North Korean Dreamin’ – WIF Underground

Leave a comment

The Most Secure

Bunkers in

the World

Heavily guarded buildings are awesome, and what buildings are better guarded than bunkers? These man-made cave complexes are custom designed to keep out everything that’s not invited in, and they’re often equipped with fantastic defenses and luxurious amenities that are a far cry from the brutal underground concrete boxes you probably imagine when you think of the word “bunker.” Let’s take a look at some of the most impressive ones out there!

10. The Nike missile bunker

The Nike missile bunkers (no relation to the sportswear manufacturer, as far as we know) were a pair of Cold War-era bunkers that were so secure, they were actually as effective offensively as they were defensively — if not more. The Nike bunker location started out as a strategic spot that defended the nearby Hanford Nuclear Facility, which is (in)famous for churning out two thirds of the plutonium used in U.S. nuclear weapons, including the plutonium used in the first atomic bomb that was tested in New Mexico in July 1945.

The bunkers were arguably at their mightiest from 1955 to 1958, when they housed a sophisticated air defense system of Ajax and Hercules missiles under the designation of “H-52.” The bunkers were later refashioned into an emergency operations center and, more recently, a Gravitation Physics Laboratory that was rendered in-operational in 2011. However, the legacy of Nike missile bunkers lives on in the Golden Gate Recreational Area in California, which houses a reconstructed Nike site that is open for public tours.

9. The Sonnenberg bunker

Every European and North American country worth its salt has a nuclear bunker or six thousand lying around, but few have gone as far as Switzerland. The alpine country is the home of Sonnenberg Bunker, an unassuming pair of mile-long motorway tunnels that can transform into a massive fallout shelter by closing the 350-ton blast doors at both ends.

The tunnels and the bunker complex hidden within them lie under the town of Lucerne, and was designed to house 20,000 people in the event of the nuclear threat everyone was afraid of at the time. However, soon after its completion in 1976, the Sonnenberg Bunker turned out to be a little less efficient than advertised. While it was highly secure and could technically house the amount of people it was supposed to, provisions were a problem. Since the kitchen facilities could only feed the bunker staff and the hospital, almost everyone taking cover inside it would’ve had to bring their own food with them — and store said food on the tiny bunk bed they were also supposed to sleep in. There was also the small matter that it took a whopping two weeks to close the blast doors and get the bunker operational, which seems a little slow for a structure that exists specifically to shelter people from a disaster that could come with precious little notice.

Despite its flaws, the Sonnenberg Bunker remains operational, though only at a fraction of its intended capacity: In 2006, it was wisely downsized to only accommodate 2,000 people.

8. Survival Condo Project

Survival isn’t just a primal instinct. For some people, it’s a chance to turn in a sweet profit. Larry Hall is one of these entrepreneurial spirits, as evidenced by his Survival Condo Project, which combines luxurious accommodations with all the Armageddon-proof safety that a nuclear missile silo can provide. In 2008, Hall coughed up $300,000 for an old nuclear missile silo in Kansas, and spent a further $20 million to turn it into a series of luxurious homes, complete with communal spaces and luxuries such as swimming pools and cinemas. Hall even has plans to open a small grocery store within the complex.

Homes in the Survival Condo Project start from $1.5 million — well, started, since they were all sold out way back in 2012 — and apart from their underground location they’re virtually indistinguishable from your average inner-city apartment, complete with all the expected amenities such as dishwashers and washing machines. There are even LED screen “windows” that show live feed from the prairie range outside, though it’s probably safe to assume their view will be significantly less idyllic if the bunker is ever put to serious use.

7. Vivos xPoint

Somewhere in the Black Hills area of South Dakota, near the city of Edgemont, there’s a vast field where sturdy concrete bunkers litter the land like molehills. These 575 identical structures are Vivos xPoint, a luxury “survival community” for the people able and willing to tie themselves down to a down payment of $25,000 and a 99-year annual lease of $1,000. For that price, you get a barren bunker in one of the statistically safest locations in North America, ready to ride out whatever shelter-worthy disaster might strike.

While you’re free to ride out future disasters in an unfurnished concrete hole, the company also offers all sorts of luxurious refurbishments for your bunker — for a price, of course. They also offer “24/7 security” in the shape of trained guards and camera systems, and should the doomsday scenario allow you to exit the bunker every once in a while, there are also amenities such as a shooting range and a hot tub spa.

6. The Houston Bunker

The owners of the Houston Bunker (or “The Bunker” for short) claim that the site has “perhaps the most interesting history of any data center ever built.” While this may or may not be true, there’s no denying that the complex has a pretty wild past. Unlike your average converted Cold War -era nuclear shelter, the Bunker is a relatively young structure: A man called Louis Kung built it in 1982 as part of a supposed HQ for his Westland Oil company. The construction site was extremely secretive — armed guards and all — which is why most people didn’t know that Kung’s building also included a massive nuke-proof bunker.

Kung’s bunker was meant to save the families of Westland Oil employees (and, of course, that of Kung himself) from large-scale disaster, and it was equipped to house 350 people for three months. Apart from the usual nuclear shelter amenities such as filtration systems, water reservoirs and medical facilities, it seems Kung was also prepared for various Mad Max-style scenarios, seeing as he equipped the complex with machine gun nests and prison cells. Even the mundane office building parts of his structure featured bulletproof glass, emergency generators and other end-of-the-world features.

While Kung’s apocalyptic fears never came to be, the sturdy structure of the Bunker came in handy later, when the building got a new life as a data security center. In this role, the structure has proved its worth by surviving disasters such as hurricane Ike with zero system downtime.

5. Europa One

Remember Vivos, the company behind the xPoint bunker community? Turns out, they can do one better. When storms of fire one day raze the world, Europa One is where billionaires will go to ride things out. This giant structure in Rothenstein, Germany is an old Soviet Cold War bunker that has been converted into an underground city of unparalleled luxury that can be compared to a five-star cruise ship. Opulent swimming pools, stylish art galleries, comfortable cinemas, elegant bars and medieval-style cathedral spaces litter the complex, and if you don’t feel like hanging out in the communal spaces, you can always retire to your private accommodations, which with their plasma TVs and bedroom aquariums are not unlike a presidential suite.

It’s pointless to ask how much it costs to enter this lap of luxury, because if you have to ask you almost certainly can’t afford it. Even if you can, entrance is by no means guaranteed. First, a potential Europa One resident has to apply for Vivos “membership,” after which they’re moved to a vast pool of prospects, from which the company selects “best candidates” for the shelter.

4. The Shanghai Complex

It might be wise to take the stories about Shanghai’s massive underground bunker with a grain of salt, since it appears most reports of its existence are from 2006 and can be traced back to a single article by the Shanghai Morning Post. Still, even if just a fraction of its scale is true, it’s a massive feat of engineering that easily earns a place on this list. We’re talking about a colossal, nuclear-proof, million-square-foot bunker complex that can house a reported 200,000 people for up to two weeks. “Miles of tunnels” connect the shelter to a number of buildings, shopping centers, and the city’s subway system.

