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Remnants of an ancient grand palace

Vijayanta Prasada

This was our first stop in Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa’s royal palace, Vijayanta Prasada, was built by King Parakramabahu I. The palace stood seven stories and contained 1,000 rooms. Construction took a little over seven years. It was destroyed by South Indian invaders in the 13th century. Burned bricks and original plaster from 55 rooms remain. The holes in […]

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Former seating

Les Théåtres Romains, Lyon, France

On our walk back downhill from the basilica, we came upon Les Théåtres Romains. It turns out Lyon’s Roman theater is the oldest in France, dating from 17 BC. When Augustus commissioned the theatre, which would serve as the community’s social center, it was only fitting to erect it on the highest hill, Fourvière, where […]

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Window view

Fort St-André, Villeneuve-lés-Avignon, France

This sprawling 14th-century fort sits high on a mountaintop across the river from Avignon. I was curious to check it out since its grandness is visible from many surrounding points. Up close, it’s just as massive and solid as it appears from afar. In the 13th century, Fort St-André was built on Mount Andaon on […]

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Sweeping views in every direction

Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg, Alsace, France

Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg occupies a strategic position over the Alsace plains, the Vosges, the Black Forest and the Alps. It was originally constructed in the 12th century for the purpose of watching over the wine and wheat routes to the north and the silver and salt routes running east-west. The castle sits 700 meters high […]

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Exterior details

Château de Chillon

13th-century Château de Chillon is worth seeing. Even if you’re completely castled-out (understandable while touring this region), Chillon warrants a stop if, for nothing else, than to see what Byron was so enraptured by. Chillon is a well-preserved medieval castle that majestically perches over the lake amidst thick trees and snow-covered, craggy mountains. The château […]

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Castello Visconteo

Castello Visconteo, Locarno

You can’t miss this as you wander through tiny Locarno. This fortified castle was originally built in the 10th century. The castle changed hands many times and was occupied by the Milanese Visconti clan in the 14th century. It was taken by French forces in the 15th century and the castle and town fell to […]

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Optimal defense

Bellinzona’s Three Castles

Doesn’t a town with three castles sound completely bad-ass? Really, what was so dangerous about the area or so valuable and worth protecting that one or even two castles were not sufficient? Just like modern times, everything comes down to location. Bellinzona lies in the crossroads of several important Alpine passes, which made it a […]

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View from the tower

Castello di Vezio

You have to really want to see the ruins of this 13th century castle because the hike is straight uphill along an old mule path, then (still uphill) on stone paths winding around houses inhabited by the town’s 50 residents. The good news is that it’s worth it. If the terrific views won’t get you […]

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Rome Arco di Costantino

Arco di Costantino

Arco di Costantino, or Arch of Constantine, looks pretty good for having been around since A.D. 312. It was built to commemorate Constantine I’s victory over Maxentius. The arch contains sections from other sculptures: the lower stonework dates from Domitian’s reign (A.D. 81-96) and the eight large medallions depicting hunting scenes are Hadrianic (A.D. 117-138). […]

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Subterranean corridors

Colosseum

A lot of blood has been shed here, in this house that Vespasian built. Too bad he never got to see the end product. It was completed a year after his death, in A.D. 80. Titus, Vespasian’s son, welcomed the completed arena in style and held games that lasted 100 days and nights. During the […]

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