ABU DHABI ( Francisco Motto, 21st Century)


This work of art was made by a famous artist from Spain called Francisco Motto. It represents a modest area of Abu-Dhabi. The author was born in Madrid in 1945, lived in Monzón until he was 29 years old. Motto practices a type of painting that approaches the hyperrealism of current frame, personal composition, linear perspective and balanced colour and composition full of difficulties. The most typical landscape that predominates in his paintings are urban spaces and interiors.

The chosen city is on the north-eastern part of the Persian Gulf in the Arabian Peninsula. The climate is so hot, because of the desert, as well as we can observe blue skies throughout the year. Abu Dhabi´s rapid development and urbanization, coupled with the relatively high average income of its population, has transformed the city into a large and advanced metropolis. The architecture is lofty because of big gardens, mosques, enormous business buildings…

It could be said that the streets are laid out in a grid plan. The buildings in the picture could be understood as a residential periphery which were added in the second half of the XX century and it is formed by groups of compact constructions. This neighbourhood could be located in the suburban area of the city.

The image portrays the city of Abu-Dhabi with a great amount of details. It is a modest street in the suburbs of the city dedicated to quotidian activities like shopping, with cars driving across a big avenue. Both sides of the picture show us everyday nature far from luxury and opulence well-known in Abu-Dhabi. The bottom of the picture shows us high skyscrapers made of opulent materials and in the foreground we can see some buildings with a different morphology. On the right side there are various blocks of flats with different shapes and light colors, most of them with balconies.

There is a typical palm tree in the middle of the pavement which does not seem to match with the rest of landscape. That is the reason of the hot dessert climate with cool seasons from November to March, on average, January is the coolest month in the year, while August is the hottest.

The left part of the picture is divided in two sides, one a road with cars stuck in traffic, allowing access to the wealthy area visible at the back of the picture. The second one is a park line separating again the hustle and bustle of the quiet community. The strong point of the picture is the enormous puddle which capture all our attention due to the fact that the artist allows us to see better chromatic variety than the real image.

It is curious to point out that the image shows the less known part of Abu-Dhabi nothing to do with spectacular malls, cars and lavishness of the city, taking in count that Abu Dhabi´s government is looking to expand revenue from oil and gas production to tourism and other sorts of things which would attract different types of people.

Alejandra Gutiérrez Rodríguez



CATANIA (Antonio Stizza, 1592)

GEOB2- Martín-Figueredo

The picture we are going to talk about was made by Antonio Stizza in 1592 and finally published in 1598, so it represents the city of Catania in the end of the 16th century.

Catania is a city located on the east coast of Sicily, Italy, next to the Ionian Sea. Catania is actually the capital of the Metropolitan area of Catania that is one of the biggest cities in Italy, and the second one in Sicily after Palermo. Catania was founded in the 8th century BC, as a Greek colony and it has been destroyed at least seven times because of the eruptions of Etna volcano and several earthquakes. It was also the first city of Sicily in having a university, that was founded in 1434 by Alfonso V of Aragón.

The Greek geographer Strabo said that the presence of the Mount Etna has bad and good things. On one hand, the eruptions of Etna caused a lot of suffering and destruction, but on the other hand the ashes made a fertile soil, especially good for the vines. Therefore, agriculture is one of the most important economic activities developed in Catania.

We must say that the city we know nowadays as Catania is not as the Catania that we see in the picture made by Stizza. First of all, in 1669 the city suffered the eruption of Mount Etna. The population was almost saved because the city walls stopped the lava and most of it diverted into the port. The eruption of the volcano was so terrible that even the Nicito lake, which was in the limits of the city, and had a circumference of around six kilometers was covered up with lava. The east part of the city was seriously damaged. What is more, in 1693 Catania suffered an earthquake that destroyed the city. Then, a big part of the city was reconstructed over the ruins of the old Catania, according to the Baroque architecture that nowadays characterizes it.

Catania has a subterranean river, the Amenano. When the Greeks founded Catania as a colony, they decided to establish their settlement there because it was at the edge of the Amenano river. After the earthquake of 1693 and the reconstruction of the city, the river was covered by the new city.

