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Mongolia: Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Mongolia: Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It borders Russia to the north and the People’s Republic of China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only 24 miles (38 km) from Kazakhstan’s eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest city, is home to about 38% of the population. Mongolia’s political system is a parliamentary republic.

The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Rouran, the Gökturks, and others. The Mongol Empire was founded by Genghis Khan in 1206. After the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty, the Mongols returned to their earlier patterns. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Mongolia came under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism.

At the end of the 17th century, most of Mongolia had been incorporated into the area ruled by the Qing Dynasty. During the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Mongolia declared independence, but had to struggle until 1921 to firmly establish de-facto independence, and until 1945 to gain international recognition. As a consequence, it came under strong Russian and Soviet influence: In 1924, the Mongolian People’s Republic was declared, and Mongolian politics began to follow the same patterns as Soviet politics of the time. After the breakdown of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in late 1989, Mongolia saw its own Democratic Revolution in early 1990, which led to a multi-party system, a new constitution in 1992, and the – rather rough – transition to a market economy.

At 1,564,116 square kilometres, Mongolia is the nineteenth largest and the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with a population of around 2.9 million people. It is also the world’s second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by steppes, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Approximately 30% of the country’s 2.9 million people are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The predominant religion in Mongolia is Tibetan Buddhism, and the majority of the state’s citizens are of the Mongol ethnicity, though Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other minorities also live in the country, especially in the west. About 20% of the population live off less than US$1.25 per day.

Independence

With the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Mongolia under the Bogd Khaan declared independence in 1911. However, the equally newly-established Republic of China claimed Mongolia as part of its own territory. The area controlled by the Bogd Khaan was approximately that of the former Outer Mongolia.

The 49 hoshuns of Inner Mongolia as well as the Mongolians of the Alashan and Qinghai regions expressed their willingness to join the new country, but to no avail. In 1919, after the October Revolution in Russia, Chinese troops led by Xu Shuzheng occupied Mongolia. However, as a result of the Russian Civil War, the White Russian adventurer Baron Ungern led his troops into Mongolia in October 1920, defeating the Chinese in Niislel Khüree (Ulaanbaatar) in early February 1921.

In order to eliminate the threat posed by Ungern, Bolshevik Russia decided to support the establishment of a communist Mongolian government and army. This Mongolian army took the Mongolian part of Kyakhta from the Chinese on March 18th, 1921, and on July 6th Russian and Mongolian troops arrived in Khüree. Mongolia’s independence was declared once again on July 11th, 1921. These events led to Mongolia’s close alignment with the Soviet Union over the next seven decades.

Democracy

The introduction of perestroika and glasnost in the USSR by Mikhail Gorbachev strongly influenced Mongolian politics leading to the peaceful Democratic Revolution and the introduction of a multi-party system and market economy. A new constitution was introduced in 1992, and the “People’s Republic” was dropped from the country’s name. The transition to market economy was often rocky, the early 1990s saw high inflation and food shortages. The first election wins for non-communist parties came in 1993 (presidential elections) and 1996 (parliamentary elections).

Transportation

The Trans-Mongolian Railway is the main rail link between Mongolia and its neighbors. It begins at the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia at the town of Ulan Ude, crosses into Mongolia, runs through Ulaanbaatar, then passes into China where it joins the Chinese railway system in Jining. A separate railroad link connects the eastern city of Choibalsan with the Trans-Siberian Railway; however, that link is closed to passengers after the Mongolian town of Chuluunkhoroot.

Mongolia has a number of domestic airports. The only international airport is the Chinggis Khaan International Airport near Ulaanbaatar. Direct flight connections exist between Mongolia and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and Germany. MIAT is Mongolia’s largest carrier in Mongolia and provides both domestic and international flights.

Most overland roads in Mongolia are only gravel roads or simple cross-country tracks. There are paved roads from Ulaanbaatar to the Russian and Chinese border, and from Darkhan to Bulgan. Some road construction projects are currently underway, for example construction of the east-west so-called Millennium Road.

Languages

The official language of Mongolia is Khalkha Mongolian, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet, and is spoken by 90% of the population. A variety of different dialects are spoken across the country. In the west the Kazakh and Tuvan languages, among others, are also spoken.

The Russian language is the most frequently spoken foreign language in Mongolia, followed by English, though English has been gradually replacing Russian as the second language. Korean has gained popularity as tens of thousands of Mongolians work in South Korea. Interest in Chinese, as the language of the other neighbouring power, has been growing. Japanese is also popular among the younger people.

