Apart from my obvious love of travel and admitted love of movies, I’m also a huge bookworm. Because I always seem to have my nose stuck in a book, and have grown interested in the lives of the authors who have written some of the most famous books in history, I’ve made a point to include their homes in my travel bucket list. Since none of the below mentioned authors should need any introduction from me, I’m going to stray from the norm (as far as my bucket list posts are concerned) and only include titles, locations, and photos for each.
Out of all the places I want to visit, none are as commonly found on bucket lists or more photographed than the new 7 wonders of the world. When the new list was announced on 07-07-07 in Lisbon Portugal, it replaced the original list – often referred to as the seven ancient wonders of the world – which had stood for nearly 2,000 years. Since only the pyramids of Egypt were still standing, the New7Wonders Foundation started a campaign in 2000 to allow the world the opportunity to come together and vote for a new list. After seven years and over 100 million votes, the following seven places were announced in random order to convey their equal footing, and are listed here in alphabetical order by country.
Christ the Redeemer – Brazil
Located in Rio de Janeiro at the summit of Mount Corcovado, the Christ the Redeemer statue is easily the most iconic image of Brazil. Built between 1922 and 1931, Christ the Redeemer is the brainchild of engineer Heitor da Silva Costa and artist Carlos Oswald. Standing at roughly 124 feet tall, da Silva Costa designed the structure to be large enough for it to be seen from the city center a few miles away. While the original plans called for the statue to be constructed purely out of reinforced concrete, the design was changed after da Silva Costa saw a mosaic tiled fountain during a trip to Paris. The beautiful tile-work had inspired him, and soon the statue would find its finish in an intricate triangular design of tiny soapstone tiles that were to be adhered to the unseemly concrete. Today the statue has become a popular tourist destination and takes selfie with thousands of visitors every day.
The Great Wall – China
Built between the 3rd century BC and the 17th century AD on the country’s northern border, the Great Wall of China stretches across the country at the length of roughly 13,170 feet. Easily the greatest construction project in human history, the building of the Great Wall of China spanned multiple dynasties with each successive ruler adding to the wall for the same purpose – protection. With three borders safely guarded by natural barriers, the wall with its watch towers, horse tracks, supply stations, and shelters was built to protect the country from nomadic warriors. Constructed out of various materials over the span of the project including soil, leaves, hay and mud, the Chinese quickly settled on a much sturdier coating of bricks, granite and stone which has helped to preserve the wall for centuries and gives it the iconic appearance of an unmovable and imposing line stretched out across the land as far as the eye can see.
The Taj Mahal – India
This stunning white marble mausoleum was built for the favorite wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1631 and 1648 in Agra. Hailed as both the jewel of India and Muslim art, the Taj Mahal is considered by many to be one of the greatest architectural achievements of mankind. A symbol of romance in all rights, the mausoleum itself was constructed out of white marble and precious and semi-precious stones from around the world, with exquisite ornamentation and Arabic inscriptions. Symmetrically planned from conception, the building is surrounded by arcade galleries, walkways and gardens, and is centered between a mosque and guess house built to be identical out of red sandstone in order to contrast the beautiful white marble of the mausoleum in the center. As one of the most universally admired masterpieces in the world, it’s no surprise that the Taj Mahal made the list as one of worlds wonders.
The Roman Colosseum – Italy
As the most famous monument left from the Roman empire, the Colosseum is still as imposing today as when it was opened for the entertainment of the masses in 80 AD with 100 days of games. After it was built, the Colosseum was used consistently for close to 400 years, during which time audiences watched everything from gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights, to hunts and mock naval battles which called for for arena to be flooded with water. When the empire became clouded in trouble and audiences craved something new, the Colosseum was closed and fell into disrepair and neglect. During this time, the amphitheater was often used as a source of building materials for many of the other iconic places in Rome, and was stripped to the bones. Today only about 1/3 of the original structure remains, but its allure and history continue to draw large crowds of people daily.
