I caught a bit of the news at lunch today and they were at Stonehenge talking about the *new* Seven Wonders of the World.
This rang a very vague bell, I remember someone going on about this ages ago – the idea of coming with a new list of seven amazing things in the world. I think this is a brilliant idea – especially since only one of the original Seven Wonders still exists.
Anyone can register and vote and they claim to have already gathered 20 million votes – which is all very possible. The shortlist has been cut down to 21 by UNESCO and now its ex-head Professor Dr Federico Mayor is going on a world tour of each location drumming up press coverage. He was in the UK, hence Stonehenge, hence the news report.
I’ve been chased off Stonehenge at 2am in the morning by security men with dogs because I was so irritated that you couldn’t walk up to them without super-special permission. And even though they’re nice, I would never consider them a Wonder of the World – even when intoxicated on a moody dark autumn night. So it doesn’t get my vote.
But I think the idea is brilliant. After all, it gives everyone a good reason to go check out the other far-flung parts of this planet and see the incredible things that are possible. So I’ve registered and voted online, and here is my full list and why:
I should note that my selection may well be biased because I have been to some of them, and so the wonder may have worn off (I wonder if that’s the case with all of them?).
- Giza Pyramid: No brainer. It is the only remaining original Wonder and to my mind it should be in by default.
- Great Wall of China: Also, to my mind, startingly obvious. Absolutely extraordinary achievement. Everyone should go see it at some point in their life. Including me. I should say at this point, I’m very disappointed that more engineering feats weren’t included, like, off the top of my head, the Hoover Dam – or, better, the Panama Canal.
- Easter Island, near Chile: The strange haunting statues are much more interesting than Stonehenge – although far, far harder to get to. Have to be a Wonder for no reason more complicated than they fill you with wonder. I haven’t been able to find out if you are allowed to get near the stones themselves. Why hasn’t someone blogged about this? What’s the Internet for anyway?
- Christ Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Also a clear one in my mind. An extraordinary statue, reminiscent of old Wonder, the Colossus of Rhodes. A huge figure protecting a city, it’s a lovely grand image. I also hear it is extraordinary.
- Taj Mahal, Agra, India: Because of its beauty, and its symbolism.
- Neuschwanstein Castle, Frussen, Germany: This is just a monument to what the human mind can do in the fantastic realm. My understanding is that it was created purely for that reason – as a fantasy land. It has been bored into my mind since a kid because of the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I think it’s a wonder.
- The Kremlin, Moscow, Russia: I don’t know what it is about this building but I have always been fascinated by it. It’s just so, unusual. Far more unusual, oddly, to my mind than say Oriental architecture. I’ve always wanted to go see it. And see Russia.
The others on the shortlist that I haven’t chosen:
- Acropolis, Athens, Greece: Been there. Lovely walk up but it’s a crumpled mess. There’s no wonder there.
- Chichen Itza, Mexico: Also been there. Impressive. Very steep and hard to walk up. Very hot, humid and mildly claustrophobic inside. Does a great thing on the side it, shaped as a dragon, lines up perfectly with various times of year. But, it’s not burned in my mind and I have no real desire to return.
- Colosseum, Rome, Italy: Big, but, like the Acropolis, just a load of crumbling stone. I have been to Rome several times and after the first time, never bothered to look round the Colosseum again. What’s the point?
- Eiffel Tower, Paris, France: A great building. I love it. Have been up it several times. Really like strolling around the gardens around it as well. But a wonder? Not for me. Not with the competition.
- Statue of Libery, New York, USA: I get the feeling that all the media hubs of the world get a wonder thrown in for pragmatic reasons. The Statue of Liberty is impressive and obviously has huge symbolism but it doesn’t do it for me. Also I gave up climbing it after being in an unbelievably slow queue surrounded by fat, irritating, moaning Americans. I wanted to look through the crown at the top but frankly I was on the steps for over two hours and was bored out of my mind. That’s not a wonder, it’s a nightmare.
- Stonehenge, just off the A303, Salisbury, England: Nah.
- Macchu Picchu, Peru: Have always wanted to go see this. But I still have a bias for Wonders in that they should actually still be in one piece, rather than ruins. I don’t remember the original Wonders listing “Lighthouse at Alexandria, collapsed”. No, you want a wonder, it has to be up and running.
- Petra, Jordan: Maybe I should have chosen this. It is that extraordinary building and inner constrcutions built into the sheer rockface – sandstone I think. Surely this has to be seen before you die.
- Sydney Opera House, Australia: Remarkable. Beautiful. But I’d still rather go see the Kremlin.
- Timbuktu, Mali: Now I was going to drive through the desert and hopefully see the mud walls and buildings earlier this year but it fell through. I plan to make the trip at some point. The thing is though that Timbuktu is remarkable in that it was once the centre of commerce because of the Sahara trade routes but is now virtually dried up. Is it really a wonder? Or was it just a thing of its time?
And the last group of places which I have to confess I have little or no knowledge of, which is why they’re off my list but also serve as a useful counterpoint to my wider sense of disappointment over this New Seven Wonders idea.
Considering what the Internet can do these days: videos, modelling, images, blogs, interactive quizzes – anything you put your mind to – I find the whole Seven Wonders website extremely disappointing.
You click on each wonder and get a tiny box of information. Fine, but click on the link for more information and all you get is a one-page text-only description of the place. This is *really* poor and I think the people behind the site should really show some willing and spend some of the money they can undoubtedly make from this whole enterprise creating a magnificent resource of the most extraordinary places on the planet.
I was appalled to see how little imagination had gone into the website when the subject it is dealing with is construction and imagination. Very poor show. That rant aside:
- Alhambra, Granada, Spain
- Angkor, Cambodia
- Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
- Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan
I look forward to hearing the result. Not out for another 263 days, apparently.