While the scale and existence of this particular shelter might be debatable (even the Shanghai Morning Post article didn’t go into too many specifics), it wouldn’t be too surprising to find out it’s real. After all, there’s no denying that China’s large cities have a long history of large-scale bunker building, and Shanghai alone built many large shelter complexes during the Cold War. To get a sense of the scale, you only need to take a look at another large Chinese city, Beijing, where an estimated million people live in the city’s old, forgotten nuclear shelters.

3. Burlington bunker

At first glance, the Burlington bunker seems less like a real location and more like a video game level. Located 100 feet under the cobblestones of the quintessentially English small town of Corsham, this massive complex is a little bit larger than your average doomsday prepper’s concrete bunker: A full-on 1950s “Cold War City” that features an insanely complex, mile-long labyrinth of nuke-proof underground structures and 60 miles of criss-crossing subterranean roads. The climate-controlled location was designed to house up to 4,000 people, ran on massive generators that powered over 100,000 lights, and was chosen because a vast network of natural limestone caves that was already running under Corsham.

The Burlington bunker’s amenities include usual Armageddon fare such as control rooms, kitchens, storage rooms and a pneumatic tube system for messages. It also features a hospital, the second largest phone exchange in Great Britain and, of course, an underwater lake that supplies the drinking water. A fully equipped TV studio allows whoever’s left of the government (and, for that matter, the British royals) to address the people, which is why the site used to feature a secret rail line that forked from the main line between London and Bristol.

People only learned of the top secret Burlington bunker’s existence after it was decommissioned in 2004, at which point most of its supplies had been drained and a small staff of four people was running the entire bunker.

2. Raven Rock

Where does the Department of Defense go when things get really hairy? Like, “actual bombs are falling on the Pentagon” serious? The answer is Raven Rock. This mountain complex, which is also known as Site R, was built underneath Pennsylvania’s Blue Ridge mountains, and is connected to Camp David (the country retreat of the President of the United States) with a 6.5-mile tunnel in case the POTUS needs evacuating as well.

Raven Rock is basically every Cold War -era fear rolled into one giant bunker complex, which comes as no surprise seeing as it was built between 1951 and 1953 — the heyday of the post-WWII Red Scare. It’s basically the Pentagon, but as a huge, ultra-safe underground structure that was (at least theoretically) self-sufficient enough to shelter the country’s best and brightest for an indeterminate period of time. Some of its tunnels are large enough to house several large buildings that, in turn, are designed to house hundreds of high-ranking folks. The site also has its own power plant, two water reservoirs, and even a well-stocked bar. Being a military project, its price tag was equally impressive — its original budget of $35 million eventually ballooned into $350 million, adjusted for inflation.

Despite all of its obsolete Cold War glory, Raven Rock remains fully staffed even today. It was even used for emergency evacuation during the 9/11 attacks, when Vice President Dick Cheney sought shelter there. However, it’s hardly a top secret location — in fact, the Obama administration even started offering tours of the site as part of their “Weekend at Camp David” program.

1. The Oppidum

And then there is the Oppidum. Where other luxury bunkers stuff their underground complexes with high-end features and millionaire opulence, this super-secure compound in the Czech Republic takes things even further.  Apart from the five-star nuclear bunker comfort you’d expect at this point of the list, the Oppidum’s living quarters are two-part affair where you can go from living in your palatial above-ground residence to an equally lush underground bunker, which can be sealed with a sturdy blast door in under a minute.

Because the whole structure is surrounded by mountains and located in a peaceful country with no ready enemies, it’s unlikely to be nuked to oblivion in the first place, but should the situation demand taking things underground, the massive two-level bunker is reportedly the most luxurious “residential doomsday shelter” in the world. Incidentally, it’s also the largest, at a ridiculous 323,000 square feet. The Oppidum isn’t shy about using all that space for sheer extravagance, either; apart from unexpectedly fancy living quarters, the complex features amenities such as a spa, a wine cellar, and even a nice garden with “simulated natural light.” Oh, and to protect the luxury compound from attacks by mutants of the radioactive post-apocalyptic wasteland, the Oppidum also features state-of-the-art defense systems, ranging from high walls and sensors to “automated defense technology.”


North Korean Dreamin’ –

WIF Underground

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #130

Leave a comment

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #130

… North on Delaware Street, within eyeshot of Delaware Park/ the Pan-American grounds, is Statlers Hotel; a sprawling 2,100 room melting pot of humanity…

Melting Pot-001

The rest of the eighth floor has already assembled in the lobby of the hotel, which in the evening doubles as foyer for the theater. Tonight’s offering, at the Niagara straight from Broadway, for the duration of the Exposition, is, Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines. In the background, through an opened door, they can hear, “I’m Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines,/ I feed my horse on pork and beans,/ And often live beyond my means,/ I’m a captain in the army.”

Alfrey Campbell laughs heartily at the singing, while Amanda scrambles to cover his ears. “Ain’t never heard nonsense ’afor. Nothin’ for a god-fearin’ chile too hears.”

She may be right, but entertainment is changing and will continue to do so, even though it stretches the moral envelope.

The carriage driver comes to the rescue. Privately, most were wondering what mode of transportation would handle their one dozen numbers. They are escorted to a two tiered horse-car, teamed to two huge draft horses who must weigh two tons together. “Not everybody can sit on top,” warns the teamster. “We will tip over if you do.”

“Let us take Alpha to za top,” asks Doc Ziggy, who is eager to share new experiences with his young protégé. “Momma unt Poppa, you come too. And how about you, Jacob?”

And baby makes six. Properly balanced, except for Frieda and Amanda’s generous girth, they move away from the bustling Niagara for the awaited tranquility of the Statlers Hotel.

Or so they think.

North on Delaware Street, within eyeshot of Delaware Park/ the Pan-American grounds, is the Statlers; a sprawling 2,100 room melting pot of humanity, and filled to capacity at that. This will be their first real taste of the true scope of a hemispherical gathering.

E.M. Statler – Hotelier

“Here we are, folks. That man,” the driver points to a stately gentleman with perceived sense of purpose, “Mister Statler will take you where you want go.”

“We are with President McKinley’s party.” Herb Love logically assumes the lead, while the balance marvels at the sights.

“Yes sirs, you, all of you, are expected in the private dining room. I am your host.”

“Oh how stupid of me, my apologies for not grasping. Ellsworth Milton Statler, I am honored.”

