Sunday Special – The Pantheon, Rome


I decided to round out letter “P” with an ancient landmark in the Eternal City – Rome’s Pantheon. This remarkable building has some interesting details, as one may expect from the best-preserved ancient Roman building within Rome. The current building was completed around 125 CE, during Emperor Hadrian’s reign. Two previous incarnations of the building existed prior, at the very same site. The first one was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa in 25 – 27 BCE yet burnt down in 80 CE.  It was rebuilt during the time of Domitian, was struck by lightning in 110 CE and subsequently burnt down as well. Initially built as a pagan temple it has been used as a Christian church since 608 CE (Saint Mary and the Martyrs). Having been in continuous use since it was built has aided in its ongoing survival.

One of the most striking features of the Pantheon is its incredible dome. It is the largest unsupported dome in the world. A large circular hole or oculus marks the top which is its primary source of natural light. A unique feature of this oculus is that only on a equinox (April 21) during noon does the light enter at such an angle that it hits a metal grille thus bathing the courtyard with light. Another aspect of dome is that the distance from the floor to its top is equal to the dome’s diameter. 

The Pantheon is open to visitors most everyday (closed on several holidays) and there is no fee to visit. Guided tours do have a fee involved. Tours or visits to walk around are not allowed during mass. Although I have walked past and admired the outside of the Pantheon many years ago I regret that I did not go inside. In my defense I was merely 21 years old and did not know much about it. I guess I will have to return to Rome soon.

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The Pantheon interior and oculus – Photo credit: Tomi Mäkitalo, Pantheon – panoramio (15)CC BY-SA 3.0

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Rome’s Pantheon at night – Photo credit: o2maRoma-pantheonnotteCC BY-SA 2.0

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Sunday Special – Estonia


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Cliffs at Saaremaa Island, Estonia – Photo credit: Margus6Varahommik ja Panga pankCC BY-SA 3.0

This small Baltic country of Estonia has history that goes back for centuries and centuries with a Finno-Ugric language ancestry.  Throughout these times the Estonian’s faced German, Danish, Swedish and Russian control. In 1918 they became an independent nation but were forced into the Soviet Union in 1940. 1989 they demanded independence and gained it officially in 1991, with much credit going to their peaceful Singing Revolution of the 1980s. In 2004 they joined the European Union and switched to the euro in 2011. Today it is a tourism hot spot with plenty to offer. 

  • Capital city of Tallinn boasts an outstanding Old Town which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Sight
  • Experience “White Nights” from May through July when the sun barely sets
  • Take in the Suur and Väike Taevaskoda (Small and Large Heaven’s Hall) along the Ahja River for some hiking and seeing some caves
  • The Lahemaa National Park on the northern coast is filled with beautiful landscape and perhaps you will see moose, foxes and other animals
  • The south’s Soomaa National Park showcases a primeval forest and quiet nature
  • Get your adrenaline flowing with activities such as repelling, rafting, ATV rentals, go-karting and even a precarious walk along the ledge of Tallinn’s TV Tower 
  • Visit any of Estonia’s plentiful islands, many just a quick ferry ride away
  • Take in all forms of popular music at any number of clubs offering rock, jazz, alternative, electronic and more. Music festivals are popular as well.
  • Admire the architecture of old in the many lighthouses, manor houses, churches, castles, and forts throughout the country
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Katariina Passage in Tallinn’s Old Town – Photo credit: -jkb-Tallinn Katariina KäikCC BY-SA 3.0

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Panorama of Tallinn’s walled Old Town – Photo credit: Ivar LeidusTallinn Toompea Upper Old Town 2013CC BY-SA 3.0 EE

My Top 5 Man-Made Sights


Last month I posted about My Top 5 Cities to Wander. This month my Top 5 is about man-made places or things. These places or works of art hold a special place in my memories, my heart, and bring a smile to my lips.

