Seven modern wonders of the world

In my last post I called the CERN facilities in Switzerland “our times Wonder of the world”. It made me think what else out there could be categorized as such and I made a list of 7 wonders of the modern world.

The originals

Do you remember the original Seven Wonders of the World? The ancient ones are all destroyed except the Pyramids of Giza. Later few architects agreed upon naming a new list with structures that still are standing today. This is maybe the more famous one featuring well known landmarks like: Taj Mahal, The Great Wall of China, Petra and Colosseum amongst others.

Here are the very original 7, and the New 7:

Ancient and new

My modern 7 wonders

In my list I have tried to choose wonders that have the most significant impact on the world we know in 2018. I imagine that nothing will ever beat the Ancient 7 Wonders, because they have simply outperformed anything in their time. In our modern world new technology makes it easier to break records. Therefore, the candidates for this list has been chosen through following criteria:

  1. The level of impact it has had on our self awareness as humans
  2. Shown an outstanding achievement in our ability to create.
  3. Is memorable and iconic.
  4. Is going to be well preserved for centuries.
  5. Has an actual function rather than just made to show off.

I was trying to think what they will remember us for 3000 years away from now. Which landmarks will be visited by tourists 3000 years from now? What has transformed into museums?

Here is the list: The Seven Wonders of the Modern World

Modern

A little bit about every one and the reason

  1. Large Hadron Collider, CERN, Switzerland
    I have mentioned the importance of this facility many times before. Basically it has been the reason for many important discoveries and helped us understand the universe better. If you wanna read a little bit more about it, check my blog post here.
  2. Panama Channel, Panama
    Besides being one of the longest and hardest engineering projects in the history and killing more than 25000 people in the making,  the Panama Channel has even today a huge impact on the history. It is basically the number one reason behind USA’s success and super power status today. The importance of maritime force and trade is way more than you imagine. Destroy the Panama Channel, and you will see the decline of the US power pretty quickly. This is also the main reason why I chose the Panama Channel above the Suez Channel which is longer and just as impressive engineering wise.
  3. ISS, Outer Space
    Need I say more? The International Space Station of course is a wonder. Not only the whole world is collaborating, but it is collaborating to reach out into space. In 3000 years when the Earth is only visited for tourism they will visit this station and say.. here it all started!
  4. The Palm, United Arab Emirates
    The Palm is so iconic that it doesn’t need introduction. The reason why it made it to the list is, that it shows a whole new era of narcissism. We have build islands before, but never in a shape to impress people from the air. In addition, this could be the start of a new era of creating land instead of conquering it.
  5. NEEMO, Aquarius, USA
    This facility is maybe the least known on the list. NEEMO is an underwater laboratory ran by NASA. They basically send their astronauts here to live underwater in 3 weeks to prepare them for the harsh space environment. Again, this place had a huge impact on making us understand our own capabilities as human beings and therefore it made it to the list. As a teen I dreamt about being sent there and finally to space.
  6. Burj Khalifa, United Arab Emirates
    Now this one I was a bit in doubt about. It is the tallest building in the world, the skyscraber of skyscrabers. But the record will soon be overthrown by another tower in Saudi Arabia. However, I decided to include it because this really kickstarted the race to the skies. In addition, being located in the desert, this building has a very important function of keeping the whole city of Dubai together. Everything in Dubai is done indoors and the need for huge a building is therefore legit.
  7. Dìxià Chéng, China
    This is another less known facility. Can you imagine that beneath the capital city of Beijing is a nuclear shelter large enough to house the whole population of 6 million people of Beijing? Well this is the name of this shelter. Just the thought of it makes you get goosebumps. Hopefully, no one would ever nuke China and it will stand as a memory of the time when humans were so afraid of killing themselves, that they spent billions on structures like this.

