Slovakia’s ice church draws visitors closer to heavens

Slovakia’s ice church draws visitors closer to heavens
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A tourist visits a Tatra Ice Temple at Hrebienok, High Tatras mountains resort in eastern Slovakia on February 27, 2019. (AFP)
Slovakia’s ice church draws visitors closer to heavens
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A nun visits a Tatra Ice Temple at Hrebienok, High Tatras mountains resort in eastern Slovakia on February 27, 2019. (AFP)
Slovakia’s ice church draws visitors closer to heavens
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A tourist visits a Tatra Ice Temple at Hrebienok, High Tatras mountains resort in eastern Slovakia on February 27, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 11 March 2019

Slovakia’s ice church draws visitors closer to heavens

Slovakia’s ice church draws visitors closer to heavens
  • A team of 16 sculptors from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Wales and the United States worked 12 hours a day for a month to create this year’s ice temple

HREBIENOK, Slovakia: A young nun breathes deeply as she peers up at a statue of an angel bathed in softly colored light streaming through a church, and as she exhales, you can see her breath.
Instead of wood or bricks and mortar, this chilly house of worship perched among the snowy peaks of Slovakia’s High Tatra Mountains has been built from massive crystal-clear blocks of ice.
At 1,285 meters (4,200 feet) above sea level, the ice replica of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome is higher than any of Slovakia’s 4,158 churches, more than half of them Roman Catholic.
Although it has not been consecrated, another visitor, Zlatica Janakova from southern Slovakia, says it feels like a real church.
“It’s so good for your soul; it provides you with tranquillity,” she whispers.
“All of nature is inside and around this temple,” she adds, gazing at the surrounding alpine vistas.
Englishman Martin, who declined to give his surname, describes it as a “beautiful, religious place, so peaceful and calm.”
Since 2013, ice sculptors have flocked to the Slovak Tatra mountain hamlet of Hrebienok every winter to build a Tatra Ice Temple, or scaled-down replica of a famous church using only crystal-clear ice blocks.
This year, it’s an 11-meter (36-foot) tall version of the 16th-century Vatican basilica, complete with the imposing two half-circle wings of Bernini’s colonnade.
A quarter of a million tourists last year took the short funicular ride up the mountain to see the ice replica of Barcelona’s soaring and intricate Sagrada Familia.

A team of 16 sculptors from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Wales and the United States worked 12 hours a day for a month to create this year’s ice temple.
On Sundays, the venue vibrates with the sounds of sacred music concerts.
“I’m glad to see people crossing themselves and praying inside,” says Slovak chief sculptor Adam Bakos.
The interior boasts sculptures modelled on the works of Italian masters side-by-side with those of chamois, marmots and other wildlife native to the High Tatras.
“I gave them a free hand with the decoration, so each artist added their signature style to the sculptures,” Bakos said.
Slovak-Greek artist Achilleas Sdoukos designed and produced stained-glass decorations incorporated into the temple’s icy walls.
The building material, namely 1,880 ice blocks weighing a total of 225 tons, was imported from neighboring Poland.
“We tried different suppliers, from the Netherlands, England, Norway and Hungary, but Polish ice seemed to have the highest quality, it really looks like glass if kept cold enough,” says Rastislav Kromka, technical director of the Tatra Ice Temple.

With an unusually warm winter threatening to melt details on their sculpture, Bakos and his team covered it with a geodesic dome, measuring 25 meters in diameter.
They also installed refrigeration units to ensure a bone-chilling minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) to keep the ice solid.
“Cold wind was blowing in our faces from the AC (air conditioning) all day long.
“It was like a chopper ride in January.
“Once we were done, I didn’t even want to open the freezer at home anymore,” he jokes.
More than 15 carpenters helped sculptors with the demanding task of stacking the ice blocks, each weighing 125 kilogrammes (275 pounds).
“It took us more time to stack the blocks than to carve them,” Bakos said.
“Ice is also an extremely fragile material, you must be very gentle with it or details tend to fall off. We used only water to glue the pieces together,” he said.

Visiting the ice temple is free. It is funded by the Tatra tourism organization, the transport and construction ministry and other partners.
Only cold air and water are used to maintain the ice church.
“It is not only that visitors touch the walls of the temple, they also breathe out warm air and come in sipping hot tea,” Kromka said.
When winter is over, the ice structure is smashed to pieces, the cooling system switched off and the ice carried outside to melt on the ground.
Open annually from November until late April, the ice temple is also becoming a hotspot for destination weddings.
“Here... we are perhaps the closest to our spiritual selves and our respective religions,” says Veronika Littvova, head of tourism for the High Tatra region, much of which is pristine and protected national parkland.
She is also convinced that ice temple weddings lead to long, lucky unions.
“Thanks to that huge amount of ice, I believe that marriages entered into here will be preserved and last forever.”


Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework

Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework
Updated 24 February 2021

Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework

Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework
  • The award of compensation for housework sparked debate on Chinese social media

BEIJING: A Chinese court has ordered a man to pay his former wife 50,000 yuan ($7,700) as compensation for housework she did during their five-year marriage, state media reported on Wednesday.
Under a landmark civil code that seeks to better protect the rights of individuals, spouses can seek compensation from their partners in a divorce if they have shouldered more responsibilities — including housework.
The woman, who did not work outside the home during the marriage, sought compensation for housework she had done after her husband filed for divorce at a district court in Beijing last year.
The judge ruled in her favor, telling the man to pay 50,000 yuan for her labor, according to state television.
He must also pay 2,000 yuan a month to support their child, with other assets such as property to be divided equally.
The award of compensation for housework sparked debate on Chinese social media, with many netizens saying the amount was too little.
“A nanny’s annual income is already in the tens of thousands of yuan,” said a social media user. “This is too little.”


Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects
A reduction of carbohydrate intake and increase in fats place the body in a metabolic state called ketosis. (Supplied)
Updated 20 February 2021

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects

Experts warn of ‘dangerous’ keto diet side effects
  • “The keto diet can also affect your performance during certain exercises, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely or as often as before”

JEDDAH: The ketogenic diet has become one of the fastest-growing dietary trends, but experts have warned that many of its advocates are unaware of the dangerous side effects the diet can cause.

According to Healthline.com, the ketogenic diet, commonly known as keto, is a low-carb, high-fat diet that shares similarities with low carb and Atkins diets. A reduction of carbohydrate intake and increase in fats place the body in a metabolic state called ketosis.
However, the diet has led to severe side effects for some people.
“The keto diet should only be done under clinical supervision, and only for brief periods of time,” Dr. Ruwaida Idrees, a nutritionist, CEO and owner of Hayati Ghethaei, a catering company, told Arab News.
She added that the keto diet should only be considered in “extreme cases,” because it can do “more harm than good.”
Idrees said: “It can cause damage to the heart, since the heart is also a muscle.”
Consulting a doctor, completing necessary tests and discussing goals with a clinical dietitian should all be considered before starting a keto diet, she added.
Idrees said there are many misconceptions surrounding the keto diet and exercise, adding that exercise can still reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and other health conditions.
People need to be careful about the types of exercises they practice, she said. “The keto diet can also affect your performance during certain exercises, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely or as often as before.”
Fouz Ghannamil, a fitness trainer, told Arab News that the diet appeared to work for many people. “It is good, but my own opinion is that the human body needs more nutrition than just fat and a really small dose of carbohydrates.”
She added: “It has a high portion of proteins which is good, but the fat sources, no matter how good they are, are a bit too much. It is better in my opinion that the portion of fat and carbs is balanced.”
Ghannamil suggested a better alternative for people looking to shed pounds this year — sticking to a diet of “80 percent healthy food and 20 percent junk food.
“Because naturally, your mind will desire junk food that is not natural, however, it has loads of fat in and your body can use it as an energy source.”
She warned people considering a new diet to stick to a balanced nutrition pyramid that contains everything they need: Protein, carbohydrates and fat.
She added that people should avoid diets based solely on numbers rather than personal experience.
Idrees, on the other hand, proposed the Mediterranean diet as a simpler alternative to the keto diet, saying that it has a good balance of seafood and other sources of proteins, moderate portions of dairy and a limited intake of red meat.


TWITTER POLL: Huge majority disagree with US decision to remove Houthis from terror list

TWITTER POLL: Huge majority disagree with US decision to remove Houthis from terror list
Updated 15 February 2021

TWITTER POLL: Huge majority disagree with US decision to remove Houthis from terror list

TWITTER POLL: Huge majority disagree with US decision to remove Houthis from terror list

DUBAI: A large majority of respondents to an Arab News Twitter poll said they disagreed with the US decision to remove Houthi militia from a terrorism list — reversing one of Donald Trump’s final decisions before leaving office.
A staggering 74 percent of 1,113 voters said they opposed the decision, while just over 17 percent agreed. And only 8.9 percent said they were undecided.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Houthis will be removed from the US list of foreign terrorist organizations on Feb. 16.


Blinken said the decision to remove the group’s FTO designation as well as its Specially Designated Global Terrorist Designation was driven by concerns, calling it “a recognition of the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.”
The announcement came after the Houthis mounted a number of attacks on civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, which were condemned by the State Department earlier this week.
The top US diplomat noted in his statement that Houthi leaders Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, Abd Al-Khaliq Badr Al-Din Al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya Al-Hakim remain under sanction.


