Does size matter? We’ve put this age-old question to the test lately. Tawny and I have spent our lives watching notable world landmarks on the big screen and wanting to go there. When we arrive however, it’s not always what we expected. Not unlike online dating, we’ve found that what we see on the screen isn’t always what we meet in real life.
Here is our list of Top Ten Monuments that were bigger/smaller than we expected.
#10 – Mt. Rushmore – SMALLER
It’s true! Despite what Nicolas Cage in National Treasure might try to convince you of, this iconic face (or faces) of America is smaller than you expect. I had hoped that it would tower over me and I’d be consumed in the shadow of Jefferson’s nose. Not the case.
Despite the fact that this 150 year old monument doesn’t seem as big it is anything but disappointing. It was voted as the most patriotic small town in the 2011 Best of the Road rally with Rand McNally and it deserves it. What the mountain lacks in size it makes up in heart. Also, a little know fact, behind Lincoln’s head there is a secret vault known as the Hall of Records. The architect behind Mt. Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum, wanted to preserve the essence of the monument for thousands of years. A cavern was hewn out of the mountain behind Lincoln and inside is a sealed titanium vault containing several porcelain copies of our nation’s most important documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
# 9 – Space Needle - SMALLER
It pains me to say it, but yes, the space needle is smaller than you might think. True, it is a lofty 605 ft. at its tallest point. However it hardly clears the Seattle skyline any more these days. When it was erected in 1962 it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Today it’s tough to compete with the CN Tower in Toronto, but to its credit the Space Needle is incredibly beautiful. Not only that, it is a marvel of engineering. The Restaurant near the top rotates on a turntable designed in the 60′s by the railroad companies. Today it takes only a 1.5 horse power engine to turn the 125 ton restaurant.
# 8 – Machu Picchu – BIGGER
There’s been so much coverage of Machu Picchu over the years that this once hidden city may have lost some of its mystery for people with internet access. Clark is happy to remind of all of us that this peak is far more impressive in person.
# 7 – Stone Henge – BIGGER/SMALLER
It’s hard to say. When Clark and I went to Stone Henge in England we expected it to be much larger. I have no way of justifying why I thought that. It’s not like you see a lot of Stone Henge on TV. Interestingly enough though, when I stopped into Maryhill, WA (in the South Center of the State) there is an exact replica of the monument, and I thought it was bigger. My only thought is that the finished henge feels larger where as the traditional henge in England feels a touch deflated with a few pieces missing. Both are spectacular feats of engineering. The original Stone Henge (it is now speculated) was built to serve as a calendar to marking the solstices and equinoxes. The WA replica is exact in size and orientation. Dedicated in 1918 by Maryhill resident Sam Hill it was built as a WWI memorial.
The project began when Hill was mistakenly informed that the original Stonehenge had been used as a sacrificial site. He thus constructed his replica as a reminder that “humanity is still being sacrificed to the god of war.
# 6 – Great Wall – LONGER but SMALLER
The Great Wall is astounding. When I first saw it I was struck by how absurdly long it is. That said, I had no idea how short it is. Sure, the Mongols were shorter back then, but it’s pretty short in some places. The average height of the wall is 25ft but slopes to a scant 10ft in some locations. While the wall of the Ming Era is reported to have been 5000 ft long it is interesting to note that the wall was discontinuous and so the Mongols actually just rode around it and invaded Northern China. While it might not keep your dog out of the yard it does make an incredible camping experience.
It should also be noted though, that while visiting the Great Wall, my hair was much bigger than expected.
Truth. This 1000+ year old step well is one of the most impressive structures I’ve ever seen. It is a 13 story, 3,500 step, well which was filled by jar and rain. This focal spot for Indian life was established to provide for the community and allow life in the harsh Rajastani desert. Today it is sorrowfully neglected and left as a local toilet. Although, a much larger one than I had imagined. Even after seeing it in the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series. You may recognize it as the prison that Bane is kept in.
Both Tawny and I were blown away at just how massive this once radio tower is. Not to mention, it’s the only place in France we found free wi-fi. The trip to the top is dizzying and leaves you very satisfied.
# 3 – Coliseum – Exactly the Same
Russel Crowe prepared us nicely for the Coliseum. Both from above and below, this monument is massive. Of course, that’s sort of what you expect. At no point during our tour did I find my self thinking, “I thought there would be more.” In fact, I was very pleased with how many different levels (both literally and historically) you get to explore at the Coliseum.
# 2 – Korea’s Penis Park - BIGGER
This is a monument not to be missed. Tawny and I happened upon it quite by accident while road tripping through Korea. It’s both bigger and more prominent than we ever thought a penis park would be. Located in the small town of Sinnam on the East Coast, this strange collection of phallus statues and shot glasses was originally erected to ensure a good catch. The popularity of the place couldn’t have been predicted and today 8 new penises are brought in every year. It’s certainly a folk village worth seeing. Just don’t lose an eye.
Blissfully, the Taj Mahal is far more grand and inspiring than I could have ever imagined. This structure towers over everything around it and threatens to blow out the limitations of the imagination. Not only is it a stunning structure but it actually hums. If you arrive super early in the morning before the crowd (you’ll have to wait in line and then run past all the tourists) you can stand in the center of the sepulcher and hear what has been called “the sound of eternity.” The perfection and the symmetry of the building allows it to purr with a harmonic sound when the wind whispers through it. It has my full endorsement.
What about you? Are there any monuments that you’ve visited that are bigger or smaller than you expected?