We all have those magical vacation ideas. It may be vacationing on the beaches in Cuba, climbing the mountains to Machu Picchu or kayaking the Rhine, but we all have those places we long to see before we die.
I also have a list, but mine is probably a little different than what most people would pick. Because I am currently sitting, dreaming about faraway places until I have enough money saved up to take another, life altering trip, I thought I would share my travel bucket list. Maybe somebody who reads this could even help me cross some of these off!
Chernobyl and Pripyat
On its 16th birthday, the city of Pripyat had a population of almost 50,000 people. Two months later the city would be abandoned.
On April 26th, 1986, the nearby nuclear power plant exploded, releasing a massive cloud of radioactive fallout into the air, soil and water surrounding the plant and into Pripyat. The fires were put out in the early morning light, and the citizens of Pripyat had no idea what had happened. As a result, they carried on their daily lives, with many of them experiencing headaches, nausea, uncontrollable fits of coughing and vomiting and the strong taste of metal in their mouth throughout the day.
The next day, on April 27th, the evacuation notice was given. Buses rolled into the city, giving people only a few minutes to get their belongings and leave. Scooped out of their daily lives with the belief the evacuation would only last three days, sinks are still full of dirty dishes, lessons are still on chalkboards and toys still sit in playgrounds, untouched, 30 years later.
The grounds around the city are now known as the Exclusion Zone, or "zone of alienation". The area is populated only by military personal and the 300 citizens that refused to leave. Today, radiation is still a cause for concern in the area, with the belief that human life cannot live safely in Pripyat for at least another 20,000 years (makes you wonder how those 300 are doing!). Nevertheless, in 2011 the Ukrainian Government opened the gates to Pripyat for tourists and historians alike. Although there is radiation, tours are always less than 60 minutes, and the tour members are forbidden from removing anything from the city.
Although I've never been (hence why it's on this list), I have often been in communication with Chernobyl Welcome, a tour company in Kiev that offers tours into the city. I specifically asked about the recent issues in Ukraine with the pro-Russian rebel forces. They assured me that Kiev and Pripyat are safe from the fighting, and they welcomed me to come anytime.
Be sure to check out their video to see what it's all about!
The ancient Roman city of Pompeii was lost to history in August, 24th, 79 CE when the super-volcano inside the nearby Mount Vesuvius violently erupted. The only witness to the eruption was Pliny the Younger, a Roman poet from Misenum across the Bay of Naples. His original testimony was dismissed as fiction until the ruins were later discovered. Since then, his word has became priceless records of the events that occurred that day.
The eruption occurred in two stages. The first was a "Plinian eruption", which is a long term eruption that can last from days to months. This eruption lasted between eighteen and twenty hours. Filling the air with toxic smoke, the citizens of the city hurried inside for their own safety. Soon after, pumice began to fall from the sky, resting on roofs throughout the city. Alone, pumice is light, but after 18 to 20 hours worth of a steady pumice rainfall, roofs began to collapse and people were suffocated and crushed to death. It was this first stage of the eruption that killed Pliny the Elder, a commander of the Roman fleet who sent a rescue mission to Pompeii to save the people of the city.
The second stage was a pyroclastic flow, which is a fast moving current of molten rock, ash and dust, that can move at speeds up to 700 kilometers an hour. Anybody who was outside in Pompeii to escape the pumice would have been caught in this gas cloud, being killed and sealed into a tomb of ash immediately. These tombs are on display today, with the ash forming a perfect mold around the poor soul that was caught in the ash cloud. The mass of gas and rock can even pass over large bodies of water, so had Pliny the Elder not already been deceased, he probably wouldn't have survived this either.
Rediscovered in 1599, the man who spearheaded the architectural dig found several walls of the city. Then, for reasons still unknown, he buried them and claimed there was nothing there of interest.