“Please do not feel remiss. I have been mistaken for many a sundry man and occupation. I should to take to wearing a nametag like I require of my staff, but I am afraid I would be an easy target for those few dissatisfied guests. You know, ‘the mattress is too hard’, ‘I don’t like my view’ and the like,” he relates as he ushers them down endless halls. “Just this morning a man from Cuba, I believe, cornered me, wanting the Exposition to turn off the Goddess of Light at night, it keeps his wife awake. Can you imagine? Turn off that centerpiece–I said I would look into it–I lied.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Electric Building PAEX

Episode #130


page 119

Getting Sphinx-y W/You – WIF Like an Egyptian

Leave a comment

Mysteries of Egypt’s

Great Sphinx

of Giza

When the soldiers of Rome first encountered the Sphinx they gazed upon an ancient structure which was already older than the ruins of the ancient Roman Empire are today. Staring with mouths no doubt agape in wonder, they likely formulated questions which for over two millennia have remained largely unanswered. What was it? Who built it? Why? The great head which appeared before them (the body of the Sphinx was buried in the desert sands, unseen for hundreds of years before and after the Romans visited) may have retained the colors applied by its builders, adding to the mystery which stood before them. Or they may have already been scoured away by the sands of the desert and of time.

Since its rediscovery the Sphinx has added to its mysteries, with every proposed answer and theory leading to others, yet more secretive. It has left impressions upon its visitors throughout time. Napoleon gazed upon it in awe. Archaeologists, explorers, historians, and tourists have attempted to understand and explain its purpose, its meaning to those who built it and to those who followed. Yet it remains among the most mysterious artifacts of the ancient world. Why it was built, how it was built, what it represented, and what it continues to represent remain matters of speculation, mysteries unsolved, further enshrouded by the passage of time. Here are some of the mysteries of the Sphinx, the eternal lion of the Egyptian desert, silent guardian of the Pyramids.

10. Who built it?

The short answer, and one which has changed frequently over the centuries, is nobody knows. At least not to a certainty. Theories have abounded, with differing views presented based on science, religion, and even the study of extraterrestrials. It has been called a device representing astronomical configurations. It has been called a tribute to the dead. The bulk of the evidence regarding its origin is circumstantial, and its construction has been described to support other theories regarding ancient Egypt, each of questionable accuracy on their own. Some believe the statue to predate the nearby pyramids, others posit that it was added later. Today, the consensus is that the face of the statue represents the pharaoh Khafre, though some maintain that earlier known images of Khafre bear little likeness to the face on the statue.

Khafre is regarded as the builder of the second pyramid at Giza, and the theory that he built, or rather had built, the Sphinx is supported by those who believe that a statue in his likeness was included in the Sphinx Temple, part of the overall complex which was built as a funerary. Other Egyptologists of past years disputed Khafre’s contribution to the construction, claiming it to predate his reign by centuries. Accurately dating the construction is difficult, as there are no references to the statue, at least not by name, in any contemporaneous documentation yet discovered. A causeway near the statue, generally believed to have been built during Khafre’s reign, is believed by some to have been designed with the existing statue in mind, rather than as a part of the construction of the statue itself. Who built the Sphinx remains one of its riddles, to date unanswered, and to many unanswerable given the existing evidence.

9. What is the Sphinx?

Whoever built what is now known as the Sphinx aside, it is also unknown by what name the statue was called by its creator or creators. No inscriptions have yet been discovered which describe the statue, refer to it by name, or describe the purpose for which it was intended. The great statue was not referred to as the Sphinx until over 2,000 years after it was built, if the most widely accepted date of construction is used as a point of reference. The term itself is borrowed from the Greek, referring to a mythological being with the body of a lion, wings of eagles, and the head of a woman. Other Egyptian “sphinxes” which have been discovered bear the head of a man, the body of a lion, and lack wings. Even the name Sphinx comes from Greek, meaning (loosely) to squeeze. The term refers to the beast squeezing to death those unfortunates who failed to solve the riddle she presented.

Nearly all known inscriptions connected to the statue refer to it as the “Terrifying One.” It has been linked to the sun-god Ra, as well as the god appearing in the form of a jackal, Anubis. Anubis was the god of the Necropolis, the city of the dead. Over 1,000 years after the generally accepted date of its construction it was excavated and restored for the first time, or rather attempts at such restoration were made. The pharaoh Thutmose IV directed the excavation of the statue (which had been buried in the desert sand over the preceding 1,000 years, only its head showing above ground), though his attempt managed to expose only the front paws. To mark the event, Thutmose had a granite slab placed between the paws. Thutmose inscribed the slab, known as the Dream Stele, on which he linked the statue, already approximately 1,200 years old, with Ra.

8. How was the Sphinx built?

The Sphinx, contrary to common belief, is not a construction but a carving. It was hewn out of the rock of a quarry which also provided the limestone blocks for the construction of the nearby pyramids and the temples and causeways which surround them. The rock appeared in layers, with each layer presenting differing qualities regarding resistance to erosion and the ravages of time. How it was carved is, like all else about the statue, a subject of debate. It may have been hewn by hammer and chisel, shaped with saws, or blasted with water. Water, routed through leather hoses, pressurized by decreasing the diameter of the vessels transporting it, and used to wear away the rock might have been used. But if water was used, what was its source? There are those who believe, as much because they have to believe it to support their theory as for any other reason, that the valley, now arid desert, was once fertile and well-watered.

The theory is given some support through the belief, not fully accepted by the scientific community, much of the erosion which has damaged the statue is the result of rainwater, rather than desert sands driven by the winds. The theory that extensive rainfall damaged the statue furthers the argument that it predates the time of Khafre, during whose reign the region was arid, much as it is today. Nonetheless, by the time of the reign of Thutmose IV the Sphinx was buried up to the neck in the sands of the desert, as has been seen. Climatologists believe that the last period of heavy and persistent rainfall in the region occurred over 4000 years BCE, and the level of erosion, if the theory is accepted, indicates that the statue was built as early as 6000 BCE. The dates alone lead Egyptologists to consider the theory to be a fringe idea, lacking credence and scientific evidence, especially since it conflicts with theories of their own.

7. How was the Sphinx used in Ancient Egypt?

Over time, according to the experts, the significance and use of the Sphinx changed. In ancient Egypt, the lion was symbolic of the sun, and thus it is believed that the statue was used for solar worship more than 2,500 years before Christ. One thousand years later the statue was connected to the worship of the god Harmachis, another god of the sun. The Sphinx was at least one thousand years old when a temple to the god Harmachis was built nearby by the Pharaoh Amenhotep II. Yet the massive statue meant different things to different beholders. The Canaanites, a polytheistic people of many tribes often referred to in the Old Testament of the Hebrews and modern day Christians believed the Sphinx to refer to the god Horon, one of two gods who held sway as lords of the netherworld.

