Polska on a Dime – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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 Must-See Places

in Poland

Poland. A land of record holding attractions. A heavily wooded country in places, beautifully urbanized in others, Poland is a gem of European intrigue with a complex history scathed by the tragedies of armed conflict. In this account, we showcase a visitor’s 10 must see sites in surprising Poland, including the world’s largest castle and a mysterious forest.

10. Malbork Castle

Did you know that “The King of Castles,” the largest castle on the planet (by land area) is in Poland? Poland’s Marlbork Castle is a medieval gem that should rank well in any world itinerary of castle tours. Built in the 13th Century, Marlbork Castle, known as the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, consists of a castle and associated fortress construction close to the Polish town of Malbork. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the magnificent building attracts visitors looking to tick “biggest castle” off the touring achievements list.

Marlbork Castle is near the River Nogat in northern Poland, built out of brick and typifying Gothic architecture. The construction reflects the Teutonic Order state located in Prussia, where militant German monks fought crusades against Prussian and Lithuanian pagan tribes from the south coast of the Baltic Sea. The crusaders also attacked the Kingdom of Poland, a Christian Kingdom. Thus, the castle is seen as a symbol of the violent religious conflict that embodies much of Europe’s grand but often troubled history.

9. Bialowieza National Park

The primeval forest of Bialowieza National Park is the refuge of the majority of the world’s few remaining European bison, Poland’s national animal. Also designated as a World Heritage Site, the huge relict tract preserves the last of the temperate forest that once grew lush and mysterious across much of the European continent. The first national park to ever be established on the European continent, Bialowieza was declared a protected area in 1932 and stands out for its exceptional diversity. Along with the huge bison, other species seen here include lynx, wild boar, wolves and red deer.

Despite the relatively cool climate of Poland and surrounding lands, 12,000 animal species call the park home. Also known as the Zubr, the European Bison that define this park are iconic giants as Europe’s largest land animal in existence. During the Second World War, pressures on the bison increased, being seen as a source of meat in challenging conditions. Their survival in the refuge stands out as a heroic work of conservation in European history, an accomplishment of the Bison Breeding Center located in the park, the place where all bison left in the world originate.

8. Tatra Mountains

Poland is a country with diverse and fascinating geography, spanning from high mountain Europe to the Baltic Sea. In the south of Poland lies the Tatra mountain range, which is the highest set of mountains in the Carpathian range.

Tatras National Park contains spectacular cave sites as well as mountains, offering the visitor a glimpse of Poland’s most spectacular geographical region. Lakes in these mountains are impressive, particularly Morskie Oko, a lake whose name means Eye of the Sea in English. Morskie Oko is the Tatra Mountains’ largest lake, ranking fourth in depth and located within the national park. The conifer trees, rock outcrops and high elevations contrast sharply with brilliant blue waters that seem tropical in nature until you see the snow beyond. A destination for world class sight-seeing, rock climbing, hiking and caving, as well as paragliding, mountain biking and wildlife viewing, the “Polish Alps” — as they are sometimes called — are a lesser known great attraction of Europe worth any visitor’s time. Strict environmental protection policies are in place to preserve the flora and fauna of the park.

7. Tri-City

Poland is not all about farmland, forest and castles. It is also a seaport nation, with an impressive section of Baltic Sea coastline to offer visitors. Gdansk and and two other coastal municipalities, Gdynia and Sopot are known as the Tri-City, a municipal area with spectacular coastal architecture that is most whimsical, combined with heavy industry and a population of around one million.

The National Maritime Museum in Gdansk showcases seafaring and fishing history of coastal Poland, while the city has some dark history as the place where the first bullets were fired in World War II during the German invasion of Poland. The Solidarity Social Movement also first broke through the Iron Curtain in Gdansk 40 years afterward. Sopot is a lighter destination, established as a sort of recreation zone for European ruling classes of old. Spas, beachfront resorts and summer homes define the often bustling coast of Sopot. Gdynia offers a different sample of Poland, with a more subdued style. Art Deco, socialist and communist architecture are all juxtaposed here, along with fascinating relics, such as the Polish World War II battleship ‘Blyskawica’, now a visitor’s attraction and military exhibit.

6. Wawel Royal Castle

Considered a cultural icon of Polish history as well as a masterpiece of European royal architecture, Wawel Castle is located in the center of one of Poland’s most famous cities, Krakow. The 11th century saw construction of a small castle by King Boleslaw I Chrobry.

