When I started planning my trip across Central Asia, I always had the idea that it would be fascinating to … Continue reading A Day as a Tourist in Afghanistan
I’ve been wanting to go to Jamaica really bad. When a few of my friends were asking when we’d go, I … Continue reading Bob Marley Adventure Guide to Reggae Jamaica
One of the best ways to see Copenhagen, Denmark is the way the locals do. On the seat of a … Continue reading 10 Must See Attractions In and Around Copenhagen Denmark the City of Cyclists
Canada’s Castle – Chateau Frontenac 5 Things Not to Miss in Quebec City! 1. Chateau Frontenac – top of the … Continue reading Walking tour of Quebec French Canada: 5 Things You Can NOT Miss!
This post is in a series of 7 posts on the 7 Wonders of the New World
- Great Wall of China – Sacrifice of a Nation
- Christ the Redeemer Statue – Religious Icon of Rio Brazil
- Taj Mahal – Sacred Mausoleum of Agra India
- Petra Jordan – Nabataean Cave City of the Desert
- Machu Picchu – Lost Sacred City of the Incas
- Chichen Itza – Ancient Mayan Temple Pyramid
- Colosseum Amphitheatre of the Ancient Roman Empire
When I was planning our Cancun vacation, my wife was thinking… we’ll chill on the beach at an all inclusive resort, and I was thinking… we’ll grab a rental car and pick up as many of the Mayan temples as possible within a 2 week period. Finally I can see one of the 7 finalists of the new 7 Wonders of the World – Chichen Itza. As a traveller I was anxious to see real wonders of the ancient world. I love temples, I love archeology, and I love the mystery that surrounds these massive new world temples. I also was incredibly interested in Tulum on the coast, and my ultimate Tikal the Mayan Capital. We know so little about the Mayans, but I was surprised to find out they weren’t totally wiped out. There is a group of Mayans that give the tours in Tulum, and they speak the ancient Mayan language. It’s so, so sad that the culture has so much of who they were. They lost everything. A few documents recently were rediscovered in Germany referred to as the Mayan Dresden Codex. Which some point to as the source of the 12, 21, 2012 apocalyptic date or the beginning of 1000 years of peace, but “A German expert who says his decoding of a Mayan tablet with a reference to a 2012 date denotes a transition to a new era and not a possible end of the world as others have read it…The interpretation of the hieroglyphs by Sven Gronemeyer…He said the inscription describes the return of mysterious Mayan god. Continue reading on Examiner.com German Mayan researcher’s 2012 conclusions. Cool. Beginning of the end of the world or return of a Mayan god… Bearded white god? (By the way, ask to see the rock carving of the bearded god at Chichen Itza. It’s pretty cool. If it’s Lief Erickson or Jesus or insane stone carver it’s mind numbing given the carvings all around it. Seriously fun stuff. You gotta enjoy the speculation and not get too caught up either way, since we can’t know.
While I don’t think the end will happen in December 2012 (No one is suppose to know the day or hour when Jesus is coming back Matthew 24:36), I have used it as an opportunity to be prepared for disaster. In my church, we have been asked to have a year supply of food on hand in case of disaster. It has paid off with members all over the world. As recent as the tsunami in Japan and earthquake in Hati, the members who obeyed have been blessed. As a member of the LDS Church there is a fascinating Book of Mormon back story of Christ in the Americas and Artists often paint pictures of Christ appearing to the righteous people in 3 Nephi 11 with the back drop of Tulum. There are Mormon tours all over this region. In fact we discovered that more than 30% of the guides in Tulum were Mayan members of the LDS Church. It’s understood that there really hasn’t been any LDS revelations on the locations, and anything discovered is purely speculation. Our guide at Tulum was actually a Mormon Bishop named Mosiah. It was a quick tour, which really didn’t add any info on what we had already got from our tour in Chichen Itza. He shared pictures of Tulum where light shines through specific building on April 6th, and sold us a tree of life medallion. Great stories. Amazing place. While I didn’t necessarily subscribe to all he shared, I was fascinated with the history of the Mayans, he being one himself. The PC accepted story is that Mayan calendar simply points toward a new era. Great. Others are looking for the Age of Aquarius.
Travel Tip: I do recommend highly recommend seeing Chichen Itza. I do recommend getting a negotiated tour there. There are some inscriptions and history that you’d miss otherwise. There are a lot of things to point out in the area. There are half a dozen buildings and a great ball court area, and you need to know more about the rules of that game and what happens to the winners and losers. Those stories you must hear. There’s a lot of inscriptions and interpretations and stories you need to hear. We got the 2 hour guided tour, that we negotiated on the spot after we arrived. It wasn’t too outrageous. There are a lot of people that can give tours, so shop around and negotiate. Don’t take the first rate you hear. Many hotels in Cancun can arrange transport and tour as well. Just don’t over pay. There is a lot of cushion. In relation to Cancun both Tulum and Chichen Itza are both day trips. There is a toll road all the way to Chichen Itza from Cancun. You’ll pay 20-30 USD for that trip one way! We decided we’d take the scenic route on the way there, and hurry back. It is a difference of about an hour. You can get to other ruins as well including Coba. I didn’t make it to Coba, we were with my wife’s family and Jeff got sick, so we missed out on that one, but that’s ok because my eye was on the ultimate prize of Tikal, Jaguar temple the largest temples in the new world. In contrast to Chichen Itza, I do not recommend the tour in Tulum. The buildings are a lot smaller, things are close and if you did this one after doing Chichen Itza there’s a lot of overlap. Our tour may have ultimately been 15 minutes of explanation and he didn’t even walk the whole thing with us. Don’t miss the views from either side of the temple near the water. There are some great photo shots by of Tulum by the water. Another reason to do your research of Tulum ahead of time and get the guided tour at Chichen Itza.
