Yazd, the desert city that caught the wind

Yazd, the metropolis in Iran that grew in the middle of the desert, is a very special place in an incredibly interesting and welcoming country. Centuries of improvements and adaptation to survive extreme climatic conditions, led the builders of the city to provide shapes and structures that look, to the eyes of an alien like me, out of this world.

Tall walls to project more shadow in narrow alleys, windows and apertures placed strategically to avoid the sun, and the fascinating windcatchers or Bagdirs standing above the roofs and domes in the horizon.

Windcatchers are nothing less than natural air conditioning without plugs or the use of mechanical devices, apparently invented by the old Persians several millennia ago. These imposing air cooling systems are especially big and varied in Yazd:

Yazd Iran
"A Windcatcher is an engineering architectural masterpiece to deal with the unbearable heat of the central Iranian plateau." (Mehdi Pirhayati, Azad University.)

These refrigerating devices have an specific size, orientation and number of apertures depending on the side from the wind is blowing at that different locations where are built.

Windcatchers Yazd
Zoom off. Go out to the street during the day in summer, and you'll melt at near 40ºC (104ºF). However, you'll have almost all the city only for you, while everyone is hidden, as nocturnal creatures, in their shelters in the shade.

The monumental symbol of Yazd and... a Peugeot 405 o Pars (they are everywhere), glowing in the sunset light.

Wind towers
Try to find a place to go up to the top of a roof to enjoy a skyline of windcathers, minarets and cupolas in all its glory.
Image by Ninara

Wind towers Iran
Don't forget to look up from time to time. One of these giants may be over your head.

According to Wikipedia, "The construction of a windcatcher depends on the direction of airflow at that specific location: if the wind tends to blow from only one side, it is built with only one downwind opening."

Water reservoir Iran
This is the dome of a traditional water reservoir (called Ab anbar), that can store water at near freezing temperatures during summer months. Windcatchers also provide ventilation to prevent water from rotting. Image by Terry Feuerborn

Water reservoir Yazd
To access the water, people had to go down a long staircase that could be around 20 meters deep.

Bagh-e Dolat Yazd
Bagh-e Dowlat is a residential palace from an old Persian ruler, that features the tallest wind tower (33 meters, 108 feet) in Iran. Image by Matt Werner

Bagdir Yazd
The same bagdir from inside below. This is a reconstruction after the original tower collapsed, due to an earthquake in the 1960s. Image by Reibai

Old town Yazd
The old town of Yazd is a great place to get lost wondering its labyrinthine plan. You'll find rewarding surprises at every corner. Image by Matt Werner

Old town of Yazd
Like this curious monument with a golden lion. The wood structure at the right has a religious function unknown to me. Do you have a more accurate idea about what is this for? Any Persian or Muslim in the room?

Bath house Yazd
This is another curious architectonic element that you may find exploring the old town: the roof of a nice restaurant, that used to be a bath house.

Yazd Bazaar
Under a crossroads inside the bazaar, there is this spectacular design, featured in our list of 40 magnificent ceilings from around the world. Image by Fulvio Spada

Mosque Yazd
Also you can visit a nice collection of mosques, a Zoroastrian Temple of Fire and the intriguing Tower of silence, where the dead were left to be picked clean by the vultures!

Travel Iran
Yazd and Iran in overall, are a total eye candy for the photographer.

Yazd is located between two other interesting destinations, Isfahan and Kerman. Buses are quite cheap and take around 3-4 hours. To cover the 625 kilometres (388 miles) by bus from the capital Tehran, it takes about 6 hours.
Also there are trains connecting Yazd with Teheran, Bandar Abbas and Mashhad.
From Yazd airport you can also fly to these three cities.

View the city of Yazd in a larger map

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Salina Turda, the most spectacular underground mine

We are entering a subterranean world that seems out of a crepuscular sci-fi movie. But descending the stairs that led you to the base of the immense cave carved in salt, you will soon forget about Blade Runner, once you hear the echo of people talking out loud form the top of a fun fair big wheel.

This vast space has been transformed into an underground theme park; You can play from minigolf to tennis table, there is a mini soccer ground, an amphitheatre for concerts and you can even row in the waters of a tenebrous lake.

Turda salt mine dates from the seventeenth century, but it was not opened as a tourist attraction until 1992. Located near Cluj-Napoca, the capital of the mythical and historical region of Transylvania (Romania), in 2009 it was refurbished to get the incredible futuristic design, that looks so good in pictures:

Salina Turda
The highlight of the visit is the dark salty lake, 400 feet deep into the Earth. Pictured, the fancy island in the middle of the lake from above.

