Perhaps you have felt this; the wonder of walking across a dirt path, a trail, a road, sitting in a spot that may have been a part of the everyday life of men, women, children living hundreds if not thousands of years ago. When you gently walk or sit and can perhaps hear the sounds, the music; the sense of time that has spanned centuries and imagine another world where buffalo or cattle roamed, where the waters of a sea or river flow, where soldiers marched, where the lives and dreams of the dying may be buried, where the soil may have been tilled to form a new world, where memory and history keeps alive, then you know you are truly a part of a real human race. The ancient columns of antiquity that still stand, the cattle trails that helped to feed a nation, the camp spots where Indians had gathered, the battlefields that determined world history, the castles and palaces, the buildings of worship, cathedrals and ghost towns, the mansions and homes turned into museums, the gardens that have given birth to flowers that may have graced men and women who we now read about in history books, the antique furniture we can buy in a second hand store to the glory of the living quarters of kings and queens, the silk rugs that grace the floors in an old Turkish shop or the black tea steaming on a café table to the historic documents governments point to that identify nations; these and so much more are what we can point to and say, we have lived, civilizations have thrived and move forward and are a part of the conscientiousness of mankind.
Here are some places to visit:
The great historian Pliny the Elder was watching mount Vesubius from afar when the volcano erupted and rained chaos over the city of Pompeii in 79 AD. Among the many victims was his uncle Pliny the Elder, who instead of fleeing in the opposite direction, decided to sail to Pompeii to attempt to rescue survivors from the city, but was met by a storm of ash and stone and was never heard from again.
The volcano created a whole city frozen in time for centuries, which allows current travelers to admire not only ruins of official buildings such as the forum or the theater, but much more rare everyday constructions like bakeries. The most intimate way to know how the Roman everyday life unfolded is to pay attention to the numerous graffiti etched on the walls throughout Pompeii. Some examples are:
- “Floronius, privileged soldier of the 7th legion, was here. The women did not know of his presence. Only six women came to know, too few for such a stallion.”
- “If anyone does not believe in Venus, they should gaze at my girlfriend.”
- “Gaius Pumidius Dipilus was here on October 3rd 78 BC.”
Once the third largest city of the Roman Asia Minor, Ephesus’ destiny was tied to its access to the Cayster River. When after several centuries of sedimentation, the river skipped passing next to the city and its harbor, Ephesus was mostly abandoned. But this once rich city still conserves plenty of attractive ruins to let us know of its faded splendor.
Among the most important, the beautiful library of Celsus was built by a rich governor for the use of the people of Ephesus, (and also to be used as his tomb). The rich fachade is a testament of the opulence of the region, which is further demonstrated by the monstrously huge theater that graces the city. With a maximum capacity of 24,000 thrilled spectators, this theater may be the largest outdoor theater in the whole Roman Empire.
Originally conceived as a retirement city for veteran soldiers of the Roman army, this city was built over a pre-roman settlement whose inhabitants were declared Roman citizens by Emperor Augustus. Since land in the city in which to build and raise crops was granted only to older troops, this site can be considered a kind of ancient Florida.
In order to keep the citizens entertained, Marcus Agrippa, brother in law and close friend to Emperor Augustus ordered the construction of a theater that has been very well preserved due to being covered in sand and rock for centuries. Nearby, one of the largest amphitheaters of the Roman world complete the entertainment district, in which presumably the words “are you not entertained?” were uttered by gladiators frequently.
JERASH (Jordan) is a popular archaeological site in Jordan, second only to Petra. The city’s golden age came under Roman rule and the site is now generally acknowledged as one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Jerash contains not one but two Roman theatres. The north theatre, with a capacity of 1600, was built in 165 AD and was mainly used as the city council chamber. The larger south theatre was built between 90-92 AD and could seat more than 3000 spectators.
The theatre of EPIDAURUS, located on the northeastern corner of the Peloponnesus in Greece, was constructed in the 4th century BC. It is still one of the most beautiful Greek theatres in the world. Unlike Roman theatres the view on a lush landscape behind the scene is an integral part of the theater itself. The theatre of Epidaurus is famous for its exceptional acoustics. Actors on stage can be perfectly heard by all 14,000 spectators, regardless of their seating.
The Holy Sepulchre, Israel, located in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, is believed by many to be the site of Calvary and the crucification of Jesus.