A number of older educated Mongolians speak some German, as they studied in the former East Germany, while a few speak other languages from the former Eastern Bloc. Besides that, many younger Mongolians are fluent in the Western European languages as they study or work in foreign countries including Germany, France and Italy. Mongolian is one of the Mongolic languages. Mongolic is frequently included in the Altaic languages, a group of languages named after the Altay Mountains that also includes the Turkic and Tungusic languages.

Religion

According to the CIA World Factbook[31] and the U.S. Department of State[32], 50% of Mongolia’s population follow the Tibetan Buddhism, 40% are listed as having no religion, 6% are Shamanist and Christian, and 4% are Muslim.

Various forms of Tengriism and Shamanism have been widely practiced throughout the history of what is now modern day Mongolia, as such beliefs were common among nomadic people in Asian history. Such beliefs gradually gave way to Tibetan Buddhism, but Shamanism has left a mark on Mongolian religious culture, and continues to be practiced. Amongst the Mongol elite of the Mongol Empire, Islam was generally favored over other religions, as three of the four major khanates adopted Islam.

Throughout much of the twentieth century, the communist government ensured that the religious practices of the Mongolian people were largely repressed. Khorloogiin Choibalsan complied with the orders of Joseph Stalin, destroying almost all of Mongolia’s over 700 Buddhist monasteries and killing thousands of monks.

The fall of communism in 1991 restored the legality of public religious practice, and Tibetan Buddhism, which had been the predominant religion in the region before the rise of Communism, again rose to become the most widely practiced religion in Mongolia. The end of religious repression in the 1990s also allowed for other religions, such as Islam and Christianity, to spread in the country. According to the Christian missionary group Barnabas Fund, the number of Christians grew from just 4 in 1989 to around 40,000 as of 2008.

Culture

The main festival is Naadam, which has been organised for centuries, consists of three Mongolian traditional sports, archery, horse-racing (over long stretches of open country, not the short racing around a track practiced in the West), and wrestling. Nowadays it is held on July 11 to July 13 in the honour of the anniversaries of the National Democratic Revolution and foundation of the Great Mongol State.

Another very popular activity called Shagaa is the “flicking” of sheep ankle bones at a target several feet away, using a flicking motion of the finger to send the small bone flying at targets and trying to knock the target bones off the platform. This contest at Naadam is very popular and develops a serious audience among older Mongolians. In Mongolia, the khoomei, or throat singing, style of music is popular, particularly in parts of Western Mongolia.

The ornate symbol in the leftmost bar of the national flag is a Buddhist icon called Soyombo. It represents the sun, moon, stars, and heavens per standard cosmological symbology abstracted from that seen in traditional thangka paintings.

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What to do in Frankfurt, Germany – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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What to do in Frankfurt, Germany – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Frankfurt am Main commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2008 population of 670,000. The urban area had an estimated population of 2.26 million in 2001. The city is at the centre of the larger Frankfurt/Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region which has a population of 5.3 million and is Germany’s second largest metropolitan area.

In English, this city’s name translates into “Frankfurt on the Main” (pronounced like “mine”). A part of early Franconia, the inhabitants were the early Franks. The city is located on an ancient ford on the river Main, the German word for which is “Furt”. Thus the city’s name receives its legacy as being the “ford of the Franks”.

Situated on the Main River, Frankfurt is the financial and transportation centre of Germany and the largest financial centre in continental Europe. It is seat of the European Central Bank, the German Federal Bank, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and the Frankfurt Trade Fair, as well as several large commercial banks.

Frankfurt Airport is one of the world’s busiest international airports, Frankfurt Central Station is one of the largest terminal stations in Europe, and the Frankfurter Kreuz (Autobahn interchange) is the most heavily used interchange in continental Europe. Frankfurt is the only German city listed as one of ten Alpha world cities. Frankfurt lies in the former American Occupation Zone of Germany, and it was formerly the headquarters city of the U.S. Army in Germany.

Among English speakers the city is commonly known simply as “Frankfurt”, though Germans occasionally call it by its full name when it is necessary to distinguish it from the other (significantly smaller) “Frankfurt” in the state of Brandenburg, Frankfurt (Oder).

Population

As a major center of international commerce, Frankfurt is a multicultural city, home to people of 180 nationalities. In addition to the ethnic German majority, the city contain sizable immigrant populations fromTurkey, Albania, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Pakistan, Italy, Spain, North African countries, Iran, and Lebanon. The Frankfurt area is also home to the second-largest Korean community in Europe, and to Germany’s largest Sri Lankan Tamil community.