We can also see in the picture a clear example of a medieval city. As we can observe the streets looks narrow and disorganized. This is the result of a disordered growing. Another example that makes us think about Catania as a medieval city is the city walls. The city walls were important in those times because they were used for defense and, if someone wanted to introduce something inside, he was forced to pay taxes for it. In addition, the city walls stopped and diverted the progress of lava while the eruption of Mount Etna in 1669, as we said before. Nevertheless, the left part of the picture seems like having an orthogonal plan, maybe because the Romans established there a colony after the First Punic War until the decline of the Roman Empire in the 5th century.

One of the most important urban elements that we can see in the picture is the Cathedral dedicated to Saint Agatha, to be seen at the bottom. This Cathedral was originally constructed between 1078 and 1093, over the ruins of the Roman Achillean Baths, by order of King Roger I, who conquered the city from the Islamic Emirate of Sicily. However, the Cathedral was completely destroyed in 1693, as the result of the earthquake, so the Cathedral we can see nowadays is not the same because it was reconstructed in Baroque style. The bell tower was built in 1387 and it was 70 meters high. After the destruction of 1693 they added a huge bell of 7.5 tonnes, being the third biggest one in Italy.

The harbour is also is noticeable. It was was the main point for trading and getting new things that came from other countries. Greeks decided to establish there their colony because it was well-located, next to the Italian peninsula, and not so far away from Africa and Greece.

Another interesting place in Catania is the Castello Ursino that we can see in the left corner at the bottom of the city. It was built in the 13th century as a royal castle for the King of Sicily. After the Sicilian Vespers, the castle was the residence of Frederick III of Sicily, son of Peter III of Aragon who fought in the Sicilian Vespers against the French army commanded by Charles I of Anjou. The moat that was surrounding the castle was also filled up with lava after the huge eruption of Mount Etna in 1669.

Juan Martín Figueredo



QUEBEC (George Louise Le Rouge,1755)


According to Earl Jodeph, D. This picture was done by George Louise Le Rouge in 1755. The drawing is about the views of Quebec from Saint Laurent river and shows some significant parts of the city. This is one of the oldest cities in North America, since it was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608.

Quebec is situated to the east of Canada, a region with a great variety of landscapes from the Appalachian to the Laurentian mountain ranges. concretely, it is located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, it is the most navigable canal on the east coast of Canada and delivers various economic activities such as fishing, farming, mining, hunting and trade. Its historical walled center is named as Old Quebec, in French Vieux-Québec. The official language of Quebec is French although there is a small part of the English-speaking population. In addition, it counts on a population mainly catholic due to the time of the French colonization. Actually, the French colonizers had to be careful because of the serious rivalry with the British Company of Hudson Bay.

At the beginning, Quebec had a linear type of urbanism along the coast of the Saint Laurent river. In the image we can see different parts that form the urban structure of Quebec. We will begin by describing the fortress that is related to the letter A in the image. This one was created on a rocky cliff to allow the defense of the city before American attacks. The fortress nowadays is still in use and serves as the residence of the officer of the Governor General of Canada. Today it is possible to enjoy as a tourist the change of the royal guard. The citadel is organized as a sort of star over the Upper City. Thus the uneven plan with different heights, makes the plane of the city more irregular and therefore difficult to determine. Quebec is made up of narrow, rectilinear streets and around urban squares. In general, Quebec is divided in the Upper City, protected by a wall with bastions and whose functions are the administration and the cult; and a Low City that is composed of the port of Saint Laurent river. The first one is an example of a fortified colonial city, whereas the second one works essentially as a business district.

The most significant element of Quebec is the Chateau Frontenac, today part of a touristic resort. This hotel is one of the most striking architectural works created in 1893, which through its windows makes possible the vision of the green field where the battle between the French and English army took place. Another important building is The Seminary, created in 1633 by a religious vicar destined for the New France and in 1665 linked to the Seminary of the Foreign Missions of Paris. This institution was conceived as a “place of retreat, from which we can obtain and capable subjects to send them to all points according to the needs of the parishes and all other places of that country…”. However, the conquest of New France un 1760 caused the Jesuit school to be closed and to be used for teaching that would welcome all young people who wanted to being their academic education. Today it is a teaching institution in a position to respond to the expectations of a society that continues to evolve.

The cathedral of Notre-Dame Cathedral is another religious icons for Quebec. It is located in the town hall of the city. Not to mention the cathedrals of Mexico, it is one of the oldest religious buildings in North America. It was built in 1647 but was modified in 1843. The old design of the cathedral was by Jean Baillairgé, and the modification was made with the purpose of seeking the similarity with a Parisian church for that it emphasizes the neoclassical style in the facade . There was a restoration of it in 1922 since inside it began a fire that destroyed the basilica. It is currently considered a building of great importance and together with the Historic Center of Quebec are part of the World Heritage of Unesco.