In 1738 it was once again discovered, and this time fully excavated. The reasoning for the actions done in 1599 appear to be because of the erotic artwork found within the city. It is believed that by covering them back up in 1599, it was an act of censorship and to keep the sinful ways of the past buried and forgotten.
This censorship was once again put into place once the artifacts were put on display, with the belief that the large sexual organs drawn on the walls of the city were not to be seen by the public. This belief caused the exhibits to be closed and reopened a dozen times, with it finally being temporally reopened in the 1960s and permanently reopened in 2000, 400 years after it's original discovery
Today, Pompeii is one of Italy's greatest tourist attractions, with over two and a half million people visiting it each year.
As for the volcano, it is still active.
Built as a military barracks, Auschwitz is famous for being the largest concentration and extermination camp created by the German Nazis during World War II
With a death toll of 1.1 million people, the buildings of Auschwitz witnessed unimaginable horror directed towards the Jews, the Poles, the Romani, and Soviet soldiers. From crammed living quarters, starvation, gas chambers and human experiments, the prisoners of these camps were systematically tortured and murdered for simply being "inferior". It is believed at roll-call each morning, five to ten people would be found that had died in their sleep.
I did a large piece about the Holocaust and the horrors that occurred during it in my Amsterdam post when I visited the Anne Frank Haus, and in my New York post where I visited the Museum of Jewish Heritage. I also had the opportunity to see one of the boxcars used to transport the prisoners to the camps while in St. Petersburg, Florida. To see Auschwitz, the final resting place of over a million people, would be fitting after seeing and learning about every other tragedy that fell upon the Jewish people in Eastern and Western Europe during the 1930s and 40s.
Proudly self-proclaimed as the "other Iraq", Kurdistan is a country that never was.
Culturally different from Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, Kurdistan was promised it's own country when the redrawing of the Middle East took place following World War I and the Treaty of Sèvres. This promise was never kept. In 1945 the idea of becoming an independent state was once again mentioned, but again denied.
In 1992 at the end of the First Gulf War, "Iraq Kurdistan" became an independent region of Iraq, with it's own local government and parliament.
The recent instability in Syria has led to the unofficial growth of Kurdistan's borders, and the rise of ISIS has also led to the possibility of independence. The Kurds are one of the most effective fighting forces in the region for this very reason; they are fighting for their own freedom and their own place on the international community. It is believed that Kurdistan will very well become it's own country within the next 10 years, and that makes this a hotspot for future tourism.
At 5,000 years old, Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities on Earth, and is responsible for the three most influential religions in history: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
From being sacked by the ancient Romans to internal skirmishes between the Israelis and Palestinians, Jerusalem has switches hands through bloodshed almost 30 times since it was founded. It has been the place of famous buildings like Solomon's Temple, famous rulers like King David, and famous events like the Crucifixion of Christ. Walking the streets of Jerusalem would be like walking back through a time machine, with structures older than Stonehenge currently being occupied.
Being the heart of the three major religions, Jerusalem is also a cultural and literary epicenter, with famous structures like the the "Shrine of the Book", the building that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls.
My knowledge of the city is very limited, and as much as I could read and do more research about it, I feel it would be much more educational to understand the city, and it's world wide influence, by walking the streets and experiencing the city as Jesus and Mohammad once did.
Trinity Blast Site
On July 16, 1945, at 5:29 AM the Manhattan Project came to an end in the middle of the New Mexico desert.
Believed to be a dud, or a scientific impossibility, the Manhattan Project, or "Trinity", was the very first atomic bomb to ever go off. With ideas ranging from a puff of smoke to setting the atmosphere on fire, Trinity is one of the greatest wartime secrets of World War II.
With only one chance to test the explosive blast, 100 tons of TNT were originally exploded, to measure the smoke cloud, the blast radius and the temperature emitted. Trinity shattered these numbers, becoming nothing less than a man made start. Trinity was so hot in fact that it cooked the desert sand into green glowing glass, and left a crater 5 feet deep and 30 feet wide. The shock-wave was felt over 100 miles away, and the mushroom cloud reached 7.5 miles high. This bomb would go on to be to inspire the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that plunged the world into the Atomic Age.
