I firmly believe that travel is one of the most important things a person can do. Travelling pushes you out of your comfort zone, exposes you to different cultures, ideas and people and forces you to think differently about things. It also expands your horizons and in my case, has given me a serious case of itchy feet.
Architectural wonders typically play an integral role in most people’s travels. Although there are hundreds of magnificent, iconic buildings, the following are just a few of the world’s most recognisable (and some of my favourite) which really should be on most people’s bucket list.
The Eiffel Tower, Paris:
I am nuts about all things French so I suppose I am somewhat biased towards this particular structure. Completed as the temporary entrance arch for the 1889 world trade fair, the iron lattice tower occupies a particularly imposing position on the Champ de Mars in Paris. It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel who it is said actually bought the design from two other designers. After making a few minor tweaks to the design he entered it into a competition which saw it selected as the design of choice for the world fair. It was originally reviled by many Parisians and was only meant to stand for 20 years but was eventually retained for its value as a radio tower. Today, it is the most visited paid monument in the world.
The coliseum, Rome:
It could be argued that the coliseum put Rome on the map. Completed in 80 AD, the coliseum is the largest amphitheatre in the world. It is estimated that the coliseum could hold between 50 and 80 000 spectators who would gleefully watch all manner of bloody acts including gladiator contests, public executions and animal hunts. In later years the coliseum fell out of favour and it was repurposed as a fortress and housing, amongst other uses. Large portions of its stone were also pilfered by stone robbers. Thankfully, the coliseum made a comeback of sorts and is now one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions. It also cracked a spot on the ‘New 7 Wonders of the World’ list.
Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow:
Delve into the history of many famous buildings and chances are you will discover that they were commissioned by narcissistic psychopaths (you know, the mass murdering type who liked to spit people on sticks for fun). Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow is one of those buildings. The cathedral was commissioned by Tsar Ivan the Terrible to commemorate his successful military campaign against the Tartar Mongols. Upon completion in 1561, Ivan had the architect blinded to ‘prevent him from ever creating anything to rival its beauty again’. The frosted confection we see today looks like a stack of ice cream cones, each one dipped in different coloured syrups. Interestingly, the cathedral originally boasted a demure, white façade. The locals often get a bit miffed with tourists as they tend to confuse the cathedral with the nearby kremlin which also boasts fancy coloured onion domes.
The pyramids, Cairo:
If you only ever have the chance to see one architectural wonder, make sure it’s the pyramids. As of 2008, it is estimated that Egypt plays host to as many as 138 pyramids. Of these, those straddling the Giza Plateau in Cairo are arguably the most famous. Three pyramids dominate the plateau: the Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure. A number of smaller satellite structures and the magnificent Great Sphinx also feature. Various estimates regarding the materials and number of people it took to build the pyramids have been touted but one thing is certain; they will leave you in awe of their majesty and in my opinion, rather more inclined to believe that aliens had something to do with their construction given the otherwise ramshackle nature of modern day Cairo.