2012: Our Year of World Wonders
When I was young, my parents bought us the Childcraft series of encyclopedias from a door to door salesman. I guess my siblings and I were a wee bit nerdy, because we devoured these books. We thumbed through the volumes about animals of the world, the human skeleton and scientific achievements until the pages were fully tattered and bruised.
I still vividly remember the encyclopedia’s description of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Reading about these early marvels captured my child’s imagination and to this day, visions of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon remain firmly etched in my memory. Created by King Nebuchadnezzar as a green gift to his homesick wife, the lush gardens had to be irrigated by water from the Euphrates River, and it fascinated me as a child, that the water was lifted to the top terrace, so that it could spill downwards and water the plants below.
As I get older, the wish to feel that same sense of wonder hasn’t diminished. And in 2012, without realizing it, Agri and I were lucky enough to visit 5 of the 7 New Wonders of the World, as well as the Honorary candidate – and only surviving Ancient World Wonder – the Pyramid of Giza. Voted on by the public and tabulated by the 7 New Wonders organization, the New Wonders are:
- Machu Picchu, Peru
- Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
- Petra, Jordan
- Taj Mahal, Agra, India
- The Great Wall of China
- Chichen Itza, Mexico
In 2012, the first World Wonder we encountered was the culmination of 4 days of trekking up, down and through the stunning Andes Mountains. Though the ruins were initially covered in fog (we couldn’t see a thing!), Machu Picchu is one of those rare tourist sights that actually lives up to the hype, rain or shine.
By the time we visited Rio de Janeiro and the Cristo Redentor statue in May of 2012, we’d completely forgotten about the grey weather at Machu Picchu. Standing atop sunny Corcovado Mountain and looking down at the glorious Brazilian harbour with the wide open arms of the Cristo behind us was a definite highlight.
Our October 2012 visit to the Colosseum in Rome was not our first. I first saw it in 2007, and then again in 2010, and Agri lived in Rome for 6 years, and has seen it so often, it’s ceased to have the wonder it does for most people. 2012 is the first time we braved the lines and ventured inside though, and it’s from inside that you get a sense of how massive the Colosseo truly is. You can really imagine the gladiators running into the arena and picture the fights and massacres that must’ve occurred there. For the ultimate entertainment, Nero flooded the Colosseum and had full scale sea battles inside, complete with ships and soldiers.
Our stop at Petra in November of 2012 was the fulfillment of a long dreamt travel wish. I’d longed to walk through the towering rose coloured stones of the Siq ever since seeing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in my teens. It did not disappoint. Our first sight of the famous Treasury through a sliver of rocks in this ancient capital city of the Nabataeans was riveting.
We ended our year of World Wonders on Christmas Day, in front of the glorious Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Despite the fog that coated the entire city (what is it with us and fog!?), I gasped when I initially saw the Taj from afar. It seemed to rise mystically into the sky and appeared mirage-like. Up close, you can see the intricate carving work of the unfortunately brilliant artisans who lost their hands upon the completion of the Taj, so that they could never create anything again.
We actually saw our 6th Wonder, the Great Wall of China, in the bitter cold winter of 2008, before we settled in Korea permanently. We went to Mutianyu – a section of the wall that is less touristed – but with the weather being as it was, I don’t think we would’ve had much trouble at the more famous Badaling section of the Wall anyhow.
Seeing the Wall stretching out as far as the eye could see and knowing that it has a total length of more than 20,000 kilometres from east to west was mind-boggling.
To check all of the 7 New World Wonders off our list, we’d have to take a trip to Mexico to see Chichen Itza. This would’ve been super easy when we were living in Canada, but isn’t so much now that we’re living in Korea. Another reminder to take those easy travel opportunities when they’re available. 🙂