Thursday, 29 December 2011

New Additions To The List: Part 2

I was worried about this. About a year ago, my list of candidate Wonders was around about 75 or so. This number steadily started trickling up as I mentioned my quest to others, and by the time I'd started my blog, in May, the number had reached 92. By July, the number was 98. And now... well, there's a few more to be added. With the blog established and the travels begun, new suggestions come my way not uncommonly. Especially with meeting other people when travelling, and discussing my quest, there are always different buildings and locations suggested, some of which I'd earlier dismissed and aren't applicable to what I'm after (natural Wonders, for example), but many which definitely seem looking into. Some people I've met have been pretty well-travelled, or are familiar with parts of the world I'm not, so have made some pretty interesting suggestions. Inevitably, this has led to my list growing and growing...

And so here, without further ado, are some of the suggestions made, and whether or not I've decided to add them to the list.

1. Leshan Giant Buddha, Leshan, China. ACCEPTED.

Prior to my travels, I had come across the giant stone statue a number of times, but it had never quite grabbed me enough to include it on the list. It took another statue - the Bodhi Tataung Standing Buddha - to do that for me. As part of its interior display, it had pictures of other tall statues, including the Leshan Giant Buddha, and seeing it compared to the others, it struck me: yes, this had to be on my list. It is over 1200 years old, carved from the cliff face, and 71 metres tall in his seated position. It was the biggest statue in the world for over a millennium. I'm impressed.

2. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France. ACCEPTED.

It's over 750 years old, a supreme example of Gothic architecture, an icon in the centre of Paris, and is known across the world. I was being churlish not to include this before (mainly based on a brief visit two years ago, in which I didn't even go inside and just had a quick look around). My resistance was worn down, oddly enough, at an Angkor temple information board, when it was included on a timeline with the likes of Borobudur and Chichen Itza, and after some urging during drinks on a boat in Ha Long Bay.
(Thanks to Jamie, Heather, and Burness for their insistence.)

3. Beijing National Stadium (the Bird's Nest), Beijing, China. REJECTED (but I'll go anyway).

This is a fascinating piece of modern architecture, designed in part by dissident artist Ai Weiwei, which is becoming an increasing icon of Beijing (some travel agent posters I've seen for Beijing feature this rather than the Forbidden City or the Great Wall). It takes a great photo at night, when lit up, as most modern architecture does. But in the end, I feel it's a great piece of architecture rather than a world-class monument, and don't see it having a durable appeal once its appeal has worn out. A toss of the coin as to whether it's still there in fifty years time (if it is, I'll haul my 83-year-old bones over there for a fresh assessment).
(Thanks to Jamie for suggesting.)

4. Gobekli Tepe, southern Turkey. ACCEPTED.

There's one main reason this is being included: it is about 12,000 years old. 12,000! That's something like 7500 years old than the Pyramids! Of course, if Gobekli Tepe was just some bunch of flints and ashes then that wouldn't be quite as impressive, but this is an actual monument, with carvings, built by hunter-gatherers thousands of years before human civilisation really begun. There are something like twenty stone rings of between 10 and 30 metres diameter, although only four have been excavated to date - this is a long-term archaeology project. Thinking about this one blows my mind. I don't know if it will be a Wonder - most of its still buried underground after all - but I have to visit it.
(Thanks to Jamie for suggesting.)

5. Kailasanathar Temple, Ellora, India. ACCEPTED.

I'm not sure how this one passed me by, to be honest. This is an ornate Hindu temple, over a thousand years old, bigger than the Parthenon, and entirely carved from the cliff. That's right, this huge structure wasn't built, it was literally excavated top-down from the rock. It's the most celebrated example from the Ellora cave network in central India, and looks absolutely incredible. I've amended my India itinerary accordingly to accommodate it.
(Thanks to Steve and Like for suggesting.)

6. Ajanta Caves, India. REJECTED (but I may get the chance to visit it anyway).

This is a similar deal to the Ellora caves above, and actually pre-dates it by some centuries, but suffers by not having any single stand-out feature, as Kailasanathar Temple is to Ellora. Nonetheless, it is supposed to be part of a spectacular area, and is in the vicinity of Ellora, so hopefully I'll get the chance to visit.
(Thanks to Steve and Luke for suggesting.)

7. Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciencies (City of Arts and Sciences), Valencia, Spain. ACCEPTED.