King Casimir III the Great renovated until the Royal Castle was a grand Gothic structure, only for it to burn in 1499. Zygmunt I Stary created the current palace, Italian-inspired and representing Renaissance glory. The cultural and political center of Poland throughout the 16th Century, Wawel Royal Castle is a museum in modern times, consisting of five distinct sections open for visitation. These are the Crown Treasury and Armory, the State Rooms, the Royal Private Apartments, the Lost Wawel and the Exhibition of Oriental Art. These works and the stunning grounds of the castle give visitors a most memorable experience of Polish Royal history. A survivor of history, Wawel Royal Castle was vandalized by Swedish and Prussian forces, Austrian-occupied in the 19th century with intent to make it a mere barracks and then re-incorporated into Poland following World War I. Restoration was underway between the two world wars, continuing once World War II hostilities ceased. Much improvement has been made to the rooms and the castle exterior.

5. Zamosc

Dating back to the 1500s, Zamosc is a Renaissance town that offers a time capsule-like experience for visitors, giving an authentic glimpse of ancient Poland with strong Italian architectural influence. The sights of the town range from churches to a grand old university to historic dwellings that reflect the lengthy history of this unique master planned town. The community is located in close proximity to the Ukrainian border. Attractions are diverse and visually pleasing in the town that was built as a collaboration between the great Italian designer Bernardo Morando, and chancellor Jan Zamoysky, after whom the town is named. Zamosc was not only built with specific architectural ideas in mind.

The town was planned with care on a larger scale to be a multicultural hub of European social and commercial exchange, strategically placed along the trade route that connected western and northern Europe with the Black Sea coast. Interestingly, the construction in Zamosc reflects efforts to implement tolerance, as the town contains religious buildings that serve as locations for a variety of faiths to worship.

4. Wroclaw

Peaceful yet vibrant, full of life Wroclaw is a jewel of Polish cultural life. Visitors to the Western Polish city will marvel at the stunning and innovative Gothic architecture that is juxtaposed on unique geography. Wroclaw is spread across riverside lands and a remarkable 12 islands, built by the River Oder, which flows from the Sudeten Mountains to the Baltic Sea. Founded in the 900s, the city has changed hands an incredible number of times. Wroclaw has been under Polish, Silesian, Bohemian, Hungarian, Prussian and German as well as Austrian Habsburg Dynastic rule in its history.

The city survived Mongolian sieges and Nazi occupation, ultimately being returned to Poland after World War II. A remarkable 130 bridges span the city’s watercourse zones, connecting whimsical and grand architectural sites and urban park lands. Visitors can wander the human-scale streets and take in the towering Church of St. Elizabeth, the grand Wroclaw Town Hall, and the market square, Rynek.

3. Wieliczka Salt Mine

The southern Polish town of Wieliczka holds a secret attraction from Poland’s industrial legacy under the surface of the Earth. A source of salt since the Neolithic era, Wieliczka Salt Mine provided table salt from the 13th century up to 2007. Salt price drops and mine flooding led commercial mining to stop in 1996, but the mine is anything but closed. Designated an official Polish Historic Monument (Pomnik Historii), the former royal salt mine offers visitors a chance to explore shafts, passageways and remarkable mining equipment, including giant cogs and horse-operated treadmills.

The mine is also home to amazing underground architecture, including four chapels, each with immaculate detailing. Statues were created from rock salt by miners and stand to this day, while modern artists have added to the collection. To prove the salt mine has it all, there is even an underground lake. Together with nearby “sister” royal salt mine Bochnia Salt Mine and the Zupny Castle, Wieliczka Salt Mine is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

The single darkest legacy among many from the Nazi government’s military occupation of Poland is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. With that name comes a diabolical past that historians have ensured will not be forgotten. Located in Oswiecim, the memorial and museum encompasses the two camps, named Auschwitz I and nearby Auschwitz II-Birkenau, with infrastructure connecting the two sites included in the memorial site. It is here that disturbing relics ranging from camp fences and watchtowers to bunkers and railway tracks used to transport prisoners can still be found.

