16 Jun Famous Landmarks that almost didn’t survive WWII

 When discussing World War II and its lasting impact on international populations and politics the focus is, rightly, on the human cost of the conflict. Six years of war claimed the lives of over 72,000,000 soldiers and civilians worldwide, and some regions have never regained the prosperity they enjoyed before the battles. Every aspect of society was altered by the massive conflict, which saw the birth America as a superpower, the fall of several empires, the rise of the Soviet Union, and the introduction of some of the most destructive weapons the world has ever seen. During the chaotic war years when the preservation of human life took precedence over all else, innumerable works of art and architecture fell victim to the astounding destruction. Mystery continues to surround the fate of some treasures, including Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael, and the infamous lost Amber Room of the Czars. Though teams of historians and experts have devoted years to finding stolen works, repairing damaged décor, and protecting sites against future damage, it is an imperfect science. As ISIS’ recent destruction of irreplaceable historic sites across Iraq and Syria has taught us, sometimes the survival of iconic buildings and structures is left entirely to the whim of occupying forces. Though it may be easy to despair for the art and history of the Mideast during the current conflicts, it is important to remember that less than 100 years ago the treasures of...

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13 Apr Wandering through Wales, Part 2

[caption id="attachment_2352" align="alignnone" width="660"] Time to revisit the magic of Wales.[/caption] Ready to resume the trip through Wales? Having regained the energy lost exploring castles and the Caerleon Amphitheatre, it’s time to hit the road and explore the wilderness, both above and below ground. You’re off to Brecon Beacon National Park, the Big Pit National Coal Museum (located inside the mines themselves), and finally, Tintern Abbey, a gorgeous palate cleanser after the claustrophobic tunnels below the earth. Known for its rolling plains and scattered collections of waterfalls, Brecon Beacon National Park will have you mesmerized as you blaze along the trail. Appropriately, Brecon Beacons takes it’s name from the fires formerly lit atop the mountain range's peaks to warn villages and cities of invading enemies. This scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King visualizes the process perfectly. Driving through the National Park, you’ll find flocks of mountain sheep dotting the plains, as well as a few mountain ponies; proof that these lands are still as wild as in the past, preserved from industrialization. The Black Forest (Fforest Fawr in Welsh) sprawls across the path you’ll follow, and Black Mountain looms to the West. After braving the forest, you’ll briefly get a comforting view of the fields and pastures once again. Relish these plains because soon, you’ll be deep within them. It’s time to hit the mines. Upon arriving at Big Pit National Coal Museum, you’ll receive some training in proper...

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03 Nov Tours, Tastes, and Tradition: Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon

[caption id="attachment_2314" align="alignnone" width="660"] Feeling poetic yet?[/caption] It’s chilly this early in London. You wake up early for your Stratford-upon-Avon excursion. You walk to the train station, feeling your bag bounce with each step. Inside tumbles The Riverside Shakespeare, a hefty book containing Shakespeare’s plays; his impact upon London, literature, and love. The train ride takes 3 hours to Stratford. There’s time to kill. A “Free Wi-Fi” sign stares at you. Now would be the perfect time to watch Anonymous, the thriller questioning Shakespeare’s existence (scholars are still debating, and you have yet to be convinced of either side). However, you’ve left your computer. You bury your head in the Riverside, oblivious to the time passing. You’ve arrived! Stepping off the train, you meet up with your coordinator before heading toward the River Avon. Ironically, ‘afon,’ the Welsh word from which ‘Avon’ takes its name, translates as “river,” literally titling it, “River River.” Here, walk along the river, stopping to take in the incredible architecture and quaint riverbanks behind them. You’ll be literally following the footsteps of Shakespeare, admiring the magnificent Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre, both featuring an incredible selection of performances. Learn with your coordinator how Shakespeare began to hone his imagery, with phrases forming in your head as you continue strolling down the street: Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And Summer's lease hath all too short a date - Sonnet...

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