Despite the beliefs of the Canaanites, covered in detail in the Old Testament which describes the many conflicts between them and the monotheistic Israelites, the massive statue is not referred to or otherwise described in the biblical narratives. How it could be overlooked, when it was a focal point of so many of the ancient tribes and cultures, is one of its enduring mysteries (particularly given the large number of Israelites held as slaves by the Egyptians, according to the narrative in Exodus). The Book of Jeremiah does refer to what it calls “…signs and wonders in the land of Egypt,” but a more specific description is lacking. If Moses, or his brother Aaron, or any of the Israelites saw the Sphinx, they evidently did not find it worthy of comment in the books of the Old Testament.

6. Why was the Sphinx vandalized in ancient times?

A fairly well-known feature of the Sphinx is that the massive head is lacking a nose.Instead there is an irregular and roughly textured area of the face where the nose once was displayed. For many centuries it was assumed that the facial feature had fallen to the ravages of the desert and time. In other words, it simply fell off the face. The same fate was assumed to have befallen the beard which once adorned the chin of the statue. A myth developed in the nineteenth century that a cannonball fired by Napoleon’s troops during the Battle of the Pyramids destroyed the nose. In fact, subsequent archaeological research revealed that the nose was deliberately removed, using either lengthy rods or other instruments designed for the purpose, sometime prior to the tenth century of the common era. The unanswered question regarding the act? Why?

One theory is that Islamic peasants prayed to the Sphinx, offering it sacrifices, in the belief that the gods would intervene to ensure a better harvest, a sacrilege which Sufi Muslim leaders could not abide. The statue was thus desecrated to discourage the practice. Other sphinxes throughout the region were similarly defaced during the 13th and 14th century, for similar reasons. The desecration of the statue was also rumored to be the source of retribution, including the Crusade of Alexander in 1365. The status of the beard reputed to once have been a feature of the statue is disputed, with some scholars believing the beard was an original part of the carving. Others believe that it was a later addition, though all are in agreement that the beard is no longer a part of the face, with portions of the stone which formed it recovered from the sands between the beast’s paws.

5. Is the human portion of the statue a man or a woman?

The presence of a beard adorning the chin of the massive head of the statue would lead an observer to assume it depicts the head of a man. But beginning in the 1500s CE, and continuing well into the nineteenth century, visitors regularly described the statue as depicting a woman’s head and upper body melded with the body of a lion. The description of the statue as being that of a woman was reflected in both written form and in sketches and paintings by western artists. The Sphinx was described as having the breasts and neck of a woman, as well as a woman’s face. Traces of coloration which remain around the statue’s eyes and the lower face suggested that the statue at one time presented a garishly multi-colored visage, as that of a woman wearing heavy makeup.

George Sandys, an English poet, translator of the ancient classics, and extensive traveler who chronicled his journeys, described the Sphinx as a harlot. A noted contemporary, German writer Johannes Helferich, described the Sphinx as a “round-breasted woman.” Prior to the French Revolution, the overwhelming majority of images of the statue available in Europe depicted the Sphinx as decidedly feminine in appearance. Only after the French invasion of Egypt led by revolutionary general Napoleon Bonaparte were images of the Sphinx which were more interested in accuracy than romanticism widely available in Europe. Interestingly it was not until 1755 that European drawings of the statue presented the absent nose.

4. Who are the Anunnaki and did they build the Sphinx?

The Anunnaki were the temple gods of the Ancient Sumerians, a trading people who recorded their activities in cuneiforms, and gave to history among other things the twenty-four hour period known as one day, divided into periods of sixty minutes each. An agricultural society, they also left behind a method of preserving grain for consumption in liquid form, a beverage we know today as beer. According to a believer in ancient visitors from alien realms, Zecharia Sitchin, the Anunnaki built the Sphinx, as well as the pyramids, centered in Giza as a port for other visitors. Sitchin’s theories have been dismissed as both pseudoscience and pseudohistory, but his works have sold millions of copies around the world to followers of his beliefs.

Though it is easy to dismiss Sitchin’s work, it is not easy to deny the influence he has over those who believe in extraterrestrial visitations in the ancient world. The seeming impossibility of explaining much of the mystery which surrounds the Sphinx and the ancient peoples who saw it in the background every day, just as modern people see cell towers and giant aircraft soaring overhead, leads some to seek otherworldly explanations. Sitchin’s numerous books and interviews have inspired motion pictures, video games, religious fringe groups, and various clubs and groups who believe that there is no mystery at all to the Sphinx, it is simply evidence of alien visitation, created by the gods of the ancient Sumerians.

3. How has the Sphinx survived for so many thousands of years?

It is no secret that the part of the Sphinx which has had the most difficulty weathering the passage of time is the head and upper torso. There is a simple explanation for that seeming mystery. For most of its existence the majority of the statue has been buried beneath the sands of the desert which filled the quarry in which it was carved. Before it was submerged, evidence of erosion was present (remember the postulation that water was eroding the statue), and the carving was protected by covering the damaged areas with limestone and sandstone blocks, carved for the purpose, as a sort of laminate.

During an excavation in 2010, a wall was discovered surrounding much of the statue, built of mudbrick, which ran for more than 400 feet around the Sphinx. It was determined it was intended to act as a windbreak, erected around the same time that Thutmose installed the Dream Stele between the paws. Most of the statue was still buried in the sand at the time. Not until the 20th century, in a project which began in 1925 and took 11 years to complete, was the entire statue exposed to view, and thus also to the elements. The face on the other hand was exposed continuously throughout the millennia since its completion, as well as being the subject of vandalism, or at the very least religious censorship, since it was first completed at a time still unknown.

2. Is the Sphinx linked to the constellation known as Orion, the Hunter?

According to some theorists (Robert Bauval, Graham Hancock, et al) the Great Pyramids of Giza are aligned in the same manner as the stars which create the “belt” of the constellation Orion, and when considered along with the Sphinx and the nearby Nile River present a model of the relationship of Orion and its position with the Milky Way. According to their calculations, the positions of the stars, if established in relationship to the pyramids and the Sphinx, are depicted as they were 10,500 years ago. That would mean that the Sphinx is part of a model displaying the astronomical positions at that time, and is thus 10,500 years old. To those subscribing to the theory, Giza is a map, presumably for the use of visitors from beyond the stars.

They are undaunted by the fact that no artifacts of any kind supporting such an early appearance of the Sphinx, the Pyramids, or any other man-made structure of the kind have ever been found in the region. They are equally undaunted by the fact that their method of establishing the date has been proven to be inaccurate. While it is possible that the belt of the constellation could have been used as a guide for the layout of the Pyramids (the Sphinx is also laid out in a manner which annually measures the sun’s attitude during the solstices), that in and of itself does not necessarily indicate a link to interstellar visitation. Alien influence in the construction of the Sphinx also does not take into account one important fact about the statue. After surviving thousands of years, through earthquakes, floods, world wars, the rise and fall of empires, and all of the vagaries of human existence, the statue is rapidly crumbling into dust.

