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.

Everything You Need to Know About the Trap Music Museum

Everybody’s familiar with rap music, but have you ever heard of trap music?

Trap music is gritty, with raw lyrics that express what it’s like to grow up feeling “trapped” in a society that greatly limits opportunity based upon things such as race and wealth. 

The Trap Music Museum at 630 Travis Street NW in Atlanta, GA, is similarly gritty and seeks to accurately recreate the experience of living a bleak, drug and violence-filled existence on the margins.

What to Expect

The museum recreates a corner store through which museum-goers enter a simulated trap house, complete with drug den living room, a kitchen that appears to be used for cooking crack, and other weapons, before finally, inevitably, is a reproduction of a jail cell. The purpose is to accurately replicate the culture from which trap music springs rather than to glorify the criminal lifestyle.

Beyond the Museum

Besides the museum itself, there is a bar that is host to Trappy Hour from 4-10 pm every Thursday, when patrons can book half hour private tours of the museum for $20 per person, with a complimentary glass of champagne and 2-for-1 drinks. There is also Escape the Trap, a 30-45 minute escape room experience that for $30 per person includes admission to the museum.

Plan Your Trip

Admission to the Trap Music Museum is $10 per person and parking is available nearby for $10. The museum is open 4 pm to midnight on Friday, noon to midnight Saturday, and 2 pm to 10 pm Sunday. Admission is only available to those under 18 before 8 pm. Escape the Trap is open 7 days a week at various times, with private tours of the museum given Monday-Thursday.

The Trap Music Museum is a unique experience that seeks not just to represent trap music itself, but the culture that is its source.

The Nickajack Cave

What once was a massive cave system full of corridors, spectacular mineral formations, and historical artifacts has now been reduced to a small fraction of its accessible area;

but what was stolen from Nickajack Cave through the rising waters of the Nickajack Dam has been preserved through legends and stories of its fascinating past.

Get ready for an intense evening of fluttering bat wings and tales of near-death SCUBA experiences!

The Times They Are A-Changin

For hundreds of years, Nickajack Cave has played a part in human history; American Indians, settlers, the confederate army, and countless adventurers have taken advantage of the shelter and mineral resources of the cave. What was considered to be the world’s largest stalagmite stood majestically in the deep recesses of Nickajack, and for a time, the cave was publicized as a tourist attraction.

It is claimed that, during a low point in his life, Johnny Cash wandered into the cave in the 1960s with the intent to get lost and die; but in the process, he experienced a spiritual awakening and found God. This moment changed the course of his life, and as he felt a divine guidance leading him back to the mouth of the cave, he emerged a new man.

In 1967, everything changed, and Nickajack Cave would never be the same.

Rising Water

The Tennessee River (on which Nickajack Cave is located) was so difficult to navigate by boat that it was decided a dam needed to be built to regulate the water flow. The Hales Bar Dam was the first attempt, completed in 1913. It was located further up the river where the cave was not affected by its reservoir. The Hales Bar had some faults however, and continual leaks prompted the construction of a new dam.

The Nickajack Dam was constructed 6.4 miles downstream from the Hales Bar Dam, and it was completed by the end of 1967. As the water gates were officially shut, the new dam’s reservoir began to fill, and the Nickajack Cave flooded almost completely, burying everything (except a few hundred feet at the entrance) in water.

The Nickajack Today

Today if you visit Nickajack Cave, you will find the entrance rising out of the water only by about 15 feet, and blocked by fencing. But you can still take a thrilling boat ride to the entrance’s cove and see thousands of bats emerge from the cave on warm summer evenings; it is quite the experience to sit in the middle of the shadowy flutters as the bats search for insects near the surface of the water (Don’t worry, they don’t fly into you). Just be sure to take plenty of lights; it will be dark as you head back to the boat launch.