Marta González García



VERACRUZ (Adrian Boot, 17th century)


This picture is a representation of the city of Veracruz, which is located in the east coast of Mexico, in the state of Veracruz. The author of the original image is unknown, as the image is not signed, although it is thought it could be a German engineer called Adrian Boot. This is because this picture has many similarities and a similar style with another representation of the Mexican city of Acapulco, which is, indeed, signed by A. Boot. This version is a chromolithography made in Florence in the year 1907. The exact date of the original version is also unknown, however, it is thought that it was drawn around the year 1620.

Veracruz is located in the east coast of Mexico, and it was the first city founded by European colonizers in Continental America. It was founded by Hernán Cortés through an expedition that took place in the year 1519. The first name given to the city was “Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz” (Vera Cruz meaning “the holy cross”).

One of the most remarkable elements that can be seen in the picture is the San Juan de Ulúa fort. This fortress was built in a small island next to the Mexican coast (island of San Juan de Ulúa), with the purpose of protecting the Spanish ships from the pirates. This was the first place the Spanish colonizers arrived to, and from here, they went on to the beach of what would be the city of Veracruz.

The city of Veracruz does not count with walls or barriers for protection it in the picture, even though there are documents and drawings that prove the city had defenses around the year 1590. This is because Veracruz was the objective of many attacks, given that it was the starting point of many ships loaded with gold and goods travelling to Spain. The pirate attacks were one of the main problems for the colonizers at the time, as they not only lost many of their goods, but the attacks usually ended up with rapes and assassinations.

Talking about the urban layout, there is a common characteristic every Spanish colonial city in Latin America. That is the grid plan; in other words, the streets are parallels and the buildings make square portions in between the crosses of the streets. Around the main street, which is in the central part, there can be seen the main buildings of the city, which are the churches and the “cabildo” (which can be compared to the current city halls). One remarkable characteristic of the city plan is the position of the port, given that it is far away from the urban part of the city, but with the intention of protecting it against attacks.

The outskirts of the city were destined to cropfields, barns, stockbreeding and other agrarian activities. Given the heavy catholic upbringing of the Spanish kingdom, the churches were one of the most important elements of a colonial city, as they were the symbol of the evangelisation of the land conquered by Spain. One of the most important ones is the convent of St. Francisco de Veracruz, which was built around the year 1580. It had a significant importance in the Veracruz port, as it was the place where the reunions between the sailors and the officers had to be hold.

Another significant building was the “cabildo”. The “cabildos” were the municipal institutions created by the Spanish colonizers to manage the cities. When a city was founded, the founder chose between its officers the most suitable to take the role of “alcalde” and “cabildo”. As it can be seen in the guide of the picture, they called them “casa del cabildo” (house of the cabildo).

The port of the city of Veracruz became, with the time, the opening door for the goods to travel across the Atlantic Ocean and into Europe. It became crucial, not only for Veracruz, but for other Mexican cities like Acapulco, Puebla or Ciudad de México, because it was the place where the exchanges between Europe and Continental America were made. The most significant materials found in Veracruz were gold and minerals, and this is one of the reasons why the city was initially called “Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz”.

Lucía Gómez Muñoz



CORUÑA (J. Cordine & J. Ximeno, 1792)

img blog

In this image called Bahía de La coruña by José Cordine and J. Ximeno (1792), we can see a fragment of the city of A Coruña in the XVIII century, where they appear the coast, the port, the Tower or Lighthouse of Hercules, the castle of San Antón and a settlement next to the coast. The historical origin of this city is dated in 1208, when Alfonso IX, king of Galicia and Leon, decided to build a new town near the lighthouse tower, for the usefulness of his kingdom. All the elements are strategically organized along the edges of the coast. Both sides we can appreciate castles or fortresses that serve for the protection of the city, placed in the centre.

Talking about the city, we can clearly see that it is preindustrial one with an irregular layout, and is divided into two different parts. The first one is the nucleus of the city, where houses are grouped irregularly and surely there are historical elements like a central square. The other part is situated along the coast and consists of the houses of the merchants or fishermen. In this case, the functions of the city determine its morphology and structure, considering that the seaside zone function was commercial and fishing, and that the function of the urban area was more related to residence and defense.