For a long time Frankfurt was a Protestant-dominated city. However, during the 19th century an increasing number of Catholics moved to the city. Today a small minority of its citizens are Catholic. According to the Central Council of Jews in Germany, there are 7,300 Jews affiliated with Judaism in Frankfurt, giving it the second largest Jewish community (behind Berlin) in Germany.

Geographic location

The city is located on both sides of the River Main in the south-west part of Germany. The southern part of the city contains the Frankfurt City Forest (Frankfurter Stadtwald), Germany’s largest forest within a city. The centre of Frankfurt is located on the north side of the river.

Neighbouring communities and areas

To the west, Frankfurt borders the Main-Taunus-Kreis (Hattersheim am Main, Kriftel, Hofheim am Taunus, Kelkheim (Taunus), Liederbach am Taunus, Sulzbach (Taunus), Schwalbach am Taunus and Eschborn); to the northwest the Hochtaunuskreis (Steinbach (Taunus), Oberursel (Taunus), and Bad Homburg); to the north the Wetteraukreis (Karben and Bad Vilbel); to the northeast the Main-Kinzig-Kreis (Niederdorfelden and Maintal); to the southeast the city of Offenbach am Main; to the south the Kreis Offenbach (Neu-Isenburg) and to the southwest the Kreis Groß-Gerau (Mörfelden-Walldorf, Rüsselsheim and Kelsterbach).

City divisions and districts

The city is divided into 46 Stadtteile or Ortsteile which are again divided into 118 Stadtbezirke. The largest Ortsteil is Sachsenhausen-Süd. Most Stadtteile are incorporated suburbs (Vororte), or previously separate cities, like Höchst. Some like Nordend arose during the rapid growth of the city in the Gründerzeit following the unification of Germany.

Others were formed from settlements which previously belonged to other city divisions, like Dornbusch. The 46 city divisions are combined into 16 area districts or Ortsbezirke, which each have a district committee and chairperson.

History of incorporation

Until the middle of the 19th century, the city territory of Frankfurt consisted of the present-day Stadtteile of Altstadt, Innenstadt, Bahnhofsviertel, Gutleutviertel, Gallus, Westend, Nordend, Ostend, Riederwald and Sachsenhausen. After 1877, a number of previously independent areas were incorporated into the city, see list of current districts of the city.

Airports

The city is accessed from around the world via the Frankfurt Airport (Flughafen Frankfurt am Main) which is located 12 km (7 mi) from the city centre. The airport has three runways and serves 265 non-stop destinations. It ranks among the world’s top ten airports and is the biggest cargo airport in Europe. The airport also serves as a hub for German flag carrier Lufthansa.

Depending on whether total passengers or flights are used, it ranks as the second or third busiest in Europe alongside London Heathrow Airport and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. Passenger traffic at Frankfurt Airport in 2007 was 54.2 million. The airport can be reached by car or bus and has two train stations, one for regional and one for long-distance traffic. The S-Bahn lines S8 and S9 (direction “Frankfurt (Main) Hbf”, “Offenbach Ost or “Hanau”), departing at the regional traffic station take 10–15 minutes from the airport to the Central Station and the city centre, the IC and ICE trains departing at the long-distance traffic station take as well 10–15 minutes.

Despite the name, Frankfurt Hahn Airport (Flughafen Frankfurt-Hahn) is not located anywhere near Frankfurt but is instead situated approximately 120 km (75 mi) from the city in Lautzenhausen (Rhineland-Palatinate). This airport can only be reached by car or bus. An hourly bus service runs from Frankfurt Central Station, taking about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Last year over 4 Million Passengers used this airport in order to use Low Cost Airlines like Ryanair.

Frankfurt Egelsbach Airport is a busy general aviation airport located south-east of Frankfurt International Airport, near the town of Egelsbach.

Roads

The streets of central Frankfurt are usually congested with cars during the rush hour. Some areas, especially around the shopping streetsZeil, are pedestrian-only streets. There are numerous car parks located throughout the city.

Frankfurt is a traffic hub of the German Autobahn system. The Frankfurter Kreuz is an Autobahn interchange close by the airport where the Autobahnen A 3 (Cologne-Würzburg) and A 5 (Basel-Hannover) meet. With approximately 320,000 cars daily it is the most heavily used interchange in Europe. The A 66 connects Frankfurt with Wiesbaden in the west and Fulda in the east. The A 661 starts in the south (Darmstadt), runs through the eastern part of Frankfurt and ends in the north (Bad Homburg). The A 648 is a very short Autobahn in the western part of Frankfurt.

