mi), it is a mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest. Kabul is the capital and largest city. The population is around 32 million, mostly composed of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks. Human habitation in Afghanistan dates back to the Middle Paleolithic Era, and the country’s strategic location along the Silk Road connected it to the cultures of the Middle East and other parts of Asia. The land has historically been home to various peoples and has witnessed numerous military campaigns, including those by Alexander the Great, Mauryas, Muslim Arabs, Mongols, British, Soviets, and by the United States with allied countries. The land also served as the source from which the Kushans, Hephthalites, Samanids, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khaljis, Mughals, Hotaks, Durranis, and others have risen to form major empires.   read more…

Theme Week Italian Riviera

9 May 2020 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Theme Weeks, UNESCO World Heritage

Vernazza © Charles van Dijk/cc-by-3.0

Vernazza © Charles van Dijk/cc-by-3.0

The Italian Riviera, or Ligurian Riviera, is the narrow coastal strip in Italy which lies between the Ligurian Sea and the mountain chain formed by the Maritime Alps and the Apennines. Longitudinally it extends from the border with France and the French Riviera (or Côte d’Azur) near Ventimiglia (a former customs post) eastwards to Capo Corvo (also known as Punta Bianca) which marks the eastern end of the Gulf of La Spezia and is close to the regional border between Liguria and Tuscany. The Italian Riviera thus includes nearly all of the coastline of Liguria. Historically the “Riviera” extended further to the west, through what is now French territory as far as Marseille.   read more…

Theme Week Uzbekistan

20 April 2020 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Theme Weeks, UNESCO World Heritage

Old City of Bukhara at sunset © flickr.com - Adam Jones/cc-by-sa-2.0

Old City of Bukhara at sunset © flickr.com – Adam Jones/cc-by-sa-2.0

Uzbekistan is a country in Central Asia. It is bordered by five landlocked countries: Kazakhstan to the north; Kyrgyzstan to the northeast; Tajikistan to the southeast; Afghanistan to the south; and Turkmenistan to the southwest. Along with Liechtenstein, it is one of only two doubly landlocked countries. As a sovereign state, Uzbekistan is a secular, unitary constitutional republic. It comprises 12 provinces and one autonomous republic. The capital and largest city of Uzbekistan is Tashkent. The Uzbek economy is in a gradual transition to the market economy, with foreign trade policy being based on import substitution. In September 2017, the country’s currency became fully convertible at market rates. Uzbekistan is a major producer and exporter of cotton. With the gigantic power-generation facilities of the Soviet era and an ample supply of natural gas, Uzbekistan has become the largest electricity producer in Central Asia. Renewable energy constitutes more than 23% of the country’s energy sector, with hydroelectricity and solar energy having 21.4% and 2% respectively. As of late 2018, the republic was given a BB- rating by both Standard and Poor (S&P) and Fitch. Strengths indicated by Brookings Institution include Uzbekistan having large liquid assets, high economic growth, and low public debt. Among the constraints holding the republic back are low GDP per capita, something the government could influence by changing how it accounts for sectors of the economy not currently included.   read more…

Theme Week Turkey

18 April 2020 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Theme Weeks, UNESCO World Heritage, Union for the Mediterranean

Levent business district in Istanbul © Derrick Brutel/cc-by-sa-4.0

Levent business district in Istanbul © Derrick Brutel/cc-by-sa-4.0

Turkey is a transcontinental Eurasian country located mainly on the Anatolian peninsula in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan peninsula in Southeastern Europe. East Thrace, the part of Turkey in Europe, is separated from Anatolia by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus and the Dardanelles (collectively called the Turkish Straits). Istanbul, which straddles Europe and Asia, is the largest city in the country, while Ankara is the capital. Turkey is bordered on its northwest by Greece and Bulgaria; north by the Black Sea; northeast by Georgia; east by Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iran; southeast by Iraq; south by Syria and the Mediterranean Sea; and west by the Aegean Sea. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of the country’s citizens identify as Turkish, while Kurds are the largest minority, at between 15 to 20 percent of the population.   read more…

Theme Week Vietnam

23 March 2020 | Author/Destination: | Rubric: General, Theme Weeks, UNESCO World Heritage

Nha Trang beach © ntt/cc-by-sa-3.0

Nha Trang beach © ntt/cc-by-sa-3.0

Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is the easternmost country on the Southeast Asian Indochinese Peninsula. With an estimated 95.5 million inhabitants as of 2018, it is the 15th most populous country in the world. Vietnam shares its land borders with China to the north, and Laos and Cambodia to the west. It shares its maritime borders with Thailand through the Gulf of Thailand, and the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia through the South China Sea. Its capital city is Hanoi, while its most populous city is Ho Chi Minh City, also known by its former name of Saigon.   read more…

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