Petra – Jordan
Half built, half carved into the sandstone hillside, the ancient city of Petra is situated on the edge of the mountainous desert of Wadi Araba and is surrounded by gorges and passages. Comprised of an extensive list of archaeological remains containing elaborate tombs, tunnels, cisterns and reservoirs, the city also includes temples, churches and other public building along with the imposing beautiful facade we all known at first glance. Once a thriving trading post for the Nabataean empire, the city was lost to the world for centuries, during which time it sat desolate and near ruin. Since its rediscovery in the early 1800’s by a Swiss explorer, the ancient city has been drawing visitors from around the world, and is hailed as one of the places everyone should see in their lifetime.
Chichen Itza – Mexico
Established sometime between 415-455 AD, Chichen Itza is not only one of the greatest cities left from the Mayan civilization, it’s also one of the greatest cities left from the Toltec civilization as well. The main difference of the civilizations can be seen in the two settlements that make up this ancient city. The first was build during the Mayan reign, and contains many monuments built in typical Mayan fashion including a church and nunnery, as well as the Temple of the Panels and the Temple of the Deer. The second settlement was built after the Toltecs invaded Chichen Itza and imposed the practice of human sacrifice upon the local population. The monuments found within this section include the Great Ball Court, the observatory named El Caracol, and the Temple of the Warriors which are made up of a unique blend of styles that ultimately created the most important archaeological site in the Yucatan.
Machu Picchu – Peru
This great city of the Inca empire is perched high in the Peruvian mountains and seems to have been effortlessly carved into the land surrounding it. Built in the 15th century, Machu Picchu contains about 200 structures within its upper and lower sections that are divided into areas designated for residential living and farming. While little is known about the role Machu Picchu played in the Inca empire, the extensive road and trail systems, subsidiary centers, irrigation canals and agricultural terraces lead historians to believe that it played host to inhabitants for a long period of time. When the Inca empire was conquered by the Spaniards in the 16th century, the city was abandoned and remained unknown to the outside world until the early 1900’s.
Smashed between Austria and Switzerland, the Principality of Liechtenstein is roughly 60 miles large but just as beautiful as its much larger neighbors. Situated in the Alps, this tiny European country found its way onto my bucket list back in 2011, when I took myself on a trip to Germany following my college graduation. At the time I had hoped to spend a day playing tourist in Liechtenstein before paying for a passport stamp at the local visitors center (b/c why wouldn’t you?), but since travel plans are constantly evolving, I never got the chance to do either and Liechtenstein is still on my bucket list.
If I had the opportunity to visit Liechtenstein today however, I’d make a point to spend at least a weekend in the country to visit everything it has to offer. What the country lacks in space, it seems to make up for in the form of tourism. Since this is Europe after all, no country would be complete without a castle, and Liechtenstein miraculously has two. Vaduz castle in the capital city of the same name, is home to the royal family of Liechtenstein and is unfortunately not open for tours, but you can tour Gutenberg Castle in Balzers 11 km to the south. Although it may be less than grandiose than the royal residence in Vaduz, it does offer beautiful views of the nearby village and countryside.
Along with its castles, Liechtenstein is also home to quite a number of museums including the Liechtenstein Museum of Fine Arts and the Liechtenstein National Museum with exhibits on everything from archaeology to postage stamps, with national art and history galleries that include a room full of butterflies which particularly caught my attention. In case all of this sounds droll, you’ll be happy to know there’s also a winery, a set of old castle ruins, a go-kart track and plenty of hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. Perhaps what makes this country even better is that if you don’t have very much time to spare, you can always just drive through on your way to either neighboring country in less than 30 mins… Just be sure to pay for that passport stamp along the way or no one will believe you.
I was 17 years old the first time I traveled outside the country and visited England. The trip itself was a whirlwind of long bus rides and historically relevant sites that overtime have blurred into one another. Among the many stops was a lengthy visit to Stonehenge in Wiltshire. As one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world, there are more theories surrounding this circle of stones than I care to either think about or try to relate to you, so I’m not going to try.