The coast and the port are two very important elements in the image since they represent the main form of commerce of the city in the time, maritime trade. The good Atlantic position of A Coruña favoured that it was an important commercial port that served as a stopover in the route from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. In the 15th century, the port of Cruña become the first port of Galicia, one of the most importants of Spain, and one of the main commercial ports in Europe; and its brand-new lighthouse was its international symbol of prosperity.

On the other side, there is the Tower of Hércules, previously called Farum Brigantium. Up to the Middle Ages, the city of Brigantium (whose name phonetically evolved from Brigantium to Breganzo and then to the medieval Betanzos) was the commercial and political capital of his territory, and the Farum Brigantium was the tower that watched and guided navigation at the entrance of its estuary. There are two versions about the origin of the Tower. The first is that of the Greco-Roman origin, which tells the story of Hercules as winner of Geryon (Gerión) whom he buries and over his head, so that his victory is remembered, he built the Tower. The second version is that of Phoenician origin, which defends Celtic culture and the legend of Breogán. The historians of this group admit that the present Tower is Roman, but that previously existed in that place another tower of Phoenician origin like guide or lighthouse (which appears in the legend of Breogán), and the Romans seeing its function, copied the idea and built the Tower that we still have today. Throughout the medieval period the main role of the Tower was to serve as a watchtower and stronghold at the same time. Its possibilities of point of observation and its defensive capacities could have turned it into a wanted good before the frequent incursions by sea, in spite of its semi-ruinous state. The city of A Coruña chose as a symbol of the city this Tower, that rises in front of the sea to more than 30 meters of height.

Finally, it appears the Castle of San Antón, which is located at the entrance of the port of A Coruña, which is today the Paseo de O Parrote. In the 16th century it worked as a fortress to protect the city from the English invasions. Since 1949 it is a Historical Artistic Monument thant was declared a Well of Cultural Interest in 1994. Its origin goes back to the sixteenth century and has been changing and adapting to the passage of the centuries passing for being fortress and prison, until becoming 1968 in Archaeological and Historical Museum of the city of A Coruña.

Alba Gallo Gijón


SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA (Anstalt Von Wagner, 1900)

GEOB2- Pinet- Garrido

This image represents the city of Santiago de Compostela in 1900. Its author is the geographer Anstalt Von Wagner, and the picture was published in Leipzig, a German city. Santiago de Compostela is located in the northwest of Spain, in the region of Galicia. It takes place between Pontevedra and La Coruña provinces, and belongs to the last one. In 1985, Santiago was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO because of the exceptional beauty of its old quarter. Moreover, this city is important because The Way of St. James which is a pilgrimage road departing from different places to arrive in the city with the aim of adoring the grave of James Apostle.

The origin of this city goes back to the 6th century, when it was a roman villa. Before that, it was built a mausoleum where it is supposed that the death body of James Apostle was buried. In the 9th century, King Alfonso II announced James Apostle as the patron saint of the kingdom, so the city was transformed in a devotion place. He ordered to build a chapel, which was placed next to the mausoleum, but some time later it was destroyed, so in 1075 the current Cathedral or Santiago was constructed. In later centuries, there were added some Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements, according to the artistic periods. In addition, in the 14th century the Cathedral acquired defensive elements, like The Clock Tower. In the period of the Renaissance, the final cloister was built. However, in the Baroque age, the High Altar experienced great transformations, and in 1750 the most important element of the cathedral, the facade of the Obradoiro, was finished. Nowadays, Santiago de Compostela is known as one of the most important cities of Spain in regards to its heritage.

In the image, we can appreciate the urban planning of the city, which is very irregular and clustered, typical of medieval cities. The most important element in the map is the cathedral, which is located in the centre of the old quarter. Around it, we can see some important buildings like The San Paio Convent, The San Martin Convent and The Hospital, which nowadays is a guesthouse. As you can see, the majority of the buildings are religious; there are a lot of convents and that is because of the story of the city. Moreover, we can appreciate some open spaces like the Alfonso XII Square, which is located in front of the cathedral, and the market square, which is called The Abastos Square. In the picture there are two avenues which are the principal routes to arrive in the city; at the south there is the one called Orense Road, and at the southwest is located the other one, which is called Vigo Road. Regarding the social spaces, we can find the University of Santiago from the 15th century, and the Theatre. Also, in the 19th century the city wall disappeared so it is not in the image.  In addition, there are some elements in the outskirts such as the Cuartel de Santa Isabel, the cemetery, the Galleys and Almásica Hills. Finally, the city was surrounded by two rivers, the Sar River from the north to the southwest and Sarela River, from the north to the south.