The ghastly relics include the actual crematoria used to dispose of murdered victims of the Third Reich, while an interesting asset includes the crude gallows used to hang SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Rudolf Hoss, the first commandant of Auschwitz. Countless Jewish prisoners, as well as members of targeted ethnic groups, dissidents and others deemed targets of persecution by the Nazi regime were imprisoned at Auschwitz. A shocking 1.1 million people were killed here, including men, women and children. The museum and memorial was established in 1947, a relatively short time after the camp’s eventual liberation near the end of World War II.

1. Warsaw Uprising Museum

Warsaw, Poland’s capital, survived the Nazi invasion that sought to permanently take Poland as a new land asset of the Third Reich. Despite the damage, Warsaw is a city of both architectural and military historical interest. The Warsaw Uprising Museum is a Polish site of national pride that contains five display levels that document the Polish city’s efforts to overthrow German occupation force rule in 1944.

Opened 60 years after the liberation of Warsaw, the museum is within what was once a tram power station, constructed to commemorate the 1944 Warsaw Uprising by remembering the fighters for a free Poland. Exhibits include displays that portray the conflict of occupation era resistance, while a much newer section that opened in 2006 focuses on the history of Allied force supply air drops and includes a faithful replica of a B-24J bomber.


Polska on a Dime

WIF 10 Cent Travel

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #268

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #268

…After Captain Ford, his crew and remaining passengers, et al had left Karachi, their odyssey continued for another ten days…

Pacific Clipper Route      As for the Pacific Clipper, the first thing Captain Robert Ford did, once they had landed at LaGuardia Robert Ford-001harbor on January 5 1942, was to radio Colombo, Ceylon and the British Embassy there. He did call his family, knowing that Pan Am had done so in advance for him, but it is the fate of a woman he barely knew that haunts him, and as it turns out, will continue to haunt him for the rest of his life.

Pacific Clipper Take-off    After him, his crew and remaining passengers, et al had left Karachi, their odyssey Pan Am Clipper2continued for another ten days, across the Arabian Peninsula, the sands of the Sahara, the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean to the tip of South America, then finally and mercifully, New York City.

Ford Map-001 The loss of one passenger will taint the joy of flying, for a flyer without parallel. Instead of retirement, he is granted two weeks leave and a reassignment to an Atlantic Clipper route. He will china_clipperdo so dutifully, if not unceremoniously.

In the two-week layover, he writes out a complete debriefing for his friend, Lyn, so she can fill in the blanks for her war mystery, The Hawaiian Spy. He promises a visit to Tallahassee on his summer vacation. Not an altogether disagreeable notion, even for her. Friendship is friendship, after all.

Pan Am ClipperPan Am Hat-001fords-flight-route1937 CC P.I.-001

As in the case of their country, they find: a lesson not learned  is the hardest lesson of all.

End of Chapter Fourteen


Author’s note:

What I enjoy most about writing Historical Fiction is being able to weave stories, like Robert Ford’s Pacific Clipper WWII ordeal, into the fabric of ***Alpha Omega M.D. – Granted he never actually had a passenger go missing from his Pan Am Clipper on the island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), but what fun it was to include characters Carolyn Hanes (Constance Caraway) and Sara Fenwick (Fanny Renwick) in on one of the most amazing stories that no one knows about.

One sunny Sunday, while knee-deep in writing this book, I came upon a feature article in the Chicago Tribune’s Travel Section. Somewhere in my old-fashioned stack of research material is that article. At the time, I could not put it down, nor could I let it rest.

As it is with the construction of any book, one writes one-day-at-a-time and a once well-planned story takes a sudden turn. And so it did; from a story about a kindly Southern doctor – to a fictional fiction writer who takes a holiday aboard one of Pan American Airways flying boats, WWII breaks out, she loses her companion and blah, blah, blah etc…

I would like to thank the faithful readers of the Writing is Fun-damental (WIF) blog, for allowing me to share my book, along with this amazing story with you. – Gwen

*** THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A BLACK SOUTHERN DOCTOR – ISBN 978-1-4691-9018 Xlibris Publishing

For the real story behind the Pacific Clipper, (Daley, Robert, 1980, An American Saga, Juan Trippe and His Pan Am Empire, Random House, New York)  follow the link below:

Captain Robert Ford’s Factual Pacific Clipper Story

Pacific Clipper-001



Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #268


page 249 (end ch. 14)

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #266

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #266

… “PAA should not stand for Postmortem American Airlines.” Words can be weapons, particularly when used by a professional like Lyn…

Words are Weapons-001

“She’s not onboard, Miss Hanes,” reports 1st Officer Brown, Sara’s escort for the evening and not feeling real good about now. “It seems she never made it back.”

