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History at the ends of the Earth

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Something I discussed last night with a friend led me to posting this today. This is my list of the top 10 places I would give a kidney to visit, but will almost certainly never do so. How many of these are on your list?

ANI

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Nestled in the uplands on the eastern border of Turkey this early medieval Armenian city is a sprawling plateau of glorious ruins, from ancient churches to city walls and more. Though it is now part of a struggle for preservation and aid, its position led to decades of Turkey and Armenia both blaming one another for the site’s increasing dilapidation while doing nothing to halt it. Without taking sides, I find it saddening that unless change is effected quickly there might not be much of this world-class sight to visit by the time I get the chance.

SHAHARA

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Quite apart from being in war-torn Yemen, Shahara with its astounding ancient bridge and buildings lie outside the sphere of the stuff I write, so I will be unlikely to find a reason to get there. And of course my Acrophobia might be an issue too….

RATIARIA

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One of the saddest stories I have followed over the last few decades, Colonia Ulpia Ratiaria was a largely untouched Roman city buried beneath the earth in Bulgaria. But due to corruption and greed and simple poverty and desperation, since the country’s emergence into freedom, it has been systematically ravaged and looted, even to the extent of using JCBs and bulldozers. Now under a desperate push for preservation, what is left is a shadow of what was. I would have loved to have visited it decades ago, and there might be something still to see when I eventually get there.

SABRATHA

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One of several mind-blowing sites in Libya (along with Leptis Magna), these Roman cities are some of the most incredible of all ancient remains, and quite rightly are counted some of the world’s most important sites. Miraculously over the recent decades they have largely survived harm, largely through the dedication of locals, but with Libya remaining a difficult place to visit, reaching them seems unlikely.

AI KHANOUM

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Few places are more inaccessible for us than the ruins of Alexandria on the Oxus, in the mountains of Afghanistan. And even if we were freer to visit such a place (and that likelihood is ever increasing, of course), sadly, Ai Khanoum fell foul of some dreadful bombing a few years back that has left large tracks of it utterly obliterated.

NISIBIS

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A Roman legionary fortress, grand city and centre of the early Christian church, Nusaybin contains remains both civil and military spanning more than half a millennium, yet some lie in Turkey, some in Syria and some, totally inaccessibly, in the barbed wire no-man’s land between the two. Visiting the place would be problematic to say the least.

CALDER ABBEY

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This one is pretty much on me, I have to say. The picturesque ruins of Calder abbey in Cumbria have been on my must visit list for over a decade, since I planned on visiting all Britain’s monastic houses. But they are on private land, and part of a big house’s grounds. I’ve got a poor distant photo of them. I have occasionally contemplated seeking permission to visit, but since we only get over there on at least a night away, it has thus far been too complex to plan, and so I’ve never yet been there. Perhaps next time…

LESHAN

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Those of you who know me know my leanings towards Buddhism, and I would love to visit the Buddha of Leshan in China not only because of what it is, but because of the air of mystery and power surrounding the monument. But China is sadly so far off my radar every year makes this less unlikely.

WEWELSBURG

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The fortress of Himmler’s SS occult obsession in deepest Germany has a weirdly dark fascination for me. Medieval fortress, Renaissance chateau and 20th century pit of evil, it has so many levels of interest, but being so far into Germany it is unlikely I will get there any time soon, since I naturally tend to spend my money heading to places that have a bearing on what I write and research. Still, I would be fascinated to prowl the corridors of this place.

CHURCH OF ST SYMEON

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In Syria, the Byzantine church of my favourite saint remains one of the most beautiful and evocative ancient ruins in the world, despite having been repeatedly occupied and damaged in wars right up to this very year. The saint’s famous column has been a victim to this ruination, as has much of the structure.  And Syria remains a difficult place to visit, especially this church in a critical area that keeps being used as a fortress by one side or another. My chances of seeing this amazing site are tiny.

So that’s it. 10 places I will probably never get to, but wish I could.

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Written by SJAT

October 7, 2018 at 7:50 pm

Posted in Travel

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