Monday, 9 November 2015

Old Pictures: The Golden Temple



The centre of the Sikh holy world, the Golden Temple, may not be riding up on my list of Wonders, but it's been one of the most enjoyable Wonders I've visited. Peaceful, friendly, uplifting and one of these rare places that, even to the likes of me, feel spiritual. Also, it offers unlimited free food. Mecca, St Peter's, Bodh Gaya - your move.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Model Wonders 8

Visiting a new place should be a voyage of discovery, learning, culture, and once again adjusting the boundaries of your world vision. But more importantly, it should be an opportunity to delve into every single souvenir shop you can find, in the hope of the perfect miniature representation of a massive landmark. Here are some more finds from my reasonably recent excursions to Germany and Barcelona.

Cologne Cathedral


Monday, 31 August 2015

Out Of Wonder Mode

It’s been a busy couple of months and my head has been somewhat out of Wonder mode. Let’s have a quick surmise, and then I’ll try and get my head back into the Wonders.

June

June was a month with plenty of travel. Germany, my only visit to see any Wonders, has been covered already, but I also visited Islay and Copenhagen. Islay is an island off the west coast of Scotland, and whisky aficionados will know it well as it has some Wonders of its own.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Days 540 to 544: A Long Weekend With Two Wonders In Germany

As I stood in Glasgow airport, searching the screens with a sense of increasing desperation for the absent 18.05 flight to Munich, I realised: this had not begun well.

One of the advantages of my new job is that it gives me what is essentially a long weekend each week. I work three 12-hour night shifts, Monday to Wednesday, 7pm to 7am. Come seven o'clock on Thursday morning, I am free for a further 108 hours. Last week, I decided to use most of these hours in Germany, visiting my two Wonders there. They are:


and


Thursday, 4 June 2015

Part 3 Begins

Part 1 of the travels took place in Australia and across Asia, from September 2011 to April 2012. I visited 22 Wonders. It was pretty good.

Part 2 of the travels took place in Europe, South America, and North America, sporadically from June 2012 to August 2013, and then fully from December 2013 to October 2014. I visited 44 Wonders. It was also pretty good.

Part 3 of the travels begins... later today. I fly to Munich, and tomorrow and the day after will visit Neuschwanstein Castle. The following couple of days will be spent in Cologne, visiting its cathedral. In total, part 3 should involve me visiting 40 Wonders. Not in one go, but in various bite size chunks. How long will it take me? If you offered me an end date of June 2018, I'd bite your hand off. With Syria and Libya having bigger fish to fry than catering to me and my mission, it could be some years yet before I get a chance to complete my full list of 106.

In one hour, my taxi will take me to the airport. In three hours, I'll be on the flight to Munich. In about eight hours, I'll be having a pint with Piltup, my companion for the next two Wonders. Part 3 of the Wonder travels will have begun.

I'd better start packing then.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Country Review: Guatemala

Dates there: 19th to 22nd September 2014: 4 days

Guatemala's Wonders: Tikal

On the Longlist: El Mirador, Yaxha

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Longlist: The Temple of Heaven

What's the Longlist? It's the list for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, the Temple of Heaven.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

New Additions To The List: Part 7: The Final Amendments I Sincerely Hope

When will these ever end? Since first drawing my very first shortlist to select my Seven Wonders of the World, I've been coming across new places that also seem like reasonable candidates. Every time I update my list, I think "Yes, that's it now." Well, this time I really think that this will be it. These few tweaks to my list, they will be the final ones, and my shortlist will be completed. Yes, this will be it. No more.

Without further ado, let's get into it.

1. Umayyad Mosque aka The Great Mosque of Damascus, Damascus, Syria. ACCEPTED.


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Old Pictures: Akshardham


Meet Pramukh Swami Maharaj. He's the current guru of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, the impossible-to-say religious offshoot of Hinduism based upon the 18th and 19th Century teachings of a spiritual leader called Swaminarayan. Don't worry about these confusing names though, all we need to worry about for now is that this guru and this religion are behind one of my Wonders, Akshardham. It was only finished in 2005, after five years of work. Here's a little reminder.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Country Review: Mexico

Dates there: 2nd to 19th, 22nd to 29th September 2014: 26 days

Mexico's WondersTeotihuacan, Palenque, Chichen Itza

Also visitedMonte AlbanPuebla Cathedral, Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, Templo Mayor

On the Longlist: Uxmal, Great Pyramid of Cholula, Calakmul, Mayapan, Yaxchilan, Becan, 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Longlist: Winay Wayna

What's the Longlist? It's the list for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, Winay Wayna.


Friday, 3 April 2015

Old Pictures: Ayutthaya


Today, the ruins of Ayutthaya are just that: ruins. Set within the modern city of Ayutthaya, the historic UNESCO-rated park of old Ayutthaya is a couple of miles north of Thailand's capital, Bangkok. But Bangkok will forever be the new boy, Ayutthaya was the classic capital of Thailand (or Siam as it was then). It was a majestic city of gold spires and palaces, surrounded by three converging rivers. It all went downhill in 1767, when the Burmese trashed it, but the good news is that the Europeans had been visiting for three centuries before this happened.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Country Review: USA

Dates there: 24th to 28th February, 22nd to 27th July, 6th August to 1st September, all 2014: 37 days

USA's Wonders: Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Mount Rushmore, The Gateway Arch, Walt Disney World, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam

Also visited: The Bean/Cloud Gate, the Chrysler Building, the Bay Bridge, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood sign, Willis Tower/Sears Tower, Hancock Center, Crazy Horse Memorial, Cahokia Mounds, One World Trade Center

On the Longlist: The White House, the Pentagon, United States Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, Mesa Verde

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Longlist: Cahokia

What's the Longlist? It's the list for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, Cahokia.


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Update: Job

Well, it would seem that I've got myself a job. I now work here:


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Country Review: Greece

Dates there: 4th to 13th April 2014: 10 days

Greece's Wonders: The Parthenon, Meteora

Also visited: Temple of Olympian Zeus

On the Longlist: Mount Athos, Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, Acropolis of Rhodes.

Original Wonders (no longer with us): The Colossus of Rhodes, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Longlist: Monte Alban

What's the Longlist? It's the list for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, Monte Alban.

What do you get if you cross Teotihuacan with Machu Picchu?
 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Old Pictures: The Banaue Rice Terraces

When Burness and I were in Banaue, and went on a three-day trek around the mountainous countryside filled with rice terraces, our guide told us about some old black-and-white photos he had seen. These days the rice terraces are in a permanent state of danger, at risk from neglect as locals prefer to find their fortune in the cities rather than spend their lives farming. The customs and traditions that made the rice terraces possible for up to 2000 years are under threat. Oddly, tourism and the money it brings in is a side-effect of the modern world that actually helps the terraces.

Anyway, although the rice terraces of Banaue and the surrounding area look pretty good today, our guide told us they had once been even better. He told us of these old photos. But he didn't have a copy to show us. I wonder if it might have been these:


Friday, 6 March 2015

Country Review: Spain

Dates there: 29th April to 15th May 2014, 3rd to 5th July 2014: 20 days

Spain's Wonders: Sagrada Familia, The Alhambra, City of Arts and Sciences

Also visited: Granada Cathedral, the Mezquita of Cordoba, Metropol Parasol, Seville Cathedral, the Alcazar in Seville, La Pedrera.

On the Longlist: Burgos Cathedral, Guggenheim Museum, Nou Camp, El Escorial, Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, the Roman Theatre in Merida, Aqueduct of Segovia, Palma Cathedral.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Longlist: The Reichstag

What's the Longlist? It's the list for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, the Reichstag.


Friday, 27 February 2015

Old Pictures: Angkor Wat

In 1860, as is often popularly recorded, the French explorer Henri Mouhot discovered Angkor Wat lost in the jungle. Fortunately for the world he didn't keep this to himself. He produced a series of pictures.


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Country Review: Fiji

Dates there: 2nd to 6th March 2014: 5 days

Fiji's Wonders: None

On the Longlist: None

You don't go to Fiji for the architecture. You go there for the islands, the beaches, or in my case because I've got a friend there. It's a lovely place and feels a little like an alternative universe, where the relics of British colonialism hang out on a remote island in the middle of nowhere. Danielle and I spent a couple of days in the capital, Suva, with my friend Maebh and her partner Tom, then moved onto an awfully pleasant beachside hotel for a couple of days.

Fiji's archaeological history goes back as far as 900 BC, but they weren't inclined towards Easter Island giant heads, it seems. Fijians preferred just to hang about and enjoy the sun. And why wouldn't you? There are no grand ancient mysterious monuments anywhere, just some humble mounds and boulders which would have had some kind of ceremonial function a long time ago. Mostly, Fijians built stuff like this:


Friday, 20 February 2015

Model Wonders 7: The Lost Edition

In the last couple of weeks the art world has been stunned by the potential discovery of two bronze statuettes thought to have been made by Michelangelo. Well, art world, prepare to be stunned again. My recent editions of Model Wonders, my widely-acclaimed series on small souvenir models of prospective World Wonders, featured gems from the Americas and from Europe, as well as a small cache of other models. It appeared that we'd seen everything - but no! When Danielle and I were in Turkey, Burness joined us for a couple of weeks. Very kindly, when he went home and as we continued travelling, he took a box from me to lighten my backpack. Last month that box was returned. The contents would rock not only the world of art, but the world of everything!

Here they are:


Meteora


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Longlist: Umayyad Mosque aka The Great Mosque of Damascus

What's the Longlist? It's the list for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, Umayyad Mosque aka The Great Mosque of Damascus.


Friday, 13 February 2015

Old Pictures: The Bodhi Tataung Standing Buddha

Well, this could be a quick one. The The Bodhi Tataung Standing Buddha is the second tallest statue in the world, at 129 metres tall, but it's a new kid on the block and was only completed in 2008. Here's a bunch of photos of it in construction.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Country Review: Brazil

Dates there: 14th to 20th February 2014: 7 days

Brazil's Wonders: The Christ the Redeemer statue.