Lyn is wondering if life is about to imitate art. In her book tentatively titled, Constance Caraway: The 1937 CC P.I.-001Hawaiian Spy, Fanny Renwick disappears while following the man in the blue suit. Lyn is hoping upon hope that Sara is merely lost, just as Fanny had after being spotted and subsequently ditched by the blue suited suspected spy.

Sure, that is it. She will turn up soon, all safe and sound.

“We’re not leaving until we find her, are we Captain? The mechanics haven’t completed repairs on that cylinder in number three engine.” Rod Brown is seriously concerned about Sara and not just because she was his “date”. He had had his eye on her ever since they left San Francisco. It is without reciprocation that he now acts.

  “Don’t worry, Rod. She can’t have gone far. I have already informed the British authorities about Miss Fenwick and you can head up a search team of your own. Now get cracking, we’ve only about 24 hours before we have to take off for Karachi.”

 “Pakistan?”

 “Yet another glamorous destination. Pan Am should make you guys pay for an around-the-world tour like this one.”

fords-flight-route

“It seems that your Miss Fenwick is not the only person who has been reported missing,” reports a British Army security person to 1st Officer Brown and Carolyn. “Another civilian, a Ceylonese woman and one of our Army nurses vanished about the same time.”

 “All women, what’s up with that? Is there some sicko out there?” Rod Brown fears a rapist is on the loose.

 “Normally, I would make the same assumption folks, but we have had no previous reports of assaults on women, especially since the disappearances were in the vicinity of Embassy Row. We are not talking back alleys or poorly lit streets.”

 “What about that blinding light we’ve heard about? Is that cause and effect or just coincidence?” Lyn is leaving no stone unturned.

 “We don’t know Miss, although our base radar did spot a strange blip on their screens at the same time as the light. When the light went out, the bogey was gone. Frankly, nothing in our skies can move that fast.”

“Three people do not just vanish into thin air, Sergeant. I suggest you redouble your search. PAA should not stand for Postmortem American Airlines.” Words can be weapons, particularly when used by a professional like Lyn.

“We need to get some answers soon. We will be leaving for Pakistan early tomorrow. I want that woman found.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Pan Am Clipper-001

Episode #266


page 247

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #264

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #264

…I remember a Sara Fenwick. She said she was tired and was returning to the Clipper, ma’am. That was just before the time that bright light just about blinded me…

The Vanished Flame by lowjacker deviantart.com

The Vanished Flame by lowjacker deviantart.com

“You have been so gracious, Lady Mountbatten. This has been a wonderful evening.” Carolyn Hanes loves informed discussions.

“It looks like your date has run out of gas,” the lady observes Capt. Ford face down in front of his meal.

 “He deserves the rest. I cannot tell you what a Herculean job he has been doing. He is probably dreaming about where we are going next.”

  “Perhaps he is dreaming about you, dear.”

“That would be the true definition of a dream,” she insists, while searching the room for Sara. “Please excuse me, Lady. I seem to have misplaced someone.”

What seemed to be moments ago, Sara had been bouncing off of people, in the arms of yet another bad dancer. Now, she is nowhere to be seen. Upon interviewing some of the crew of the Pacific Clipper, as well as others in the reception, Sara had stepped out for some fresh air. A girl can only have so much fun.

A quick sweep of the British Embassy grounds, results in nothing. When approached, the guard at the gate looks down at his sign-out sheet, “I remember a Sara Fenwick. She said she was tired and was returning to the Clipper, ma’am. That was just before the time that bright light just about blinded me. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

She dismisses the light connection. “Now that is funny,” Lyn thinks aloud. It was not like Sara to take off without checking in, although there were the dagger stares when eye contact was made between them.

What is a grand adventure for Lyn must be becoming a grand pain for Sara.  ‘Maybe we should just stay here with the British,’ considers the authoress in jest.

The hour is late and Lyn decides that the crew is probably ready to leave, so she returns to the banquet room. In fact, there is more yawning going on: than a hundred insomniacs on sleeping pills, at a convention for certified actuaries.

