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From the Author

Let us pause for a while and take a peek at the fascinating wonders of nature, the majesty and the glory of God's creation and the spectacle of human engineering. Unfortunately, I cannot go to these places in as much as I want to so, I’m just taking this virtual expedition. I hope you can join me in this online adventure.

-Arnel S. Oroceo, the Author

Friday, February 18, 2011

Castel Sant’Angelo: from a Mausoleum, to a Fortress, a Castle, a Death Prison to a Tourist Museum

One of the finest and fascinating structures in Italy is the Castel Sant’Angelo. It is a tall cylindrical structure that stands in the city of Rome near Tiber River, the third longest river in Italy. I must admit that I’ve seen it only in pictures but the elegance of its architecture is undeniable.

In around 137 AD, the Roman Emperor Hadrian built Castel Sant’Angelo as a mausoleum for himself and his family. One year after his death, around 138 AD, his ashes were placed there together with those of his wife and son. Afterward, the remains of the Roman emperors that followed were also laid there of which the last on record was Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Bassianus.

The Castel also felt the atrocities of war. Emperor Flavius Augustus Honorius turned Castel Sant’Angelo into a military fortress against the invading Visigoth army but in 401 AD, Rome fell into the hands of Alaric I, the Visigoth’s king. They ransacked vital buildings including the Castel Sant’Angelo and scattering the urns and ashes in the tombs.

Later on, the popes turned the structure into a castle. It became a papal fortress, residence and a prison. In 1277, Pope Nicholas III built a fortified passage, which connected Vatican City to Castel Sant’Angelo. It served as a secret passage for Popes who are in danger. One of the most marked events in the history of Rome was the mutiny of Charles V’s (Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) troops in 1527. The gallantry of the Pope’s Swiss guards was renowned when they fought even though they were greatly outnumbered. Out of the 189 on duty, 147 were killed on the steps of St. Peter’s Bassilica and only 42 survived. Yet they were successful in defending Pope Clement VII. They escaped through the secret passage into the Castel.

Yet as a prison, its courtyards were witnesses to executions by decapitation and the heads of the condemned hung for days along the bridge as a cruel warning. One of those who were imprisoned in the Castel was Giordano Bruno, an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer, who was an advocate of the infinity of the universe. He was considered as a heretic and was burned at the stake during the Roman inquisition.

According to legend, Castel Sant’Angelo got its name when in 590 AD, Archangel Michael was said to have appeared on top of the Castel sheathing his sword, which they interpreted as a sign that would end the plague that hit the city. Previously, Rome suffered terribly from a catastrophic flood of the Tiber in 589, followed by an epidemic in 590.

Image Courtesy of:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Trout Lake in Costa Rica

I’ve been trying to find some romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day. I’ve seen a few but this one has captured my interest and roused my imagination. It’s the Trout Lake in Vara Blanca, Costa Rica.

Trout Lake

Rainbow Trout
It’s a fresh water lake where guests can fish. Every month, they fill the lake with rainbow trout. They provide fishing rods and you can have your catch cooked in any way you want either for lunch or dinner. Just thinking of having such a Valentine getaway is already thrilling to me. You can even order a cocktail while casting a line. It’s cool! You can have a refreshing swim in the lake and enjoy a dip into their two Jacuzzis.

Trout Lake

The Trout Lake is a part of the La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park. It’s a privately owned and managed ecological attraction in Vara Blanca, Costa Rica. It boasts of a 120-feet waterfall, a wildlife sanctuary with about 100 species of crawling and flying animals, a butterfly observatory where you can see 25 different species of butterflies numbering to about 4,000 flying creatures, and a hiking trail. It would be a breathtaking experience for a couple, definitely.

120-feet La Paz Waterfall

For more information about Trout Lake, try to check out their site. I’ve provided a link below.

Image courtesy of:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Gondolas of Venice

It’s Valentine’s Day in a few days. It is a special day for lovers and it is not unusual for them to look for a romantic getaway to celebrate the special occasion.

If I can afford it, I would love to take a gondola ride with my girlfriend around Venice but unfortunately I don’t have one and I can’t afford it.

A gondola ride around the Great Canal in Venice Italy would be a delightful experience. I remember when I’m in pre-school; our music teacher has taught us a song about the gondolas in Venice and the dashing gondoliers although I can hardly remember the song now. Since then, I’ve been so interested about the romance that the gondolas of Venice promise. I can say it is one of my romantic fantasies.

According to an article, a 40-minute gondola ride around the Great Canal in Venice would range to about 80 plus another €40 for a 20-minute extension. So roughly, an hour ride would cost €120. I guess, it’s all worth it! 

Images courtesy of the following:
(check out the sites for additional information about Venice and the Gondolas)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Taj Mahal: India’s Pride and Legacy

One of the most visited I guess of the wonderful and amazing structures in the world is the Taj Mahal in India particularly in the western region of Uttar Pradish, in the city of Agra near river Yamuna.

Taj Mahal is a mausoleum that remains to be one of the great wonders of the world. In fact, it is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The Persian Architect Ustād 'Īsā, has designed the monument for king Shah Jahan who has built the enthralling structure in 22 years, from 1630 to 1653 utilizing 20,000 workers, masons and jewelers.

The Tāj Mahal’s is actually a complex with many structures but the most prominent is the Dome, measuring 60 feet wide and 80 feet tall. Under the dome is the tomb of Mumtāz Mahal and later on, Shah Jahān's tomb has been built right next to hers after his death.

However, the thing that has struck me is the inspiration for its creation. King Shah Jahan has built it for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal who has died. Her memory has been so precious to the king that 22,000 men worked for it in hard labor and not withstanding using such a great amount of treasure and 22 years to complete it. It is an expression of an eternal love. It has been 380 long years since its ground breaking but the love that has brought it up remains and refreshes the hearts of those who come to see it.

Indeed, it is a masterpiece of love and devotion by a wealthy Mughal king to his beloved wife.

Info and Images courtesy of:

Panoramic View of Taj Mahal courtesy of:
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