Concerning to the economy of Galicia at the end of the 19th century, it was very traditional because agricultural activities were highly predominant. This activity was the most significant and it was determined by a property regime based on a foral system. The land was divided in smallholdings of corn and rye as well as little farms used for self-supply that owned to some farmers and the clergy. The benefits were destined to the foral rent, the tithe, the feudal rent, and the rest was used to survive. However, the rent was not enough to survive, and the farmers had to practice supplementary activities as fish salting, tanning, iron working or even seasonal emigration. But some part of the lands was out of the foral system, and fundamentally they were pastures and marginal soils. Regarding to the industry, it was practiced in the seasons in where the agriculture was lower, normally at winter, and the products arrived to the peninsular market by the seasonal emigrants.

Comparing with the primary activities, the city just constituted a small part, and it was principally a residence for the landlords, the clergy and workers. There were just a few activities which conferred importance, like the modification of the A Coruña port as a headquarter of the sea mail between the peninsula and the American colonies or the creation of a tobacco factory. At the beginning of the 20th century, Galicia was characterized by a high concentration of the economic power in small sectors, a feudal system and an increasing emigration.

Natalia Pinet



MEDINA DEL CAMPO (Anton van den Wyngaerde, 1565)

imagen jpg

This picture is a view of Medina del Campo, depicted by Anton Van Den Wyngaerde (Amberes, 1512/1525 – Madrid, 1571), and preserved in the Fundación Museo de las Ferias. Wyngaerde was a Belgian landscape draftsman who formed himself as a painter in Netherlands and dedicated all his life to transmit what he observed through the drawing or painting, creating a collection of 62 sights of landscapes. Moreover, he did not only draw landscapes, he also accompanied to the Spanish troop in the wars against Enrique II from France with the purpose of representing war scenes like San Quintín in 1557. From that time onwards, Wyngaerde serviced to Felipe II of Spain, and most of the places that he drew were ordered by this king. According to Pedro Miguel Ibáñez Martín (2003) Wyngaerde did not visit those landscapes the same dates that Felipe II. Regarding Medina del Campo, he travels twice to there, one of them was in 1565 and the other was in 1570.

This cultural period is the Renaissance and Wyngaerde was one of the first city painter in that time. The main characteristic of his art is the meticulous work and the topographic image description that, apart from displaying beauty, also serve as graphic documents to know several urbanistic, economic, social and cultural aspects. In 1986 it was published a book about Wyngaerde’s works called Golden Age Cities, by Richard L. Kagan, and from this book onwards a lot of articles have been written about their drawings. As an example, we can stand out The Medina del Campo Urban Structure by Antonio Sánchez del Barrio that had been one of the first and more serious references to this author.

Medina del Campo is a township which is situated in Valladolid province, in Castilla y León, and is where Zapardiel river go across. Moreover, is the connection of a big number of railway and road networks. The name “medina” comes from the Arabic, and means the old part of an Arabian City, althoug the origins of this city are Pre-Roman. It was an important and privileged site due to the support given by King Alfonso X in 1258. Afterwards, King Fernando IV convene as first time the Courts in Medina, celebrating several sessions during the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1421, the definitive ordinances for the settlement and trade activities were written. It is in the end of the Middle Age when when the city succeeded thanks to its trade fair, that achieved at the top of the economic activities in the Iberian Peninsula. Therefore, this city became into a commercial center for a lot of traders and merchants from athe whole Castilla.

Medina del Campo has been growing along the centuries. The old town played a defensive role and it was located where is now the Mota Castle, on the top of the hill. The urban layout in that epoch was irregular, with narrow and step streets, and around this old town churches and monasteries were built, preferently in high zones to be protected from the possible flooding of Zapardiel river. The second old town was settled in the plain area towards the northwest and, this time, with agricultural and ranching objectives, meaning with rural character. Little by little the urban network was forming. The third town is the current one, on the other side of Zapardiel river. In this case the purposes were commercial and thanks to it the city witnessed a huge urban expansion between the 14th and 15th centuries. In the south sector was created a town extension with residential buildings following a more regular plan, but over time that regularity going disappearing. Among the neighborhoods of Medina the most popular is Saint Thomas.