  1. Michelangelo’s Slave and Bound Slave, Louvre Museum (Paris) – I have never been more captivated by art than these two unfinished statues. They are complete by being incomplete. I do not know how Michelangelo did it but there is feeling, emotion in those statues. I have seen them three times and still my heart stops each time. 
  2. Eiffel Tower, Paris – Anyone who knows me, knows I love this building. It was among the first iconic buildings I had seen when I first visited Europe and has been imprinted on my heart ever since.  I have been to the top twice, once on my birthday where I drank sweet sweet champagne with my sister and friends.  If I had never seen Michelangelo’s Slaves this building would be number one.
  3. Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur – The circular and geometric designs of its spires and the walkway them give them a unique look.  I learned of them shortly after they were built I had wanted to view them for myself ever since.  They did not disappoint. I think they are most beautiful lit up at night against the backdrop of the dark sky and city lights
  4. Taj Mahal, India – I had wanted to see the Taj Mahal since I was a child. For a short span of years I thought I may never see and tried to downplay its importance, that it could not be that spectacular.  Silliness really. Yet I did make it to Agra. A hot, humid and crowded experience that was all shed to the side when I finally saw the splendour of this magnificent building. It stands majestically and rightly so.
  5. Pagodas of Bagan, Myanmar – There are so many things I could put for number five. Yet the pagodas throughout Bagan are the first I think of. The entire area astounds me with the sheer amount of pagodas to be found. I loved wandering through the back roads on my scooter and viewing the beauty and importance of these buildings  to the people. 

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World

 

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Michelangelo’s talent is breathtaking

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Gustave Eiffel’s treasure to Paris.

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Those brightly shining Petronas Twin Towers.

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The Taj Mahal, a labour of love.

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One of the numerous pagodas in Bagan

Sunday Special – Montreal


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View of Montreal from Parc Mont Royal – Photo credit: Taken and owned By John Lian (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Today we will check out the city which I think is the coolest in all of Canada and that is Montreal.  This fun city is the largest city in the province of Quebec and the second largest in Canada after Toronto. Not only that, this city is the second largest predominantly French-speaking city on the planet, just after Paris. Additionally it was recently ranked as the world’s best city to study abroad by Quacquarelli Symonds. Finally, Montreal is celebrating its 375th birthday this year. Which if you don’t know, makes it older than Canada (which turns 150 on July 1).  Montreal wa founded on what was Hochelagaa St Lawrence Iroquois village in the 15th century, though First Nations peoples inhabited the area for centuries longer. It was part of New France until the mid-18th century.  Today Montreal is a vibrant and social landscape that has a bit of a European feel to it. It has been far too many years since I visited though I do recall enjoying the vibe of the city a great deal. Perhaps another visit is due.

  • Visit historic Old Montreal and take in various sites such as Bonsecours Market, the Old Port of Montreal, and the picturesque Notre-Dame Basilica. Or perhaps you’d like to wander its cobblestones streets via food tour?
  • Take in a pretty city view from Parc du Mont Royal (Mount Royal Park) or visit the Jardin Botanique de Montreal (Montreal Botanical Gardens) in Parc Maisonneuve?
  • Foodies rejoice – Montreal has some great restaurants and dining of all ranges, though do try the Montreal-style smoked meat, the bagels and of course poutine!
  • Sports fans take in all manner of games to watch:
    • Montreal Candiens NHL hockey
    • Montreal Allouettes CFL football
    • Montreal Impact MLS soccer
    • Auto racing
    • Boxing
    • Women’s hockey
    • Tennis
  • Music and comedy festivals abound

I don’t think my list has done this city justice though I hope it inspires you check out Montreal at any time of year. 

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Vieux-Port Montreal (Montreal Old Port) – Photo credit: By Joanne Lévesque (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Montreal-style bagels – Photo credit: By Garyperlman at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Montreal-style smoked meat – Photo credit: By chensiyuan (chensiyuan) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons