Best Ruins That I Have Visited So Far

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 Best Ruins That I Have Visited So Far.

“The shattered wall,
the broken tower
have a story to tell –
from the touchstones of ruins
and ancient texts
we make a pilgrimage.” Michael Alexander,

Architectural ruins connect us to the past and bring history alive. There is something about visiting the sites of these ancient civilizations that fascinates me. You can see the potential that people all over the world and thousands of years ago had for greatness. Some of these amazing structures were built long before all the machinery, transport and communication tools that we have now. 

 Peru, Machu Picchu

The purpose of Machu Picchu will always remain a mystery. It is probably a religious and spiritual site.  The Inca trail leading up to Machu Picchu (it takes four days  of camping out in the Andes if you want to do it) was built to always face the snow-capped mountains because that is what they worshipped .How they transported all that granite up there  remains a mystery. It is believed that they quarried  it on site. No other civilization has managed to assemble so many colossal stone blocks so seamlessly cut with stones or bronze.  There is no mortar holding them together and they are earthquake-proof constructions.

 Chile, Easter Island, Rapa Nui Park

Who carved such enormous statues? How did they move them and raise them up onto platforms? The missionary’s stories, the explorer’s diaries, the archaeologist’s shovel, the anthropologist’s bones and the Rapa Nui oral tradition have all revealed something of the story. No one agrees on any of the answers to these questions. Archaeologists have proposed methods for moving the statues, using various combinations of log rollers, sledges and ropes .In the Rapa Nui oral tradition, the Moai were infused with mana, a spiritual force from the ancestors and the Moai walked.The Rapa Nui stories make just as much sense of the unknown as the scientific theories. There is no proof that it did not happen that way.

Turkey, Cappodocia

The dramatic landscape is the result of volcanic eruptions that happened millions  years ago. Wind and water eroded the land leaving these odd surreal land formations, fairy chimneys, caves and underground cities. Goreme Open Air Museum is a group of cave churches and monasteries from the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. The most famous and most restored one is Karanlik Killse (Dark Church) which is filled with elaborate Byzantine frescoes. Early Christians escaping from Roman persecution found shelter in Cappadocia.

Turkey, Ephesus

The ancient city of Ephesus was built in the tenth century. It was a large city (over 250,000 inhabitants in the first century BC) and a major port for trade routes into Asia Minor. Ephesus was known in antiquity for its sacred shrines, the most famous being the temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (only foundations and sculptural fragments remain). Ephesus came under Roman control in 129 BC, and continued to prosper under Emperor Augustus as capital of the Roman province of Asia. It was also an important centre of early Christianity and its greatest Christian monument was the 4th century church of St. John the Evangelist.

 Turkey, Pergamon

Pergamon was one of the key Roman cities of Anatolia and the well-preserved remains hint at the grand spectacle that the city was during its glory days. Excavations reach back to the second century B.C. It  has one of the largest libraries in the world and one of the steepest theatres.

Cambodia, Ta Prohm 

Yes,Ta Prohm is the temple where Angelina Jolie played Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Ta Promh has been left the way it was originally found.  It was built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The jungle had completely engulfed the entire complex when it was discovered in the last century. It was amazing to see how the massive trees have grown around and atop the structures, their roots seemingly strangling and holding up the temple’s towers and other buildings.

Cambodia, Angor Wat

Angor Wat is the largest temple in the world and the world’s largest religious building constructed of stone. It is often described as one of the most extraordinary architectural creations ever built, with its intricate bas-reliefs, strange acoustics and magnificent soaring towers. It was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. Angkor Wat was shifted from Hindu to Buddhist use sometime around the late 13th century. The temple is still used by Buddhists today. It is architecturally and artistically breathtaking. No photograph can capture the immensity of this monument.

Jordan, Petra

 Petra is a city of rose-colored stone, carved out of rock by the Nabateans in the third century BC. Like Macchu Picchu, there isn’t a lot of information known about it. It is one of the dryest places on earth and how they got water for the thirty thousand people who lived here is a mystery. Stephen Spielberg brought it to us in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. 

Thailand, Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was the old capital of the Thai kingdom from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century.  The site resembles a  graveyard of temples,  headless Buddhas (beheaded by the Burmese in the thirteenth century) and ruins showing what it might have looked like.

Myanmar, Bagan

Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay region of Myanmar. From the ninth to the thirteenth centuries, the city was the capital of the Pagan kingdom. During the kingdom’s height between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day.

