Once in a while, something so big happens, it shakes the world to its core. While many lay forgotten in the sands of time, others live on in the form of memorials that stand and bear witness to the astonishing (and, in many cases, tragic) events of human history.
These monuments go beyond history class facts and figures. If you want a real life lesson, scroll down and check out these 4 human history mementos you need to visit.
If you’re anything like the 48.6 million travelers who descend in Italy each year, you’ll probably decide to go to the ghostly ruins of Pompeii. Like moths to a flame, people from all over the world flock to see the famous Roman archaeological site and walk around its ancient streets.
Pompeii was engulfed by lava and ash from Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79. The outcome was cataclysmic – it wiped out entire populations of nearby towns – but also gave history one of the most extensive and intact ruins of an ancient city.
The site has a whopping 50 hectares filled with details of everyday life from almost 2,000 years ago. You’ll find evidence of marketing puns, bodies covered in lapilli (keeping them perfectly preserved), trading routes, graffiti and remnants of the all-important aqueduct, which provided water for 25 street fountains, four public baths and a large number of private houses and businesses.
You can wander around the Forum with Vesuvius in the background or sit under a tree and contemplate the nearby Amphitheater. Pompeii is an ancient human history lesson you’ll never forget!
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, New York
Lady Liberty, or Liberty Enlightening the World, is New York’s gentle giant breaking away from her shackles. Think of this as a profoundly moving meditation on the nature of American ideals: she reminds us that freedom is meant for everyone.
Sent over the Atlantic avec amour in 1886, Lady Liberty towers over New York Harbor. Ellis Island itself was the gateway to the United States for 12 million immigrants during the first half of the 20th century. Nearly half of all Americans have ancestors that came through Ellis Island. Who knows, perhaps your own family members came this way! Try to track them down at the Ellis Island National Immigration Museum
Together, a visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis island make a powerful statement for tolerance and diversity.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, Krakow
Probably the world’s most famous concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is a living memorial to the 1.5 million people who perished here during the German Nazi regime.
This complex gives a voice to a dark chapter in human history. Established in 1940 and in operation for five years, it has 150 buildings and 300 ruins with original roads, fences, watchtowers, and railway ramps, all of which paint an eye-opening picture of one of the world’s biggest genocides.
Upon arrival, you’ll come face-to-face with the gate bearing the words Arbeit macht frei – “Work sets one free”, foreshadowing the extreme hardships of the Holocaust and the everyday life of each prisoner. Visiting the memorial isn’t meant to be fun, but it will open your eyes and make you more aware of everything, and everyone, lost during WWII.
9/11 Memorial & Museum, New York
A visit to the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum is guaranteed to bring up deep emotions within every visitor. The memorial outside is a stirring tribute to those who lost their lives, and the museum is a powerful exploration of the events of 11 September.
The museum is divided into three sections and has a collection of over 10,000 artifacts collected from Ground Zero – including a section of antenna from the roof of the North Tower and the remains of a fire truck.
Standing outside, the memorial sits where the World Trade Center complex once was. Two immense man made waterfalls create hauntingly beautiful pools, surrounded by 76 bronze plates inscribed with the names of the nearly 3,000 victims of terrorism on this site.
Though it can be difficult to face, the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum doesn’t only delve into moments of terror and sadness: it pays tribute to people’s ability to come together in the face of profound adversity.
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