Also visited: Metropolitan Cathedral, the Maracana Stadium

On the Longlist: National Congress in Brasilia, Itaipu Dam

I'll let you into a little secret: I'm not really that keen on Brazil. I'm not sure it's wholly rational, or perhaps I'm just not able to fully explain it, but I can't find the enthusiasm that other people have, or actual Brazilians have in flowing abundance. Perhaps that last point is key: the Brazilians have an awful lot of enthusiasm for their own country. Too much enthusiasm. I know it's very natural for people around the world to believe that "their" country is the best, and there's nothing wrong with a little patriotism, but when it goes overboard and it seems like everybody is ramming it down your throat about how extra-specially great their country is, then I get a little sick of it. I know that it puts a lot of people off America when Americans go on about being number 1, but in my view Brazil is worst of all. Let's have some quiet confidence please, chaps, not noisy bombast about your own excellence.


Friday, 6 February 2015

Update

For the last few months, you might have noticed this little thing on the sidebar.
 

You also have noticed that although we've rolled into 2015, it hasn't yet changed. With 39 Wonders still to visit before I can declare myself complete, we'd hope to at least begin planning a few visits for this year. Well, here's what's happening.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Longlist: Milan Cathedral

What's the Longlist? It's the list for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, Milan Cathedral.


Friday, 30 January 2015

Old Pictures: Bagan

Plonked in the middle of Burma is the ruined city of Bagan. Once the capital of a kingdom, peaking in around the 12th Century, it went to ruin until all that remained were stone temples. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them, some big, some small. It's a simply splendid place to visit.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Country Review: Uruguay

Dates there: 10th to 13th February 2014: 4 days

Uruguay's Wonders: none

On the Longlist: Palacio Salvo, as I'm in a generous mood.

Wedged between Argentina and Brazil, just like a bogey between the nose and lips, is the little blob that is Uruguay. Oh dear, what a horrible introduction to poor Uruguay. It's a really nice country, I promise!

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Longlist: Cloud Gate aka The Bean

What's the Longlist? It's the list for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, Chicago's Cloud Gate, aka The Bean.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Old Pictures: Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda has been around for over 2500 years, making it around the same age as the Parthenon. That's if you believe the founding myth, which involves a peculiar story involving merchants bumping into the Buddha and receiving eight of his magic hairs in exchange for some cakes. Things then begin to get strange. Trim away the myth, and it appears the pagoda, in some form, was around from the 13th Century. But the form it's in today doesn't emerge until the 18th Century. An earthquake in 1768 caused heavy damage to the former, 40-metre-high version, so the King of Burma, Hsinbyushin, built it bigger and better and into the 99-metre pagoda we see today.

And that was what Lieutenant Joseph Moore of Her Majesty’s 89th Regiment also saw in 1824, which as far as I can tell is as far back as images of Shwedagon Pagoda go. The British were kind of being dicks back then, and had got all shirty because the Burmese had the temerity to try and take back some of their own land. The first Anglo-Burmese war kicked off, including the 1824 Battle of Rangoon. During this battle, Lieutenant Moore made a series of drawings and paintings that were later to be made into a book, some of which included Shwedagon Pagoda. Here they are:


Friday, 16 January 2015

Country Review: Argentina

Dates there: 1st February to 9th February 2014: 9 days

Argentina's Wonders: none

Also visited: La Recoleta Cemetery

On the Longlist:  Palace of the Argentine National Congress

Nine days isn't very much for Argentina. It's a country with a lot to offer - wine, steak... I could stop there and we'd already have a winner, but it's also got grand colonial cities, the tango (if you like that sort of thing), and astonishing natural features such as otherworldly mountain ranges, glaciers, and one of the biggest waterfalls in the world. There's a lot here to take up a lot of your time - the country is over ten times larger than the UK. But there's one thing it doesn't have, and that's a World Wonder (oh, it doesn't have the Falkland Islands either, but they don't need reminding of that as it's a non-stop constant reminder when you're there. Come on Argentina, you must have something better to do? Oh, it distracts the public from government ineptitude in handling the economy? Fair enough).

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Longlist: The Megalithic Temples of Malta

What's the Longlist? It's the list for all the other great man-made spectacles in the world that haven't quite made my shortlist. I don't feel the need to research them or visit them, but as long as this blog is about the world's best man-made structures, they deserve some kind of mention. Today, the Megalithic Temples of Malta.

When you think of ancient civilisation, you probably don't tend to think of Malta. Well, you'd be wrong. Predating the Egyptian pyramids by over a thousand years, and almost the oldest man-made constructions on Earth, are the Megalithic Temples of Malta.


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Country Review: Chile

Dates there: 8th January to 31st January 2014: 24 days

Chile's Wonders: Easter Island

Also Visited: Humberstone, Gran Torre Santiago

Some countries look like things. Italy looks like a boot, North and South Korea unified looks like a rabbit (though they manfully insist it's a tiger), and as if you ever doubted it, the UK of course looks like a witch riding a pig. So what does Chile look like? It reminds me of the fat from a pork chop.