1. Can the Sphinx survive the 21st century?

Modern man is destroying the Sphinx. The greatest single culprit is the air pollution emanating from the city of Cairo, as well as high winds and humidity, both of which are increasing and for both of which climate change is a contributing factor. Since 1950 – almost three-quarters of a century – organized efforts to save the statue have been underway. They are failing. Concrete used to reinforce the statue was found to be incompatible with the original stone, and did more damage than good. Chemical injections to help the stone resist the effects of modern pollution failed to do so. Additional limestone blocks were added to reinforce the stone, but they were unable to prevent further erosion of the original structure.

By the 1980s portions of the left shoulder were crumbling, falling to the ground in pieces, and attempts to reattach them, or replace them with modern substitutes, also failed. The structure is crumbling so badly, and its decay accelerating so quickly, that further exploration of the Sphinx has been for the most part set aside in order to concentrate on saving what is left before it is too late. The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities is responsible for protecting and hopefully saving the massive structure, the oldest extant relic of the ancient world, as well as the largest. With them lies the answer to the greatest of all the mysteries of the Sphinx; can a marvel created by ancient man survive the foibles and shortsightedness of their modern successor? As with all of the mysteries of the Sphinx, the answer remains unknown.


Getting Sphinx-y W/You –

WIF Like an Egyptian

Big Better Building Part II – WIF Engineering Feats

Leave a comment

Incredible Modern

Engineering Achievements

Humanity likes nothing more than building insanely large and complicated structures, except maybe reading about large and complicated structures built by other people. Today, we’re going to do the latter. While the ancient people had some amazing engineering achievements, we’ve all seen an article or six about the pyramids and the Great Wall of China. As such, let’s focus on the amazing achievements of relatively modern engineering, such as…

Engineering HOF – WIF Into History

Leave a comment

History’s Greatest

Engineering Achievements

The history of civilization is replete with examples of humanity improving the world in which it lives. Through ingenuity, imagination, and hard work, humanity has spanned rivers, built roads, erected cities, and created the infrastructure to connect them. Some projects took centuries to complete; others were finished with alacrity, driven by immediate needs. Many were treated with derision by contemporaries who considered the vision of their proponents’ to be delusional. Some — the Panama Canal being one example of many — were completed only after a spectacular and expensive failure during earlier attempts. Still others were spurred by the competition between nations and empires

Spectacular feats of engineering preceded the term engineer. The master builders and visionaries evolved over the centuries from mathematicians (spontaneously, it would seem) across the globe. The Great Wall in China, the pyramids of the Maya and Aztec cultures, the cities of the ancient world all were accomplished by engineering, though the builders and designers were unaware that they were engineers. Over the centuries, engineering accomplishments were directed at the worship of gods and heroes, the improvement of societal life, and to simply celebrate the spirit of humanity. Here are 10 of the greatest engineering achievements in history.

10. The Roman Water Distribution System

Three centuries before the beginning of the Common Era the Roman Republic, later the Empire, distributed water throughout its dominions using a system of canals, pipes, reservoirs, standing tanks, and aqueducts. Entirely through the use of gravity the Romans distributed fresh water to cities and towns, as well as to mines and farms. Some of the aqueducts still stand, architectural marvels built by laborers under the supervision of surveyors and master builders. By the end of the third century the city of Rome was serviced by eleven separate water conduits distributing water throughout the city, and in the case of the wealthier citizens directly into their homes. Poorer residents resorted to public wells and baths.

The empire was serviced with water systems as well, operated by both local governments and the state. Natural springs were the preferred sources of water. Easements were established by law on either side of the conduit’s pathway. The waterways were liberally supplied with inspection points – which would today be called manholes – and the water was routinely inspected for purity. Lead pipes were used in some sections, though the use of ceramic piping was preferred, and sections of the aqueducts which were of concrete were lined with brick, to prevent erosion and to help filter the water. The system was so well designed and built that there are sections still in use for the distribution of fresh water nearly 20 centuries after they were built.

9. The Cathedral of Hagia Sophia

Built as a Christian church and later converted to an Islamic mosque, the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia is today a museum, and an iconic image of Turkey. Originally constructed in the sixth century it has survived rioting, looting by conquerors, earthquakes, fires, and the ravages of time. Built chiefly of masonry, it is easily recognized by its corner minarets and its massive dome. Built and rebuilt many times over the years, it remains a symbol of Byzantine architecture, and for over 1,000 years Hagia Sophia was the largest cathedral in the world. Its design was revolutionary in its day.

The huge dome is set upon a square base, supported by four triangle shaped pendentives in the square’s corners. The pendentives carry the weight of the dome and direct it downwards, rather than outwards as the shape of the dome would otherwise dictate. Though the dome collapsed on more than one occasion, and was modified during rebuilding to include ribs which help distribute its weight to the supporting walls, each rebuilding strengthened it and improved the overall structure of the building. Hagia Sophia is a museum of both the Christian and Islamic faiths, as well as the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades. It remains one of the largest masonry buildings in the world in the 21st century.

8. The Leshan Buddha

Carved from a single stone and completed in the early ninth century, the Great Buddha of Leshan stands over 230 feet tall, with a breadth across the shoulders of 92 feet. It is the tallest statue of Buddha to be found in the world, carved from the sandstone of a cliff overlooking the junction of the Min and Dadu Rivers in Sichuan. Ordinarily sandstone would be easily eroded by the rainwater which has fallen on the statue over the centuries. That it hasn’t is a tribute to the ingenious engineering which controls the flow of water through and behind the statue, which has served to protect it since its completion circa 803 CE.

The Leshan Buddha includes over 1,000 coiled hair buns, of stone, which are placed on the statue’s head. They were designed to collect rainwater, and to route it to a system of drains and drainpipes which allow the water to flow through the statue’s head and arms, draining out the back, behind the stone clothes and away from the statue, protecting it from the effects of erosion. The system was installed as part of the original carving. Originally protected by a wooden shelter which was destroyed by the Mongols, the statue has stood exposed to the elements for seven centuries, with its drainage system protecting it from erosion. Today the greatest threat to the statue is the heavily polluted air of the region, a factor its designers could not have anticipated.

7. The Erie Canal

Between the Hudson River and Lake Erie land elevation increases by about 600 feet. Canal locks of the day (1800) could raise or lower boats about 12 feet, which meant that at least 50 locks would be required to build a canal which linked the Hudson with the Great Lakes. President Thomas Jefferson called the project “…little short of madness.” New York’s governor, Dewitt Clinton, disagreed and supported the project, which led to its detractors calling the canal “Dewitt’s Ditch” and other, less mild pejoratives. Clinton pursued the project fervently, overseeing the creation of a 360 mile long waterway across upstate New York, which linked the upper Midwest to New York City. The cities of Buffalo, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio, thrived once the canal was completed, in 1825.