Cologne Cathedral, Germany, it has the world’s largest church façade, which may go some way to explaining why it took from 1248 to 1880 to get it finished. Even so, that is 600 years. Still, this is Germany’s most visited landmark, and a survivor of seventy bombings during WWII.
Borgund Stave Church, Norway A stave church is a medieval wooden church. This one was built between 1180 and 1250 with some refurbishing done afterwards. Of all the 28 stave churches in Norway, this one at Borgund is the best preserved.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul Three churches were built on this site, the first in 360AD, before Mehmet II, going on Muhammed’s prophesy that the first muslim to pray in Hagia Sophia would be beamed straight to paradise, conquered Constantinople in 1453 and made a beeline to the Great Church. Once there, he turned it into a mosque.
Cathedral Of St John The Divine, New York City. It is the fourth largest church in the world and a tranquil, meditative spot. Visit during Sunday vespers when the men and women of the choir fill the echoed chamber with their haunting, lilting voices.
Dohány Street Synagogue, Budapest, Hungary. It is also known as the Great Synagogue of Budapest. It is the largest synagogue in all of Europe, seating 3,000 people. It was completed in 1859. Its architecture is of the Moorish Revival style. For instance, the structure features two opulent minarets and is furbished in detailed designs reminiscent of Middle Eastern aesthetics. Interestingly, a Viennese architect, Ludwig Förster is responsible for the synagogue’s design. The synagogue complex consists of multiple cultural and historic buildings, including the Jewish Memorial and Museum. The museum serves as a poignant marker of life for Jews living in Budapest during the Holocaust, as the synagogue itself served as a border for the Budapest Ghetto.
Tempio Maggiore of Florence. Italy It is also known as the Great Synagogue of Florence. It was a historically significant element of Jewish life in Tuscany following the emancipation in the 19th century. The synagogue was built to commemorate newfound religious freedom. The design was a synthesis of Italian architectural tradition and Moorish stylistic elements. The building is constructed of layered travertine and granite, creating a bold pattern of red and beige stripes, which have since faded. During WWII, Nazis and Italian fascists attempted to execute a plan to destroy the synagogue using explosives. Italian resistance fighters thwarted this plan, however, by defusing most of the bombs. The Jewish community in areas surrounding the temple dates back to Roman times.
The White House, Washington D.C., USA. Irish architect James Hoban was the man behind the design of the White House. In 1792 Hoban submitted a plan for the presidential mansion and subsequently got the commission to build the White House. Constructed began in 1793 through to completion in 1801. The mansion, which has been home to every US leader since the country's second president John Adams, is made from white-painted Aquia sandstone.
The Flatiron building in Manhattan, NYC, USA, was designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham and built in 1902. The distinctive triangular shape allowed the building to fill the space located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway. Another of New York's skyscrapers, it was never the tallest but remains one of the most memorable and has been a source of inspiration for artists and architects for over a century now.
The ghost town of the abandoned buildings of Kennecott, Alaska, USA, a mining town are nestled in America's biggest national park, Wrangell–St. Elias (at13.2 million acres, it's bigger than Switzerland). During its boom years at the beginning of the 20th century, the mine produced about $200 million worth of copper ore, and the town had its own hospital, school, and skating rink, among other structures. Declining profits forced the mine to close in the late 1930s, and it decayed for decades, until the National Park Service bought it in 1998. The park service is now stabilizing the buildings, and runs a visitors center in the old general store.
Bannack, Montana, USA, was named the firstTerritorial Capital of Montana in 1864, two years after a prospector named John White struck gold on Grasshopper Creek.(Bannack didn’t stay the capital for long, however—that title was transferred to Virginia City, Montana, shortly after gold was found there too.) Mining continued at Bannack in fits and starts until the 1930s, although the town wasn't entirely abandoned until the 1950s. It's now a well-maintained state park with more than 60 structures, many of which you can explore—a rare opportunity for a state-run ghost town.
Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, Thailand is unlike any Buddhist temples in the world. The all-white, highly ornate structure gilded in mosaic mirrors that seem to shine magically, is done in a distinctly contemporary style. It is the brainchild of renowned Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. Actually, the temple is still under construction. Chalermchai expects it will take another 90 years to complete, making it the Buddhist temple equivalent of the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, Spain!