Railway stations

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (or short Ffm Hbf) is the largest train station in Germany by number of platforms and railway traffic. Regarding daily passenger volume it ranks second together with München Hauptbahnhof (350,000 each) after Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (450,000). It is located between the Gallus and the Bahnhofsviertel, not far away from the Trade Fair and the financial district (Bankenviertel).

It serves as a major hub for long-distance trains (ICE) and regional trains (all Rhine-Main S-Bahn lines, two U-Bahn lines, several tram and bus lines). Local trains are integrated in the Public transport system Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV), the second largest integrated public transport systems in the world. Only the Berlin integrated public transport system (VBB) is larger.

Frankfurt Airport Long Distance Station connects Frankfurt International Airport to the main rail network, most of the ICE services using the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed rail line. It is one of two railway stations at the airport, the other is for local S-Bahn (lines S8 and S9) and regional trains, called Frankfurt Airport Regional Station.

The two major stations in the city centre are Hauptwache and Konstablerwache, both located on Frankfurts most famous shopping street, the Zeil.

Public transport

The city has two underground railway systems: the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn, as well as an above-ground tram system. Information about the U and S Bahn can be found on the RMV website.

Nine S-Bahn lines connect Frankfurt with the Rhine Main Region. All lines have a 30 minute service during the day but the majority of the routes are served by two lines thereby offering a 15 minute schedule. All lines, except line S7, run through the Frankfurt city tunnel and serve the stationsOstendstraße, Konstablerwache, Hauptwache, Taunusanlage and Frankfurt Central Station. When leaving the city the S-Bahn travels above ground. It provides access to the Frankfurt Trade Fair (S3-S6), the airport (S8, S9), the stadium (S7-S9) and nearby cities such asWiesbaden, Mainz, Darmstadt, Rüsselsheim, Hanau, Offenbach am Main, Bad Homburg, Kronberg and smaller towns that are on the way.

The U-Bahn has seven lines serving the city centre and some larger suburbs. The trains that run on the line are in fact lightrails as many lines travel along a track in the middle of the street instead of underground further from the city centre. There is only one line (U4) that is completely underground. The minimum service interval is 2.5 minutes, although the usual pattern is that each line runs with a 7.5-10 minute frequency which combines to approx 3–5 minutes on the city centre sections served by more than one line.

Frankfurt has 9 tram lines, with trams arriving usually every 10 minutes. Many sections are served by two lines, combining to give a 5 minute frequency during rush-hour. The tram runs only above ground and serve more stops than the U-Bahn or the S-Bahn.

A number of bus lines complete the Frankfurt public transportation system. Night buses take over the service of the U-Bahn and tram at 1:30 am to 3:30 am on Friday and Saturday nights.

Taxis

Taxis can be found outside most S-Bahn or U-Bahn stations and major intersections. The normal way to obtain a taxi is to either call a taxi operator or go to a taxi rank. However, although not the norm, one can hail one on the street.

Bicycles

Deutsche Bahn also rent out bicycles to the public. One finds them at many major road intersections and railway stations. All one has to do is make a phone call to hire them for €0.06/min or they can be hired per day for €15,-. The bicycles are a bit heavy but they do haveshock absorbers to ensure a smooth journey. The silver-red colour of the bikes with their unique frame make them easily visible and difficult to steal.

The public can now use a velotaxi which involves the operator using a tricycle with a sheltered passenger cab. There is room for two people and the service covers all of the city centre.

Frankfurt has also a network of modern cycle routes throughout city. Many of the long distance bike routes into town have dedicated cycle tracks. A number of city centre roads are “bicycle streets” where the cyclist has the right of way and where motorised vehicles are allowed access if they do not disrupt the cycle users.

Every first Sunday in the month there is a Critical Mass cycle event which starts at 2 pm at the Old Opera.


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Krakow – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Krakow – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Kraków. It is one of the largest and oldest cities in Poland and a popular tourist destination. Its historic centre was inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites as the first of its kind. Situated on the Vistula river (Polish: Wisła) in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural and artistic life, and is one of Poland’s most important economic centres. It was the capital of Poland from 1038 to 1596, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Kraków from 1846 to 1918, and the capital of Kraków Voivodeship from the 14th century to 1999. It is now the capital of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship.