The engineering demands of the canal included the removal of earth using animal power, water power (using aqueducts to redirect water flow), and gunpowder to blast through limestone. None of the canal’s planners and builders were professional engineers, instead they were mathematics instructors, judges, and amateur surveyors who learned as they went. Labor was provided by increased immigration, mostly from Ireland and the German provinces. When it was completed in 1825 the canal was considered an engineering masterpiece, one of the longest canals in the world. The Erie Canal’s heyday was relatively short, due to the development of the railroads, but it led to the growth of the port of New York, and spurred the building of competing canals in other Eastern states.

6. The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge was originally envisioned by John Roebling, who had built suspension bridges of shorter spans across the Ohio River and at other locations. The project in Brooklyn and Manhattan led to an accident which cost Roebling his life, and the engineering challenges passed to his son, Washington Roebling. Washington was stricken with the bends early in the construction, and was forced to supervise the project from his Manhattan apartment. The engineering challenges were difficult; wooden caissons were sunk to the bottom of the East River, with men inside them to excavate the river bottom until the caissons reached bedrock. In the case of the east tower supporting the bridge, they never did. The tower rests on sand to this day.

It took 14 years to complete the project, from 1869 -1883. Often described as a suspension bridge, the structure is in reality a hybrid suspension/cable stayed bridge, with the load of the span transferred by wire cables to the towers, and thence to the bedrock on the Brooklyn side, and the sand over the bedrock on the Manhattan side. In the 21st century it carries six lanes of traffic as well as bicycles and pedestrians, though it no longer accommodates rail traffic, nor commercial vehicles. It was considered the engineering masterpiece of the world at the time of its completion, spanning nearly six thousand feet, and linking the formerly separate cities of Brooklyn and New York.

5. The Eiffel Tower

Gustave Eiffel built the iconic symbol of Paris – indeed of all of France – to serve as the gateway to the 1889 World’s Fair. Contrary to popular belief, Eiffel did not design the tower, instead purchasing the patent rights to the design from engineers within his employ. He then signed a contract for the construction of the tower acting as himself, rather than as his company, and later set up another company to handle the management of the tower and the income derived from it. The design of the tower was controversial from the outset, with artists and engineers complaining of its lack of aesthetic value. It was said that French writer Guy de Maupassant ate at the restaurant in the tower after its completion because it was the only place in Paris from which the tower could not be seen.

The ironwork was delivered to the site with holes for connecting bolts pre-drilled, and as they were installed the tower was brought into proper alignment through the use of hydraulic jacks installed near the four feet of the structure. Creeper cranes climbed the legs of the tower to erect each succeeding level. The tower was declared complete in March 1889, at the time the tallest man-made structure in the world. It reached the height of 1,063 feet and remains the tallest structure in Paris. The tower was to have been dismantled in 1909, under the terms of the original contract, but its usefulness as a radio transmitter gained it a longer lease on life. By the end of the twentieth century the idea of dismantling the tower was unthinkable.

4. The Panama Canal

The 51-mile long cut across the Isthmus of Panama was a dream for many decades prior to the French beginning its construction in 1881. During the building of America’s Transcontinental Railroad, equipment for use in the Sierras was shipped from the east coast of the United States to Panama, transferred across the Isthmus, and then shipped to California. Engineers for years studied the building of a canal before the French attempted to complete one, but the engineering difficulties combined with the climate and politics to thwart their efforts after more than two decades. The United States stepped in where the French failed, and completed the canal in 1914, after another ten years of work.

The canal is actually two canals, connected on either end with an artificial lake, Lake Gatun, located 85 feet above sea level. Locks on the two canals raise or lower ships to or from the level of the lake, allowing them to traverse from Atlantic to Pacific, or vice versa. The canal allows ships to transfer from one ocean to the other in just under twelve hours. It was the engineering decision to abandon the sea level canal design favored by the French and instead create Lake Gatun through the building of Gatun Dam (then the largest dam in the world) and install locks to raise and lower ships which allowed the Americans to succeed in completing the dam, which changed shipping lanes and inter-ocean traffic forever.

3. The Channel Tunnel

For centuries the British Isles remained unconnected to the European continent, a situation which many Britons favored as critical to their national security. Numerous proposals for a tunnel beneath the channel were put forth, but opposition within England and France prevented any serious efforts. Attempts to build tunnels for automobile traffic were started and stopped in the mid-to-late 20th century. Finally, in the late 1980s, after the usual political and professional maneuvering among governments, businesses, and financiers, work on the tunnels for high speed rail trains got underway, already bearing the nickname by which it is best known today, the Chunnel.

The tunnel was built from both sides, using massive tunnel boring machines – TBMS – to approach each other. The machines bore through what is mostly chalk, though the varying geology of the French shore created some difficulties. Both the French and English used the removed spoil for land reclamation projects. The tunnels were lined with both cast iron and reinforced concrete. When completed, the tunnel provided electrical power to the trains running through it via overhead lines. The tunnel opened in 1994, and today allows for a trip from London to Paris in just over two hours. The tunnel also allows for freight traffic delivering goods manufactured throughout Europe to be imported to Britain, and British goods to find markets on the continent.

2. Burj Khalifa

The world’s tallest structure as of 2019, Burj Khalifa is a mixed use skyscraper in Dubai, which was completed in 2009. The building was designed by the same Chicago firm which designed the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in that city, and uses the same engineering principle of bundled tubes at its core to support the building’s weight. The tubular design allowed for substantially less steel to be used in construction, with most of the building being reinforced concrete. Its spire alone, which is mostly decorative, would qualify it as the 11th tallest structure in Europe were it erected on the continent.

The building has an outdoor swimming pool located on the 76th floor, with another on the 43rd floor. A 300 room hotel is located within the building, as well as corporate offices and private apartments. For those of a hardy constitution, 2,909 steps connect the ground floor with the 160th. The observation deck is located on the 124th floor. The surrounding park, known as Burj Khalifa Park, is landscaped with desert plants which are kept hydrated using water collected by the building’s cooling system, which itself relies on the cooler air of the upper portion of the building to decrease the temperatures of the lower portion of the structure.

1. The Apollo Space Program

It remains one of the signature engineering achievements in the history of the human race. No other program has delivered human beings to an environment other than their home planet and returned them safely to earth. Americans not only walked on the surface of the moon, they drove on it, using a battery driven vehicle designed for the purpose, capable of carrying two astronauts and greatly increasing the area which the lunar explorers could cover. It was carried to the moon within the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) and used for the final three moon missions in the early 1970s. In 2003, the National Academy of Engineers called the program the “…greatest engineering team effort in American history.”

The Apollo program led to significant advances in the development of integrated circuitry, contributed to the growing cause of environmentalism, and over 20% of the world’s population watched on television when astronaut Neil Armstrong left the first human footprints on the lunar surface. NASA claimed spin-offs from the space program in the areas of freeze-dried foods, emergency reflective blankets, hand-held portable vacuum cleaners, and more than 2,000 other areas. LASIK surgery is a direct descendant of the technology developed to dock with vehicles in space, first performed as part of the Gemini program, in which astronauts learned the techniques required of Apollo.