Medina del Campo has always had a city wall that over the time has been expanded. The first wall was built in the 12th century and its origin was Islamic. The  original wall was around the Mota Castle, on top of the hill, though later it was spread out to the plain zone of Medina, in order to protect wider areas of the growing city.

After the Christian reconquest and its advance, new lands were available for pasture, due to this Spanish economy strongly empowered the cattle sector, and mainly the  ovine breed. Medina del Campo grew as well thanks to it and a big cattle market is held  twice a year, turning into  one of the most important and known markets within Europe. This allowed the city to obtain some privileges, a but also noble people and kings visited Medina started to visit Medina on a regular bases. With regards to Agriculture its most important crops are cereal plants and vine. This city was very famous due to its trades fair, which were held for fifty days. The products exhibited there were wines, oils, condiments, pearls, and the most special product was wool. Overtime businessmen and finance profeesionals become more important than traders and merchants. In the second middle of sixteenth century economical crisis  caused the fall of  trade fairs.

A large artistic heritage exists nowadays, such as the Mota Castle (an Islamic castle built formed by four towers and an interior squared courtyard), San Antolin Church  (is the major and main church in the city and it was Collegiate during 1480 and 1855), the church of Santa María la Real, San Miguel church (one of the most important temples in the city with a rectangular footprint and two naves) and San Juan de la Cruz chapel.

Beatriz Guzmán Serrano



BUCHAREST (Morphart, 1890)


This engraving of the year 1890, by Morphart, represents the city of Bucharest. The capital of Romania is located in the fertile plain of Valaquia, southern part of the country, on the banks of the rivers Dâmbovia and Colentin. The image shows the state in which some of the buildings were conserved around the year 1890, many of them of French and medieval style. In the picture it is described with many details the way of life at that time. 

Bucharest is one of the most famous historical cities in Romania for its history, its culture, the places, the river and the gardens that it hides. It is known as the Paris of the Balkans, a city that, for various warlike reasons and different natural disasters referred mainly to several earthquakes and fires during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, has had to be reinvented and rebuilt. In this image, we can appreciate a highly rural space. Actually, in the 19th century Bucharest was a large village with a type of housing dense and nucleated, characterized by a lot of clustered buildings and a crowded population. As I mentioned before, it had an irregular layout with very narrow and small streets, as well as buildings of varied sizes and shapes.

Regarding the urban structure, we can find in the right part of the image the old quarter; around that one there are different houses and finally, we can see the outskirts. Among the most important urban spaces and elements, we can highlight a part of the city wall for defense and taxes. In the 19th and 20th centuries the city walls were been demolished and substituted by a ring-road. Thanks to this expansion, large boulevards lined with trees and flowers, large parks and open spaces were constructed. Some of the most important buildings to be appreciated in the picture are the Romanian Athenaeum, the CEC Palace, the University, the Redu Voda Monastery and the Old Court. This one was rebuilt as one of the most important monuments in the city, and was located in the middle of a neighborhood full of merchants and artisans. Also, the Palace of Justice, the Town Hall and the Old Parliament, built in 1900, are relevant monuments. Some of the most outstanding churches are Stravropoleos, from the 18th century, and the Cathedral, from the 17th century. In addition, outside the limits of the city we can find the old monasteries of Snagcov, Cernica, Pasarea, Caldarusani and Tiganesti.

In Bucharest, as well as throughout the Romanian region, the majority population consisted of day laborers who, in the 19th century, were in precarious conditions due to the loss of land due to natural disasters. Agriculture was and is an economically relevant sector and was very important in the nineteenth century when Romania was the main barn of Central and Western Europe, being the cereals the essential product of its agriculture.

This city has always benefited from its strategic position on the main transcontinental trade routes. Many of the goods from Europe were transported from Bucharest and shipped to different Danube river ports to be shipped to other points in the Balkans or to Asia. Since the 14th century different trade fairs with products from all over the world were celebrated. All this was sold in the caravanserai, constructions created by the princeps, by the nobility, by rich merchants or even by monasteries as a means of sustenance. The first caravanserai of Bucharest was built in 1669 and a century and a half later, in Bucharest there were more than 40 caravanserais of all kinds, the largest of which, was next to the Old Court. However, from the mid-nineteenth century they began to be replaced by stable weekly markets.

