Memorials and Museums

Do you like to hear a good story even when you are on vacation? If you do, then start digging.  You are bound to discover a memorial or a museum that will enlighten you.  I think of the historical pair as first cousins in purpose: honoring people of the past and preserving things.

Memorials honor the memory of someone or event where people died. Museums, on the other hand, preserve tangible artifacts worthy of mention and stored for posterity.  Both honorary houses tell real life stories. The stories maybe intriguing and bittersweet. Recounts of acts to mankind maybe sad, tragic and even unthinkable.  Pre-historic items may be old and fragile.  Beautiful works of art may be priceless and untouchable.  They all have a story.

Whenever I travel, I feel compelled to visit a museum, but more so, a renowned memorial site. The more I visit, the more I realize the lingering effects on me. I can nonchalantly stroll through a museum ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ but may not recall much of what I viewed earlier on in the day (thank God for photography).  For example, when I toured the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, the frescos were very beautiful, until after staring at so many for so long they all began to look the same to me.  No disrespect.  That day I may have been suffering from a ‘to much condition’ I will call bias: to much  beauty, to much information, to much art syndrome.

Not so with a memorial.

Let me tell you why.  Memorials are unforgettable, inspirational, impactful and in my opinion, worth the time taken to visit.  Oh and did I mention, filled with story you will find interesting too?  Hours maybe even days after attending a memorial location I can recall the history as reported to me by the tour guide. Obviously, the personal factor is what I relate to and which draws me mostly to them.

Some of the remembrance places I visited include: The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa; Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel; Pearl Harbor in Hawaii; Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Cu Chi Tunnels & Vietnam War Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Raj Ghat(Gandhi)Memorial in New Delhi, India; Taj Mahal in Agra, India; 9/11 Memorial in New York City; The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial both in Washington, DC, just to mention a few.  Every visit has left an indelible impression on me. For sure, I am not the only one affected.  Crowd ambience is often palpable and the sense of loss profound. But that’s to be expected. Commemorative locations are usually quiet and reflective.

You may think any tour guide worth his/her salt should do an exceptional job of retelling a melancholic part of their history.  I agree, after all, it is in their best interest and may make a lot more cents (pun intended) for them.  Seriously, to gain a deeper respect for your host country’s people, culture, struggles and history, I strongly advise adding to your travel itinerary a memorial site visit as a must-do.   The story alone is all worth it