Other structures in scope that did not make it to the list: 

  • Transit siberiean railway, Russia
  • Atacama large milimetee array, Chile
  • Hubble telescope, Outer space
  • Three Gorges Dam, China
  • Cheyenne mountain bunker, USA
  • Tokyo train and metro, Japan
  • Shanghai metro, China
  • Hashima Island, Japan
  • Boeing Everett Factory, USA
  • Ski Dubai, UAE
  • Rungrado May Day stadium, North Korea
  • Suez Channel, Egypt
  • Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge, China

Take a look at the candidates. Did I miss any important? Do you think something else deserve to be on the list? Let me know in the comments!

Top one place to visit in Switzerland

What if you had the chance to visit Switzerland for 1 day only – what is the one experience you should visit? There are many amazing places in Switzerland but the one I would recommend is the only one I consider an actual Wonder of the World: The CERN campus!

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Me arriving at the reception in CERN. If I look tired it is because I woke up at 3 am to drive from Bern to Geneve to make it to the early morning guided tour. 

 

What is CERN?

I think most people know CERN by now, but if not then here is a little background:

CERN is the most advances scientific research center in the world. The density of knowledge and great minds in this campus is not seen anywhere else in the world. Also they have the most advanced and the biggest machinery to perform their experiments. The engineering work of this is what I consider the Wonder of the World!

Here they try to answer the most fundamental questions of the universe by experimenting with nuclear particles. This helps us to understand how the world actually were created and unveiling some of the most complex questions about our reality. How does the world work? Why are we here? Can God possibly exist?

Oh yeah.. and they also invented the World Wide Web!

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The worlds very first Large Particle Accelerator. This one is now retired, but they have build even better ones. The Large Hadron Collider is the most famous and biggest – 27 km in diameter.

But it doesn’t seem like something for me?

Maybe you aren’t interested in science but when I say people should come here it is because you will learn a life lesson here. I think every well rounded adult should have at least some basic understanding of what this place does. How are we gonna answer our children’s silly questions if we haven’t even looked into science?

What will you answer if a 5 year old asks you how come we exist? Why we believe in God? Why we don’t believe in God? What is the universe made of? Why can’t I fly? What other universes can you imagine and who is right and who is wrong?

No matter who you are or what you believe in, you should look into this! Bring your brain and come here. Don’t think you know anything about science before you visit this place.

Even if you believe in whatever conclusion you hear the scientist say. You need to come here to understand that this is our times philosophy hub. Answers are never clear even if some people would try to convince you they are.

Everything is free there. Go there and take the guided tour (book in advance). Even if you only grasp 2% of what they are telling you, it will be worth it!

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Me philosophizing at CERN xD

What did they find out so far?

I consider myself somewhat a man of science but even I only grasped like half of what the Pakistani scientist told us on the tour. However, the basics is this:

They have built the Large Hadron Collider which is the essence of the Wonder. This is basically a big circular tube under high pressure and low temperature buried 100 meter beneath the Swiss/French border. They use this machine to accelerate beams of particles and make them hit each other right where they have built enormous sensors to detect all data from the explosion, process the data and send the most interesting and newest discoveries to scientists all over the world to analyze.

Discoveries could be new unseen particles, antimatter or bosons. Antimatter is basically the exact opposite of matter.. of everything we know. In theory everything has an opposing counterpart: Night and day, hot and cold, love and hate, matter and antimatter. But for some reason antimatter just disappeared when the world was created. With this machine scientists have been able to recreate it.

Another important discovery was the Higgs Boson that you might have heard about. In simple form the boson is a particle that gives gravity to everything. Gravity is not just something that exist out of nothing, it is an actual particle that gives it. Meaning everything in the world has been in touch with this particle. This was also discovered using this wonder of a machine.

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You can actually see the scientists working on this tour! Isn’t it amazing?

I am not an expert

Okay guys, I am not an expert and I have not discovered the answered to everything. I like to learn always and of course I don’t understand the physics behind this fully. I find it interesting so the above is simplified to make it as easy to read as possible. If I am mistaken please enlighten me!

For me this was a true wonder to see and experience. Just as impressive to be there as it was to visit the Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall of China.

Is it unique?

Someone asked the Pakistani scientist if there was any other thing similar. He answered that there are particle accelerators in the USA but they are linear which makes it hard to do the collisions. Also he said that China is doing it as well. I think they are building one just as impressive. But will it be the same wonder? I doubt it.

Not because I don’t trust Chinese science. Not at all! But because CERN is actually international. While Chinese and American like to do everything themselves CERN is open to the world. First of all CERN is totally independent from the industry and military. This is ONLY about science – not war or economy. In my honest opinion peace and science works better together. Only when all the world’s brightest minds work together we can create amazing things – have anyone read the Babylon story of the Bible? Once we get divided by nations and languages we loose everything.

Well in CERN more than 100 nationalities have united their greatest scientists only to enlighten the world in a peaceful manner. You cant feel anything but humbled walking around it’s streets and laboratories. This is a strength not seen anywhere in the world not anywhere in history since the Babel Tower was built!

After walking the tour an old Dutch gentleman asked the scientist: “Amazing.. where do you start?” And the scientist responded: “9 o’clock in the morning”.

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You can’t feel anything but humbled walking around in this place were geniuses have worked their whole life to unveil the mysteries of the universe.

The Travel World Cup 2018

Alongside the Fifa World Cup 2018 I have conducted a little competition of my own that I called the Travel World Cup. Here I paired the same countries competing for the Fifa Trophy with the each other, but instead of playing football I was asking a number of people where they would like to go the most.

The rules were simple:

I show a number of people 3 pictures of each country, and they vote for which one they would like to visit the most.

For the group stage matches, I gave points like the following:

  • If a country won the vote with more than 55%: 3 points
  • If the votes came out between 45% – 55 % for each: 1 points for each
  • If the country lost the vote with less than 45%: 0 points

The number of participants varied from match to match but was in average 122 participants.

The same 32 countries competed within the same 8 groups as in the Fifa World Cup. The knock-out phase was also accordingly – however, with the winners of the Travel World Cup group stage instead.

Expectations

Of course there is no World Cup without trying to guess the outcome beforehand. Just like you have an idea that Brazil is a good football team, you also have an idea about which countries people would rather visit.

But to have more clarity I did a survey to see in which continents I should expect the best travel countries to be. Here I paired up the regions and asked where people would rather go backpacking.

Latin America 48 % | 52 % Europe

Australian continent 65 % | 35 % Central Asia

North Africa & Middle East 68 % | 32 % Sub-Saharan Africa

Basically this told me about which countries I should not expect to win. Here Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa clearly did not do well.

Any of the remaining regions I expected to do well. Specially Europe, that has some of the most “traditional” favorites for people who has not travelled much. For example, who haven’t heard someone say he would love to visit Paris or Rome or Greece?

My experience is that people are often very concerned with safety while traveling and believe most of what the media is telling about a country. And thus I thought the middle eastern and south american countries would finally lose. My top 4 expectations were: France, Switzerland, Australia and Japan.

The voters:

In average 122 people votes for every match. The maximum amount of votes was 179 for the Argentina-Iceland match. The lowest was 28 votes in the Croatia-Nigeria match.

Depends on where the voters come from it might have a big influence on the outcome. The distribution was as follows:

Where people are from

Another influential factor is how well traveled the voters are. Well basically the voters are you guys, and being on a travel blog already means you have some experience and knowledge about countries.

The voters were also very well traveled. In average, you guys have traveled 13 countries.

And the winner is:

Here it comes.. but if you are interested in more statiscs and analysis you can read the paragraphs after:

Winner is: ICELAND

Winners2

2nd place: Australia
3rd place: Japan

Power ranking:

  1. Iceland
  2. Australia
  3. Japan
  4. Brazil
  5. Morocco
  6. Spain
  7. Mexico
  8. Colombia
  9. Argentina
  10. England
  11. Switzerland
  12. Tunisia
  13. Russia
  14. Denmark
  15. Sweden
  16. Egypt
  17. Costa Rica
  18. Panama
  19. Peru
  20. France
  21. South Korea
  22. Germany
  23. Uruguay
  24. Portugal
  25. Poland
  26. Croatia
  27. Iran
  28. Belgium
  29. Nigeria
  30. Saudi Arabia
  31. Senegal
  32. Serbia

All the results:

Group stage:

 

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Brackets:

Brackets

 

Analysis:

The surprises

Let us have a look at the many surprises of this game:

  1. The biggest surprise for me was seeing Iceland win it all! Beating out great travel destinations like Morocco, Denmark, Croatia, Argentina, Japan and Australia. This was a surprise for me, because I do not find Iceland more interesting than so many other places but I guess the northern light has its appeal.
  2. The second big surprise was that France lost big time. It lost all of it’s matches but getting 1 point against Denmark by scoring 48 %.
  3. Colombia is one of the countries you always hear is so dangerous. However, it made it to the quarter finals only beaten by Brazil. This is a huge surprise and made me happy to know that people are not getting afraid of visiting anymore.
  4. Only 2 European countries made it to the quarter finals: Spain and Iceland. I thought Europe was much more popular.
  5. The 4 semi finalists came from each their continent!

Other things I personally found disappointing:

  1. All African countries was eliminated quickly. Morocco made it to the quarter finals, however Egypt lost early to Spain – in my world totally not understandable even though I love Spain!
  2. Iran only received 1 point. Totally underrated Iran!
  3. Serbia being the least attractive travel country of all 32.

Emotions

Well.. it is no secret that I have favorite countries of my own. You can check out my lists of favorite places I have been to and not been to here and here. Therefore, I have been really disappointed with some of the results.

How can Egypt not make it futher than the Round of 16? It should be the number one travel destinations based on quantifying attractions. I mean, the biggest amount of history and archeology – not only related to the Old Egyptians but everything from Whale fossils in the Sahara desert to the amazing Mamluk’s mosques. Also it has borders to 2 different seas and thereby many beautiful beaches. Not to mention the only remaining Wonder of the World – the Pyramids!

Also it is really hard to understand how Iceland can be more popular than culturally unique countries like Japan or enormous countries like Brazil and Australia. Don’t get me wrong, Iceland is beautiful and also has some unique natural sights like the geysers, however most of what you find there can also be found in Norway, Sweden and most interestingly Greenland. The last I would have seen win it all but not Iceland. In anyway – Congratulations to this small but extremely competitive country!

Why did Iceland win?

This got me thinking a little about why Iceland won. There is a statistical logic to it:

Europe was one of the continents voted very popular to backpack in. However, because most of the voters were Europeans they probably have visited most of the “common” European countries already. Iceland, however, is in the outskirts of Europe and is often forgotten and hard to reach. It is still Europe though, so very popular and the only country not visited so it got all the European votes as well.

Of course this is just a statistical explanation, but of course Iceland is a legit interesting place to visit. It’s uniqueness is undeniable and so it deserves to win!

Here are some of the comments for why Iceland was chosen in the final game:

“Iceland intrigues me so much. I’d love to go in the winter and visit the Blue Lagoon and natural hot springs”

“I chose Iceland because it is so much lesser known than Australia”

“Hard decision! But I have already been to Australia so I want to give Iceland a try”

“It just looks like an unbelievable country, those places you only see in TV”

“I want to see the Northern Light!”

How people perceived the question had a big influence

There is a big difference in how the voters perceived the question: “Which country would you rather visit?”

I have seen people from the country asked for to vote for it just to support their own country. Others have always voted on the opposite country than their own because why would you visit a country you live in?

Others have probably perceived the question as “which country is best to travel in?” so they voted for that even if they have already visited and seen it all.