Mexico, Tulum

The ancient walled city perched on the edge of a cliff in Quintana Roo overlooking the Caribbean ocean was a major trading and religious centre between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries. Tulum was built to be a seaport fortress, with steep ocean cliffs providing protection from the East, and a large limestone wall enclosing the rest of the city on three sides. 

Acropolis, Greece

The Acropolis looms over Athens, and is impossible not to recognize.This citadel includes the famous white-columned Parthenon, as well as the fifth century, Propylaia, Erechtheion and Temple of Athena Nike. The Parthenon temple was dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom and war who planted the first olive tree on this very spot to found the city of Athens.

Italy, Colosseum

The Colosseum has been regarded as an iconic symbol of Rome since the Middle Ages.  Built in eighty A.D, it is a massive structure and is the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire. Being able to seat close to 50,000 spectators, it was the premier venue for wild beast shows and bloody gladiator combat.

Italy, Forum

Once the centre of public and political life in Ancient Rome, the Forum is a sprawling labyrinth of ancient ruins, including the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Titus and the House of the Vestals. You’re standing in the very center of the ancient city, surrounded by the remains of famous temples and political buildings. The people of Rome saw the funeral of Julius Caesar here, along with the execution of Cicero and countless triumphal processions.

 Italy, Pantheon

The Pantheon was built as a temple dedicated to the worship of  Roman gods. In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV and Emperor Phocas converted it into the Christian church we see today. The Pantheon is considered a rotunda, a circular drum structure. Perfect mathematically, the Pantheon’s dome has an opening in the center.  In fact, the Pantheon in Rome still holds the world record for having the largest unsupported concrete dome.

Croatia, Diocletians Palace 

Diocletian’s Palace was built in the fourth century as a retirement seaside residence for the Roman Emperor, his family and seven hundred or so servants and guards in Split. The rectangular structure (520 x 620 feet) was two stories, fronted the sea and was built more like a fort than a palace. It is the most complete Roman ruins of a palace in existence today. It is not a museum .Three thousand people live and work on the grounds and there are many shops and restaurants. It is best seen when not besieged  by cruise ships.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

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Vomit Down And Other Things I Have Learned From Traveling

Vomit Down And Other Things I Have Learned From Traveling

“I had an inheritance from my father, It was the moon and the sun. And though I roam all over the world, The spending of it’s never done,” Ernest Hemingway

Friends and traveling companions will appear along the way when you are traveling alone. With the magic of fb and instagram you will always know what they are having for lunch. (Japan)

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Scan your credit cards and IDs and send them to yourself. They will be easy to replace when lost.

You will sometimes run into travelers who will give their country a bad name . If it is one that you have not been to before, know that there are always others who will restore your faith in that country. (Turkey)

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There are a lot of McDonald’s in the world. If you are in a McDonalds country they are probably not fighting a war. there is a correlation between peace and the golden arches. (Russia)

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Traveling helps you find out what you are capable of. Whether it is flying on a tiny plane, going in a squat toilet that looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in…..ever, eating fried bugs, picking coffee beans with the branches smacking every part of your body or eating in a restaurant alone. (Mexico “chapulinas”  fried crickets)

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I am shocked at the level of corruption in most developing countries. Even if it is technically a democracy, most nations are run by and for the benefit of those who control the institutions of power. Political killings, bribery, extortion and kickbacks are the norm in many countries.

Pack as light as you can. I am a work in progress.. (Finland)

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It is the twenty-first century and most people in the world are living in it. You can visit a tribe in the jungle or mountains to have an “authentic” experience. But cultures have always changed as new ideas, religions, technologies sprang up and different cultures mingled and traded with each other. Today is no different. (Panama Embera tribe)

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When on a boat in rough water, vomit down. (Tasmania, Australia)

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People of the world do not seem to hate Americans – even in countries where you think they might. They may hate our government and our politics but they are as curious about Americans as I am about them. (Myanmar)

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When they tell you not to drink the water in a country – don’t do it. This includes ice, and washing fruits and vegetables. (Thailand)

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The hype of a destination can sometimes set you up for disappointment. Go anyway but I find it is the surprise places that I didn’t know too much about that I remember – except Machu Picchu – that lives up to the hype. (Peru Machu Picchu)

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Remember to call your bank and credit card companies before you leave.

