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Sure, we love all the speed and comfort of modern travel, but it didn't get that way overnight. Every Thursday, we're going to take a look back at travel the way it used to be, whether that's decades or centuries ago. This is Throwback Thursday, travel edition.
This week we got a little restless and hopped down to Dallas for the day, with the express purpose of wandering around AA's C.R. Smith Museum, about a 10-minute drive from DFW Airport. We'll have more on it later since it is a very worthwhile diversion, but allow us to highlight their small exhibit on the history of airline lounges.
You see, American Airlines originated the ideas of airport lounges way, way back when commercial aviation was still in its infancy. 2014 marks the 75th Anniversary of the Admirals Club, the first of which debuted in December 1939 as the "Flagship Club" at what is now New York's LaGuardia Airport.
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Brandenburg Gate. Alexanderplatz. Checkpoint Charlie.
The 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall has done more than just shed a brighter light on some of Berlin's best-known tourist sites; it's wholly reignited interest in the brief history of the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik), aka East Germany. Although the DDR technically ceased to exist upon Berlin reunification in 1990 and East Germany feverishly adapted to Western fashion and culture, the particular details of DDR everyday life continue to fascinate.
A handful of Berlin sites continue to preserve DDR design, and anyone is welcome to visit. Here are five of our favorites:
After four years of renovations, one of Egypt’s iconic attractions, The Sphinx, is ready to be reopened to the public.
The courtyard of the Sphinx, which allows visitors to walk around the statue, was closed so that cracks could be repaired, mainly on the left side of the statue and on the chest and neck. Visitors could obviously still see the Sphinx from a distance, but they weren’t able to get close during the repairs.
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Above: the Delta DC-3
2014 has been a huge, huuuuuge year for airline anniversaries, and at the top of the list is Delta's 85th Anniversary of passenger service, which they celebrated with a reopening of their aviation museum at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Why a re-opening? Well, as it goes with museums, sometimes exhibits need polishing and the Delta Flight Museum had originally opened back in 1995. It's so much more than spit-shining some cases, however; an entire new aircraft was waiting to be added to the permanent collection.
Now visitors can finally get up close with the Boeing 767 "Spirit of Delta," which was actually purchased by donations totaling $30 million from Delta employees. This plane almost single-handedly allowed Delta to weather the tough economic times of the early 1980s and begin modernizing their fleet. She flew for 23 years and is now half time capsule, half museum-within-in-a-museum, and completely open for visitors to tour.
For every enchanting mountaintop resort, riveting extreme sports adventure or breathtaking spa in the middle of nowhere that we write about, there are many places and experiences in this world that we would absolutely NOT use our vacation time (or work time) to explore.
For instance, we don't recommend wingsuit diving into an active volcano on the ice cap of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. Just not a good idea.
We have, however, come to realize that, sometimes people are morbid and weird and sometimes those people like to travel. Following up on our creepiest haunted prisons and asylums tour, we now have a handful of cemeteries that you have to be incredibly
unstable brave to visit.
Psst...you might want to keep the lights on for this.
If you've been to San Francisco before, you've probably taken a trip out to Alcatraz, one of the world's most infamous golden cages. If the beautiful city views and deep history aren't enough to bring you back for a second visit, the fact that the prison has been taken over by an art exhibit may entice.
At the end of September, a Chinese artist - who is coincidentally under house arrest at the moment - launched a seven-installation exhibit called "@Large: Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz." The installations are found throughout Alcatraz and carry a theme of "protest songs." The most attention-getting exhibit has arguably been one called Trace, which features 176 portraits made of Lego bricks, each presenting "an individual who has been imprisoned or exiled because of his or her beliefs, actions, or affiliations."
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In the midst of the bustle of travel, it's all too easy to overlook the details. We're talking about special touches others have stressed over just so you can enjoy a unique experience, whether you know it or not. Every so often we'll highlight The Little Things like this, so now you will know.