Engineering HOF –

WIF Into History

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 215

Leave a comment

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 215

…I got a special use permit for the stable, so keep you and “our” horses noses clean…Carbon 14 Coaches-001

“I just talked to Constance and she said that they need 3 convertible carriages for the 28th,” Fanny is speaking to the co-owner of Carbon-14 Coaches, Eddie Dombroski. His footman/cousin Rex is where he always is, with the horses. The two of them have assembled three wagons and six horses, every one of them living the kings’ life behind Worth Moore’s new Near North Chicago Louis Sullivan residence. (The coach house concept is quickly losing its relevance in modern Chicago, with automobile garages replacing the buildings where the horses and carriages used to be kept)

“It’s a good thing we hired some new coachmen – two of them are 70 years old for crying out loud – but this will be like falling off a log for them, they were born in 1880 for crying out loud! They are used to the horse ‘n buggy.  I can’t keep from poking the floorboard for the gas and brake.”

For crying out loud.

“You do not need any accidents, Eddie. I got a special use permit for the stable and out of the ordinary liability insurance, so keep the place and your nose clean.” Attorney Moore is ankle deep in horse apples, knee deep in hay and up to his neck in angst.

“Not to worry Worth old boy, Rex has everything under control. I remember when we were kids and I was out visiting his pop’s farm, two of the cows and a goat got through the fence and were walking down the Burlington Northern train tracks on their way to Downers Grove.Well Rex and me jumped on a couple of their hay-burners and went over to round them critters up, which was good because there was a mile long freight train loaded with coal trying to get to the city and the engineer was furious because it takes him 5 miles to get up to speed from a dead stop. But we went over to the General Store and bought him a carton of Camels and a Baby Ruth and he was happy.”


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 180

Overrated! – WIF 10 Cent Travel

Leave a comment

World’s Most

Overrated Cities

The urban environment is powerful and evocative, reflective of the people, places and times that saw the construction of specific communities. Cities can be iconic, but they can also be overrated. They say you should never meet your heroes, but in this list, you might come to the conclusion that it’s equally unwise to visit your favorite cities. They may not live up to your lofty expectations after all…

You may or may not agree with me. This is just one traveler’s opinion. It could be I had:

  1. one lumpy mattress,
  2. two bad taxi rides or
  3. three  bad meals.

10. Paris

Paris may be iconic for its Eiffel Tower, culture, and architecture, and for being a romantic and meaningful place to get away. However, Paris is reputed to be overrated, so we’re going to check out the somewhat startling facts about this exceptionally famous French metropolis. Referred to as the City of Love or the City of Lights, Paris does have a variety of most famous human artifacts to appreciate or places to check out that are of historic or cultural fame and significance. Paris even has its own Disneyland. While seen as romantic and a place of love, Paris in fact might ironically be defined as a place to get lonely. Yes, there is much to appreciate architecturally and in the form of art and culture but Paris is well known as a place where bids for politeness do not constitute the highest priority in day to day life.

Paris has actually suffered the fate of being voted no less than Europe’s most overrated city, topping the list due to its unfriendliness. Visitors have often complained about unduly curt or unwelcoming treatment by locals. While Paris is a dream destination for foreign visitors around the world, it seems that becoming tired of serving foreigners without perfect French is an attitude clearly conveyed by enough Parisians. Apparently condescending attitudes and bluntness are ubiquitous in Paris to the point where visitors may not only feel disappointed but downright depressed. Finding that Paris does not measure up has created such severe symptoms as to be labelled as Paris Syndrome.

9. Rome

The Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. In iconic Rome, Italy, the list goes on, and there’s plenty to see for those interested in some more modern history too. The Vatican is also a stone’s throw away. While the famous ancient city does have remarkable architectural sites that are rich in history of religious, civic, and political significance, as well as being the scene of great conflict and drama, Rome itself is a place that one might say has seen better days in some regards. The ruins of ancient structures in Rome have been preserved for visitors but unfortunately, a number of modern amenities have come to resemble a less appealing version of what might be called another form of ruins.

Despite a steady injection of funds through tourist dollars, work to improve problematic transportation, sanitation, and municipal infrastructure shortcomings in Rome have lagged exceptionally. As money keeps coming in and the city remains crowded with tourists, a lack of efficiency and even strikes have left much to be desired, to put things mildly. Remarkably, sanitation problems, including garbage being left to the point of mass overflow, led to threats of European Union sanctions. Furthermore, visitors have complained about disreputable conduct from touts taking on the roles of taxi drivers, cash exchangers, and guides. Rome might attract millions of visitors yearly, but the city suffers some of Europe’s lowest repeat visit rates.

8. Sydney

The iconic Sydney Opera House of Sydney, Australia is so famous that one might say it is touted rather than simply promoted. Images of Sydney are also so curiously focused on the Down Under city’s famous opera house that you might make that image and the general character of the city synonymous in your imagination. However, the fact that the Sydney Opera House is such a focal point of the city’s depictions might hint, to the analytical mind, that perhaps this is the case because there is really little else that is all that remarkable in Sydney. Furthermore, the opera house itself is so overrated that the entire presentation begins to fall upon critical inspection.

The design of the opera house is the work of Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who won the contest to design it out of 233 contestants in 1956, with construction beginning in 1959 and lasting 14 years instead of the originally anticipated four years. Despite the fantastical appearance of the Sydney Opera House, the acoustics have presented many problems and it has not been the world star venue it was intended to become. With the acoustics of the opera house being widely criticized, makeshift solutions have often had to be sought due to some parts of the building being too big and others too small. The pit in the opera theatre has been identified as too small, causing acoustic difficulties, with the concert hall being overly large, causing sound to get lost. Interestingly, Australian music magazine Limelight gave the opera theatre the worst rating for acoustics out of 20 venues of significance, while giving 18th place to the concert hall.

7. London

London, England has a history going back to the Roman Empire with everything from sites of Royal interest at Buckingham Palace, Big Ben as a monument for the most die-hard clock fans, those infamous red double decker buses, and perhaps the odd unexploded German bomb lying somewhere waiting to be discovered, decades past the rabid fighting of World War II. The largest city in England and the United Kingdom, the capital of England suffers pollution in the Thames that was once so bad people were dying from it, and air pollution had the same effect by a different means of causing ill-health. Despite the mix of grandeur and squalor, visitors to London may find themselves disappointed by the crowding and also the lack of friendliness despite being surrounded by people, as London has the questionable distinction of being voted the second most unfriendly city worldwide.

Then there’s the sometimes garish and disjointed modern construction that has grown up in the city. While historic squalor and wartime damage have been definitive events in London’s history, visitors will be surprised by how iconic traditional buildings and perceptions of English culture and architecture in London are dwarfed by modern architecture. The skyline of London definitely appears rather random, with buildings in the financial district described in comparison to a cheese grater, a scalpel, and a walkie-talkie in some prominent examples.

