It is enough to test anyone's faith, or prove to others that there is only man and nature – that there is no God. Churches of all things, rising out of lakes and rivers, submerged in gallons of water – the lovingly carved pews and altars ruined, the places where so many knelt and prayed for help or forgiveness a home to weeds and fishes now.
Photo: Markus Bernet
These churches were flooded and drowned by men's own doing, in their cavalier hurry to change nature's path for dams and reservoirs.
7. Potosi, Venezuela
The cross of the church in Potosi, Venezuela, is all that's left of the town that was deserted by citizens when the government made plans to build the La Honda dam. The president at the time, Carlos Andres Perez, flew in to the village of 1,200 in 1985, but in the words of Josefa Garcia, a former resident: “He said we'd all be expropriated and we had to leave. It took our hope away."
These drowned churches have a way of re-emerging, though, often as a result of nature's rather than man's doing. In 2010, El Niño – an abnormal warming of ocean surfaces – caused a drought, and the church in Potosi appeared. The facade was the only thing left intact.
Photo: Juan Tello
6. St. Nicholas Church, Macedonia
The church of St. Nicholas in Mavrovo, Macedonia (FYROM - former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) was built in 1850 and stood for a 153 years until it was decided an artificial lake was needed in the village. At one point the church was fully submerged, but it keeps rising again, especially in summer with the droughts of the 21st century. Is nature or fate trying to tell us something with these reappearances? The churches might appear to be rising as if by God's hand, refusing to stay put in their watery graves.
Photo: Imir Kamberi
5. Church of the Holy Rosary, India
A surreal and beautiful sight, the Church of the Holy Rosary in Karnataka, India emerges and sinks beneath the waters every year. This is a story that intertwines a church built in the 1860s, near Hassan, with a dam built in the 1960s. The church was left behind when the village was moved to make room for the Hemavathy Reservoir, but it appears after the monsoons. During the rainy season, it then slowly sinks back to wait until it is time to rise again and show its charm and grace – not to mention its excellent masonry!
Photo: Bhaskar Dutta
4. Church of Old Petrolandia, Brazil
Petrolandia is a town in Brazil near the river of Sao Francisco, which was moved – or at least part of it was – when a dam was built. The only thing left standing is the church, which is a crazy but beautiful sight, like a predatory fish opening its maw to eat.
Photo: Andre Estima
Photo: Andre Estima
3. Church of Krokhino, Russia
The Church of Krokhino, in the former village of Vologda Oblast, Russia, was built between the border of the Sheksna River and Lake Onega, according to photographer, Sharon. It is very old, having been built in the 15th century, but was flooded in the 1980s when the Soviets constructed a hydroelectric plant nearby. It is still standing, though, after all these years, with enough left for us to imagine what it would have looked like new.
Now in ruins, the church is a haunting sight. The architecture you can see was beautiful in its prime but has a different sort of beauty now. The building has become a popular tourist attraction.
2. Church of Lake Reschen, Italy
The Reschensee is an artificial lake near the Austrian border that completely submerged the village of Graun and its church in 1950, except for the 14th-century bell tower. The lake is 72-feet deep, and the church was mostly demolished the week before the area was flooded, yet the tower still stood and still stands today, peeking out above the surface of the water. Legend has it that you can still hear the church bells ringing during winter when the lake freezes over.
The people of Graun tried hard to save their village, but to no avail, and 163 homes and 1,290 acres of farmland were drowned because of an electrical company's wish to build a dam. The spire is all that remains of the dreams and aspirations of those who once lived there.
Photo: Petr Drápalík
1. Kalyazin Bell Tower, Russia
The Kalyazin bell tower is all that's left of the monastery of St. Nicholas, built between 1796 and 1800. According to Wikipedia: "It is considered a symbol of old Russia which disappeared after the revolution." In 1939, Stalin decided to flood the town to make a reservoir in the Volga River. The abbey itself was dismantled. However, when tourists became interested in seeing this unlikely sight, the government shored up the bell tower and made a little islet for it where boats can dock. It is a beautiful and imposing site, especially when thinking of all those who toiled on its construction, only for it to be drowned due to the will of other men.
Photo: Michael Clarke
These sunken churches speak to the ability of man to build wondrous places, as well his capacity to destroy. We flood whole villages for dams and reservoirs, but somehow the churches still stand, unconquerable above the water's surface. A fact of nature, or a message from God?
Castles are already pretty impressive, even when they're not perched atop a mountain. But put them at the edge of a cliff, and you've elevated their awe-inspiring beauty to a whole new level. Touting amazing architecture and great historical significance, these eight structures are sure to impress any traveler.
Swallow’s Nest—Crimea, Ukraine
Built out of wood in the late 19th century as the private quarters—and rumored love nest—for a retired Russian general, this romantic castle, situated on a 130-foot-tall cliff overlooking the Black Sea’s Ai-Todor cape, was modified to its current stone structure in 1912 by oil big-wig Baron von Steingel. Though threatened by an earthquake in later years, the landmark—which is surrounded by swallows and white-winged seagulls—now houses an Italian restaurant.
Aragonese Castle—Ischia, Italy
Built by Hiero I of Syracuse in 474 B.C., this castle, located on a volcanic rock in the Tyrrhenian Sea near Naples, was home to the citizens of Naples up until the 15th century. After fortified walls were erected around the castle to defend against pirates and a stone bridge was built connecting it to Ischia, the islet became part of the town and thrived through the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, this impressive structure (accessible through a tunnel) is the most visited attraction on Ischia.
To the best of historians’ knowledge, Alcazar was built as an Arab military fortress in the 12th century and over the years has acted as a nobleman's retreat, a prison and an artillery school. This “royal residence” is known for many of its architectural features, including its shape (like the bow of a ship), its largest tower (built by and named after King John II around 1260) and its sharp slate spires (added by King Phillip II around 1587). Now open to tourists year round, it is home to the Spanish General Military Archives.
Gyantse Fortress— Gyantse, Tibet
Constructed in the 14th century, this dzong (Buddhist-style fortress) is one of the best-preserved examples of this type of architecture in all of Tibet. Sitting high on gray-brown rock above Gyantse (the third-largest trade town at the time) and Lhasa (a spiritual epicenter where many Dalai Lamas have lived, including the current one until he went into exile), it was originally built to protect both towns from attack.
Gillette Castle—East Haddam, CT, United States
With local fieldstone, the Gillette Castle was built from 1914 to 1919 as a private residence for American actor William Gillette. Taken over by the state government in 1943 after Gillette failed to name an heir in his will, it was declared public property and renamed Gillette Castle State Park. Recently refurbished at the cost of $11 million, tourists can both wander the estate as well as tour the inside of the castle from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.
Peñafiel Castle—Valladolid Province, Spain
A once crucial point of military defense on the Duero river in north-central Spain, this fortress originally belonged to the Christians and then the Moors until it was usurped and renamed by Count Sancho Garcia during the Reconquista. At 600 feet long, 90 feet high and slightly off center, its unique architectural style has been called gran buque meaning “great ship.” Today it can be visited, but only by a guided tour that's in Spanish.
Dar Al Hajar (Rock Palace)—Wadi Dhahr, Yemen
Located in Sana’a, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, this five-story fortress-like mansion was built as a summer residence in the 1930s by Imam Yahya, who ruled the country until his 1948 assassination. Since he built the “Rock Palace” amidst prehistoric ruins, there is some debate whether he can be given full credit as the architectural mind behind it. Now open to the public, it has since become an identifying symbol of Yemen for travelers.
Many of us love to travel but don't love the negative impact our traveling has on the environment. All the cars, trains and planes we use require energy and are ever-increasing our carbon footprint. And while going on vacation may still require hopping on a plane or getting in the car, there are plenty of destinations to visit that can contribute to saving the environment.
We've picked out the top choices for eco-tourism destinations throughout the world. Not only are these spots home to some of the rarest species of plants and animals, but a visit to them could help preserve their beauty for years to come.
Best known for its savannas teeming with wildlife, Botswana is a top destination for nature lovers looking to go on safari. From the lush vegetation in the Okavango Delta up north to the deserts down south, the country has a variety of habitats and wildlife ready to explore. With a growing number of eco-tourism groups, there is ample opportunity to explore the many national parks and nature reserves by boat, four-wheeling or backpacking.
