We all know the names, we’ve all seen the photos, some of us are lucky enough to have seen them in real life; famous monuments make the travel world go-round. There are bucket lists longer than the Great Wall dedicated to the famous monuments of the world. So how then, do we decide where to go and what to see? The next two Traveller’s Tales will be dedicated to exploring the famous monuments of the world and whether I give them a thumbs up, or a thumbs down!
The Colosseum is where I was first bit by the travel bug. I remember the moment I caught site of the amphitheater after entering the city walls and winding down the streets. The Colosseum emerged as a time machine of history, modern life buzzing around it, as if blasé to the historical significance of the structure.
The Colosseum was constructed under the emperor Vespasian from 72 – 80 AD. It remains the largest amphitheater ever built and could hold anywhere from 50 – 80 thousand people in its prime. The Colosseum was used in its early years for gladiator battles, executions, reenactments and dramas, however, throughout the centuries it’s held many other uses too.
In a city full of ruins and an impressive history, it’s not hard to be overwhelmed with awe and wonder when you see the Colosseum, still preserved in an impressive way. Although fire, earthquakes, history and time have led to the deterioration of the Colosseum, it doesn’t change my feeling about it. To get up close to it and run your hand along the stone, just knowing how many people have passed through the gates; that feeling earns the Colosseum a thumbs up.
I arrived in Paris after a long drive from Switzerland. I’d been on a bus for nearly 12 hours and I was tired. Coming into Paris off the highway, you can see the tip of the Eiffel Tower sticking out over the city. Being one of the most famous monuments in the world, it was almost hard to believe I was looking at the Eiffel Tower. Even up close I tried to feel the same awe I felt when I saw the Colosseum, but I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed.
The Eiffel Tower was constructed between 1887 and 1889 as the entrance to the World’s Fair. It was meant to be taken down in 1909 but as we are all well aware, that did not happen.
There has always been great buzz and controversy surrounding the Eiffel Tower. It was the place cosmic rays were discovered. The transmission signal in the tower also helped to jam German communications during WW1. A con artist sold the tower in 1925 for scrap metal and in 1967, the Mayor of Montreal tried to negotiate an agreement that the city would get the tower for Expo 67; an agreement that never came to fruition.
The impressive history of the tower did give the monument a few brownie points, I will admit. And with the underwhelming feelings aside, I definitely still had fun at the tower; climbing the stairs to look out over the city, taking ridiculous photos on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, photobombing other tourists and trying to pick pocket each other.
I don’t want to put the Eiffel Tower down, considering it is a pretty cool structure, but should you go visit in the height of summer, waiting in the long lineups to climb 1700 steps just might not be worth it. For the underwhelming first glance and slightly overhyped fame, I give the Eiffel Tower a bit of a sad thumbs down.
The most famous monument in Greece, dating back to the mid-5th Century BC, the Acropolis is an utterly impressive piece of history. The Acropolis was built upon a hill, some 150m above Athens. The ambitious building plans were carried out by the Athenians after their victory over the Persians. Monuments on the hill include the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaia and the Athena Nike, amongst others.
From wars to earthquakes to religion and many different rulers, the Acropolis has survived thousands of years of change. Many different restorations have taken place on the site, with other structures being erected on the hill throughout time. However, after the Greek War of Independence, there was a great attempt to return the Acropolis to its original site and rid it of additions made during the Roman, Byzantine, Frankish and Ottoman periods.
My time at the Acropolis was perhaps less of a reflection of the city and more a reflection of the weather. Although it was early May, the sun was hotter than you know what and the uneven, somewhat treacherous walk to the top was difficult for even me, a 16 year old. By the time I was to the top, I was tired, hot and thirsty. The site was unbelievably impressive, and the buildings were in recognizable shape, considering they were built around 2500 years ago, the walls around the Acropolis constructed some 1000 years earlier still.
The Acropolis deserves a thumbs up rating and much more, however, should you find yourself in Athens on a day that reaches 40C, I’d have a hard time giving it anything but a thumbs down.
The Little Mermaid
She may be lesser known than the Colosseum, Acropolis or Eiffel Tower, but the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Denmark, is worth a mention. I found out about the statue from my Dad who happens to be a walking, talking encyclopedia. Had he not asked me if I was excited to see the Little Mermaid when I was going to Copenhagen, I would have gotten off the bus, seen a bunch of tourists standing around the rocky water’s edge, taking photos of a small, bronze lady, laughed and gotten right back on the bus. However small or inconspicuous she might be, knowing the history of the Little Mermaid is quite endearing and it makes it difficult not to have a fond respect for her.
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, the Little Mermaid statue has been at the harbour’s edge since 1913. Over her time in Copenhagen, she’s suffered a similar torment to the mermaid from Andersen’s morbid story. The statue has had her head sawn off and stolen not once, but twice over the years. She’s had her arm sawn off, been blown into the harbour’s waters with explosives and had paint poured over her numerous times.
Simply because of her resilience and odd popularity with vandals, I give the Little Mermaid a thumbs up. I think it’s impressive that such a subtle statue commissioned over a century ago continues to be so well visited and loved by both the Danish and visitors alike.
Check back next month to see if your favourite famous monument has made the list!