Friday, April 13, 2012

Traveling with kids through history: 12 sites I'd love to visit

I have a lot of travel-dreams, and some of them are more likely to come true than others. For example, I'm thinking a camping trip to Yellowstone is likelier to happen before a grand safari in Africa, though you never know!

Quite a few of my family-travel dreams involve archaeological or historical sites around the world. One reason for wanting to bring my kids to these sites is of course the educational value of seeing history up close and personal. Another reason is that I've been fascinated by many of these places since I was a kid, and would love to explore them with my children. Finally, I'd love to do it because to me, travel and history can both really ignite the imagination in kids and adults, and I'd love to give my children that experience.

Here are 12 sites I'd love to see with my family:

1. Knossos, Crete, Greece
This is where the real king Minos lived, and where a lot of myths and stories play out: Theseus in the labyrinth with the Minotaur, Ariadne's thread, the real-life "leaping over bulls", and a lot more. The fact that this trip would involve going to a Greek island makes it even better.

2. Acropolis, Athens, Greece
I've visited Athens once upon a time, long ago when I traveled through Europe in my teens. It's one of those places you've seen so many times in pictures, yet I remember that it really did blow my mind to see it for real. It's a pretty amazing feeling to walk in a place where you know people walked, talked and worshipped thousands of years ago. The Parthenon might be all crumbling marble, but it is still a beautiful place that fires the imagination.

3. Machu Picchu, Peru
This site might be a bit of a challenge to visit with kids since it's so high up in the mountains that the altitude affects a lot of people, but I would love the kids to see this for themselves. My kids do enjoy hiking, and hiking in this place with them would be absolutely amazing. To see this place with my kids, and be able to talk to them about how people were able to build it and live there so long ago would be a fantastic experience I think.

4. The Pyramids & Abu Simbel, Egypt
I went to Egypt in the late 1980s, and it's one of those places where history really gets under your skin because it is everywhere and still so vivid and real. Gigantic temples and statues, gold encrusted funeral items and murals, it's ancient history you can really see and touch. Just visiting the pyramids and Cairo would not be enough for me; I would have to take the kids to Abu Simbel and on a Nile cruise as well. The Valley of the Kings, Luxor... there are just so many things to see.

5. Stonehenge, England
I still kick myself for not having visited Stonehenge on my previous visits to England. What would my kids make of it I wonder? I'd love to talk to them about how they think the rocks got to where they are, and why people might have raised them there. Knowing my kids, I might get some rather interesting answers...

6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The temples and palaces here in Cambodia were built in the 12th century and the vast area that was once the city is now partly covered with jungle. It's a part of the world I've never been to but have always wanted to see, and just exploring that world, and that history, with my kids would be the thrill of a lifetime.

7. Rome, Italy
I don't even know how many movies and TV-shows I've watched, or how many books I've read, that are set in ancient Rome. Visiting all those famous places like the Colosseum, Forum Romanum, the catacombs, and all the rest of it, would be amazing. And exploring Italian cooking, like pasta and gelato with my kids (and maybe an Italian beach or two) would be an extra perk.

8. The Great Wall, China
This is another one of those sites that I'd love to take my kids to and just experience it: walk it, touch it, look at it, and talk to my kids about how people were able to build it, why they would build it, and how it's still there today.

9. Lascaux, France
These cave-paintings set my imagination racing whenever I see them, and they make me wonder about how people thought and lived back in those times. I would love to get my kids' imagination racing too. These days, I don't think it's possible to actually visit the actual caves, but instead you visit a reproduction of the caves and the paintings inside those caves, nearby the original site. I guess the ancient humans who created these paintings didn't plan on an invasion of tourists!

10. Alhambra, Spain
I wrote about this place recently. It's one of the most beautiful places I've visited, and even after all these years, I still remember it very vividly. It's also a place that is a reminder of the days when Europe was partly under Arabic influence: a subject that caused a lot of panic back then, and still seems to cause some discomfort to this day. Mainly though, I'd love to take my kids there because it made such an impression on me once.

11. Easter Island, Chili
The giant sculptures have been used so often in popular culture that they almost seem too familiar at times. Yet I have a feeling that seeing the place for real would be quite an experience. I would love to see and hear what my kids would make of this place located at the edge of the world.

12. Tikal, Guatemala
Another place I'd love to just walk around and explore with my kids. To see the buildings and the imagery and just be there in a place where people once lived their lives. It would also be a wonderful place to read and talk about Mayan mythology, astronomy and all the things that the people of Central America accomplished and created. Maybe we'll plan a visit once we've made it past that supposed Mayan apocalypse date in December 2012...

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