Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valle de los Caídos

I would like to begin this post by pointing out that this was actually the first time I saw snow. Ever. Of course I took pictures of everything like a madwoman.

El Valle de los Caídos, which translates to the Valley of the Fallen, is a monument built by Francisco Franco between 1940 and 1959 in order to honor the fallen in the Spanish Civil War.

The entire complex, composed of a Basilica, a Benedictine Abbey, a hostelry, the valley, and the Juanelos, four cylindrical monoliths dating from the sixteenth century, covers an area of over 3,360 acres, and is over 3,000 feet above sea level.

The monument's most prominent feature is this cross, which measures 150 meters (500 ft) in height and is visible from over 20 miles away. It was, however, undergoing restorations, and so we weren't able to actually access it.

The basilica, formally known as the Basílica de la Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos (Basilica of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen), holds the tombs of Franco and José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Spanish Falange, a fascist political party from the 1930s. It also holds the bodies of 33,872 combatants from the Civil War, both republicans and nationalists. Unfortunately, the building isn't open for tourist visits, so photography wasn't allowed inside. Thankfully, the internet is a wondrous thing.

This is the main altar, located directly beneath the dome, which is itself directly beneath the large cross I spoke of before (I forgot to mention that the basilica is actually carved into the mountain).

The Archangels Raphael, Michael, Gabriel, and Azrael.

Beautiful as it is, the structure is wrought in controversy. There are records which speak of republican prisoners (20,000, by some sources) who lessened their sentences through this employment, following the formula "1 day of work = 2 fewer sentence days." Additionally, many of these political prisoners did not, in fact, ever have the opportunity to enjoy freedom, as the nature of the construction meant that there were numerous accidents every day, many of them fatal. If you'd like to find out more, simply click here.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


All ice hotels are reconstructed every year using snow and ice, and are held together with a substance known as snice, which is basically water in a state between ice and water that allows it to be used as mortar. While there are several of these buildings around the world, the first, and quite possibly my favorite, is the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden.

The building process begins ever year around mid-November. The snow is sprayed on huge inverted catenary-shaped steel forms and allowed to freeze. A few days later, these are removed, leaving a maze of free-standing corridors of snow. Rooms and suites are then created by partitioning the open space, and the art and design is added to the decoration. The ICEHOTEL opens in phases; the first phase opens in the beginning of December, and one section is opened every week until the beginning of January, when construction is complete.

The hotel features a bar, church, main hall, reception area, plus rooms and suites for over 100 guests. The furniture is sculpted out of blocks of ice in the form of chairs and beds. There are also warm accommodations available. Spanning more than 6,000 m², it is the largest hotel of ice and snow in the world. Each suite is unique and the architecture of the hotel is changed each year, as it is rebuilt from scratch. The Icehotel only exists between December and April, as it all melts away when Spring comes, and has been listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Sweden.

This is the Hôtel de Glace in Quebec, Canada.

The Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta, Norway.

Lainio Snow Village of Levi, Finland.

SnowCastle of Kemi in Kemi, Finland.

Oh, I want to go everywhere all at once<3
Click through for source.