“The United States remains clear-eyed about Ansarallah’s malign actions, and aggression, including taking control of large areas of Yemen by force, attacking US partners in the Gulf, kidnapping and torturing citizens of the United States and many of our allies, diverting humanitarian aid, brutally repressing Yemenis in areas they control, and the deadly attack on Dec. 30, 2020 in Aden against the cabinet of the legitimate government of Yemen,” he said, using another name for the Houthis.
The Biden administration's special envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, was in Riyadh this week for meetings with Saudi and Yemeni officials as well as UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths.
“The United States will redouble its efforts, alongside the United Nations and others, to end the war itself. We reaffirm our strong belief that there is no military solution to this conflict,” Blinken said Friday.


French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19

French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19
Updated 11 February 2021

French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19

French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19
  • Sister Andre is not going to do anything special for her 117th birthday
  • She converted to Catholicism and was baptized at the age of 26

TOULON, France: Europe’s oldest person, French nun Sister Andre, turns 117 on Thursday after surviving COVID-19 last month and living through two world wars, with a special birthday feast including her favorite dessert — Baked Alaska.
Born Lucile Randon on February 11, 1904, Sister Andre said she didn’t realize she had caught the coronavirus, which infected 81 residents of her retirement home in the southeast city of Toulon, killing 10 of them.
“I’m told that I got it,” the nun said ahead of her birthday. “I was very tired, it’s true, but I didn’t realize it.”
But David Tavella, spokesman for the Sainte-Catherine-Laboure nursing home, said she had “experienced a triple confinement: in her wheelchair, in her room and without a visit.”
“So, her birthday, it reinvigorates us,” he added, following the deadly outbreak.
Sister Andre said she was not going to do anything special for her 117th birthday but the home is planning a celebration for her.
There will be a special mass at the home, which has a dozen nuns, and the chef is preparing a birthday feast of foie gras, capon fillet with porcini mushrooms and Sister Andre’s favorite dessert: baked Alaska, washed down with a glass of port.
She says her favorite food is lobster and she enjoys a glass of wine.
“I drink a small glass of wine every day,” she said.
Born in Ales in a Protestant family, she grew up as the only girl among three brothers.
One of her fondest memories was the return of two of her brothers at the end of World War I.
“It was rare, in families, there were usually two dead rather than two alive. They both came back,” she said last year, on her 116th birthday.
She converted to Catholicism and was baptized at the age of 26. She joined the Daughters of Charity order of nuns at the relatively late age of 41.
Sister Andre was then assigned to a hospital in Vichy, where she worked for 31 years and then spent 30 years in a retirement home in the French Alps before moving to Toulon.
She is the second-oldest living person in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group, after Japanese woman Kane Tanaka, who is 118.
Asked what she would say to young people, Sister Andre said: “Be brave and show compassion.”


Lawyer becomes internet sensation after Zoom filter makes him look like kitten

Presidio County lawyer Rod Ponton signed into the Zoom call for a civil forfeiture court hearing appearing a fluffy white kitten. (Screenshot)
Presidio County lawyer Rod Ponton signed into the Zoom call for a civil forfeiture court hearing appearing a fluffy white kitten. (Screenshot)
Updated 10 February 2021

Lawyer becomes internet sensation after Zoom filter makes him look like kitten

Presidio County lawyer Rod Ponton signed into the Zoom call for a civil forfeiture court hearing appearing a fluffy white kitten. (Screenshot)
  • The short video clip, which was shared online by Ferguson, ends with others coaching the attorney on how to remove the cat filter

LONDON: An attorney in Texas has become an internet sensation after accidentally leaving a kitten Zoom filter on during a virtual court hearing.

Presidio County lawyer Rod Ponton signed into the Zoom call for a civil forfeiture court hearing appearing a fluffy white kitten, prompting Judge Roy Ferguson to alert him of his appearance. 

“I'm here live. I'm not a cat,” Ponton replied, while explaining his assistant was trying to turn the filter off, to no avail.

“I can see that,” replied Ferguson.

The short video clip, which was shared online by Ferguson, ends with others coaching the attorney on how to remove the cat filter.

The judge said on Twitter: “These fun moments are a by-product of the legal profession’s dedication to ensuring that the justice system continues to function in these tough times. Everyone involved handled it with dignity, and the filtered lawyer showed incredible grace. True professionalism all around!”

In an interview, Ponton said he has fielded calls from around the world and has been booked for national television.

“I always wanted to be famous for being a great lawyer. Now I'm famous for appearing in court as a cat,” he told The Associated Press.

* With AP