The Sudwala Caves

As some of the oldest caverns known to man, the Sudwala Caves in Mpumalanga, South Africa are a magnificent display of natural beauty.

Come along as we explore these riveting corridors of ancient masterpieces, and we’ll discover together what makes these caves such a popular attraction!

History of the Sudwalas

Because of the great antiquity of the Sudwala Caves, we only have a small glimpse of what has taken place there; we can guess that it has sheltered many people over the millennia, as primitive artifacts and tools have been found deep in the cavern’s recesses.

In the 1800s, they were a hideout for Prince Somquba as he tried to gain the throne from his brother and royal heir Mswati. The caves supplied fresh water, and provided plenty of room for men, animals, weapons, and other supplies. Somquba named them in honor of Sudwala, one of his officials.

The Sudwalas were later used by the Boer army for storing supplies during the South African War.

In 1965, a man named Philippus Rudolf Owen purchased the caves and opened them up to the public. An enormous chamber near the mouth of the caverns has been named the PR Owen Hall in his honor; this amphitheater-like room reaches 121 feet to the top of its dome, and has a diameter of 230 feet!

Modern Tours

The Sudwala Caves are open year-round, and the basic entrance fee is around $7.00. They also offer guided tours that can take you over a mile into the caves. This lengthy (4-hour) trek, called the Crystal Tour, costs around $32.00, and will lead you along the ultimate cave exploration experience, including getting a little wet and dirty!

While the terrain of the tour is easy enough for most people, it is not an advised endeavor for individuals with back or knee problems; nor is it a choice activity for anyone who experiences claustrophobia easily, as some of the passageways are a bit tight.

The highlight of the tour is a chamber full of glistening aragonite crystals that dazzle the eyes with their beauty. You may see a few of the many horseshoe bats that reside in the caves as you walk along the tour; you’re also likely to see some strange naturally-occurring mineral formations along the way with names like the Rocket and the Screaming Monster. 

Let’s Go!

So, are you ready to go exploring? Tie on your hiking boots and get ready to experience one of the most intriguing caves in the world!

National Museum of the Resistance: The Most Important Museum You’ve Never Heard Of

The world is full of obscure museums, but most of them are obscure for a reason.

Typically, such places are devoted to select topics that appeal to only a select few, and frequently they are located in out of the way places. 

The National Museum of the Resistance, however, breaks the mold. Located in cosmopolitan Brussels, Belgium, the museum enshrines wartime artifacts with a particular emphasis on World War II and the Belgian Resistance to German occupation of their country.

The mainstream appeal and placement in a large and prominent city make it somewhat baffling that this museum, which opened its doors on the 28th anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 1972, isn’t more renowned.

An Historic Building

The building itself that houses the museum is historically important, as it was the site of the publication of a satirical newspaper, Faux Soir, that spoofed the Nazi propaganda publication Le Soir (which means “the evening”). At great risk of personal danger to themselves, members of the Belgian Resistance produced and distributed this publication, managing to spread tens of thousands of copies throughout Europe. Unfortunately, the Gestapo arrested fifteen of the people involved in the satire’s production and at least two of them never returned from the prison camps to which they were sent.

A Somber and Meaningful Collection

Included in the museum’s archives are items such as an original edition of Faux Soir, a radio set that the Resistance recovered from a downed allied plane, and a violin scavenged from Mauthausen Concentration Camp (it is thought that the violin was played during executions). Make no mistake, this is a sobering yet compelling and ultimately very important place to visit. After all, it is said that everyone who ignores history is doomed to repeat it.

Unfortunately, due to renovations the National Museum of the Resistance is currently closed. Hopefully it will re-open soon, because the world is always in need of reminders that freedom is never free.

There’s No Place like the Judy Garland Museum

If you’re planning a trip to Grand Rapids, MN, including a stop to the Judy Garland Museum is a must.

The museum includes the entertainer’s childhood home, the Children’s Discovery Museum, and of course, the Land of Oz exhibit. So, embrace the magic and follow the yellow brick road.

It’s No Longer Just a Dream

A walk through the modest 1920s home where Frances Ethel Gumm, a.k.a. Judy Garland began life’s journey offers a poignant glimpse into the star’s history.

