Ruins

Athens, Greece

I love ruins. The older they are, the better. I love walking among fallen columns, crumbling facades, and on broken streets. I like to imagine what life might have been like in these places when they were still populated, you know, before everything was ruined. Ruins, along with old churches, stunning beaches, and of course the food, are my favorite thing about traveling through Europe. They’re everywhere. They haven’t been destroyed in the name of progress, and sometimes progress gets destroyed in the name of archaeology. What a great set of priorities!

Pompeii

Now, why do I like the crumbling old ruins so much? I think it has to do with the same reasons I’m a sucker for reality TV. I have an active imagination and love wondering what other peoples’ lives are like. I like to see “how the other half lives.”

Pompeii

Ruins certainly let your imagination run wild. Bathhouses, brothels, coliseums, temples, and even bakeries and bars can really let you wonder just what went on in this place before you managed to make it here. Sometimes you don’t really have to wonder, the writing (pictures) is/are still on the walls.

Ephesus, TurkeySometimes the ruin you’re looking at doesn’t seem like much at all, but you know that it’s all that remains of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. This kind of thing can really boggle the mind.

At any rate, I love ruins, and “ruins” starts with “R,” so there it is.

 

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Fly Away Friday: Egypt for the last wonder of the ancient world

Egypt even haunts me in my office here in Korea

Egypt is on my mind in a big way. Let me catch you up to what’s been going on in my head so that you can have the proper frame of reference for why I’d like to fly off to a country that’s had more than its fair share of political turmoil in the past couple of years. I swear I’m not crazy. Well, I might be a little crazy, but the good kind of crazy, not the “needs to be institutionalized” kind. Back on topic.

Young Heracles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

I have long been interested in the ancient world. I think it started in about the 4th grade or so when the “gifted” class I was in at school did a year-long thematic unit on ancient Greece. The next year we did a year-long unit on ancient Rome. In the sixth grade my teachers really banded together to have interdisciplinary activities and we spent a semester talking about ancient Egypt and archaeology. Those were impressionable years, and I really enjoyed learning and that kind of thing so a whole lot of interest was sown in my brain. It was covered by years, and I do mean years, of other interests until something came along to water the seeds of interest and make them bloom into a full blown obsession plant.

Temple of Dender (exterior) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Recently, when Carolyn and I started talking about destinations for our honeymoon shit went haywire. Our original plan for a huge Euro trip spanning France, England, Germany, Austria and other northern European countries got changed into a trip across the southern borders of Europe along the Mediterranean. This was the spark that caused a huge gasoline fire, as a lot of the books I’ve read in the past year or two take place in the region and I realized, “hey! I’m finally going to see where all of this mythological stuff actually happened!”

Temple of Dender at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A fire can’t burn really bright without fuel, now can it? Remember how I said that I once really enjoyed school and learning and such? That was before I joined the school band and went all-in with that. Hell, I’m not the only guy that went all out on music in middle and high school, but I probably did sacrifice a good portion of academic success I carried potential for in favor of musical practice time and that kind of thing. Long story short, I didn’t read for fun at all very much from about the seventh grade until December of 2010 when we were getting ready to move to Korea.

Sphinx at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Two things happened at this point. I used my tax refund (I had just finished a master’s program…deductions!) to buy two iPod touches, one for Carolyn and one for myself. What the hell does that have to do with the story? I’ll tell you what. One of the first apps I downloaded was the Kindle app, and the first book I bought was Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief. Over the next three months or so both Carolyn and I read the entire Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. It was honestly magical, being reminded of things that I used to know so long ago. While the stories take place in the United States, it was pretty clear which Greek tales the author was drawing his inspiration from, and I spent plenty of time during breaks at work looking for the original stories in the free section of the Kindle store and on the internet. Boom. Fuel. Add in the spark and you’ve got fire, right? This is how my newly rediscovered curiosity about the ancient world was reborn.

Okay Charlie, that’s great and all, but what exactly does this have to do with Egypt? That is, after, all your topic for the day. Fine. You’re so damn picky. Here’s what it has to do with Egypt. Just before flying home for my winter vacation in January I was searching for a book to read on the flight. As it were, Rick Riordan had written a totally new series! The Kane Chronicles is set against the backdrop of Egyptian mythology. I read the first two books on vacation, and had to wait for him to release the third title on the Kindle store until May. I didn’t even purchase it until August. I read it at night when I laid down to go to sleep and on the flights to and from Thailand, and it was absofrickinlutely outstanding. So there’s the background.

(TL;DR: I was once very interested in Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology. I forgot about it until I read the Percy Jackson and Kane Chronicles novels. We’re going to Greece and Turkey on our honeymoon. I’m interested in all things ancient.)

If I had a million dollars, I’d book two first class tickets on Emirates to Cairo for Carolyn and I. We would enjoy all of the amenities offered in those awesome little suites they have in first class and have drinks at the bar in our finest flying clothes, acting as if we were early jet-setters from the heyday of Pan Am. We’d arrive in Cairo and a driver from the Concorde El Salam Hotel would pick us up and whisk us off to the hotel in Heliopolis. We’d order room service and sleep.

 

 

The next morning the concierge would arrange transport and an interpreter to take us to the Great Pyramid at Giza and other local sites. We’d stare in awe at the visages of the Pharaohs, try to understand the beautiful heiroglyphics, and probably do our best impersonations of Indiana Jones. We would also ride a camel (which would likely be the thing we talk about the most afterwards because animals are kind of our thing.)

 

Abu Simbel by cofiem, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  cofiem 

 

The next day we’d go to other historical sites around the Nile River Valley and I would talk endlessly about how incredible ancient civilizations were and how they were awesome because these old monuments were built for no other reason than to act as a storage locker for someone’s body or give praise to a diety, and ramble on (much like this sentence) about how the monumental buildings we build today are stuffed full of miserable people in cubicles. Over the next few days we’d go to Abu Simbel, Saqqara, Luxor, and Alexandria before hanging out on the beach at Sharm el Sheikh. It would be grand. (If you’d like to sponsor this trip just let me know!)

So yeah. Egypt. It’s where I want to go right now. Of course I’d also settle for the Temple of Dender exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York right about now.