Prambanan is a Hindu temple in Central Java, Indonesia. The temple was built in 850 CE, and is composed of 8 main shrines and 250 surrounding smaller ones. Nearly all the walls of the temple are covered in exquisite bas relief carvings, which narrate stories of Vishnu's incarnations, adventures of Hanuman the Monkey King, the Ramayana epic and other legends.
Fort Apache, AZ, USA. From its founding in 1870 until Geronimo's capture in 1886, this fort was regularly involved in the Indian Wars of the area. It was first called Camp Ord, in honor of General O.C. Ord, Commander of Arizona when it was built in the spring; however, just a few months later, the name was changed to Camp Mogollon in August, then Camp Thomas in September. The post was finally designated as Camp Apache on February 2, 1871 as a token of friendship to the very Indians the fort soldiers would soon spend so many years at war with. The fort's initial purpose was to guard the nearby White Mountain Reservation and Indian agency.Situated at the end of a military road on the White Mountain Reservation, which adjoined the San Carlos Reservation, the fort guarded the White Mountain Agency, while Fort Thomas watched over the San Carlos Agency. However, both reservations would become the focus of Apache unrest, especially after troops moved the troublesome Chiricahuas in 1876 from Fort Bowie to the White Mountain Reservation.
Fort Larned, Kansas, USA, 6 miles west is Fort Larned National Historic Site preserves the 1859 military post of Fort Larned. On October 22, 1859 Captain George H. Stewart, commanding Company K of the First United States Cavalry, was sent out with his company to establish a mail escort station on the line of the Santa Fe Trail. On October 22nd he selected a site on the south bank of Pawnee Fork, eight miles from the mouth of the river and established a camp, which was first called the "Camp on Pawnee Fork." The original structure was built of sod in the heart of Indian hunting grounds.
Fort Douaumont, France, is the largest and highest in a ring of 19 defensive forts protecting the city of Verdun since the 1890s, fell easily into German hands during WWI after the French deemed it ineffective against new German weaponry and left it undefended. However, that takeover (which only took three days) sent a shock through the French Army’s command structure, and led to a nine-month battle between 1,140,000 French soldiers and 1,250,000 German soldiers, leaving 698,000 killed in action. On October 24, 1916, the fort fell back into French control, and visitors can see it as it stood that very day. Tours lead through the three different levels of the fort and all the intricate tunneling, as well as the preserved guns, turrets, and other weaponry that are reminders of the horrors of trench warfare.
Freehold Township of New Jersey, Monmouth Battlefield State Park spans 2,97acres and is one of the few remaining Revolutionary War battlefields in such good condition. The entire park preserves the 18th century landscape as it originally stood, with its orchards, fields, woods and wetlands. Visitors can climb on a horse, carry an American flag, and talk about how great a leader George Washington was as they ride through the miles of preserved trails through the park, or watch the annual reenactment of the battle itself. Charge Combs Hill or hide away in the restored Revolutionary War farmhouse (the Craig House), while denouncing the Redcoats. Revolutionary War militia leader Francis Marion, known as the father of guerilla warfare and depicted by Mel Gibson in "The Patriot," fought a significant battle at the nearby Monmouth Courthouse in 1778. The park has been undergoing some renovations since December 2011, but is due to reopen this spring, hopefully full of wax recreations of Gibson as Marion.
Heidelberg Castle: the renaissance gem of Baden-Württemberg, Germany Nestled amidst the verdant hills of Baden-Württemberg and crowning the great old town of medieval Heidelberg, this sprawling German schloss is another of the country’s most remarkable romantic sights. Today visitors are invited to wander amidst the endless ruins and pretty gardens that lay between the bulwarks, surveying the old keep and scaling the parapets that overlook the city. Inside, great collections of German art and treasures from Heidelberg’s golden age remain, while some of the ruined sections of the original outer fortifications are strewn across the grounds, remnants from when the castle was destroyed by a lightning-bolt in 1764.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City is North America’s most romantic (and photogenic) hotel Chateau Frontenac , Quebec, Canada is Canada’s answer to Bavarian Neuschwanstein (Germany) and remains one of the most dramatic sights in all of Quebec City. It towers high above the town, a dominating mix of gothic turrets, fairy-tale spires and dramatic buildings. Since its construction in the late 19th century, Chateau Frontenac has stayed true to its purpose, serving travelers to Quebec with luxurious accommodation in the heart of town. In the process the building has gained National Historic status, appeared in Hitchcock movies and is widely known as the most photographed hotel on the planet!