The museum includes an array of memorabilia from Garland’s extensive film and musical career as well as her personal effects. Scripts, personal letters, photos, jewelry, and clothing combine to create the lasting legacy of her career.  

The most extensively memorialized aspect of the museum includes mementos of Dorothy’s heroic journey through Oz. Here, you’ll find the carriage ridden into Oz, which incidentally, once belonged to Abraham Lincoln.

Secure your own legacy and request to have a personal message engraved on the museum’s yellow brick road.

The Case of the Missing Ruby Slippers

When Dorothy’s missing ruby slippers mysteriously vanished from the museum in 2005, the case went cold. It wasn’t until a phone call in an attempt to cash in on insurance money and subsequent FBI sting operation in 2018 that the iconic slippers were returned to their rightful owners. It proves once again that, “There’s no place like home.”

The Children’s Discovery Museum

The interactive exhibits are designed for children aged 12 and younger. Included among the adventures are Treesa the Talking Tree, a dinosaur dig, and Lions and Tigers and Bears exhibit.

The Wizard of Oz Festival

The third week of June every year is set aside to participate in activities that celebrate Judy Garland’s life and career as well as the iconic production of The Wizard of Oz. The three-day festival includes memorable film clips, concerts, and dining.

Manhattan’s Poster House Museum is Dedicated to Graphic Arts

Posters as advertising billboards are graphic art as well as history.

The Poster House Museum at 119 West 23rd Street in the Chelsea neighborhood exhibits posters from around the world.

This is the first museum in the United States to focus on the graphic art of posters from the late 1800s to the present.

Exhibits

The Poster House opened in June of 2019 with a special exhibit of the work of Alphonse Mucha titled “Art Nouveau/Nouvelle Femme”. The exhibit “Designing Through the Wall: Cyan in the 1990s” details the graphic form of using the blue-green cyan for contemporary design. Future exhibits include posters from the 2017 Women’s March and “100 Years of Chinese Posters”. A collection of hand-painted movie posters from Ghana will also be on display.  

The Art Of Advertising

This is a celebration of the art of persuasion using posters to advertise everything from beauty products to concerts, exhibits, and events such as movies or plays. This is where business and commerce meet art and artists. Posters are the artwork of advertising.  A poster must be visually appealing as it usually communicates its message asking the public to buy or participate in an event that will cost money.

The Poster House is a “living archive” of contemporary poster design as well as those from the past. Posters developed from photos and even computer-designed art are also on display. The posters reflect the fashion and morals of different times over a 160 year period. They are part of the pop culture of the past where different print media and techniques were used to create the posters.

Extras

The museum features a gift shop and cafe along with a special children’s exhibition. There is also a classic poster photo booth and a modern digital poster wall.

Let’s Go!

Poster House is open Wednesday through Monday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is $12 for adults with children under 18 admitted free. Students and seniors pay only $8.00. This is a new experience for New Yorkers and visitors in a city that offers many museums. 

Featured Article

Visit Platform 9 3/4 For Your Harry Potter Needs

From the well-known Harry Potter series came Platform 9 3/4.

It took root and grew in the hearts and imaginations of people all around the world. Have you found yourself dreaming of visiting the platform and escaping to the wizarding world lately?

PLATFORM 9 3/4 FACTS

  • While the Harry Potter series is a fantasy fiction series, Platform 9 3/4 has been made into a real location to visit. 
  • Platform 9 3/4 was released to the public in 1997 via the first Harry Potter book: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
  • King’s Cross Station in London was one of the primary locations set in the books, helping define the series and setting the barrier to the entrance that led students on their journey to Hogwarts and the wizarding world beyond. 
  • Between 2005 and 2012, the famous marker and trolley were relocated all around King’s Cross Station, until finally finding its permanent home between departing platforms 9 and 10, as described in the series. 

THINGS YOU MUST KNOW BEFORE VISITING PLATFORM 9 3/4

Any fanatic of Harry Potter only dreams of the day they’re accepted into Hogwarts and able to escape the muggle world by visiting Platform 9 3/4. It’s a dream come true. While we’ve brought the magical world into our homes, we can access parts of that world with simple travel.

Find your way to the platform at King’s Cross Station by taking the London Tube. Whether you’re coming straight from the Heathrow, Gatwick or Luton airport, there is a direct tube link to get you there within an hour. There are also 14 bus routes that give you easy access when attempting to get on the Hogwarts express in time. If you’d rather travel a little more privately, take a taxi and you’ll be there in no time. 

When visiting Platform 9 3/4 you’re encouraged to dress in your house colors to show your spirit for whichever house the sorting hat placed you in. Be sure to make a pit stop at one of the platform stores to pick up some gear before your arrival. Are you in Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin? 

Important disclaimer: Muggles – humans – should not attempt to cross the barrier as it remains quite solid to those that don’t harness magic in their family. While getting your letter to Hogwarts is exciting, only true wizards and witches can cross the barrier to board the Hogwarts Express. Once you board the magical train, enjoy your journey to start your classes at Hogwarts school for wizards and witches, located in Scotland. On your ride over, snack on a chocolate frog or some of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.

If you’ve made it through Platform 9 3/4, I wish you a great journey in the wizarding world! 

Sources:

Platform 9 3/4 Facts – https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/platform-9-3-4

Getting to King’s Cross Station – https://www.tripsavvy.com/guide-to-kings-cross-train-station-london-4174017

Bayterek Tower: A Symbol of Prosperity for Kazakhstan

Bayterek Tower is a stunning monument and observation tower located in Nur-Sultan, formerly Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan.

From the tower’s notable height to its color and shape, to the golden observatory, every aspect of the tower’s design is steeped in symbolism and celebration of the Kazakh culture.

Symbolism in Numbers

The architect, Akmurza Rustembekov, designed Bayterek Tower with the symbolism of numbers in mind. The tower was built to a height of 97 meters, to celebrate the year 1997, when Nur-Sultan, then Astana, became the capital city of Kazakhstan.

Prior to 1997, the capital of Kazakhstan was Almaty, about 1,300 km to the southwest. The government of Kazakhstan feared that Almaty was too susceptible to damaging earthquakes, and too close to the Chinese border for comfort, and relocated the capital North and East to Astana. In preparation for the new capital’s celebration, construction of the Bayterek Tower began in October 1996. The sparkling golden egg observation tower, spans 22 meters and overlooks the picturesque Kazakh capital from 86 meters above ground. Inside the observation tower sits a wooden globe at the center of a flower with 17 petals to symbolize the world’s religious movements.

Samruk and the Tree of Life

The symbolism that Rustembekov built into tower’s design derives from an old Kazakh legend about the great bird of happiness, Samruk, and the golden egg she laid among the branches of the Tree of Life, a poplar tree. The legend varies based on the region, but it is generally agreed that the egg symbolizes the sun, and is laid by Samruk in the Tree of Life. The sun is later swallowed by the dragon Aydahar, a representation of the light and dark cycles of summer and winter, day and night, good and evil.

Even the name of the tower, Bayterek, is the historic name of the Tree of Life, symbolizing strength and prosperity. As a celebration of the new Kazakh capital, the Bayterek Tower succeeds admirably by combining an uplifting sense of prosperity and bright hopes for the future with profound insight into depths of Kazakh folklore and history.

Sources:

“The Bayterek Tower”. Explore Astana. http://www.astana-kazakhstan.net/attractions-2/culture-and-entertainment/the-bayterek-tower/. Accessed 23 August 2019.

“Bayterek Tower”. Astana Hotels. http://www.astanahotels.ru/eng/astana/bayterek.htm%20Bayterek%20Monument. Accessed 23 August 2019.

“Why Did Kazakhstan Move Its Capital?” Infoplease. https://www.infoplease.com/askeds/why-did-kazakhstan-move-its-capital. Accessed 23 August 2019.

“Baiterek – A Symbol of Modern Astana”. Advantour. https://www.advantour.com/kazakhstan/astana/bayterek.htm. Accessed 23 August 2019.

Red Rocks Amphitheater: A Musician’s Dream Venue

Whether you’re a concert-goer or a nature enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of Red Rock Amphitheatre.

If not, get ready to explore one of the coolest outdoor theaters in the United States.