Entrance into the cave is strictly prohibited, and violation can cause serious risk, as was found out by David Gant in 1992. No doubt, you will hear all about the foolhardy SCUBA diver and his friend as you interact with the locals, as well as how the entire Nickajack Reservoir had to be lowered in order to save his life!

No visit to Marion County, Tennessee is complete without a trip to Nickajack Cave. 

Are you ready?

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. 

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. 

Take an Online Course to Boost Your Skillset

Online courses make it easier than ever to learn about anything that interests you.

Whether you’re looking to start a new career or simply take a course for fun, there are plenty of options available to help you find the perfect course!

History of Online Courses

Distance learning, the precursor to online courses, has been around for over 170 years. While these British students certainly did not have access to the Internet, they did have the ability to complete assignments through the mail, which was an early form of learning without having to physically attend a class. The earliest form of what we now know as online learning was the University of Illinois Intranet, which was started in 1960. Only students had access to this type of communication, and it was a forerunner to the public Internet that would be created nine years later.

What Can I Learn from Online Courses?

Online courses make it possible to learn about anything you want from the comfort of your own home. Learning about business and computer skills can increase your employability, watching videos about cooking, photography, parenting, or playing a musical instrument can enrich your life, and studying psychology and science can help you learn more about the world around you. No matter what you’re interested in, there are likely dozens of online courses available to feed your mind!

How Can I Take an Online Course?

Most colleges currently offer some form of online learning. In some cases, it is possible to earn your entire degree online from a school that is across the country or even on another continent.

Online learners can also take single courses directly through schools or through Coursera, an online course program that connects learners to real college courses at a much lower price. Many Coursera courses are available in a series of around five courses, and completing this series gives learners the opportunity to earn fully-accredited certificates that can be helpful in their careers. Financial aid is often available.   

Other sites, such as Skillshare, can be accessed for a relatively low monthly subscription fee. While many of these courses are taught by regular people, rather than professors, Skillshare is a low-cost way to increase your skill set or pursue a new hobby. Skillshare courses do not offer certificates, but they provide an inexpensive way to learn to start your own business, learn new skills that can give you an advantage in the workplace, or simply increase your knowledge of something that interests you. 

No matter what type of course you’re interested in or what your goals of taking an online course are, there’s sure to be an online course that is a perfect match for you! 

Visit Your Local City Garbage Dump

Most people don’t give much thought to where the trash goes after it leaves your house.

Paying a visit to your local city garbage dump will give you a fresh perspective, and possibly some buried treasures. 

The History of the Dump

According to the Association of Science-Technology Centers, New Amsterdam (Manhattan) passed a law in 1657 preventing residents from throwing their waste into the streets. Since that point, the question as to what to do with trash has been a real problem. In the 1860s, pigs, rats, and insects roamed the streets of Washington D.C. eating the trash. In 1885, the first garbage incinerator was created, but it wasn’t until 1937 when the Fresno Sanitary Landfill opened that the modern “garbage dump” was born. 

Artistic Materials and More

A major genre in the art world uses discarded materials for works of art. This YouTube video from the NRDCflix channel shows how these artists find their materials at local garbage dumps. It’s amazing what people will throw away, giving true meaning to the phrase “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” While dumpster diving is a beloved past time for people to find treasures before they hit the city dump, the dump itself has many treasures worth quite a bit of money. The Yellowknife city dump in the Northwest Territories of Canada is one of the biggest gold mines for discarded treasure in North America. The amount of furniture, electronics, and other items in fantastic shape at the Yellowknife dump is astounding. Because shipping these materials is so expensive, many people discard them before they move and purchase new items at their new home city. 

Digging on Old Landfills

Visiting the sites of old landfills can also be a worthy endeavor. The Relic Recoverist channel on YouTube showed how exploring old landfill sights can yield some pretty interesting antiques. Taking the time to snoop around those areas will give you lots of opportunities to find valuable items. All you need to get started is an adventurous spirit and a willingness to get a little dirty.