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TechnoTourist’s Engineering Expeditions

Want to travel the world, but don't have time to leave the office? TechnoTourist is here to save the day! Tag along while TechnoTourist visits famous engineering feats around the world. TechnoTourist will also investigate fascinating technologies that help to preserve and discover incredible travel locations. Maybe you could use TechnoTourist's insights to help you plan your next travel itinerary, or escape from the stresses of everyday life!

A Piece of Ireland in Texas

Posted August 23, 2016 12:00 AM by joeymac

Everyone knows that kissing the Blarney Stone over in Ireland is supposed to give a person the gift of gab and eloquence of speech. I was fortunate enough to do this back in May earlier this year. Now here's something that most people don't know. A small chunk of the Blarney Stone resides at Texas Tech University.

The small chunk is cemented on the top of a small pedestal on the campus. The origins of this piece are mysterious. The stone was uncovered by a group of engineers near the campus in 1939. It was tested and was found to be identical with the original Blarney Stone in Ireland.

No one knows how it got there and there are rumors and legends about it just like the one in Ireland. On a side note that I thought was interesting, the Texas Tech Engineering Society has decreed that no Texas Tech underclass engineers can kiss the stone, so seniors only.

7 comments; last comment on 08/25/2016
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Amsterdam's Canals

Posted July 13, 2016 12:00 AM by joeymac

When I went on my European trip another stop I made was to Amsterdam, and I was fascinated by all of the canals and bridges connecting to everything. Amsterdam is often referred to as the “Venice of the North” because of all its canals and bridges. Amsterdam has more than one hundred kilometers (62 miles) of canals, around 90 islands, and 1500 bridges. From an engineering standpoint I found it fascinating how the people constructed and designed these canals.

The design and success of the canals was due to smart and careful city planning. In the early part of the 17th century, a comprehensive plan was put together, calling for four main, concentric half circles of canals with their ends resting on de IJ Bay, known as the “grachtengordel” (the belt of canals). Three of the canals were mostly for residential development and a fourth, the outer canal, was for purposes of defense and water management. The city also planned a set of parallel canals in the Jordaan quarter for transportation of goods and more than one hundred bridges.

Construction of the canals proceeded from west to east, across the breadth of the lay-out and not from the center outwards as a popular myth has it. Construction of the north-western sector was started in 1613 and was finished around 1625. After 1664, building in the southern sector was started. The four main canals of the canal belt are: the Singel Canal, Herengracht Canal, Prinsengracht Canal, and the Zwanenburgwal Canal.

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Paris's Sewer System

Posted June 10, 2016 12:00 AM by joeymac

I’ve just returned from a trip to Europe and one of my stops was in Paris, France. We got poured on pretty good there, but I must admit that I feel lucky since we missed out on the Paris floods and were able to walk around and enjoy the sites. One of the things that I learned while on a tour that amazed me was that the city to this day cleans and unclogs its sewers out with giant balls of iron. The French call them “boules de curage.” Models of these iron and wood balls can be seen on display at the Paris Sewer Museum (Musee des Egouts de Paris).

This technology has been around since the 1850’s when Paris modernized its sewage system under engineer Eugene Belgrand. These iron balls or orbs, which measure 10 to 15 feet in diameter, slam into the refuse, knock it free, and restore flow. These orbs are using a lot of velocity and with their sheer size cut through the refuse like a hot knife through butter. They act like a drain snake for a clogged kitchen sink. They are used roughly every six months or whenever there’s a clogged sewer line. These balls vary in size to fit the assorted old tunnels which are not uniform in size.

22 comments; last comment on 06/15/2016
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Vacation Destinations for Engineers

Posted July 17, 2014 9:13 AM by SavvyExacta
User-tagged by 1 user

What are your summer vacation plans? TechnoTourist has compiled a list of some destinations of engineering interest that have been featured on the blog in past years. Please add your suggestions in the comments!




11 comments; last comment on 07/22/2014
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Castell de Bellver - Mallorca Spain's Circular Castle

Posted November 02, 2013 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Bellver Castle, or Castell de Bellver, is located in Palma de Mallorca and dates back to the 14th century. This particular castle is unique because of its round shape, the only one of such a design in Spain.

Circular Design

Bellver Castle was built from 1300 to 1311. The structure combines many defensive elements with palatial design:

  • Two-story castle in a circular shape
  • Hilltop location with 360 degree views of the ocean and surrounding mountains
  • Moat surrounding the structure
  • Three small towers connected to the main structure
  • A fourth large tower, called a keep, connected by a bridge
  • Open courtyard with well or cistern at the center
  • Various rooms off the courtyard with gothic arches

The sandstone used to construct the castle was taken from nearby rock quarries. The four towers face the four points of the compass with the largest tower, the keep, facing north.

Uses of Castell de Bellver

The original purpose of the castle was to serve as a summer home for the Kings of Mallorca. The castle did not see much battle action; it resisted two sieges during the Middle Ages.

The castle was first used as a prison in the 14th century and that was also its primary function during the War of Spanish Succession and the Spanish Independence War. It served as a political prison as recently as the mid-20th century.

Today the castle is a museum. Some aspects of the building have been modernized: for example, glass now fills some of the arrow slits. Modern conveniences like handicap access ramps and restroom facilities have been added.

Still, the castle is well-maintained and largely mimics its original design. Etchings made by prisoners can be seen in the walls. The views from the top of the castle are stunning. For the views alone, the castle is worth a visit. The fact that you're taking in such views from the top of the castle is just the icing on the cake!

True castle enthusiasts can even purchase a Bellver Castle Model Kit.

Read about my visit to Barcelona.


Castell de Bellver - Museum d'Historia de la Ciutat

Wikipedia - Bellver Castle

North South Guides - Mallorca Bellver Castle

Destination360 - Castell de Bellver

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