All too often these days, airline passengers moan that the the glamor has gone from travel. While it's true that legroom is decreasing and a full, complimentary steak dinner is no longer the norm onboard, the Frankfurt-based leisure airline Condor refuses to let every smidgeon of retro style and comfort be lost to the ages. In fact, Condor slips historical hints of the jet age into each of their flights today.
What I’m about to tell you might be hard to believe: The photo you see above is of a prison. Not a view from a prison, but a prison in itself. I’m sure you’re confused. Let me explain.
In 1865, King Kamehameha V and the Hawaii Board of Health created the “Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy” in an attempt to do just that: Control the highly-contagious disease that seemed poised to become nothing short of a major epidemic on the islands. The plan was simple: Take everyone who was infected and quarantine them off from the rest of society. A remote location called the Kalaupapa Peninsula (KA-LOU-PAPA), shown in the photos of this post, was chosen as the location. Sporting the highest sea cliffs in the world and rough seas off shore, it was the obvious choice at the northern end of the lightly-populated island of Molokai.
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Every aviation museum worth its salt these days can boast of classic warplanes, military fighter jets here and there, and perhaps a pre-jet-age Lockheed Constellation, but few go the extra mile to secure and preserve the rarest, most historic, and, in some cases, most expensive airplanes nearly lost to history as does the Museu TAM.
The museum is the baby of TAM Airlines and is now the largest museum in the world maintained by an airline. Unfortunately it isn't the easiest daytrip destination; the Museu sits in a spacious pair of hangars just outside the town of São Carlos, an hour's drive from the city of Ribeirão Preto (location of the nearest commercial airport), which is itself an hour's flight (or 3-hour drive) from São Paulo. You'd never expect to find one of the world's most important aviation museums way out here, in this part of rural Brazil better known for sugarcane plantations, but here it is.
The museum opened to the public in 2006 with only around 32 aircraft, but they've been quite busy since and the collection now numbers 89 vintage and rare flying machines (49 of which are incredibly still in flying condition).
Photo of a vessel making a trail run through the Panama Canal in 1913
The Panama Canal celebrated its 100th birthday on Friday, the occasion serving as an opportunity to reflect on just how much this feat of engineering changed the world, and how much it continues to contribute to our shipping capabilities today.
For those who want a quick and dirty history lesson into its development – a process that was riddled with obstacles and problems – you can read up on it here, including the series of events that led to the United States gaining control of the Canal project in 1902 and then finally handing it over to Panama in 1999. There's also a great read that lists some fascinating facts about the project, such as the little-known tidbit that 25,000 workers died during its construction.
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Temple 5 at Tikal
Located in the north of Guatemala, Tikal is one of the world's largest Mayan archaeological sites. The University of Pennsylvania and the Guatemalan government have teamed up to unearth it partially, but much remains underground, including the backsides of many of the structures you see in the photos.
In that, visitors get a sense of just how much remains unknown about this mysterious culture. In total, the "residential area" of Tikal sprawls out over an area of 20 miles, and as you might imagine, only a small percentage has been cleared and mapped. The best excavated portion of the site is called the Great Plaza, which includes the stunning Northern Acropolis, shown in the first photo below.
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If visiting a cemetery has never appeared on your travel to-do list, we're with you. Yet when traveling through Guatemala, you might find them hard to ignore thanks to the bright, bold colors that make them stand out on the green hillsides.
This weekend, we had the opportunity to explore one in Chichicastenango (Chi-Chi-Cas-Tin-A-Go). Tourists are most familiar with the town for its huge native market on Thursday and Sundays, but "Chichi" provides visitors much more than opportunities to buy cheap trinkets. In addition to town officials appointed by the Guatemalan government, Chichi's local indigenous people - the Mayans - have elected its own leaders to preserve its culture and religious beliefs. Centered around the Church of Santo Tomás, ancient pre-Christian rituals and ceremonies still take place today.