 “Let’s go back to the Clipper, guys. Keep your eye out for Miss Fenwick.” Captain Ford cares about his passengers, especially under these extreme circumstances.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Vanished into the Night

Episode #264


page 246

Monuments to Something – WIF Landmark Travel

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Mysterious

World Landmarks

The world is filled with ancient monuments built by master craftsmen in order to honor everything from kings and presidents to religious figures. And although most of these landmarks have been carefully studied and researched by scientists and historians, some are simply so old, incomplete, or obscure that we still don’t know very much about why they were built or what purpose they served. The following are 10 world landmarks that, whether by intention or simply due to the passage of time, continue to baffle the people who study them.

10. The Cahokia Mounds


Cahokia is the name given to an Indian settlement that exists outside of Collinsville, Illinois. Archaeologists estimate that the city was founded sometime around 650 AD, and its complex network of burial grounds and sophisticated landscaping prove that it was once a thriving community. It has been estimated that at its peak the city was home to as many as 40,000 people, which would have made it the most populous settlement in America prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The most notable aspect of Cahokia today are the 80 mounds of earth, some as high as 100 feet, which dot the 2,200-acre site. These helped create a network of plazas throughout the city, and it is believed that important buildings, like the home of the settlement’s chief, were built on top of them. The site also features a series of wooden posts that archaeologists have dubbed “woodhenge.” The posts are said to mark the solstices and equinoxes, and supposedly figured prominently in the community’s astronomical mythology.

The Mystery
Although scientists are constantly discovering new information about the Cohokia community, the biggest mystery that remains is which modern Indian tribe is descended from the residents of the ancient city, as well as just what it was that caused them to abandon their settlement.

9. Newgrange


Considered to be the oldest and most famous prehistoric site in all of Ireland, Newgrange is a tomb that was built from earth, wood, clay, and stone around 3100 BC, some 1000 years before the construction of the pyramids in Egypt. It consists of a long passage that leads to a cross-shaped chamber that was apparently used as a tomb, as it contains stone basins filled with cremated remains. The most unique feature of Newgrange is its careful and sturdy design, which has helped the structure remain completely waterproof to this day. Most amazing of all, the entrance to the tomb was positioned relative to the sun in such a way that on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the rays from the sun are channeled through the opening and down the nearly 60 foot passageway, where they illuminate the floor of the monument’s central room.

The Mystery
Archaeologists know Newgrange was used as a tomb, but why and for who still remains a mystery. The painstaking design needed to guarantee that the yearly solstice event occurs suggests that the site was held in high regard, but other than the obvious hypothesis that the sun featured prominently in the mythology of the builders, scientists are at a loss to describe the true reason for Newgrange’s construction.

8. The Yonaguni Monument


Of all the famous monuments in Japan, perhaps none is more perplexing than Yonaguni, an underwater rock formation that lies off the coast of the Ryuku Islands. It was discovered in 1987 by a group of divers who were there to observe Hammerhead sharks, and it immediately sparked a huge amount of debate in the Japanese scientific community. The monument is made up of a series of striking rock formations including massive platforms, carved steps, and huge stone pillars that lie at depths of 5-40 meters. There is a triangular formation that has become known as “the turtle” for its unique shape, as well as a long, straight wall that borders one of the larger platforms. The currents in the area are known for being particularly treacherous, but this has not stopped the Yonaguni monument from becoming one of the most popular diving locations in all of Japan.

The Mystery
The ongoing debate surrounding Yonaguni centers on one key subject: is the monument a natural phenomenon, or is it man-made? Scientists have long argued that millennia of strong currents and erosion have carved the formations out of the ocean floor, and they point to the fact that the monument is all one piece of solid rock as proof that it was not assembled by a builder. Others, though, point to the many straight edges, square corners and 90-degree angles of the formation as proof that it’s artificial. They often cite one formation in particular, a section of rock that resembles a crude carving of a human face, as evidence. If they are right, then an even more interesting mystery presents itself: who constructed the Yonaguni Monument, and for what purpose?

7. The Nazca Lines


The Nazca lines are a series of designs and pictographs carved into the ground in the Nazca Desert, a dry plateau located in Peru. They cover an area of some 50 miles, and were supposedly created between 200 BC and 700 AD by the Nazca Indians, who designed them by scraping away the copper colored rocks of the desert floor to expose the lighter-colored earth beneath. The lines have managed to remain intact for hundreds of years thanks to the region’s arid climate, which sees it receive little rain or wind throughout the year. Some of the lines span distances of 600 feet, and they depict everything from simple designs and shapes to characterizations of plants, insects, and animals.