I had seen most of Western Europe when I visited the Balkans, but I wasn’t prepared for the beauty and raw elements of war I would see. Mountain views, lakes and valleys that would rival the best of Switzerland, rivers that rival the beauty of Idaho’s and untouched wilderness, the bridge in Mostar rival the arches of the canals of Venice, but evoke an emotional response. The worst of the war torn parts remind me of some parts of Beirut. Even the West Bank has been more cleaned up than some of the pits out of the buildings in Sarajevo. The stories of the rebuilding of the Synagogue in Sarajevo… How many times can a building be rebuilt?
In contrast, Roman emperors vacationed in Croatia. Dubrovnik and Split are incredibly scenic and would rival that of any ports in Italy or France, and a fresh seafood or fish dinner would cost you much less. I guess what I’m saying is, I loved it. Belgrade and Sarajevo are the hidden gems of Europe, the passion and life, and recent history to blow your mind. The travelers looking for secrets in Europe. Here’s a great place to start. It’s the Balkans. Some of my best friends in Europe. There’s something that goes deeper here. Relationships are stronger, and go deeper, you can feel it.
My trip started in Zagreb the capital of Croatia with a night tour. We met up for a great dinner and ended up walking around parliament, and old town Zagreb. Zagreb itself did avoid much of the conflict in the Balkan conficts/wars that happened back in 92-93.
Remnants of the war are still visible. There are more reasons to come and visit than the incredible night life. There are fresh memories that will teach the world a lesson… this lesson is war is not kind to anyone. War should be avoided at all costs, and the horrors and nightmares of war are real. Those who only vacation at Disneyland or Disneyworld and spend their vacations with the Grand Canyon as the ultimate bucketlist need to come for a visit. This land has a lot of lessons to teach.
When we got close to the Republik of Srpska we came across these signs. After spending time at the Cambodia land museum, I have been convinced that land mines do more danger to the citizens that have to live with these than any good they do for the military. There are some crazy stats on how much the people are impacted by these.
Now before you think it’s all doom and gloom, that’s totally not the key take away. It’s the opposite. In fact my friend Michael, who I was traveling with, recently wrote about his experience on this same trip. I highly encourage reading about his writeup on the former Hapsburg empire – Serbia, Romania, Bosnia & Herz, Montenegro, and Croatia. This trip started with a fellow colleague who lived in Croatia, Toni Frankola, a speaking team of Michael Noel, and Paul Swider.
This place is amazing, but as an American tourist, that gets a rise out of seeing something unlike anything I can find within the US or Western Europe. I get excited. This was one of the best Europe vacations I’ve ever done. I’ve seen Dubrovnik and Mostar on the front page of Bing on multiple occasions. They really are spectacular. The castle in Belgrade was an awesome place to walk around. The cultural music and dancing we got at night was spectacular. Very fun environment. I think it was a good thing for Toni as well, as he recognized some of the tunes, and was surprised to see the similarities between Croatia and Serbia. Good stuff.
When I first learned about Cappadocia, I was up late watching a late night Sci Fi show on Ancient Alien God theory. The spokey of underground cities where 20,000 people could live in caves. The spoke cave cities of 13 levels deep and how for thousands of years these caves had lasted time. No one really knows how old these caves are… you can’t carbon date a cave. They think they are at least 1700-2000 years old. These caves helped save Christianity at a time where it was illegal and the Romans were looking to wipe it out! How do we know? There are hundreds of early 3rd and 4th century cathedrals built by these Christians. They went on to say there are 36 such cities that could support a hundreds of thousands of people…. underground! Some cities are connected by 9 KM tunnels. Only 10% of the caves had even been excavated. What!!? Seems to me like we’d learn more about ourselves and where we came from if we knew more about these caves. Why have I not heard of such an incredible place before? I immediately added it to my list. About 6 months later, when I was planning a trip to Sofia, Bulgaria I remembered these incredible stories and decided… I must go. I priced it out and for less than $200 I could visit this place. You can fly to within an hour of the place. I decided I needed to see how much of this was real. Much to my surprise, these crazy facts were real! I read as much as I could and gasped at the amazing pictures on any image search. I dare you to look. If you’re a world traveller, you’ll immediately add this to your list, and if not it will be a bucket list item. Don’t wait till you’re too old for this one. Remember there’s hiking and walking in caves. You don’t want to hurt your back.
How this destination of underground city supports a population larger than most civilizations at the time still boggles my mind. No way. Too incredible. Who wiped out these ancient people? Who were they, what did they believe? Was it an attempt to escape an alien overlord? Doesn’t matter. Despite whether you believe aliens built the multiple thousand year old tunnels or believe it was the Hittites an ancient civilization that’s no longer around, the mystery of these crazy tunnels and underground cities are no less of a wonder. There’s a lot you can read about Derinkuyu, the largest underground city in the world, less than 30 minute drive from Goreme. It’s only been available for tours since 1969. There are plenty of tours that take you on organized tours or you can rent a car and take it at your pace. The tunnels are excavated. I went 8 levels deep on my tour and there were at least 4 or 5 tunnels that went off into the dark, one such tunnel my guide explained went to the next city. In the underground city you’ll find a winery, church, animal stalls, wells, ancient phone system, ventilation shafts, and a morgue. I visited all of these places on my tour.