Wednesday, March 6, 2013

UNUSUAL HOTEL #5: AUSTRIA'S INCREDIBLE AQUA DOME

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While Langenveld, Austria is known for it's cross-country skiing, its here of all places, amid the snow covered mountains that visitors may rather choose to take a swim. Why? Its the location of the 4-star Aqua Dome Wellness Hotel. Here guests can choose from outdoor pools, saunas, baths and steam rooms for ways to relax.

The dome-ceilinged, glass-walled thermal spring hall Ursprung (Origins) is the main indoor area with two pools and a huge waterfall. From there, you swim via two canal pools to the amazing outdoor area, Talfrische (Freshness Valley). With its illuminated structures and steaming vessels it resembles the potion-making lab of a gigantic but friendly sorcerer. The two canals lead to a cone-shaped illuminated tower. From there you proceed to the three bowl pools that look like gigantic martini glasses. Bobbing in one of these eight-metre-high bowls that are 12 to 16 meters in diameter, you can gaze upon the Alps and contemplate your good fortune (via).
The three levitating UFO-shaped outdoor pools are the most unique features of the Hotel. These pools were constructed to give the swimmer a further sense of weightlessness in addition to their natural buoyancy. The three pools consist of the whirl bowl, the sulfur bowl and the brine bowl. The whirl bowl has a whirlpool effect that is ideal for relaxation. In the sulphur bowl, sulphurous water runs into it every 15 minutes and massage benches can be found all around the edges. The brine bowl has a salt content of 5% with underwater music and light effects. The water temperature of the bowls varies between 32° to 36°. 

The thermal indoor pools are just as impressive. Two big pools, filled with 34° and 36° Celsius warm, sulphurous thermal water makes for healthy bathing throughout the whole year. The Thermal indoor area also includes huge windows – that offers panoramic views of the surrounding nature – a waterfall, solaria and heat oasis.

Under the name Gletschergl├╝hen, the Aqua Dome also offers an equally diversified and sophisticated sauna world. The earth sauna, inside a pine wood cabin, is extremely hot and can reach about 90°, however, because its half embedded into the earth, it makes the heat bearable. The other saunas include a glacier cave with ice rain and a stimulating Kneipp trail.

The Aqua Dome offers a separate water world for children and families, the Alpen Arche Noah. This area has two large swimming pools, a water slide, a playroom, an underwater camera and even a cinema. The hotel also has a fitness centre and offers hiking and activity programmes and is renowed for its fine dining and luxurious rooms.

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Visit The Aqua Dome Website for more information.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

ALBEROBELLO – ITALY'S HOBBITON

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The rows of whitewashed pitched-roof abodes are like something out of a fairy-tale. One glance at the Italian village of Alberobello and you might just think you have stumbled on Mediterranean Middle-earth Hobbit dwelling. This argitectural style, known as Trulli, is unique to the Apulia region of Italy. This style of architecture can also be found in the Italian villages of Locorotondo, Fasano, Cisternino and Martina Franca.

In 1644, the King of Naples sent tax collectors intermittently to the Puglia region, near the town of Alberobello. Although under the rule of the Spanish, the Kingdom of Naples was a powerful force in Italy at the time and one of the biggest cities in all of Europe. Fearing the immense power of the Kingdom, the local lord Count Acquaviva, needed to create a feudal settlement that could be dismantled easily to avoid a settlement tax. To accomplish that end, he forced local people into trullo houses that could be easily taken apart.

After years of feudal control by Acquaviva, the town of Alberobello finally overthrew the count and were granted royal town status by the King of Naples. Although they threw out their overseer, they kept the style of their house and the town has remained close to its roots for the last 200 years (via).

The architectural elements that distinguish Trulli from any other buildings are: the stone arcs, the cones, the ledges, the chimney pots, the gutters, the flat-stone roofs and the pinnacles. Most remarkable is also the symbols (monograms, emblems, initials and magical signs) used mostly on the roofs for decoration.

The whole structure is built with local limestone and no mortar. Made of concentric stone rings, the Trullo's roof is laid on the supporting structure, with a slight overhang towards the interior. The floors are the natural stone. The structure is painted white, while the roof, designed to  facilitate the flowing of the rain water, remain unpainted. Rain water is channeled towards an underground cistern. The pinnacle on top of the Trullo is not only for decorative purpose, but it also locks the last layers of stone in place. There are two walls, an interior and an exterior, with the gap in between filled with rubble that serves as an excellent insulation during winter and is cool during summer. The fireplaces and stoves are built into the walls, so no heat is wasted.

Alberobello's unique beauty and characteristics makes it a popular tourist destination. The Trulli represents one of the most extraordinary examples of Italian folk architecture. Alberobello currently has approximately 11 000 inhabitants whereof 1 500 trulli are still lived in. Some have been converted to restaurants, shops holiday houses or hotels. In 1996 it was declared an UNESCO world heritage site.
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Sources:
Atlas Obscura
Trullishire

Friday, March 1, 2013

THE INCREDIBLE FLOATING ISLANDS OF PERU

The Uros tribe, in Peru, South America, live most of their lives on man-made floating islands. Their living arrangements can easily be one the most unique in the world. The people of the Uros tribe has created these islands on the isolated Lake Titicaca for protection against stronger tribes. Tortura reeds are interwoven to create a dense foundation of about 2 m thick. To provide anchorage, large logs are drilled through the island into the floor of the lake, ropes are then attached to provide stability.  

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The Uros tribe also uses the reeds to build their huts and their boats. In many ways the reeds have become their livelihood. Iodine is produced from the reeds and sold. They are also used for general medicinal purposes – when wrapped around a painful part of the body, the pain is said to simply vanish. The flowers of the reeds are also used to brew coffee.

The Uros tribe have learned to overcome the many hurdles of island life. The islands needs regular maintenance and upkeep because the reeds rot and needs to be replace with fresh ones at least four times a year. Also, to avoid the reeds from catching fire, Uros avoids the open flame cooking method and instead opts for a more traditional method of making fire on top of a pile of rocks. A very small island near the larger ones serves the purpose of attending to nature’s calls.

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The Uros people represent a near-perfect community that has learned to live in great harmony with their surroundings but unfortunately, like many other unique cultures in the world, they are under threat from assimilation. They are said to have lost their own language half a century ago and now speak Aymara – the language of the mainland tribes. With the arrival of the Europeans the Uros were forced to pay taxes and also gave up many of their people as slaves.

Despite all the struggles they have been through over the years, the Uros are still thriving. Today Lake Titicaca is home to forty small islands and a large central one. The central island acts as the central point of the tribal community and also has a radio station that broadcasts for several hours of the day. Solar panels are installed on the homes help to run electronic appliances such as television sets. They also have several schools that provide education for children.

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