The Mystery
Scientists know who made the Nazca Lines and how they did it, but they still don’t know why. The most popular and reasonable hypothesis is that the lines must have figured in the Nazca people’s religious beliefs, and that they made the designs as offerings to the gods, who would’ve been able to see them from the heavens. Still, other scientists argue that the lines are evidence of massive looms that the Nazcas used to make textiles, and one investigator has even made the preposterous claim that they are the remnants of ancient airfields used by a vanished, technologically advanced society.

6. Goseck Circle


One of the most mysterious landmarks in Germany is the Goseck Circle, a monument made out of earth, gravel, and wooden palisades that is regarded as the earliest example of a primitive “solar observatory.” The circle consists of a series of circular ditches surrounded by palisade walls (which have since been reconstructed) that house a raised mound of dirt in the center. The palisades have three openings, or gates, that point southeast, southwest, and north. It is believed that the monument was built around 4900 BC by Neolithic peoples, and that the three openings correspond to the direction from which the sun rises on the winter solstice.

The Mystery
The monument’s careful construction has led many scientists to believe that the Goseck Circle was built to serve as some kind of primitive solar or lunar calendar, but its exact use is still a source of debate. Evidence has shown that a so-called “solar cult” was widespread in ancient Europe. This has led to speculation that the Circle was used in some kind of ritual, perhaps even in conjunction with human sacrifice. This hypothesis has yet to be proven, but archaeologists have uncovered several human bones, including a headless skeleton, just outside the palisade walls.

5. Sacsayhuaman


Not far from the famous Inca city of Machu Picchu lies Sacsayhuaman, a strange embankment of stone walls located just outside of Cuzco. The series of three walls was assembled from massive 200-ton blocks of rock and limestone, and they are arranged in a zigzag pattern along the hillside. The longest is roughly 1000 feet in length and each stands some fifteen feet tall. The monument is in astonishingly good condition for its age, especially considering the region’s propensity for earthquakes, but the tops of the walls are somewhat demolished, as the monument was plundered by the Spanish to build churches in Cuzco. The area surrounding the monument has been found to be the source of several underground catacombs called chincanas, which were supposedly used as connecting passageways to other Inca structures in the area.

The Mystery
Most scientists agree that Sacsayhuaman served as a kind of fortress of barrier wall, but this has been disputed. The strange shape and angles of the wall have led some speculate that it may have had a more symbolic function, one example being that the wall, when seen next to Cuzco from above, forms the shape of the head of a Cougar. Even more mysterious than the monument’s use, though, are the methods that were used in its construction. Like most Inca stone works, Sacsayhuaman was built with large stones that fit together so perfectly that not even a sheet of paper can be placed in the gaps between them. Just how the Incas managed such expert placements, or, for that matter, how they managed to transport and lift the heavy hunks of stone, is still not fully known.

4. The Easter Island Moai


One of the most iconic series of monuments in the Pacific islands is the Moai, a group of huge statues of exaggerated human figures that are found only on the small, isolated island of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island. The Moai were carved sometime between 1250 and 1500 AD by the island’s earliest inhabitants, and are believed to depict the people’s ancestors, who in their culture were held in the same regard as deities. The Moai were chiseled and carved from tuff, a volcanic rock that is prevalent on the island, and they all feature the same characteristics of an oversized head, broad nose, and a mysterious, indecipherable facial expression. Scientists have determined that as many as 887 of the statues were originally carved, but years of infighting among the island’s clans led to many being destroyed. Today, only 394 are still standing, the largest of which is 30 feet tall and weighs over 70 tons.

The Mystery
While there is a fairly solid consensus on why the Moai were erected, how the islanders did it is still up for debate. The average Moai weighs several tons, and for years scientists were at a loss to describe how the monuments were transported from Rano Raraku, where most of them were constructed, to their various locations around the island. In recent years, the most popular theory is that the builders used wooden sleds and log rollers to move the Moai, an answer that would also explain how the once verdant island became almost totally barren due to deforestation.