Visiting Red Rocks

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is part of the 738 acre Red Rocks Park located outside Denver, CO. Here, you can see a diverse environment of plants, animals, and the middle ground between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, giving you the best of both regions. You can even hike up to the amphitheatre. Red Rocks Amphitheatre itself is the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world, and it took more than 200 million years for the rocks that make up the amphitheatre to form. Many great artists from U2 to the Beatles have played in the geological phenomenon. 

The History of Red Rocks Amphitheatre

The theatre itself opened in 1941 and was made a National Historic Landmark in 2015. It can seat just over 9,500 people. Because Mother Nature designed the amphitheatre, it isn’t duplicated anywhere in the world. Consisting of two, 300-foot monoliths called Ship Rock and Creation Rock, this geologically formed outdoor theatre gives the perfect acoustic opportunity for performances. Sitting between these two towering red rocks allows visitors to stargaze at night and get a glimpse of prehistoric times during the day. It even gives the perfect view of the city of Denver.

It all started in the early 1900s when a man named John Brisben Walker dreamed of there one day being performers on a stage that would fit perfectly between the perfect acoustic surrounding of the rocks. He held concerts in a makeshift venue until he attracted the attention of the manager of Denver Parks, George Cramer. From there, the men convinced the city of Denver to buy the area from Walker and build upon his dream.

Denver architect Burnham Hoyt was commissioned to design the theatre under the direction that he would preserve the natural beauty of the park. Although the park was dedicated in 1941, it wasn’t until 1947 that the first annual Easter Sunrise Service took place, and it has attracted the best performers ever since.  

As Unique as it is Historic

Red Rocks Amphitheatre has an incredible history. With its formation to its magical acoustics to the zany things that happen there during shows, the amphitheatre is quite a unique place. The Denver Post shared 75 little-known facts about Red Rocks Amphitheatre that are worth a look. Some of those include:

  • From the first show up until the end of 2016, there had been over 2,700 shows
  • You can see Denver’s airport, which is about 39 miles away, from the top row of the venue
  • The first observed occurrence of lighters in the air happened in 1944 when opera singer Regina Resnik asked the audience to light a match after the lights went out

Worth a Visit for a Show or the Beauty

If you’ve been looking for a place to visit that combines a love of music with a love of nature, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and the park it’s located in, are worth a stop. After all, you can’t go wrong seeing a place that was previously considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. 

Central Park Is Born A Star

Central Park, once known as Seneca Village, was the first landscaped park in the United States.

Built to establish a comparable setting to Paris and London, Central Park runs over 843 acres of land. 

HISTORY OF CENTRAL PARK

In 1853 the state legislature authorized the City of New York to implement eminent domain in order to acquire more than 700 acres of land. One of the largest settlements being a stable African American settlement known as Seneca Village. Leaving over 1600 residents uprooted from their homes, the park began the process of determining who would be in charge of the control over the upcoming park.

Ultimately, park commissioners were appointed and projects began with discussing the landscaping for the park. Over 20,000 engineers, gardeners, stone cutters and laborers were put on the job to reshape the land. Using gunpowder to remove large amounts of soil, the team planted over 270,000 trees. 

It wasn’t until the winter of 1859, six years later, that the park opened to the public. Thousands of New York families spent the winter season skating on what was once swamps across the newly landscaped land, making memories and bonding for years to come. Throughout the years, playgrounds have been built, a zoo has been established, along with athletic centers and museums. This has made Central Park a popular location for visiting families and friends from all over the world.

THINGS TO DO AROUND CENTRAL PARK

When visiting the nature designed park, you can find many activities to enjoy. From horse & carriage rides that allow you to enjoy as much of Central Park as you can to all kinds of sports. The park has 26 baseball fields! During the spring, enjoy the cherry blossoms and the beautiful green views of nature surrounding you.

The park even hosts concerts year round, allowing visitors to enjoy all kinds of popular entertainment. Enjoy a meal by the lake at The Loeb Boathouse when it’s time to eat, and catch sights of boats all across the water as you fill your taste buds with a variety of meats and vegetables.

With so much to do, it’s hard not to enjoy all of the events and liveliness of Central Park. 

