Friday, January 14, 2011

World Heritage Sites

I've been really fortunate to be able to travel to some amazing places in my lifetime. I haven't really travelled all that much, compared to some people (like my globe-trotting friend Jennifer), but I do have some terrific memories of the places that I have visted, six of which are World Heritage Sites:

Changdeokgung, Seoul, S. Korea

This palace was absolutely amazing. Seoul itself is a very crowded, bustling, modern city, and this historical complex with its grand old palaces and gorgeous gardens is a complete juxtaposition to the rest of the city, yet it seems right in place. Koreans are very proud of their history, which is sadly one of continuous invasions and wars, but they preserve their dignity and individual identity, no matter who has occupied their land.

The architecture was overwhelming. The entire place was beautifully preserved. Motifs of lotus flowers were everywhere, which reminded me of the tudor roses found all over Hampton Court Palace in England (demonstrating that even as far apart as those cultures were, how amazing similar we all really are).

Honestly, Stonehenge was a little bit of a disappointment to me. I guess it's one of those situations where it has been built up over my entire life as a grand, mysterious thing, and when we got there, it looked like just a bunch of rocks piled up with a chainlink fence around it.

None of the photos online show the fence, but is surrounds the entire thing. You have to pay an arm and a leg to walk the trail around Stonehenge and you aren't allowed to get any closer than that.

So, we just looked at it from the road. Why pay a price to get about 20 feet closer? Now if I could have walked right up to it, it might have been different, but all the mystery and historical significance seemed to be lost when it was turned into a tourist-centered money-pit.

The Tower is one of my favorite places to visit. I've taken two entire days, on two seperate visits, to try to get to everything in this historically-rich fortress, but I still haven't seen everything (and I'd love to go back and spend another day or two there). The tours given by the Beefeaters are informative and entertaining: the Crown Jewels are gorgeous, the Tower Green where Anne Boleyn met her fate, the ravens, the White Tower where Lady Jane Grey spent her time as queen for nine days.... So much history is found within these walls, that it's impossible to soak it all in, even in two days.

Unfortunately I missed Westminster on my first visit to London. We went by twice, but the first time it was closed, and the second time there was a wedding going on, so we were turned away. When I had the opportunity to return to London a few years later, I made it a point to visit Westminster and I wasn't disappointed. Poet's corner was...well, it was poetic, in every sense of the word. My favorite part, though, was the coronation throne. It was impossible to grasp the amount of history present in that beautiful, patina-covered chair.

I was actually somewhat surprised to find that this was a World Heritage site, not because I think it lacks historical significance--on the contrary--but because it's not as well known, or even as well-understood as the other sites I've been to.

Mesa Verde is located in the four-corners area of southwestern Colorado. It's a beautiful place that is unlike anywhere else in the US. I really enjoyed visiting Mesa Verde because they allow you to actually crawl down into the ancient, cliff-dwelling village, so you can see and feel and hear a little of what it must have been like to be there, when this was a thriving area. The hiking itself is exhilarating--it takes quite a walk to even get to the site, so you really get a chance to take in the nature that surrounds the site.

I don't remember Yellowstone very well--it's been a long time since I've been there.

OK, not that long!

It was before the major fires, though, so I definitely need to go back someday. I think Yellowstone needs little explaining. There are bears and moose. Old Faithful is...well...faithful. The sulfer springs stink of sulfer. It's just a very beautiful piece of natural history that has thankfully been preserved.

One of these days I'll dig up a bunch of my travel photos to feature on some posts, but for now, this little overview will have to do. I hope I get to travel more in the future. I love learning about new cultures and getting to experience the evidence of history from around the world. It has a way of putting one's life in proper perspective.

Leaving on a jet plane (eventually),


Alan T Hainkel said...

Jealous... I've been to a couple different countries, but I've not seen anything like what you have in just those six photos.

Anonymous said...

I've been to the ones in the UK - and was able to go to Stonehenge the first time before they had the fence - it was possible to walk in among the stones - now that was powerful! If you're ever in the area of Stonehenge again, visit Avebury - just as impressive, I think.

Jessie McCandless said...

Thanks, Alan, but that's pretty much all I have LOL. I haven't been to contintental Europe, or even Canada or Mexico (although I've been within 15 miles of each--how silly is that? LOL).

I'll definitely keep Avebury in mind, Kate. That's good to know! I'm sure I would have felt much differently if I could have waslked among the stones, and I guess I understand they don't want thousands of people in there wrecking it, but considering it was more expensive than seeing a play in Piccadilly Circus, I was pretty sad that I didn't get to experience it like I had planned. Thanks for the tip! :)

Annette said...

This was a very timely travelogue for me! I am taking my daughter to London (and France) this summer and we've been trying to figure out the "must see" list for London. ...and we were thinking about Stonehenge but now maybe not. I'll have to research Avebury.

CCC said...

Wow, you're so traveled, I've never been anywhere, well to the neighbors: Montana, BC, and Saskatchewan but that's cause I really like where I live. I always wanted to see the Louvre in Pariswhen I was a struggling art student but now I would just like to see Texas one time.

Jessie McCandless said...

Annette--very good timing indeed! I also have heard that Bath is amazing, but I haven't gotten to see it for myself. I'll post a little more about London later on today. It is really my very favorite place in the world. Im jealous you get to go to France, though. That's on my list of destinations to go to next :)

CCC, you know so much about art, you really should get to the Louvre! I imagine it would be much more impressive than Texas LOL. If you ever can get to Texas, it's fun to go through the Gainesville/Pilot Point/Aubrey area where all the big quarter horse ranches are--there are a lot of neat stores there for tack and horse supplies.

Nicole said...

Wow you've been a lot more places than I have. I'm a bit jealous! I've only been to Costa Rica outside the US.

Jessie McCandless said...

Oh Nicole, I would love to go to Costa Rica some day. My sister is there right now!