3. The Georgia Guidestones


While most of the mysterious monuments on this list only became that way as centuries passed, the Georgia Guidestones, also known as American Stonehenge, are one landmark that was always intended to be an enigma. The monument, which consists of four monolithic slabs of granite that support a single capstone, was commissioned in 1979 by a man who went by the pseudonym of R.C. Christian. A local mason carefully crafted it so that one slot in the stones is aligned with the sun on the solstices and equinoxes, and one small hole is always pointed in the direction of the North Star. Most interesting, though, are the inscriptions on the slabs, which an accompanying plaque describes as “the guidestones to an Age of Reason.” In eight different languages, the slabs offer a strange ten-point plan to ensure peace on Earth that includes vague proclamations like “prize truth–beauty–love–seeking harmony with the infinite,” to very specific commands like “maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.” Comments like this one have made the Guidestones one of the most controversial landmarks in the United States, and they have long been protested and even vandalized by groups that would like to see them demolished.

The Mystery
For all their controversy, very little is known about who built the Guidestones or what their true purpose is. R.C. Christian claimed he represented an independent organization when he commissioned the landmark, but neither he nor his group has spoken up since its construction. Since the monument was built during the height of the Cold War, one popular theory about the group’s intentions is that the Guidestones were to serve as a primer for how to rebuild society in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust.

2. The Great Sphinx of Giza


Sphinxes are massive stone statues that depict the body of a reclining lion with the head and face of a human. The figures are found all over the world in different forms, but they are most commonly linked with Egypt, which features the most famous example in the form of the Great Sphinx of Giza. Incredibly, the statue is carved out of one monolithic piece of rock, and at 240 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 66 feet tall, it is considered to be the biggest monument of its kind in the world. Historians largely accept the function of the Sphinx to have been that of a symbolic guardian, since the statues were strategically placed around important structures like temples, tombs, and pyramids. The Great Sphinx of Giza appears to be no different. It stands adjacent to the pyramid of the pharaoh Khafra, and most archaeologists believe that it is his face that is depicted on that of the statue.

The Mystery
Despite its reputation as one of the most famous monuments of antiquity, there is still very little known about the Great Sphinx of Giza. Egyptologists might have a small understanding of why the statue was built, but when, how, and by who is still shrouded in mystery. The pharaoh Khafra is the main suspect, which would date the structure back to around 2500 BC, but other scientists have argued that evidence of water erosion of the statue suggests that it is much older and perhaps even predated the dynastic era of the Egyptians. This theory has few modern adherents, but if true it would mean the Great Sphinx of Giza is even more mysterious than previously believed.

1. Stonehenge


Of all the world’s famous monuments, none has gained as much of a reputation for pure, simple mystery as Stonehenge. Stonehenge has been inspiring debate among scholars, scientists, and historians since the Middle Ages. Located in the English countryside, the landmark is believed to date back to 2500 BC, and consists of several mammoth pieces of rock arranged and piled on top of one another in what appears at first to be a random design. The site is surrounded by a small, circular ditch, and is flanked by burial mounds on all sides. Although the rock formations that still remain are undoubtedly impressive, it is thought that the modern version of Stonehenge is only a small remnant of a much larger monument that was damaged with the passing of time, and it is largely believed that the building process was so extensive that it could have lasted on and off for anywhere from 1500 to 7000 years.

The Mystery
Stonehenge has become renowned for puzzling even the most brilliant researchers, and over the years the many gaps in the history of its construction, the nature of its use, and the true identity of its builders have become known as “The Mystery of Stonehenge.” The Neolithic people who built the monument left behind no written records, so scientists can only base their theories on the meager evidence that exists at the site. This has led to wild speculation that the monument was left by aliens, or that it was built by some eons-old society of technologically advanced super-humans. All craziness aside, the most common explanation remains that Stonehenge served as some kind of graveyard monument that played a role in the builders’ version of the afterlife, a claim that is backed up by its proximity to several hundred burial mounds. Yet another theory suggests that the site was a place for spiritual healing and the worship of long dead ancestors.


Monuments to Something

WIF Landmark Travel

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #263

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #263

…Merely for the sake of argument milady, if you were a spy, would you travel on the Clipper?…

Belle of the Ball by Bridget Davies

Belle of the Ball by Bridget Davies

“May I cut in?” Barney Sawicki, the same Barney Sawicki who was star struck by Mary Pickford, aboard an earlier incarnation of the Clipper in 1935, steals a dance with Sara Fenwick, who has turned into the belle of the ball. Lyn was so busy pumping Lady Mountbatten for information about British intelligence, poor Sara is forced to dance her feet off. She will get even, sooner or later, but for the time being any number of men get a close up view of her chest. What the hell, what harm can come of a few fixated peeps? No man fondles her girls, thank God.