Sources: 

History of Central Park – https://www.centralpark.com/visitor-info/park-history/overview/

Things to Do – https://www.centralpark.com/things-to-do

History Makes Ellis Island A Stamp

Opening in 1892 Ellis Island opened as an immigration station, only remaining open for 60 years.

Nonetheless, the short amount of time made history with allowing millions of immigrants to enter into the United States and make the country their home. 

ELLIS ISLAND MUSEUM

While the National Origins Act of 1924 ultimately put an end to mass immigration and acted as a staple in Ellis Island’s close in 1954, 2.3 million immigrants were able to pass through the operation and find a fresh start in the United States. 

In honor of Ellis Island and the historical impact it made, a museum opened up in the 1990’s in the main building of the station. From 1984 until opening in the 1990s restoration took place to ensure any traces of the history made there remained intact. You can now access the immigration records, as of 2001, allowing you to discover if your own ancestors passed through the immigration process while Ellis Island was an operating immigration station. 

Ellis Island’s museum offers 3 floors to explore and learn about the experience and stories from immigrants as they came through the station. During your visit, view the history through first-hand accounts and interactive exhibits that teach you about immigration from the time the station operated until the present day. 

While you explore, you may discover the hearing room, which was restored to mirror its looks from 1911. The room was often used for legal hearings to determine the status for potential immigrants. During busy seasons 50 to 100 hearings would go before the Board of Special Inquiry to hear the testimonies from the individuals. Not only does the museum showcase the immigration history, including the registration room, but you can also learn about the usage of the building during the time between Ellis Island ceasing to operate as a station and becoming a museum.

Throughout the museum, you’ll find major documentation on the processes immigrants went through during the years it operated as an immigration station and many leaps to history. You’ll learn the foundations that led to many of our ancestors becoming a stepping stone in the United States. 

Become a Member of a Live Studio Audience

If you are wanting to see a television show taping in person, there are only two places in the country to do it – Los Angeles and New York.

While many shows in the past used to not only allow, but sought out live audiences, those times are dwindling. Today, only talk shows, game shows, talent shows, and a few reality shows have them.

A Short History of the Studio Audience

Studio audiences date back to pre-television during the days of radio. Why the studio audience? They wanted the live response to the stories being told and the interaction between hosts and guests. The most common and appreciated reactions were laughing and cheering, but gasps and sighs were also welcome.

With the onset of television, the studio audience remained. I Love Lucy was the first TV show to be filmed in front of a live audience. At the time, director Desi Arnaz in coordination with cinematographer Karl Freund worked out a way to shoot comedy using multiple cameras to capture different angles of the performance. This allowed for audience reaction and for the actors to feed off their audience much like in the theatre. The concept continues today in the few sitcoms that still utilize a live audience.

Today’s Shows That Continue With a Live Audience

In New York, various talk shows have studio audiences including The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, The View, Good Morning America, Today, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The most-prized live audience show is Saturday Night Live. Early morning shows are much easier to get tickets for than the tapings of nighttime shows. Visit the website of the broadcast network to find out how to obtain tickets, which are generally free.

In LA, there is a bit more opportunity for studio audience tickets. Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Late Show with James Corden, Conan, and The Ellen Show are all taped in various studios from Burbank to Studio City to Culver City. So are game shows such as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, and audience participation shows such as The Price is Right and Let’s Make a Deal. Again, you should visit the network’s website to learn how to obtain tickets.

It is more difficult to get tickets for Dancing with the Stars, or The Voice, and yet harder still Big Brother eviction shows, and finales of Survivor. But if you have an interest, you should always try.

A Few Things to Consider

Tapings of any show can be lengthy. Game shows often tape more than one show at a time. Possible audience members should wear comfortable shoes, have eaten ahead of time, and made use of the bathroom facilities. Recording devices of any kind are not allowed and would be safest left at home. In an audience that may be seen on-air, well-dressed people generally get the best seats. Because of the hot, bright lights for filming, most studios are quite cold, so you may want to bring a sweater or jacket no matter the weather outside.

Being part of a studio audience is an opportunity that shouldn’t be forgone when afforded. What now is an unusual experience is becoming less and less available. Be sure to explore the possibilities before you travel to LA or New York.