The population of Bucharest has been very varied over time. At the end of the 18th century there were about 30,000 inhabitants, doubling its population in only 40 years, in 1877 reaches 177,000. Unfortunately, during World War II and the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, the city lost part of its charm and its most important constructions; although fortunately, many of its green areas were conserved, reason why Bucharest can be considered a garden city.

As additional information, after comparing this image of Bucharest in the year 1890 with others in the same space and time, we did not find remarkable differences. In contrast, if the comparison is made with current images, we can appreciate a much more built city. We can appreciate a clear and drastic evolution and expansion from the nineteenth century to our days, moving from a rural space to an urbanistic space. Since the fifteenth century, Bucharest has undergone many changes. Moreover, until the 20th century, it was a very rural and medieval space, but after the Romanian Revolution it prospered until becoming a very important city, being the capital and most populated city of Romania, as well as its main industrial, commercial center and cultural. Nowadays, Bucharest is the most prosperous city in Romania and one of the major industrial and transport centers in Eastern Europe. Regarding the images of this decade it is not possible to appreciate Bucharest in its entirety since the engravings are usually centered on a specific part of the city or on specific monuments.

Sandra Úbeda Otero



GDANSK (19th Century)

 geo-skills-topographical-map-vicens-vives para blog

The picture depicts the city centre of Danzig (Gdansk in Polish), West Prussia, Germany (now Poland). The picture is part of the collection of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division on Washington, D.C., and was made in the late 19th century. It is a color photochrom print, a style which was common on Europe, Middle East and North America and was published from 1890s to 1910s, created by the Photoglob Company in Zürich, Switzerland and the Detroit Publishing Company.

The image shows the Long Market, a square surrounded by buildings and its environment. It is possible to appreciate that the space around the main square is full of people making trades and spending their leisure time on market areas. It shows also the vegetation, ornamental plants and the beautiful monuments used to magnify the view, such as the Court House. The shape of the space is linear and open, so that the street connects the end of Long Lane and Green Gate to the channel port.

The original city plan was irregular, typical in the medieval European center cities. The city was built around the commercial port, once settled in the first growths along the river, spread following a rectangular plot generating an old cultural center. This is an area where there are mannor houses and important infrastructures, that are the symbols of the city. The market street, as it was renewed in Modern Times, is the main axis of the residential and port area. From this new residential focus came new expansions that were planned radially and delivered various stages of expansion.

Regarding the city itself, Gdansk (Danzig) is a large harbour city located on the Baltic Sea coast, founded around one thousand years ago. It is renowned for its beauty and dramatic history. For over seven centuries it was under the rule of Poland, but enjoyed considerable autonomy, and attracted many German, Dutch, French, Scottish, and other immigrants who became merchants, artisans and workers, and remained faithful to Poland in tough times. The origin of the city dates to Mieszko I who founded the town in 980s, by the Piast Dinasty setting the trade routes of the Baltic Sea.

The city became a full member of the Hanseatic League (it was a commercial confederation of merchant and market towns) and raised as a maritime force and a center of commerce under the Teutonic knight’s dominancy (1308–1454). The new rulers attracted settlers from Germany and the town enjoyed a period of economic and cultural prosperity. Gdansk had the main export port and it was a commercial center of wheat and timber. Historically, the main economic activities of Danzig were fishing, amber processing, metal extraction and crafts such as metalworking or shoemaking.

Throughout history, Poland has suffered a lot of divisions with the neighbouring countries which caused migrations and demographic changes. During the second partition of Poland in 1793, the resistance of Gdansk’s citizens delayed the capture of the city by the Prussians. The politic context in which the picture was taken dates back some decades after Napoleon declared Gdansk to be a Free City in 1807; because after his downfall, the city was annexed again to Prussia (Germany, after its unification in 1871).

It is also important to know about the Polish corridor (Gdansk corridor). This zone comprised the north of the country, what is known as Pomerania. Historically it has been a very quoted area because the opening to the sea. At the root of the Treaty of Versailles (1919) the area returned to Polish dominion after a long time. One of the reasons for the beginning of the Second World War by Germany was the consequent strategic loss of this territory and the part of connection of the Baltic Sea. It was in Westerplatte (a peninsula in Gdańsk harbor channel) where the Second World War actually began.

Roberto Maderuelo Karwowski