The MI5 Crest

“MI-5 is the most tenacious organization in the world,” Lady Mountbatten relates to her intrigued inquisitor. “They need to be, with Hitler at our doorstep. It is all they can do to keep him from bombing our brains out. If it were not for the air raid sirens and the intelligence we get from them, casualties would be devastating.”

“If you were a spy…?”

“I beg your pardon?” The word spy repulses the Lady.

Merely for the sake of argument milady, if you were a spy, would you travel on the Clipper?

“Oh yes, most definitely. With all the stops it makes in the Pacific Theater, good heavens, a touristy looking chap could have been practicing his craft for years. He could have a contact in every harbor. But keep in mind, because of your unexpected detour; he will be acting more suspiciously.”

An excerpt from Constance Caraway P.I. – The Hawaiian Spy:1937 CC P.I.-001

“Have you been watching that man in the blue suit, Fanny?” Constance has, ever since she saw him sneak off the Pacific Clipper in Colombo, Ceylon.

          “I did. I don’t think he thought that anybody would notice. But I did not recognize the launch that picked him up.”

          “Yes. Yes.” The gears inside Constance Caraway’s mind are turning and churning. This mysterious man had raised no suspicion until now, like he knows what he is doing and doing it for a while. “And have you noticed that he speaks to no one on the plane, and when we’re ashore, he disappears into thin air.”

          “Maybe I should follow him around at our next stop, take a few pictures,” Fanny suggests. “That photo lab we set up in our stateroom is actually quite good.”

          “Yes it is. Those chemical baths are easier to get than good airplane fuel… I didn’t think we were going to clear the trees back there.” The sound of rustling palm leaves, tickling the flying boat belly, would not be audible, but it can be imagined. “Let’s get back to our mystery man, my dear Fanny. If you could get pictures of the people he meets, that would be helpful. That would leave me free to follow some other leads. It seems that we are attracting an unusual amount of attention, considering we don’t have a flight plan,” Constance tells her trusted colleague.   “Be careful Fanny!”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Fiction vs Nonfiction

Episode #263


page 245

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #262

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #262

…“Would you do me the honor of escorting me to dinner?” asks John Ford of Carolyn Hanes, before he leaves the cabin of his weary airplane…

Meanwhile Caption-001“Is that gunfire I hear?” is the question of the moment in the passenger cabin.

Peering out the starboard side of the seaplane, for one and all to see is a submarine that is flying the Japanese flag. It has surfaced and its crew is firing the deck guns at the Pacific Clipper.

“I thought the Captain said we weren’t going to fly over any war zones?” Someone asks nervously as the flying boat pitches upward into the clouds. After several minutes they are descending down on Trincomalee, Ceylon.

Dockyard at Trincomalee, Ceylon from the Admiralty House by Harry Edmund Edgell

Dockyard at Trincomalee, Ceylon from the Admiralty House by Harry Edmund Edgell

Once safely harbored on the large island off the southern tip of India most of the crew disembarks, to be interviewed by the British Royal Air Force. They will also be guests of honor at a reception hosted by the wife of the Southeastern Asia Theater chief, Lord Mountbatten.

fords-flight-route  “Would you do me the honor of escorting me to dinner?” asks John Ford of Carolyn Hanes, before he leaves the cabin of his weary airplane. “I have been spending way too much time with the crew.”

Lyn hesitates. There is more than one dynamic at work here. “That would be wonderful, Captain.”

          It feels like a slap in the face for Sara, who is near enough to witness the perceived flirtation. It is short-lived. “Oh, and my bashful 1st Officer, Rod Brown over there, was wondering if Miss Sara would like to come along.”

          Sara Fenwick has not moved so quickly in her entire life. Imagine that, a double date? “Count me in!”

Double_Date          “Great! We will send a boat to ferry you girls ashore in a couple of hours. Oh, it’s definitely a formal affair. Let’s show them how a Clipper troop does the town!”

          “This ought to be interesting, Lyn. Are you sure you know what you are doing?”

          “I think that I am going to wear that black sequined dress. Do you have an extra pair of dark stockings?” She knows exactly what she is doing.

          “The one with the slit up to here?” she points to a spot on her thigh that is dangerously close to never-never land. “I think I’ll wear my navy blue suit, I just won’t wear a blouse under the jacket.”

         “Now that’s the essence of the evening. Let’s have some fun with this.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #262


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