Snorkelers and scuba divers will love the numerous underwater adventures waiting for them in Belize. Visitors have the opportunity to view the Mesoamerican Reef, the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere, complete with chances to view the elusive whale shark and other rare fish species. To help protect the reef and support sustainable fishing, local fishermen have formed a preservation group called the Friends of Nature which has already helped sustain grouper and snapper populations. For those looking to get on land, the area is also home to a tropical forest and several Mayan ruins.
3. Galapagos Islands
Photo: John Foxx/Thinkstock
Located off the coast of South America, this UNESCO Biosphere is home to many rare species of birds, reptiles and sea life. With over 95 percent of the islands protected, eco-tours to this region insist on minimal impact to the sensitive eco-systems. Visitors can swim alongside penguins and sea lions or go on a hike to a volcano, many of which are still active.
4. Coral Bay, AU
Nestled on the coast of Western Australia, Coral Bay is a marine paradise home to Ningaloo Reef, the nation’s largest and most accessible fringing reef. Just off shore, the reef is easily reached by swimming. Numerous boat tours are also available to view dugongs and humpback whales in the area. A breeding ground to manta rays and whale sharks, the reef provides snorkelers and divers with the opportunity to swim with some of the sea’s most majestic creatures.
5. Kaikoura, NZ
Photo: Kim Westerskov/Getty Images
Originally a whaling town, Kaikoura has put its days of unsustainable fishing practices behind with a number of green initiatives as a part of its Green Globe 21 tourism certification. With a strong emphasis on conservation and community involvement, the town offers many green activities run by the locals, including wilderness walks to the surrounding mountains and a one hour tree planting activity. There are also a number of eco-tours that provide guests with a chance to view the region’s sperm whales and endangered dusky dolphins.
Photo: Stan Osolinski/Getty Images
Usually associated with luxury and wealth, Dubai is not your typical eco-hotspot. However, guests can still enjoy the simplicities of the outdoors by staying at the Al Maha Desert Resort, located on the grounds of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Initiated in the 1960’s, the reserve protects over 33 species of mammals and reptiles, including the endangered Arabian oryx. Almost near extinction 50 years ago, the oryx is on its way to recovery with the reserve’s wildlife re-introduction efforts.
Photo: Anup Shah/Thinkstock
Adventure and travel company, Green Discovery Laos, has been offering travelers over 100 unique activities and tours since 2000. With tours in seven different regions and 20 national parks, visitors can explore many different types of terrain by bike, boat or even elephant. Day tours are available but many of the packages include overnight camping.
A tour of newly renovated McDonald’s units around Tampa, Fla., revealed details of the fast food giant’s plan.
Credit: Richard T. Nowitz/Corbis
McDonald’s has touted much about its plan to revamp most of its 14,000 domestic locations, ditching the bright colors and iconic roofs of the past for ultramodern interiors and exteriors.
However, a recent tour of newly renovated McDonald’s units around Tampa, Fla., revealed new details of the quick-service giant’s plan.
Securities analysts Larry Miller of RBC Capital Markets and Jeffrey Bernstein of Barclays Capital, who participated in the tour, noted not only the new facades, digital menu boards and fancy new seating, but also several operations-minded upgrades, including a new POS system and dual drive-thrus meant to speed service times and boost throughput. They also learned more about the costs involved in the reimaging plan.
Based on reports by the two analysts, here are seven things industry watchers may not know about McDonald’s undertaking:
1. Reimaging work also includes plenty of rebuilding
McDonald’s expects to upgrade 800 restaurants in 2011, including 600 reimages to interiors and exteriors as well as 200 total rebuilds or relocations, Miller and Bernstein wrote in their reports. The company completed 100 upgrades in the first quarter and is projecting another 100 in the second quarter, implying an aggressive expansion of the program in the second half of the year.
Miller, Bernstein and others toured reimaged units in Clearwater and Brandon, Fla., which required four to six weeks of construction to upgrade, as well as a rebuilt location with McDonald’s new interior and exterior flourishes in Seffner, Fla. The rebuilt restaurant opened in November 2010 after construction began the prior August. The securities analysts noted that either the dining room or drive-thru remained open throughout construction.
2. Not all restaurants will be revamped
Miller and Bernstein both said 1,800 locations of McDonald’s more than 14,000 domestic restaurants have the new look and feel, and there is plenty more opportunity for upgrading the system. About 6,100 units are candidates for reimaging and another 2,500 could be rebuilt or relocated, the analysts wrote.