Usually the American media portrays things as much worse than they are. The media makes us scared of the world and we shouldn’t be. Be cautious if you are going somewhere that is in the news but chances are that by the time you get there it will be over and they will still be reporting it. Always check the BBC they are much calmer. This has happened to me in Budapest, Bangkok, Myanmar, Colombia, Cuba and Cancun. So far it has been fine when I got there. (Cuba)

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Traveling with friends and family make amazing memories, traveling on a tour is safe and you learn a lot, but traveling alone is more eye-opening and you have adventures. (Viet Nam)

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It’s ok to be a tourist sometimes. There are some tourist attractions that you should see.(China, Great Wall)

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You can find the internet almost anywhere. I have watched them laying internet cables high in the mountains of Argentina. I have used it in Myanmar before they were supposed to actually have it. I have seen remote villagers holding their cell phones in the air for a signal. (Tibet- photo Helen Mackinnon)

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Most people you meet in the world have a  desire to travel. There are finances, fears and excuses but everyone I meet tells me unasked about a place they hope to visit one day. I think the wish to explore and see new things is fundamental to the human experience. (Colombia)

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Fly safe,

JAZ

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Unesco World Heritage Sites. (photo above  by Emilio White, Iguazu Falls, Argentina)

“The list could surely go on, and there is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis ”  Umberto Eco

“And this is a Unesco World Heritage Site”, says the Tour guide proudly at Quebrada de Humahuaca, Iguazu Falls, Dubrovnik, Machu Picchu, Selim Mosque,etc.  ( Dubrovnik, Croatia )

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I finally did it. I looked it up. I knew it had something to do with the United Nations. I know it was a part of UNESCO. (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) (Machu Picchu, Peru)

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In case you don’t know what UNESCO  is I took this from the website. “The main objective of UNESCO is to contribute to peace and security in the world by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science, culture and communication in order to further universal respect for justice and the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion. “ (Great Wall, China)

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In my head I check off the places. Oh good another World Heritage Site, I must be near the end of the list. (Ayutthaya, Thailand)

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What is it about us and lists?  Lists make us feel better.  There is a finite number of things to do. There is less time for our brains to process our choices. We know a Unesco World Heritage Site is an important thing to see  and we do it. Everyone agrees to do it. Lists help us make sense of the world. ( Venice, Italy)

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The World Heritage List includes 981 properties which the  World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. It is ongoing. (Mt. Fuji, Japan)

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To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. (Cappadocia, Turkey)

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(If you are interested in reading the requirements,  this part it is from their website)

“(ii)  to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;

(iii) to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;

(iv) to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;

(v)  to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;

(vi)  to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);

(vii) to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;

(viii) to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;

(ix) to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;

(x) to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

The protection, management, authenticity and integrity of properties are also important considerations.

Since 1992 significant interactions between people and the natural environment have been recognized as  cultural landscapes.

Only countries that have signed the World Heritage Convention, pledging to protect their natural and cultural heritage, can submit nomination proposals for properties on their territory to be considered for inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Like other lists, it requires an extensive nomination process. (St. Ignacio Mission, Argentina)

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The World Heritage committee is represented by 21 countries and the elections are held at the General Assembly meeting annually.  . Each country can hold a place for six years but some step down voluntary after four to give other countries a chance. (Hiroshima Dome, Japan)

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The  current 21 Committee Members are: Algeria,Colombia, Croatia, Finland, Germany, India, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Republic Of Lebanon, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, Poland,  Portugal, Qatar, Senegal, Serbia, Turkey and Viet Nam  with a third of them leaving this year. (Uluru, Australia)

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In my last trip I’ve knocked off the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, The Daintree Rainforest, Tasmania Parklands, Port Arthur and the Sydney Opera House. I only have several hundred more to go …… but they keep adding them, so I will keep traveling. 

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Fly Safe,

JAZ

Things I Have Learned From The Incas In Peru

“Before our white brothers came to civilize us we had no jails. Therefore we had no criminals. You can’t have criminals without a jail. We had no locks or keys, and so we had no thieves. If an Indian  was so poor that he had no horse, tipi or blanket, someone gave him these things. We were too uncivilized to set much value on personal belongings. We wanted to have things only in order to give them away. We had no money, and therefore a man’s worth couldn’t be measured by it. We had no written law, no attorneys or politicians, therefore we couldn’t cheat. We really were in a bad way before the white men came, and I don’t know how we managed to get along without these basic things which, we are told, are absolutely necessary to make a civilized society.”

― John Lame DeerLame Deer, Seeker of Visions

Things I Have Learned from the Incas In Peru

The Inca culture is part myth part Peruvian history. There are no written historical records of  people that lived for three hundred years and ruled  the West Coast of South America for one hundred years.