Sacsayhuaman, Peru is located in the northern outskirts of Cusco, Peru, which was once the capital of the Inca Empire. The UNESCO World Heritage site is a walled complex, built of large polished stone walls. With Cusco laid out in the shape of a puma, and the hills of Sacsayhuaman symbolizing the head, the zigzagging walls represent the teeth. The three parallel walls are enormous. The component boulders of the walls that protect the ruins within are so tight that even a paper will not slip through.
The Walls of Babylon, Iraq dates back to 575 BC, are in modern Iraq. Babylon which was the city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, about 85 km south of Baghdad, was surrounded by the Walls of Babylon. The walls, which once included the ancient Ishtar Gate, were one of the original Wonders of the World. The walls and the gate were made of blue glazed tiles, and had alternating rows of bas-relief aurochs and dragons. Saddam Hussein later started the wall’s restoration and new construction on the ruins.
The Hadrian’s Wall of England is between Scotland and England. The Romans constructed the wall to prevent the tribes of Scotland from entering their colony, Britannia. Built in the early 2nd century AD, It stretches from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, for 73 miles across north of England, and is the longest wall of Europe. Even though only stretches of it are visible now, it still attracts hordes of tourists, and has a national path following its entire length, from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway.
Updown Court, England, is situated only 25 miles from London, and through a pair of large sophisticated iron gates, one can see a palatial construction of immense scale and beauty. The property, however, is best known for its price tag: more than 85 million British pounds (+$150 million U$, with 103 rooms, five swimming pools and 24-carat-gold leafing on the study's mosaic floor. There's a squash court, bowling alley, tennis court, 50-seat screening room, heated marble driveway and helipad. Eight limousines will fit in the underground garage. Then there are the neighbors, who include the queen (at Windsor Castle) and Elton John. It is listed with Savills and Hamptons International. So, even if your blood doesn't run blue, with enough green you can still live near—and like—royalty!
Villa Leopolda, France, the magnificent $750 million Villa Leopolda in Villefranche-sur-Mer was built for King Leopold II of Belgium in 1902. The estate is so big that it requires 50 full time gardeners. The grounds cover 20 acres of garden and visitors can stroll amongst 1,200 olive, orange, lemon and cypress trees. In 2008, owner Lily Safra (wife of the deceased Syrian (Lebanon-born) businessman Edmond Safra), a famous Jewish philanthropist, decided to sell it. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov intended to buy it. After making a ten per cent down-payment, he then backed out of the sale after the global credit crunch hit. But a court in Nice later ruled that he had to forfeit the $75 million deposit he put down for the mansion. Prokhorov had signed a sales agreement for the Villa, and French law stipulates that purchasers lose their deposits if they pull out after such an agreement has been executed. But don't feel sorry for the guy, he is still worth a cool $17.85 billion.
The Hermitage, St Petersburgh, Russia, has the world's largest collection of paintings. It's a stunning place, covering the history of the world from the Stone Age to present times, and especially impressive are the Golden Rooms with their golden gems.
The Prado, Madrid, Spain is a treasure trove includes sculptures and drawing but the strongest collection is, naturally, of Spanish masterpieces by Goya, El Greco and Velazquez (whose Las Meninas is the best-known work of the museum).
NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM, Athens, Greece, This is the place to admire the masterpieces of ancient Greece. Its unrivaled collection includes a bronze Artemision Podeidon from the 5th century B.C.
CHAMPS-ELYSEES, Paris is one of the world's great urban wonders, this boulevard is perhaps the most famous in the world. It inspired so many others throughout Europe and the New World, stretching from a great public square to a major landmark (the Triumphal Arch), and lined with graceful buildings, cafés and shops.
AVENIDA 9 DE JULIO, Buenos Aires has the widest avenue in the world honors Argentina's Independence Day. It followed the late-19th-century European trend of opening a great boulevard in the center of the city, and with nine lanes you need to be patient to cross it -- you'll have to obey several traffic lights to reach the other side. At the center is the city's icon, a great obelisk.
KU'DAMM, Berlin, Germany is the official name is Kurfürstendamm, but it's simply known as Ku'damm. It's yet another long broad boulevard modeled after the Champs-Élysées, and is home to some of the German capital's most luxurious stores.
Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France, is the Musee d’Orsay is one of the world’s richest, greatest and most exciting art galleries. The permanent collection of the museum houses innumerable amazing works by proficient masters of early modern art including Monet, Cezzane, Matisse, Degas, Renoir, Sisley and Van Gogh. In addition, The Musee d’Orsay hosts many special not-to-miss events along with numerous exhibitions all throughout the year. Not only one among the top art galleries of the world it is perhaps even the top must visit place in Paris.
National Museum of Korea in Seoul Historically significant, National Museum of Korea houses more than 220,000 masterpieces of relics and arts. Situated in the Yongsan Family Park after its re-location in October 2005, the flagship museum of Korean history and art is comprised of archeological and historical art galleries dating back to 1392 (presenting the earliest day of Korean civilization), paintings, calligraphy and beautiful Buddhist sculptures along with arts and ceramics illustrating the rich Asian culture.
British Museum, London, England is one of the world’s utmost art galleries of history and culture, the British Museum in London contains permanent collection, summing up to eight million works (the largest in existence). All the collected works from various continents are very comprehensive and supreme – documenting and illustrating the chronicle of human culture from its early stages to the present. You will easily spend a week and still miss some of the amazing masterpieces. However, make sure you do not miss the Holy Land rooms with artifacts of the Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Israelites, Sumerians, Phoenicians, ancient Islamic and Canaanites societies along with the African, American and Rome and Britian galleries.
Serengeti National Park, northern Tanzania in East Africa. During The Great Migration (one of the largest annual wildlife movements on the planet), more than a million wildebeests and other four-legged friends chase the horizon from one end of the park to the other. Plan to visit in the summer or fall to experience this epic event.
Yellowstone National Park, Montana, USA, has numerous attractions scattered throughout its 3,500 square miles, Yellowstone is the Disney World of national parks. But its popularity has not dulled its natural beauty: Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful amaze visitors year after year. Multicolored pools swirl around hot springs; verdant forests weave past expansive meadows; and volatile geysers launch streams of steaming water toward the sky. With so much unspoiled natural beauty, it's no wonder everyone suspected John Colter (a scout for explorers Lewis and Clark) was embellishing when he first described Yellowstone's geothermal curiosities in 1807. Nowadays, there's no doubt that the park is indeed extraordinary. While you traverse the park's 3,000-plus square miles of mountains, canyons, geysers and waterfalls, be prepared to share the trails with permanent residents like buffalo, elk and sometimes even grizzlies.
Although Yellowstone attracts about 3 million visitors every year, chances are — unless you spend your entire trip at Old Faithful— you won't see much of them. Yellowstone's 2.2 million acres creep from the northwest corner of Wyoming into the edges of Idaho and Montana, offering plenty of untouched territory to explore. Carve out a day or two to take in the view at Yellowstone Lake and Mammoth Hot Springs.
Guilin and Lijian River National Park, China. This Chinese national park remains pristine, featuring terrain covered in cone-shaped hills (actually mini-mountains with unique names like "Dragon Head") that create a surreal landscape. Travelers can immerse themselves in this verdant world by sailing along the Guilin and Lijiang rivers.
The Sepik River is the longest river on the island of New Guinea. The river originates in the Victor Emanuel Range in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea. For most of the Sepik’s length the river winds in serpentine fashion, like the Amazon River, to the Bismarck Sea. Unlike many other large rivers, the Sepik has no delta whatsoever, but flows straight into the sea. The river’s total length is 1,126 kilometers (700 miles). There are no settlements of great size along the Sepik River. The isolation of the river’s small tribal groups has given rise to one of the most original and extensive artistic traditions. It is one of the last remaining undisturbed environments in the world.
At approximately 6,400 km (4,000 miles) the Amazon River is the second longest river in the world, just slightly shorter than the Nile although reputable sources disagree as to the exact length of the two rivers. What is certain is that the Amazon is the largest river in the world by volume, with a total river flow that accounts for approximately one-fifth of the world’s total. The Amazon and its tributaries flow through Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.
The Amazon has over 3,000 recognized species of fish and new species are still being discovered. Along with the Orinoco River, it is one of the main habitats of the Amazon River Dolphin, the largest species of river dolphin, which can grow to lengths of up to 2.6 meters (8.5 feet). The bull shark has been reported 4,000 km (2,500 mi) up the Amazon River at Iquitos in Peru. Another dangerous fish in the Amazon is the notorious piranha which congregates in large schools, though only a few species are known to attack humans.