This complex of six modern buildings, built between 1996 and 2005, is an architectural marvel in Valencia. As the name would hint at, they are a mix of museums, cinemas, aquariums, exhibition centres, sporting arenas, and art centres. All very nice, but what grabs the eye is the sheer cutting-edge futuristic appeal of the buildings, all swooping curves and dramatic angles. A number of commentators online have suggested it to be some kind of Wonder, and it looks unquestionably worth a look.
(Thanks to Michael for suggesting.)

8. Cathedral-Mosque of Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain. REJECTED (but I may give it a visit).

Originally dating from over 1200 years ago, this huge building in the centre of Cordoba has a fascinating history, and has changed from cathedral-to-mosque-to-cathedral over its many years. As such, it has been added to and altered much in that time. Most photos and focus seems to be the interior, which is supposed to be something special, and therein lies the problem. The exterior, by most accounts, isn't anything special, and I feel a Wonder should be more than just an interior.

9. Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland. ACCEPTED.

Like the school's sport coach who is particularly hard on his son so as to not show favouritism, I perhaps judged Edinburgh Castle too harshly. I'd thought about including it earlier, but because I lived in Edinburgh for the last couple of years I ended up dismissing it because I don't think it's so impressive close up and didn't want to include something Scottish as a token gesture. But by making that call, I then forgot about its fantastic vantage point in the middle of Edinburgh and its great beauty sitting pretty up on the rock, and its hugely iconic status for Edinburgh and Scotland. It is certainly a worthy contender, and will be a refreshing easy Wonder candidate to visit.
(Thanks to Burness for haranguing some sense into me.)

10. The Forth Bridge, Scotland. REJECTED (until otherwise convinced).

There's no doubt the Forth Bridge is a striking piece of red-painted steel, and an engineering marvel of its time, but in this case I think inclusion into my World Wonders list would be a little bit of Scottish bias. A Scottish Wonder, no doubt, but not a World Wonder. But I could be maybe, after a few drinks and some convincing arguments, be persuaded.
(Thanks to Burness for badgering me about it.)

So, what was I on? 98. And that's six new additions, making a total of 104 Wonders. Ah, but I've decided to remove a couple.

Sistine Chapel, Vatican City.

It's more of an interior and a large piece of art than a Wonder; from the outside it's entirely anonymous and can only be accessed through other buildings. I'll visit it anyway, and if I think the interior makes up from the lack of a proper exterior, I'll let you know.

Bay Bridge, San Francisco, USA.

It's big and long, but that's really about it - and there are bigger and longer bridges in the world. I'm not really sure how it ended up on my list; when Burness saw it there, having been in San Francisco just a month earlier, he was astonished, and told me that in no way was it a Wonder. I couldn't justify it to him, and so it's off my list. I'll still give it a look when I'm in the city though.

Which leaves a grand total of 102 Wonders on my list. The century has been broken, but at least with a non-contrived sounding number (saying I'd be visiting 99, 100, or 101 Wonders sounded awfully contrived). 102. Gosh. And after four months of travel and 135000 words/300 pages written, I have only visited 11 so far. Oh dear.

As ever, new suggestions always welcome. No, to hell with that; if you know of a nice building, keep it to yourself this time.


  1. They all look great. I'm slightly surprised Edinburgh Castle got in after your previous cynicism: I'd have thought it would be no more or less worthy than the Forth Road Bridge (the bridge being more of a national icon than the castle, I'd say). And other places in Scotland, eg Skara Brae, the Callanish Stones or the Ring of Brodgar, are more impressive and wonder-like.

    I also predict a low rating from you for Notre Dame - it's a very nice cathedral but little more than that. I've visited more atmospheric and beautiful churches in Scotland alone (Glasgow, St Machar and St Magnus Cathedrals spring instantly to mind).

    I'd not heard of most of the others, though, so it will be very interesting to hear more about them in due course.

  2. I'd been too cynical and too hard on Edinburgh Castle; it likely won't end up one of the Seven, but it's at the heart of one of the world's most beautiful cities. As far as iconic status goes, within Scotland I would say it is about parallel with the Forth (Rail you mean, not Road surely?) Bridge, however, Edinburgh Castle is considerably more famous from a foreign perspective.

    Skara Brae is very interesting, but not visually awe-inspiring. And although stone circle connoisseurs may disagree, Stonehenge trumps the lot by virtue of it having the horizontal blocks on top - it gives it the important "je ne sais quoi" factor. However, the main archaeologist excavating Gobekli Tepe in Turkey says that in a decade or so, it will be more famous than Stonehenge.

    Notre Dame, I agree. It's in due to the fame factor, and that it's much talked about and even in Asia used as a comparison.