In this Globe Trekker Special we explore the world’s most historic sites of the modern era. Our hosts travel from the heart of Europe, across the Middle East, South Africa, the Far East, Australasia, and the USA, visiting spectacular sites dating from the mid 19th century right up to the present day.
Exploring the historic sites that shaped the United States, Megan McCormick visits Gettysburg, site of the famous speech given by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, Ian Wright travels to the Little Bighorn battlefield in Montana, site of General Custer’s Last Stand during the Indian Wars, while Justine Shapiro visits the gold mining ghost town of Bodie, once part of the great California Gold Rush that brought vast numbers of settlers to the West.
The late 19th century in both the United States and Europe saw revolutionary developments in modern architecture: Justine Shapiro explores the birth of the skyscraper in Chicago, Adela Ucar visits the greatest expression of early steel technology – the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France – whilst Megan McCormick marvels at Europe’s greatest Modernist masterpiece – Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, Spain. Sadly, this golden age of modern European culture was brought to a shuddering end by the outbreak of World War I. Katy Haswell visits Ypres in Belgium, one of the most appallingly bloody of all Great War battlefields, where around half a million soldiers lost their lives.
After the terrible slaughter of the First World War, the other great upheaval in early 20th century Europe was the Communist Revolution in Russia. Ian Wright travels to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, where the Tsars were overthrown, and to Moscow, to visit Red Square, the Kremlin and Lenin’s Tomb.
Moscow is also home to an extraordinary collection of Communist-era Gothic skyscrapers, but in terms of building skyscrapers as high as possible, the Soviet architects were no match for their capitalist foes in the United States.
In New York, Megan McCormick marvels at the magnificent Art Deco Chrysler Building, opened in 1930, and the extraordinary Empire State Building, built in 1931, which held the title of the world’s tallest building for more than 40 years to come. Tragically, war yet again overshadowed all else in the world from the end of the 1930s through to the mid-1940s. Megan visits Nuremberg in Germany, where Hitler’s Nazi Party rallies set the country on the path to war, while Justine Shapiro travels to the Auschwitz Death Camp in Poland, which still bears witness to the horrors of the Holocaust.
Following the end of World War Two, the Cold War was to divide the world for the next half a century. Ian Wrightvisits the former US nuclear test site in Nevada, whilst in the Ukraine, Holly Morris explores the once top secret Soviet nuclear missile base at Pervomaisk, now open to visitors as the Museum of the Strategic Rocket Troops. Dramatic changes came in 1989, when the Iron Curtain that had divided Europe since 1945 was swept away by a wave of anti-Communist revolutions – Justine Shapiro travels to Berlin to see what little is left of the once fearsome Berlin Wall.
Soon after the collapse of the Iron Curtain in Europe, similarly historic events took place in racially divided South Africa, when Apartheid was dismantled. Justine visits the prison on Robben Island, near Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned until 1990. In the year 2000, as a new century and a new millennium dawned, naturally enough there were high hopes that the new era would bring a better future. But in 2001, shockingly, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York were toppled by terrorist attack. Megan McCormick visits the site to learn about the new buildings that are now rising from the ashes.
As the 21st century sets out towards an as yet unknown future, a new wave of economic superpowers is developing fast in the Arab Gulf and the Far East. For the first time inover a century, many of the world’s tallest buildings are no longer in the United States, but in places such as Malaysia, Taiwan, China, and Dubai.
In 2010, the astonishing Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at a scarcely believable 2,716 feet tall, smashed the record for the world’s tallest building by over 1,000 feet. 50 years ago, nobody would have imagined that today such astonishing skyscrapers would be commonplace across much of the developing world.
So who can predict what the modern world’s newest great historic sites will be in another 50 years from now?
Only time will tell!
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