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.

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.

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. 

What You Need to Know to Visit The Big Almaty Lake

It is a beautiful fall morning in the mountains.

The day is warming up nicely as your taxi deposits you at the mouth of the trail. Energized by the lingering effects of the traditional sweet coffee you had at breakfast, you start your hike. Rounding the bend, the vision in front of you takes your breath away: the intense turquoise blue of Big Almaty Lake.

How to Get There

Your story begins when you visit this picturesque alpine lake located just outside of the Kazakhstan city of Almaty in the Ili-Alatau National Park. Both nature enthusiasts and Instagrammers alike flock to the site to photograph the intense hues of the reservoir that serves as its namesake city’s water supply. To get there, have the hotel arrange a taxi or use the Yandex app to schedule your own.

Things to Know

Planning ahead will make your trip much more comfortable and drama free. Some things you will want to consider:

  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes appropriate for hiking up and down mountain terrain
  • Bring your passport in case you are stopped at a security checkpoint
  • Pack snacks and water as there are no concessions in the park
  • No swimming is allowed
  • You may need an International Driving Permit if you choose to drive yourself

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, trails leading to the Kyrgyzstan border have been closed, but many others are open to adventurers. A short hike from the lake reveals a fantastic waterfall. Pack a picnic if you’d like to spend more time on the mountain.

Safety and Security

Travel in Kazakhstan is generally safe. However, like any city in the world, travelers can be targeted by thieves. Use common sense security measures such as keeping your valuables out of sight and refraining from walking alone after dark. 

Learn about Space at the Baikonur Cosmodrome

If you’re interested in space, visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome deserves a spot on your travel bucket list.

Since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011, American astronauts head to space from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. 

History of the Baikonur Cosmodrome

While the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is now known among space enthusiasts as one of the most-used launch sites for sending astronauts, cosmonauts, and supplies to the International Space Station, it has a far more complicated past. During the Cold War era, Soviets used the location for testing a variety of missiles. At the height of the Space Race, Russian cosmonauts used the site in their attempts to land a man on the moon before the American astronauts. 

Since the end of the American space shuttle program in 2011, American astronauts have begun to use Baikonur as their primary launch point, as it is located closer to the equator than any other reasonable option. Although they are no longer able to launch shuttles out of nearby Cape Canaveral, Florida, NASA still communicates with American astronauts aboard Russian Soyuz rockets and the International Space Station from mission control in Houston, Texas.   

Visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome

While all travelers with valid documents to enter Kazakhstan may visit the city of Baikonur, tourists can only visit the Cosmodrome as part of a guided tour. Many tours need to be booked several months in advance, and they can last for several days. Visitors will be able to see several museums filled with space artifacts, learn about the history of the Russian space program and its recent collaboration with NASA, tour other parts of Baikonur, and possibly even watch a live Soyuz launch.

Careers in Space

Although the American space shuttle program does not exist at this time, Americans may still pursue careers as astronauts with NASA. However, those chosen to travel to space will need to launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, for the foreseeable future.  

Students interested in working as astronauts, at mission control, or in other positions at NASA should take rigorous courses, attend space camps, and prioritize grades as early as possible. Very few prospective astronauts are accepted, virtually all of them go far above and beyond minimum requirements, and many have pilot or military experience. 

Visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome introduces tourists to the latest in space travel, what lies beyond Earth, and what the future of space travel may hold. 

Stroll Among the Treetops at the Capilano Suspension Bridge

Most hikes through the woods happen on the ground, but walking across the Capilano Suspension Bridge gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of the Capilano River and one of West Vancouver’s most expansive forests. 

History of the Capilano Suspension Bridge

The Capilano Suspension Bridge, one of Vancouver’s best-kept secrets, was built by George Grant Mackay in 1889. Mackay never intended for his bridge to become a tourist attraction, as it was originally built to be enjoyed by his friends.

However, after the property surrounding the bridge was sold and its structure was updated several times, the version of the bridge that exists today became a popular place for visitors to Vancouver to enjoy the scenery in 1956.

Visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge

The current Capilano Suspension Bridge is surrounded by other, newer tourist attractions, such as the Treetop Adventures Canopy Walk and the Cliffwalk. These structures work together to give visitors to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park multiple views of the natural beauty that is found in the surrounding forest. 

While the park can be an excellent attraction for families, parents should know that strollers are not permitted on any of the bridges, and they should never allow children on the bridges alone. While reasonable safety guards are provided, parents should always supervise children to prevent reckless play that could lead to falls or other injuries.

Visitors to the Vancouver area can take a free shuttle or public transit to the park from various locations around downtown Vancouver. Tourists to Vancouver can visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge at any time of year, but it is especially popular when it is decorated with hundreds of lights between November and January. 

Exploring the Capilano Suspension Bridge is an exciting way for visitors to West Vancouver to connect with natural beauty. Make plans to visit this awe-inspiring park the next time you’re in Vancouver today!