6. New York City

New York City may not be the political capital of the United States but the grand city is certainly the de facto financial capital of America (and some might argue the world). With such iconic elements portrayed in popular culture, literature, news, movies, and daily discourse, New York occupies a larger than life place in the minds of the American public and further. Those who live there know what it is like, but first time travelers may be in for a disappointment upon actually arriving.

From 1785 to 1790, New York was actually America’s capital city. In recent history, the tragic 9/11 attacks represented the single worst incident to strike any North American city. While many cities are destinations for visitors, there has been a surprisingly significant level of effort — to the point of sacrificing comfort — just for the sake of living in New York City. Due to grand real estate costs, living in tiny, overpriced, and sometimes substandard accommodations has become commonplace. For visitors, sites such as the Empire State Building, Wall Street, and Statue of Liberty are certainly icons of great interest, but the actual city will produce a feeling of being dwarfed by two things. These are the enormity of the buildings, crowds, and traffic-jammed streets, and the enormity of the tab run up to stay in the city.

5. Shanghai

Shanghai is so well known that it has become an almost clichéd stand-in for popular imaginations of the People’s Republic of China. Yet while Shanghai is an important Chinese city with enormous economic, historical, and cultural significance, it is a city with a significant legacy of influence by Western culture and hotspots of past east and west conflict. Known for its modern towers, including the aptly named Shanghai Tower, and a myriad of modern architectural wonders, Shanghai is also defined by “The Bund” — a block of iconic European colonial buildings now repurposed for a variety of uses. Yes, Shanghai may feel too “westernized,” a valid perception based on the composition of the city by those seeking the “real China.” It certainly is the place to get coffee and hamburgers in China.

While modern architectural creations may define the Shanghainese skyline, the “waterline” of Shanghai is largely defined at its most famous points by these magnificent but undeniably foreign European buildings, the work of “Laowai” — or foreigners — in China. The foreign presence in China has been a tumultuous one, with many flash points relating to trade and attempts at colonization. So, why is Shanghai perhaps overrated as a place to experience China? While interesting, there are many other places, such as Xi’an in Shaanxi province, with the Terra Cotta Warriors close by, remote hill forests in Sichuan and incredibly spicy cuisine, ancient temples in Henan province, and of course the many access points to the Great Wall that more accurately reflect traditional Chinese culture over a more Westernized one.

4. Rio de Janeiro

Depicted in countless movies and artistic images, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is known for being located below the huge Christ the Redeemer art deco statue that contrasts with the extraordinary natural features of Rio de Janeiro combining steep hills, the sea, and perched buildings. The world famous statue constructed above the city is 98-feet tall with a 92-foot arm span, built on the 2,300-foot tall Corcovado Mountain in Tijuca Forest National Park. While famous for everything from car race hosting to nightlife and urban tourism, Rio de Janeiro is actually not so great to look at once you are down amongst the buildings, many of them generic in architectural form, lacking a sense of place, and often run down.

While Rio is often promoted as a center of culture, activity, and interest for travelers in search of a lively and exotic destination, the Brazilian city is becoming a hotbed of criminal activity. Crime rates have risen so drastically that violence is feared throughout the city, costing an immense number of tourism dollars. People are becoming smart enough to stay away from many parts of Rio much of the time, to the point where lost revenue in the year 2017 totaled an incredible $200 million.

3. Barcelona

Spain is both renowned for positive cultural aspects, notorious for being host to events with which many people do not approve (including bullfighting), and as the site of a brutal civil war in its 19th century history. With all of the complexity and intrigue of Spanish architecture and historic and modern culture, Barcelona is a famous destination that draws visitors globally every year, but something is clearly wrong when disappointment follows the arrival of the discerning traveler. What exactly is the problem with Barcelona? While the city is a cultural icon, the true Spanish cultural experience has unfortunately been, shall we say, diluted by the emergence of an extraordinary quantity of tourist traps replacing a quality experience.

At the same time, overcrowding of this already highly populated parcel of Spain is making additional visitors face immense challenges in simply getting around to see the place once they’ve arrived. Esteemed Spanish writer extraordinaire Miguel de Cervantes put the praise of Barcelona into the mouth of his fictional character Don Quixote, describing the city as nothing less than a “fountain of courtesy, shelter of strangers, hospice to the poor, land of the valiant, avenger of the offended, reciprocation of firm friendship, a city unique in its location and beauty.” Yet the crowded-ness of the city and tendency for many people to treat it as a short stop interestingly leads many people to be less responsible given that they will be in the area for a limited time, further adding to the aggravation many visitors experience.

2. Athens

Afforded near mythical status for being so ancient and the place where countless Greek Gods and Goddesses are described as having their origins, Athens is a richer place in history and culture than it is today in the flesh — or rather, in the brick and mortar. While the development of ancient democracy, philosophy, and faiths in a place where such famous humans such as Socrates and deities such as Zeus and Venus have their claim is bound to make Athens a revered site in popular imagination, there is much to disappoint, according to some visitors. The city of the Acropolis and other impressive architecture actually consists of vast arrays of run-down buildings that are often crowded together without very much shade in many areas. The Acropolis itself is known for being less spectacular and archaeologically, architecturally, and historically pristine than is popularly imagined.

Try to get to it, and you could be turned back by heat due to the barren nature of the grounds where the ancient relics stand, and monumental levels of overcrowding. Add that to the sometimes suffocating air pollution that Athens experiences. Upon arrival at the Acropolis, the scaffolding significantly takes away from appreciation of the architecture, creating the feel of a construction site. While ancient people built the monumental sites expediently, modern repair works have taken decades and still remain underway, resulting in not only scaffolding but all manner of construction equipment anti-climatically lying about the grounds of the most iconic structures of Athens.

1. Amsterdam

World famous Amsterdam. This city is an active metropolitan area situated on flat land, including areas that have had to be reclaimed from the ocean. Subject to flooding, massive urban construction has required more than just a little engineering to be sustainable. Amsterdam may be geographically flat and lacking in mountains, but it has been viewed as a place of where people can get high in the drug use sense without fear of legal reprisals. So-called “coffee shops” function more as marijuana lounges in Amsterdam, where use of the almost universally banned drug is tolerated by the authorities.

Furthermore, red light district activities draw more than a fair share of visitors, since prostitution is legal. However, a variety of issues, as well as a simple lack of interest when it comes to more standard comforts, render Amsterdam a place that is not just overrated but leaving something to be desired when it comes to mainstream human comforts.Amsterdam’s food is lagging behind the attention given to the marijuana focused “coffee shops,” being monotonous and simple for the most part, while the architecture of the coastal city is less than spectacular in many instances, with exceptionally plain construction defining much of the municipal jurisdiction.


Overrated! –

WIF 10 Cent Travel