In September 1953 the official Trinity Site was opened to the public, and people are allowed to visit the ranch house where the bomb was assembled, the bunker where the observations were made, and ground zero where the bomb exploded. Erected on that very spot is a black, volcanic obelisk with the words "Trinity Site Where the World's First Nuclear Device Was Exploded on July 16, 1945." engraved.
I've been fascinated in atomic bombs since my childhood, and after visiting Hiroshima, I want more now than ever to visit the site where it all took place, over 70 years ago.
With no indigenous population, the island was the last continents to be discovered. However, it was hypothesized to exist back in the 1st Century as being a possible "balance" with the landmasses of the world. Even after South America and Australia were discovered, it was still believed another landmass had to exist on the Southern Pole but it wasn't until 1820 that the island was first spotted from sea.
Larger than Europe, this frozen landmass is home to between 1,200 to 5,000 people, ranging with the seasons. Being vast and empty, wild stories often originate from Antarctica, ranging from wars with alien forces to Lovecraftian creatures of lore.
Winters in Antarctica are the coldest on our planet, with temperatures often hovering around the -80 Celsius mark. Until recently, tourism to Antarctica has been mostly nonexistent, simply because of its remote location and inhospitable conditions. However, with people around the world looking to travel to more remote, uninhabited destinations, tours of the island do exist... for a price.
I could list 20 places around the globe I would like to visit, like the Aztec Pyramids, the Inca Lines, Moscow, Cairo, New Delhi, Dublin, Kiev, San Francisco, Tibet, Oslo, Stockholm, and Nuremberg, but I felt this list was long enough as it was. It would be a dream to travel to every destination and see every city, but I knew this would be impossible. I'm blessed to have seen what I've seen and experienced what I have. I hope to visit at least some of these beautiful destinations before I settle down and start a boring adult life, but I have a feeling even if I did see them all, I will never stop traveling.
Picture of Prypiat taken by Carl Montgomery, used under the Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, originally posted on Flickr on February 28, 2008.
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
Cemeteries are a place of solace. All people, regardless of wealth, status, religion or creed are equals within a cemetery. It's a place of remembrance, respect and reconciliation. If you visit a cemetery, you are visiting the graves of lost loved ones. These may be children, pioneers, rebels or everyday people. Every grave has a story, and all are longing to be told.
Because of this, cemeteries are a library of knowledge. They hold the lessons of our past, and the wisdom of our future. As the leaves change and the days get shorter, cemeteries attract a much different crowd than that of just historians and family members. With autumn crisp in the air, cemeteries fill with thrill-seekers and paranormal believers. There is a fine line between what is and isn't acceptable within a cemetery and those who dabble into the affairs of the afterlife know this all too well. Few people go into cemeteries looking to disrespect the graves; instead, most are just hoping they can answer their own questions about life after death.
Not all cemeteries are haunted, but each holds their own stories. Keep this in mind while you read this article. If you end up visiting any of these sites, remember to step softly, speak quietly and respect the surrounding graves. You might not be as alone as you think.
Part 12 of my cross Canada series takes us to the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island. However, don't let the name confuse you: PEI is actually 232 islands!
PEI also happens to have smallest population of any province in Canada, with only 146,300 people as of 2014. This means this province has less people than my hometown Regina!
Being so small, however, it was difficult to find images on Instagram. That isn't to say there's nothing there worth seeing! Quiet the quandary, actually. PEI has a few very unique locations that drive their tourism. One of them is the gorgeous themed village of Avonlea, named after the village in the hit novel "Anne of Green Gables" published in 1908. This story, and the subsequent stories, follows Anne, a red-haired "fiery" orphan who grows up on PEI. The story is an international bestseller, and is strangely very popular in Japan (or so I've been told)!