I remember the tour as boring, the French guide (really England?) as being rude, and the structure itself as being far less spiritual than I was lead to believe. Even so, I wasted rolls of film snapping photo after photo as I walked circles around the black ropes, and nearly missed my tour group leaving for the next location on our itinerary. Like the pyramids in Egypt or the Parthenon in Greece, Stonehenge deserves a visit not for the questions that surround it, but for the simple fact that man was able to create something awe-inspiring and seemingly otherworldly. So awe-inspiring in fact, that Americans have taken it upon themselves to create more replicas of this famous destination than you probably even know exist. Being a lover of all things strange, and never one to snub a roadside attraction, the following replicas are sure to be a part of my next road trip.
Built to match the proportions of Stonehenge in England, Carhenge in Alliance Nebraska was built using recycled cars from neighboring properties by Jim Reinders during a positively unforgettable family reunion. Constructed on his own property, all 38 of the cars that make up this iconic replica are classic American automobiles from the 50’s & 60’s, and are continuously painted a flat gray to ensure their preservation with the passing of time and to help them closer resemble the color of the stone used at the original “henge”. Once seen as an eyesore by the locals, Alliance has very much embraced Carhenge as being a part of their hometown, and voted to purchase the property back in 2013. The inventive replica now boasts its own visitors center/gift shop and even hosts a few other art installations at the nearby Car Art Reserve.
Located on the Lessman Farm in Topeka Kansas, this strange roadside attraction in America’s heartland was not actually inspired by the famous Stonehenge we all know and love, or even created to look like it. Instead it was conceived as an ode to Carhenge in Alliance Nebraska, and Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo Texas, although it doesn’t appear to resemble either. After having a disagreement with local government officials, owner Ron Lessman created Truckhenge in an unorthodox answer to being asked to pick his trucks up. He did one better. He buried each one in concrete and spray painted politically themed questions and phrases on their sides. The county officials didn’t find it very funny at the time, but in 2006 the installation was officially deemed an art park and seems to be secure for the foreseeable future. Today the farm also includes a pond stocked with fish, neighboring Beer City made of concrete and beer bottles, and even the Truckhenge musical festival.
Created by fiberglass sculptor Mark Cline in Natural Bridge Virginia, Foamhenge is said to be the only exact replica of Stonehenge that exists in the United States. Each large, yet light and easily sculptable piece of Styrofoam was shaped to match an original piece still standing at Stonehenge in England, before being placed in the correct astronomical location and set with concrete and steel pipes. Since Styrofoam isn’t biodegradable, it’s not likely that this replica is going to be disappearing anytime soon. Even so, there are signs posted around the replica to remind visitors that the material is in fact foam, and that messing with it will come at a cost.
Although creator Al Shepperd and neighbor Doug Hill never made a Stonehenge I, they did create this near replica out of plaster and wire meshing in the middle of Shepperd’s field. The replica itself is hollow inside and just shy of the dimension of the original in England, but unlike Stonehenge, it comes equipped with its own Easter Island heads that were created after Shepperd visited the island on vacation. When the field was sold in 2010, the new owner wanted to nothing to do with Stonehenge II and almost knocked it down. Luckily the Visual Arts Center in nearby Ingram Texas purchased the art instillation and rebuilt Shepperd’s vision in town near a local baseball stadium.
Sam Hill’s Stonehenge
Built not as a replica of Stonehenge, but as a memorial to the soldiers who died in World War I, Sam Hill’s Stonehenge was built by the railroad magnate of the same name in the early 20th Century. Having been misinformed about the original Stonehenge in England being used for sacrifice, Sam Hill decided it was the perfect structure to commemorate the sacrifice of soldiers overseas, and set out to construct the memorial where the small town of Maryhill, Washington once sat (now overlooking the town with the same name).
Although the monument is said to be astronomically aligned, Sam Hill wasn’t interested in building a replica, and set about to improve upon the famous structure with his modern technology. Made out of slabs of uniform concrete that were mortared into megaliths, Sam Hill created a conceptualized version of what he thought Stonehenge was intended to be, and filled in every broken or missing piece. Although the link between a war memorial and Stonehenge might leave you scratching your head (as it did me), the gumption required to build such a memorial in the first place is a good enough reason to visit if you happen to be in the area.