Experiencing our distant past contributes to our cultural understanding and intellectual development. Studying history at any level can go a long way in helping us define our identities. Afterall, how can we understand ourselves if we don’t know more about how we evolved, or the experiences our forebears had.
Taking a tour to the more historically prominent places around the world will help paint a picture of how ancient times gradually transformed into the civilisation we know. In Europe, several areas remind us of where it all began for the human race, arts, culture, and our amelioration from the olden days.
Ruins of Pompeii, Province of Naples, Italy
If you have ever heard of the city frozen in time and the volcano that destroyed it, this place near Italy’s bay of Naples is where it all happened. One of the most notable archaeological sites in the world and set within the most beautiful surroundings, if you are visiting Naples you do need to make a stop here, or your trip won’t be complete. Pompeii lies at the base of Mount Vesuvius. A volcano erupted from this mountain in 79 A.D. destroyed the entire city and freezing the whole area in time beneath the layers of ash. It was a stratovolcano that could erupt without a prior warning. Some people escaped to the nearby cities, but many perished from the devastating effect. Pompeii is now a UNESCO world heritage site and an absolute must-see if you are visiting Italy.
Les Catacombes, Paris, France
Located in Paris, these underground ossuaries harbour the remains of more than six million people in the small confines of a tunnel. The tunnel network was initially constructed to consolidate the ancient stone quarries of Paris. The building of the ossuary was a replacement for the city’s overflowing cemeteries. This old underground structure became unknown not until it started serving as a novelty place for concerts and other events in the early 19th century. It is a must-see if you find yourself in Paris. The internal walls of the ossuaries hold an array of skeletal remains from the dead of that era. It’s eerie but worthy of honouring.
Grachtengordel, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is a city built by the water with the historic Grachtengordel neighbourhood home to a series of canals that run through it. It is definitely an impressive sight and touring the Grachtengordel, specifically by boat, brings you closer to the impressive and classically Dutch buildings. These canals were created 400 years ago as an alternative and more efficient route for commercial purposes. The ring of canals is a system of streets, quays, bridges and houses on fairly identical plots of equal length and width with closed inner gardens. Many canal houses are testimony to the prosperity of the Golden Age but in most cases of the 18th century. Now a UNESCO world heritage centre Grachtengordel is often used as a venue for spectacular occasions and the area is a drawcard to many appreciative tourists.
The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
If you have ever seen The Gladiator movie that was staged in ancient Rome, then you may have some visual knowledge of the Colosseum. But visiting it in real life is an experience of a lifetime. The theatre always played the stage for inhumane fighting to the death in the name of ‘entertainment. Contestants could be human against human, occasionally with wild animals brought in for more sensation. Considered a sport to the audience who were always ecstatic to grace an occasion where blood spilt everywhere. The Colosseum was a gift to the Roman people in 70 – 72 A.D. by Emperor Vespasian and for 400 years, the arena was a source of entertainment until it fell into a state of disrepair. The Colosseum, which is now a third of its original size, is still a tourist attraction drawing many visitors to Rome each year.
The Acropolis, Athens, Greece
The Acropolis is the most famous structure from the ancient Greek civilisation and is font just in front of Agora, a ruined city. From the Acropolis, you can view libraries and old courtrooms. An old-fashioned symbol of democracy, it was built between 447 and 438 B.C. Despite its essential status, it has been disassembled and reassembled several times and standing there exploring the ruins and learning about the role it played whilst overlooking Athens, is very moving.
There are many other ancient places to visit in Europe and the rest of the world. To aid the exploration the suggestion is to rent a car and self-drive around. To operate a rented vehicle in a foreign country you do need to obtain an international driving permit. You can make inquiries on how to get an international driver’s license online. For example, in the UK, you can get it over the counter but having a full international driving permit UK is a requirement.
There are many gems in Europe for fans of ancient ruins and historic buildings. The above list is an introduction to some I think you should consider including on your next European trip.
** Pics sourced on Pixabay.com.
** Guest Post by Desa Rome.