It is hard to avoid these differences in how people vote. Let me know how you perceived it in the comments and if there is anything to do to ensure alignment in the perception for next time!

Next tournament?

Is it gonna be in 4 years? Or should I do it more often with other countries? Maybe some that doesn’t necessarily make it to the FIFA Football World Cup? Should I do this every year?

Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed it, enjoyed reading it and how often you want me to do this? Maybe never again? 😛

The best European capitals

Europe

Here is the list of my favorite capitals of Europe that I have visited. So remember the list does not included non-capital cities which Europe and also it does not include capitals that I have not visited yet.

1. London

London is my number one city in Europe and worldwide coming in at a 3rd place. I love to get lost in it’s busy hipster streets. This multicultural city has such a high density of hipsters and creative people that you will find gems on every second street you step your foot on.  Seriously, it’s magic is real and one of those cities I could see myself living in.

2. Rome

Rome is just a historical fist hitting you right in between your eyes. There are so many must sees in this city. It even contains a whole country within it – The Vatican. Exploring the history of the romans and the Christianity really makes you feel you are in the middle of something huge. This feeling is everything I look for when traveling.

3. Prague

Prague is the grown-ups Disneyland. With all it’s castles, beautiful bridges, colors and spires it really looks something from a fairytale. It is also a very underrated city that does not get much attention. In addition, because I am a fan of horology I just have to love Prague for having the Astronomical Clock. A must see!

4. Tirana

Maybe the most underrated capital of Europe. Tirana is the capital of Albania and is truly unique not only as a European capital but also different from the rest of the world. Here you can smell the after effects of the cold war and the brutal regime. It has some of the same elements of Berlin, but while you just get sad visiting the trains of the World War II and the cold war in Berlin, in Tirana you just get horrified. But Tirana is much more than just that – it is rich in beauty with it’s colored streets, mosques and churches and the mountainous background.

5. Bern

Bern is the most cozy capital of Europe. It really makes you feel you took a time machine 50 years back. It’s streets are old, it’s cars are old and it’s people are old.. very much in contrast to the rest of Switzerland. And it is beautiful! And there is a bear walking around. It really is one worth a visit – and the best thing of all: Huge discounts on swiss timepieces!

6. Madrid

Madrid faints a bit in relation to the beauty of the many other wonderful Spanish cities (and no I definitely do not mean Barcelona). But Madrid should not be underestimated. It has some of the most beautiful spots in Europe. The presidential palace is one unique sight. It’s food markets are also exceptional. In general it is hard not to have fun in Madrid!

7. Stockholm

Stockholm is probably the most beautiful of the 3 Scandinavian capitals although Copenhagen comes quite close. Stockholm is basically not a city but a bunch of interconnected small islands which makes it look gorgeous. Also it has a vast variety of very interesting museums – Vasa and the Noble Price museum to mention few.

8. Paris

Paris used to be my number one city in Europe as a teen. I have been there 4-5 times and still I love it. But my taste changed and the city changed. It is a dirty and rude city – now it is said. But it’s epic architecture is still beautiful and photogenic and you will enjoy sightseeing there a lot.

9. Sofia

One of the most charming cities I have ever visited. It’s mountainous background is breath taking. It is cheap and has a lot of delicious food. For some reason the Bulgarians don’t know how to cook badly. It is also the only city that has 4 churches for different branches of Christianity, a mosque and a synagoge right besides each other.

10. Brussels

How to make a list of European capitals without including the actual capital of Europe? Brussels is quite interesting and having signs all over the city in 2-3 languages really confirm the feeling of being in the heart of Europe.

What else?

What did not make it to the list? I have visited 10 other capitals of Europe. You can find them in the template-section by clicking here.

 

Keeping your integrity while traveling

The other day I met this traveler who has been volunteering in various countries in Africa. Let’s call him Tim. He have been helping out building sanitary facilities for a tribe in Uganda. They invited him for a traditional meal and he accepted. Now this guy is actually a vegetarian and is very disgusted by the smell of meat. Now he is sitting with the tribe eating and they serve him this bloody raw sheep eye.