Turda salt mine
The lake is at the bottom of the cone-shaped Terezia mine, that it's connected with the other big chamber (Rudolf Mine), through the colossal window that you can see in the top.

Salina Turda Romania
The biggest hall, Rudolf Mine, is 138 feet deep, 165 feet wide and 263 feet long.

The vertical structure in the background is a panoramic glass elevator, and at the left is the base of the big wheel.

Salt mine Transylvania
In this shot you can see the enormous aperture between both cavities (look at the size of the people in the balcony at the left).

Salt mine Romania
View of the bridge that links the island to the rest of the complex from the water.

Mine de sel Turda
Feel the oddity of this place renting a boat and trying to get to the darkest areas, near the walls.

Salzbergwerk Turda
It's considered that the salty environment is beneficial to health thanks to the specific micro climate and clean air condition, so some areas are used as spa treatment rooms.

Tordai Sóbánya
The legend says that the light rancid smell that can be appreciated in some galleries, like dirty socks in a student flat, are produced by the slow decaying corpses of a wagon of horses that fell into the lake.

Miniera di sale Turda
Also all the historical mining facilities have been preserved, like this octagonal room. This machine was the "engine" used for vertical transport, horse powered.

Mining colony
On the way out (or in depending from which entrance are you coming from), there is a corridor with a "mining colony from the moon" style...

Turda Salina
... that features these beautiful colors and shapes with a bit of light.

Batcave mine
A frustrated Batcave? Christopher Nolan was interested in filming here scenes for The Dark Knight Rises, but the location was finally discarded.


Te Waihou, a river out of a fairy tale in New Zealand

With a tropical look thanks to the exuberant vegetation, a dazzling display of colours, and a crystal clear water purified after over 100 years travelling underground, Te Waihou river is another hidden gem that most tourists pass by without exploring.

Te Waihou Walkway & the Blue Spring are located near Putaruru, going northwest from the rotten valley of Roturua, famous for being a stinky geothermal wonderland. You can find a map at the end of the post to help you to find this nice short walk, in the north island of glorious New Zealand:

Te Waihou

16 rare wooden churches from the Carpathians

In 2013, the UNESCO selected sixteen historical Wooden Tserkvas (as these peculiar churches are called), as new world heritage sites. Eight are on Polish territory and other eight in Ukraine. Their architecture, cultural environment and features are unique compared to other remarkable wooden churches like Kizhi in Russia, or the ones in Southern Lesser Poland.

These tserkvas were built between the 16th and 19th centuries to serve the Eastern Orthodox and Greek Catholic faiths, and were made from the timber of the great forests which covered most lands in Europe at that time. The location of most of them in remote rural villages in the Carpathian Region, between Poland and Ukraine, helped them to survive centuries of plundering and fire.

You can find a map with the location of the 16 Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region at the end of the post:

Wooden Tserkvas

Olkhon Island and the frozen waters of lake Baikal

For five months at the year, the unique lake Baikal in West Siberia, Russia, it's sealed by an ice sheet up to a meter thick. To have an idea of its size and importance, Baikal is a massive natural water reservoir: it contains one fifth of all the water found in the lakes and rivers of our planet.

Also, this is a popular stop in the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway, near Irkutsk. What is not so popular, is to go there during the bastard-cold winter, and to bring back these amazing shots, as the photographer Marco Fieber did:

Olkhon Island Frozen

The Monuments Men filming locations: where the Nazis kept the looted art

The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program was established by the Allied armies in 1943 to help protect cultural property in war areas during World War II. According to Wikipedia, about 400 service members and civilians worked with military forces to safeguard historic and cultural monuments from war damage. Also they found and returned works of art and other items of cultural importance that had been stolen by the Nazis or hidden for protection.

Directed by George Clooney and starring a distinguished troop of celebrities, the movie was filmed in UK and Germany. This production brings to the big screen the decisive moments, when many of the major cultural and artistic artworks of our civilization were about to be lost forever.

We will visit the locations where The Monuments Men was filmed, and also we'll travel to some of the places that played an important role in this story, based in the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.

Monuments Men filming locations

15 extraordinary reflected wonders

Below we present some outstanding examples of reflection photography, a compendium of small artworks, some of them from extremely popular monuments and tourist attractions, that otherwise we wouldn't show in this web.

Throughout the time we have been collecting and keeping stunning images for this special post, from the four corners of the world. Compositions with one thing in common and an artistic twist thanks to water, mirrors and other reflecting surfaces:

Hierve el agua in Oaxaca, Mexico

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