With the New Year almost a week in, we are back to regular blogging again. We had a festive/silly season break and it feels good to be back.
Towards the end of last year, we wrote a piece about our most disappointing travel sites and to introduce this year, we are sharing our top 5 unexpected travel highlights – places which we fell in love but hadn’t expected to.
In a world where information is so readily at our fingertips and the internet can reveal so much about a place – we avoid “researching” too much into a place we want to visit. We look for inspiration, we read about safety and basic introductory information, but we don’t read or look at everything we can about the place because we find that creates expectation and takes away some of the “unknown”. We tend to like the element of surprise. And these are our top 5 unexpected travel gems.
Enter through the gates of Pingyao and we were transported back to centuries ago. There are no cars inside, it is all pedestrian and bicycles. Chinese history is oozing out of the walls and rooftops of this city and we LOVED it. It was our most favourite city during our time in China. As we walk along the alleyways and admire the well-preserved architecture, the only giveaway that we are in the 21st Century are the tourist shops.
Before arriving in Lyon, we did little research as we were using it more as a stopover before we headed into Switzerland, not expecting to be so blown away by it. The history and its Roman past had us fascinated for hours. We have written only about a couple of the places we visited in Lyon; the Museum of Miniatures and Cinema and the street murals. There is so much there to see and still more we are yet to share about our time in Lyon. Do yourself a favour and add it to your list for next time you are in France.
When it comes to anything history, we love it! Visiting ancient ruins is one of our favourite things to do when travelling. Whilst travelling through Turkey, there are a LOT of ancient ruins to the point of possibly being fatigued by them. But there is no fatigue when it comes to riding a cable car and then exploring the ruins of Pergamum. The views from the top are just unbelievable across the countryside. What we found to be the biggest treat was walking amongst the columns and stones and remnants of life from thousands of years ago.
Often left off maps and forgotten as belonging to Australia, it is one of the places in the world where we want to come back to as soon as we have left. There is just something about it that makes us just want more. There is delicious, fresh local food! There is jaw-dropping stunning scenery. There is an abundance of wildlife and there is a touch of history. Whoever comes to Australia and doesn’t put Tassie on their list is crazy!!
(1) Weliczka Salt Mines
Hands up if you thought “salt mines? – how special can they be?” We knew they were UNESCO Heritage, we knew they were important and a must-see. We knew about the history behind it but we were NOT by any means expecting to see what we saw. Climbing into a 3-storey shaft lift was only the beginning of one of THE MOST incredible places we have visited. An underground city, quite literally, that was carved out of salt.
We love having these surprises so we try not to look at too many photos of a place just before we visit!
Now it’s your turn! We would love to hear about places that you didn’t expect to be so AWESOME 🙂
Following up from yesterday’s “seven” ancient images of Turkey – we are now spending today’s post on talking a little bit about them.
We mean no disrespect to history or the ruins of Turkey but too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad. The first site of ruins that we saw was exciting, the second site was mind-boggling, the third site still brought awe but then by the fourth and those thereafter honestly became a bit of a blur.
But it wasn’t only here that we have experienced this form of saturation or sightseeing fatigue, this has happened to us in several parts of the world. In Europe, there were castles/palaces, cathedrals and churches! And our times in Asia, we have experienced temples saturation. We’ve suffered museum and art gallery fatigue too! Everything begins to blend into one. We tried slow travel and we’ve tried intense travel but it always happens! We have learnt that variety is key.
But back to Turkey, we did see amazing ruins! Please don’t get us wrong, there is no denying the significance of the things we saw. We love history, especially ancient history and we loved what we saw!
It is highly likely that this place needs no introduction. History buffs will know the city of Troy and those that don’t, may have at least seen the movie with Brad Pitt and Eric Bana. If you still have no idea what we are talking about, then maybe you know the legendary tale how Troy came to be conquered by the Greeks in the wooden horse!
This site is probably underwhelming in some respects but we were still excited. As we walked through the clearly marked path, we tried to grasp the size of the walled city. It definitely isn’t big by today’s standards but we knew they were not penetrable. It blew us away how the city wall we could see was only part of it, the height was much taller and the rest was still buried beneath where we stood.
And of course, we needed to do the typical tourist thing, climb inside the horse and have our photos taken.
The most impressive Temple of Zeus altar was discovered here however unfortunately today there is nothing more than rubble. The altar have been excavated and taken back and reconstructed in a museum in Berlin – which is a shame but in terms of preservation, probably for its own good.
What we loved about this ancient ruins site, aside the fact you travel on a cable car up to it, is the gorgeous amphitheatre! Looking at our photos now still provides this overwhelming feeling of can’t-believe-we-saw-that. It’s so steep and its sheer size astounds us still. This place is definitely worth a visit. We really enjoyed it here.
Ephesus is probably most famous for the Library of Celsus and Gate of Augustus. Hate to break it to you, but is all reconstructed with replicas. The originals can be found in Vienna. Sometimes, we wish we didn’t know any better.
Anyway, it didn’t bother us much as we found some other things rather fascinating while here; the mosaics on the paths outside the terraces, the public washrooms, the Fountain of Trajan, the Goddess Nike carving and one of us being from a health background was quite humbled to see the medical and pharmacy symbols. Entering the gladiator arena was also probably a wee bit exciting!
Ephesus is not far from Kusadasi or Izmir which are ports for cruises. So if you happen to be here when the boats are in, expect to have thousands of other fellow visitors. Although what we saw here was magnificent and mind blowing, it was also extremely crowded.
4) Temple of Artemis
Possibly the most unexciting ancient ruins we have ever seen on any travels. The site where it once stood houses now nothing noticeable except some remains and one lone pillar. In its heyday, there is no doubt based on the reconstructions of its probable appearance that it was a very grand building. It was also once an ancient 7 wonder of the world. But alas, is no more and probably explainable due to it sad state. This might have been where out interest began to wane as is yours, so if you are reading…. thank you, we appreciate it 🙂
A bit of a mixed bag this place for us. There was the Sebasteion and the tetrapylon which were both reconstructed. So the stadium was our biggest highlight here. It is about 2 football fields long (260 m) and would have been able to house up to 30, 000 spectators. It is said that it is one of the best preserved ancient stadiums. There is an air-conditioned museum which houses all the statues and artefacts found at the site. It is a lovely refuge on a hot day but also very interesting to explore the different exhibits!
Seeing the old baths was probably the most fascinating thing here. Firstly there was a water pipe system and that there were visible heating facilities (hypocaust chambers) underground. Perge also has a stadium outside of the entrance gates which is believed could house 12, 000 spectators.
It is noticeable from our photos that our interest here has waned a lot. The heat was probably also getting to us. We don’t have very many photos of this particular area. We have a few of the very well-preserved theatre and a few of the aqueducts. What actually fascinated us most about this area were the cotton fields. Being born and raised in the city, we had never seen how cotton was grown other than on TV and in books. So to see it in “real life” was our highlight here!
Despite possibly feeling a little weary of ruins, there is one thing we always do when we visit historical sites. We pause and try to imagine what life would have been like in the times when the ruins were not ruins. In our heads, we try to recreate the sounds we might be hearing, the atmosphere. We will never know if we get it right but it’s still our way of soaking it all in so we remember it the way we choose to remember it.