If you were a vegetarian, what would you have done?

Tim felt like he could not say no and thus he tried to swallow the eye at once. Of course – it can up again and he had to chew his way through and try not to throw up. It was the worst meal in his life.

This story made me think. Many travelers out there try to keep an open mind and say yes to anything along their way. Either they are afraid of saying no or they think they should try everything even if it contradict their taste or even their values. For me this is a misunderstood way of travelling.

Travelling is not about forcing yourself to do things you don’t like or don’t believe in. Travelling is supposed to enrich your life and teach you both about the world and about yourself. If you already know that you do not like to eat meat, then do not eat it. And don’t ever compromise your integrity no matter where in the world you are.

This is not about being a good “traveler” it is about being a good whole rounded human being. A true gentleman stay true to himself while still treating others politely. So how about the fear of offending your host?

In my experience, people – everywhere in the world – understand that their way of living is not the same as others. They will not get offended even if you do something that would have offended them, but because you are a foreigner they will understand. They will not judge you as they hope you will not judge them.

If you are afraid of saying no and explain your reasons, then it is more likely because of your own judgmental mind. Probably you think they will judge you because you yourself are likely to judge. People expect others to behave in the same way they do. Basically, if you expect good you are good. Not naive.

I knew that when Tim started to tell his solution for how to save the world from poverty: To convince africans not to have children so we in Europe don’t get flooded by immigrants later on. What a disgusting point of view from a volunteer worker!

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People have introduced me to lots of weird food during my travels. But always if there is something I do not wanna eat, I say no thank you. My biggest advice when travelling: Say no when people tell you to do things you know you don’t like to do!

 

5 myths about travelling alone

I get asked a lot about how it is to travel alone. I have gathered 5 myths I hear frequently – I will tell you from my personal experience whether I think they are true or not. For the reference: atm. I have travelled to 13 different countries alone.

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1. You get lonely and bored
False! You will learn to enjoy your own company. By being alone you finally have the chance to reflect about life, get to know yourself and in addition immerse yourself into the place you are visiting. I have spent hours in a local café reading about the history of the country I was visiting.
Tip: Make a large itinerary to keep yourself entertained and take your time sleeping in the morning (I hate getting up early :P).

2. It is dangerous!
True.
 Unfortunately. But I would not use the word dangerous but rather unsafe. Being alone you are an easy target and you can encounter many frauds trying to take your money. Depends on where you are in the world and your gender. However, an experienced male traveler will easily avoid danger even in the most dangerous places in the world. I have backpacked all alone in one of the world’s most dangerous countries.
Tip: Choose a “safe” location for your first few travels and be brave! Recommendable places are Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, Scandinavia, and Canada. Places you shouldn’t go for the first few solo trips: Turkey, USA and various middle eastern and south European countries.

3. It’s much more expensive!
False!
Sure, when travelling in groups you can share expenses like.. hotels, but that’s all. On the other hand, flight tickets are much cheaper for a single person than a group – not many people know this. In addition, you are faster alone so you can go further away and afford more entrances!
Tip: Because you are alone you can go to places that no one else wants to go to. These places are often cheaper! Remember: There are no boring countries!

4. Eating alone is not enjoyable
True! If food means a lot to you, travelling alone might be a bummer. Depends on where in the world going into a restaurant and asking for a table for one is a bit embarrassing. Well – you need to eat, so you have to do it!
Tip: Go out and eat a good large breakfast and skip lunch. Eating breakfast alone is more acceptable.

5. You need to be brave and extroverted to do it
Super-duper false! Everyone can do it and everyone should do it. In my opinion, introverts will actually enjoy it more. They will finally have time to enjoy their own company and immerse into their interests.
Tip: Do it!

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One of my various solo trips went to Vietnam. Scuba diving of course!