Their recording system (mathematical) system was colored strings with knots to keep records of everything that could possibly be counted (livestock and business transactions), and some things that couldn’t – like instructions, people’s names etc.   They were  required to remember to understand what the strings or quipu meant .  Most people couldn’t do it.  They had a  class of royal quipu specialists who knew how to make and read them. (the first accountants and business managers)

Archaeologists believe now that the Incas  were possibly inventing written language just as the Europeans were destroying their civilization.

.No other civilization has managed to assemble so many colossal stone blocks so seamlessly cut with stones or bronze.  The edges of the stone were rubbed smooth until they merged together perfectly like a puzzle. There is no mortar holding them together and they are earthquake proof constructions. ( Sacsayhuaman fortress)

How they  transported all that granite up there  to Machu Picchu remains a mystery.  It is believed that they quarried  it on site. 

The Incas knew how important water was and treated it with great respect but we did not. (Ollaytantambo)

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When the descendants of the Incas are planting to this day, they put flowers in their hair to dress the earth. They live with shortages but they have the mountains and the sky and that gives them peace. They are always chewing coca leaves.

Inca dances are traditional and also a way to pray.

The Inca manhood initiation rite lasted a full month, during which the boys who were training to be warriors were flogged repeatedly, had huge holes cut in their ear lobes, ran dangerous races, and danced till they dropped.

There was a lot of building going on in the Inca civilization ( third largest after Egypt and Mesapotamia)  They built palaces, aqueducts, storehouses, terraces, temples, houses, gateways etc. Looking at Machu Picchu you could see their “tax dollars at work”.

 We know very little about Inca women because the only written records are by the Spaniards. Spain was a patriarchal society and they were not interested in recording information about women.

The Inca emperor married his sister seemingly because this helped to resolve the problems they had with succession when an Inca died.  ( a good way to prevent inheritance problems but not birth defects). Her name was Coya and she was powerful in her own right.

 Pizzaro and his men were not heroic explorers but an extremely desperate group of foreign invaders who brutally murdered the Inca civilization  ( where have we heard this before?)

The Incas were skilled craftsmen and artists. Most of  their gold and silver art was melted down by the Spaniards.

There were no homeless people in the Inca civilization. If criminals were not killed, they had to beg for food everyday and tell their stories so other people would not commit the same crime. (sounds a lot better than twenty years without parole) 

The spirit of Ayni  (rhymes with Hi-ni)   exists in the Quechua  culture today. We don’t talk  about Incas as a surviving culture anymore.  It is “I help you so you must help me later.”

Also today we have Inka Kola, Inka rail and a ton of Inka traffic going to all the historic sites.

Machu Picchu was the royal estate of Inca  King Pachacuti.

Th Incas were good at organizing labor. When Pachacuti’s grandson Huayna Capac built his royal estate  (in Urubumba) he had 150,000 workers on site. The corn-growing Cochabamba valley of Bolivia was short of local labor, so they had 28,000 workers migrate there from Lake Titicaca and back (a distance of about three hundred miles) twice a year, once to plant and once to harvest.  On foot, of course.

They had nice roads to travel on. The Incas built a network of stone-paved highways all over the empire. Archaeologists have so far logged about 50,000 miles of remaining highways in modern Peru alone, not counting the other nations that once formed part of the Inca empire.

Machu Picchu has brilliant engineering, drainage and foundations. They filled the terraces with layers, starting with topsoil for the crops and then river sand, stone chippings from the quarries, and big rocks. Underneath that are subterranean drainage channels which still carry water down the mountain   No matter how hard it rains, no standing water ever remains for long on the surface.( Estimate: 60% of construction at Machu Picchu is invisible, underground.) i believe we could learn something here because it rains a lot in Macchu Picchu.
The Incas worshipped the earth goddess Pachamama . Before our trip to Machu Picchu we met with a shaman to make an offering to Pachamama for safe journey.

The purpose of Macchu Picchu will always remain a mystery. It is probably a religious and spiritual site.  It is the work of man echoing the work of nature. The Inca trail leading up to Machu Picchu ( it takes four days  of camping out in the Andes if you want to do it) was built to always face the snow capped mountains because that is what they worshipped. The architectural style is sacred geography.  For me, if God isn’t at Machu Picchu, he isn’t anywhere.

 

Viajen con cuidado,

JAZ

PS.  I had help on this one . It is advantageous  when you are writing about the Incas to have made a friend in Peru who happens to be one of the leading authorities on the Inca civilization .  Peter Frost is an explorer, author, photographer and National Geographic expert on Peru and the  Incas.  He has made one of the most important discoveries of Inca civilization since Machu Picchu. Check out his website  (www.peterfrost.org).  If you are traveling to  Peru you will find his books very beautiful,  helpful and informative.