However, nearly 4,000 McDonald’s locations will not be considered for remodels, Miller wrote. About 1,000 units do not generate sufficient volume to justify the investment, while another 2,600 locations are nontraditional units, like on-site restaurants in Walmart stores, which are not candidates for the program, he said.
3. Costs for reimages vs. rebuilds
The average cost to reimage a McDonald’s restaurant was $550,000, with a range between $400,000 and $700,000 depending on the location and condition of the unit, the analysts wrote. In these cases, McDonald’s Corp. contributed 40 percent of the cost of the remodel, or an average of about $220,000.
A restaurant needing to be rebuilt or relocated required more capital expenditures from both McDonald’s and its owner-operators. Those investments ranged between $1.7 million and $2.1 million, including about $1 million to $1.2 million from McDonald’s Corp. and about $700,000 to $900,000 from franchisees.
4. Impact on sales
Miller of RBC Capital Markets estimated that the reimage and rebuild efforts could add 50 basis points a year to McDonald’s annual same-store sales over the next several years. Both he and Bernstein of Barclays Capital wrote that a reimaged restaurant experienced an average same-store sales increase between 6 percent and 7 percent above the rest of the market in the first year, while totally rebuilt units had same-store sales increases between 15 percent and 20 percent.
“The rebuild we visited in Tampa cost a total of $2.4 million and saw average unit volumes rise from $4.1 million prior to the rebuild to $4.8 million today, a 17-percent increase, though we note the store has only been open for six months,” Bernstein wrote.
That 5,766-square-foot restaurant had 128 seats, he noted.
5. Revamps include operational improvements
The new interiors and exteriors at upgraded McDonald’s locations are crucial to creating the chain’s new look and feel, but some design updates also improve efficiencies and throughput, Miller and Bernstein both wrote.
For example, a new POS system being rolled out to all domestic McDonald’s units is a simplified, icon-based model that should cut down the time and cost needed to train crew members and increase speed of service, they said. Capacity also will be bolstered in remodeled or rebuilt units, using various kinds of seating — wood tables replace fiberglass ones, and the steel chairs of the past will give way to wooden chairs and stools, some with faux leather — to fit more customers without needing to increase the location’s square footage drastically.
The double drive-thrus at the three Tampa-area restaurants the analysts toured not only handled more volume with two ordering lines, but also increased accuracy with a system that photographs the driver and car of each order. McDonald’s said some restaurants would be able to move through an additional 50 cars per hour in incremental traffic during peak periods, Bernstein wrote.
6. International upgrades increase confidence
McDonald’s officials have shared in previous earnings calls that moves to refurbish restaurants in international markets, particularly Europe and Australia, have shaped McDonald’s strategy to remodel its domestic system. Miller wrote that Australia’s 800-unit system has grown sales since its complete upgrade and that sales of new products in Australia outperform sales in non-refurbished markets.
The improved décor has a positive menu shift in Australia, “allowing McDonald’s Australia to reshape itself for consumers and therefore sell more premium products,” Bernstein added. “Management expects the reimaging efforts in the United States to similarly allow for future flexibility.”
The Financial Times reported this week that McDonald’s European division would upgrade its POS system to self-service, touch-screen terminals that could read swiped payment cards and would replace many cashiers. McDonald’s Europe president Steve Easterbrook told the newspaper that the new payment systems are designed to shorten transaction times and to collect consumer data in the same way that supermarkets glean ordering habits from the use of loyalty cards.
7. Signage is what’s next
Bernstein wrote that signage, including the iconic golden arches making the McDonald’s “M,” would be the “next frontier” in the chain’s ongoing campaign to update its image.
“During our tour, we noted that even the reimaged restaurants had the old ‘M’ and outdated line-by-line product and promotional advertising,” he wrote. “With 50 percent of customers making their dining decisions while on the road, management believes it is crucial to modernize the signage, both aesthetically and technologically, including a digital board underneath the ‘M.’”
McDonald’s officials told Bernstein that such new signage is being tested in a few locations and that costs for that investment could range from $30,000 to $100,000 depending on the size of the sign and property, excluding the digital board.
By Mark Brandau, The Daily Meal