The city has grown from a Stone Age settlement to Poland’s second most important city. It began as a hamlet on Wawel Hill, and was already being reported as a busy trading centre of Slavonic Europe in 965. With the emergence of the Second Polish Republic, and throughout the 20th century, Kraków reaffirmed its role as a major national academic and artistic centre, with the establishment of new universities and cultural venues.

After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany at the start of the Second World War, Kraków was turned into the capital of Germany’s General Government. The Jewish population of the city were moved into a walled zone known as the Kraków Ghetto, from which they were sent to extermination camps such as Auschwitz and Płaszów.

In 1978, the same year UNESCO placed Kraków on the list of World Heritage Sites, Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, was elevated to the papacy as John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, and the first ever Slavic pope.

Geography

Kraków lies in the southern part of Poland, on the Vistula River, in a valley at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, 219 meters (719 ft) above sea level; half way between the Jurassic Rock Upland (Polish: Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska) to the north, and the Tatra Mountains 100 kilometers (62 mi) to the south, constituting the natural border with Slovakia and the Czech Republic; 230 km west from the border with Ukraine. There are five nature reserves in Kraków, with a combined area of ca. 48.6 hectares (120 acres).

Due to their ecological value, these areas are legally protected. The western part of the city, along its northern and north-western side, borders an area of international significance known as the Jurassic Bielany-Tyniec refuge. The main motives for the protection of this area include plant and animal wildlife and the area’s geomorphological features and landscape. Another part of the city is located within the ecological ‘corridor’ of the Vistula River valley. This corridor is also assessed as being of international significance as part of the Pan-European ecological network. The city centre is situated on the left (northern) bank of the river.

Demographics

Krakow had a recorded population of 756,441 in 2008. According to the 2006 data, the population of Kraków comprised about 2% of the population of Poland and 23% of the population of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship. Selected demographic indicators are presented in a table (below), compiled on the basis of only the population living in Kraków permanently.

In the 1931 census, 78.1% of Cracovians declared Polish as their primary language, with Yiddish or Hebrew at 20.9%, Ukrainian 0.4%, German 0.3%, and Russian 0.1%. The ravages of history have greatly reduced the percentage of ethnic minorities living in Kraków. The official and unofficial numbers differ, as in the case of Romani people. Hence, according to the 2002 census, among those who have declared their national identity (irrespective of language and religion) in Kraków Voivodeship, 1,572 were Slovaks, followed by Ukrainians (472), Jews (50) and Armenians (22). Romani people, officially numbered at 1,678, are estimated at over 5,000. Statistics collected by the Ministry of Education reveal that, even though only 1% of adults (as per above) claim their official status, as many as 3% of students participate in programmes designed for ethnic minorities.

Parks

Planty is the best-known park in Kraków. It was established between 1822 and 1830 in place of the old city walls, forming a green belt around the Old Town. It consists of a chain of smaller gardens designed in various styles and adorned with monuments. The park has an area of 21 hectares (52 acres) and a length of 4 kilometers (2.5 miles), forming a scenic walkway popular with Cracovians.

The first public park equipped with exercise fixtures was founded in 1889 by Dr Henryk Jordan on the banks of the Rudawa river. The Jordan Park, equipped with running and exercise tracks, playgrounds, swimming pool, amphitheatre, pavilions, and a pond for boat rowing and water bicycles, is located on the grounds of Kraków’s Błonia Park. The less prominent Park Krakowski was founded in 1885 by Stanisław Rehman but has since been greatly reduced in size because of rapid real estate development. It was a popular destination point with many Cracovians at the end of the 19th century.

Transport

Public transport is based around a fairly dense network of tramway and bus lines operated by a municipal company, supplemented by a number of private minibus operators. Local trains connect some of the suburbs. The bulk of the city’s historic area has been turned into a pedestrian zone with rickshaws and horse buggies; however, the tramlines run within a three-block radius.

Rail connections are available to most Polish cities. Trains to Warsaw depart every hour. International destinations include Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Hamburg, Lvov, Kiev, and Odessa (June–September). The main railway station is located just outside the Old Town District and is well-served by public transport.

Kraków airport, (John Paul II International Airport Kraków-Balice, Polish: Międzynarodowy Port Lotniczy im. Jana Pawła II Kraków-Balice) is 11 km (7 mi) west of the city. Direct trains cover the route between Kraków Główny train station and the airport in 15 minutes. The annual capacity of the airport is estimated at 1.3 million passengers; however, in 2007 more than 3.042 million people used the airport, giving Kraków Airport 15 percent of all air passenger traffic in Poland. The passenger terminal is undergoing extension and is being adapted to meet the requirements of the Schengen Treaty.

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