As I walked through an alley of carved stone houses in the Jewish Quarter with Temple Mount in the dusky horizon, I was positively surprised to see how such a dynamic place of controversial history and intertwined religions could be so calming and peaceful.
During my visit to Israel a few weeks back, I had to opportunity to spend a day in Jerusalem. And while I pride in being a history geek, this is one place that can undoubtedly capture the interest of even those most uninterested in history/information!
While most history buffs would know of Jerusalem’s historic and religious past, what you see and feel when you visit this place is something that I cannot put in words. This enlightening experience got me thinking about places and people and the past...
'History connects us with people and places.' And while I believe that every place has an extraordinary past attached to it, here's my list of conventional yet not so ordinary places that you should visit now:
Greece’s rich history comes from old Greek beliefs, myths and mythologies that originated from these beliefs. Famous stories about Gods like Zeus and Hades, amongst others, have travelled across time and tide. Most of the ancient architecture, we see today, was built as a tribute to the various Greek Gods.
The Acropolis of Athens is a citadel that contains several ancient buildings. The entrance to the Acropolis is the Propylaea. The Propylaea is most famous building in the Parthenon, a temple to worship the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, Athena.
Delphi, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, houses a sanctuary built for the Greek God, Apollo. According to legend, Pythia, the high priestess served as the oracle here. So it comes as no surprise that pilgrims and history fanatics make come here to discover their own prophecies from the Oracle of Delphi.
Another important archaeological spot is the ancient town of Mycenae. Olympia, renowned for its athletic games and religious importance, is also a must visit!. As the name suggests, the Olympic games originated from here and were originally held in honor of Zeus. There are countless more temples and architectural monuments that give us a glimpse into the faith, culture, temperament and talents of our Greek ancestors.
Russia is one of the largest and most powerful countries of the world. It has evolved into its present state through historical revolutions, turmoil, political and economic changes, civil wars and world wars that occurred well before our time.
The state is filled with churches and monuments that were built on Christian belief. The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St Petersburg is one such church that is filled with biblical imagery and 7500 Sq. m of mosaics. At the centre of Moscow, the St Basil’s Cathedral has onion shaped domes and asymmetrical designs. The beautiful architecture contains traces of more than one religion, attracting all types of visitors from religious worshipers to art lovers and cultural geeks.
The Red Square, in Moscow is named so not because of a colour but for its beauty. Aside from the religious history, Russia also has a long political history. The Kremlin (Government of the Russian Federation), located inside the Red Square, consists of a fortress with monuments like the birth and burial Cathedrals of the Tsars (Russian Royals), the heavy Tsar Bell, Cannon and Tower etc. The armory and diamond fund in the Kremlin that contain the Tsar’s weapons, carriages, clothes, jewellery, crockery and more, are a treat to see for anyone!
Peterhof, Peter’s Summer Palace and Gardens with beautiful secret fountains paints a picture of Russia’s true royalty and wealth. Catherine’s Palace freezes time, especially when you enter the world famous, Amber Room, made entirely out of Amber. You will undoubtedly be captivated by the stories of dynasties, bloodshed and the formation of the government! The Winter Palace has been home to several rulers and was an integral part of the Russian revolution. The palace has now been restored and is one of the best known museums of the world, Hermitage Museum. The Faberge Museum and other Art Museums hosting famous Russian artists and painters are also worth checking out! One must go underground to witness the grandeur and artistic architecture of the metro stations!
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a great place to increase your knowledge on history. This Arab state has a lot of archaeological sites. The artifacts that have been excavated on these sites can be seen in the Jordanian Archaeological Museum. They contain the Ain Ghazal statues and several other everyday items that people made back then. Iraq al-Ami is home to broken down castles and remains of old forts. As you walk down these streets, you are drawn into an entirely different world.
The forgotten city of Petra has an impressive entrance that leads into a narrow gorge known as the Siq. The city is home to several old temples and tombs including the façade of Al Khazneh and the famous monastery known as Ad Deir.
Another amazing archaeological site is the city of Jerash. The city includes the Arch of Hadrian, which is triple-arched gateway and The Oval Forum. Al-Rabid Castle, near Jerash, is one of the largest and most well-preserved Roman sites outside Italy.
Besides ruined cities, Jordan is also home to the Dead sea. This is the lowest point on earth and has the highest level of salt content. You can neither sink nor swim in the sea, making it a fascinating place to visit. With so many more historic sites, Jordan is the every historians dream come true!
Mexico is filled with pyramids and other ceremonial structures from prehistoric times. The pyramid of Niches in El Tajín is an archaeological site. The pyramid of the moon and pyramid of the sun in Teotihuacan have an interesting story!
The temple of Kukulkan in Chichen Itza, a precisely built pyramid, is a captivating monument. The site of Chichen Itza has several other Mayan ruins for history geeks to drool over!
Mexico has many structures of historical significance such as El Malecon (the boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta), the local churches, the Templo de Santo Domingo’s that is heavily decorated with intricate designs and the Iglesia de San Juan Parangaricutiro that is a temple flattened by a now-extinct volcano.
Palenque has fine architecture and sculptures that have been dated from 600 A.D. to 800 A.D. and Bonampak has ancient art and murals. Tulum brings together a mixture of blue waters, sandy beaches and fine architecture. Magical archaeological sites in Mexico have the ability to make you feel like you have time-travelled!
Other historically enticing destinations include Istanbul, Tel Aviv and Egypt!