No, I’m not talking about the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal or Colosseum.
I’m talking about the original list that was made by early wanderers back in 140 BC—not one of the many recent reincarnations that tourist operators and destination marketers tried to shove down our throat.
When I booked a flight from Istanbul to Izmir, I had one main thing in mind: the Temple of Artemis at Selcuk. It was going to be my first of the original 7 Wonders, and what more, this is supposed to be the most impressive of all seven. Antipater of Sidon, the Greek poet whom compiled the original list, said so himself:
I have gazed on the walls of impregnable Babylon along which chariots may race, and on the Zeus by the banks of the Alpheus. I have seen the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Helios, the great man-made mountains of the lofty pyramids, and the gigantic tomb of Maosolus; but when I saw the sacred house of Artemis that towers to the clouds, the others were placed in the shade, for the sun himself has never looked upon its equal outside Olympus.
So you can imagine the shock I had when I discovered that whatever remains of the temple can’t even shade my tiny body from the scorching heat of the sun.
It’s the pillar on the far right, with the birds nesting above it.
Clearly, I wasn’t expecting the remains to be as intact as the Parthenon in Greece. I was expecting very bad wear-and-tear, but enough remains to stimulate your imagination on how grand the temple was and provide a modicum of insights into past civilization.
But with only one pillar left—in fact, not one pillar, but several pieces of the original columns hastily assembled into one artificial pillar—it’s nearly impossible to get a glimpse into the greatness of the Temple of Artemis. You could learn more by reading its history and conversing with the locals than actually visiting the site.
Still, the experience of visiting one of the original Seven Wonders is priceless. And luckily, I had a visit to Ephesus planned into the Selcuk trip as well (which is, without a doubt, worthy of a visit).
What did my Temple of Artemis experience affected my opinion about the other six wonders?
The sad truth is, six out of the original Seven Wonders have already been destroyed either by earthquakes or fire (the lone survivor is the Great Pyramid of Giza).
While I’m sure the experience of visiting each of the Seven Wonders is unique and rewarding in its own way (even in their current state of extreme disrepair), I’ve learned to set my expectation right. Visiting the ancient Seven Wonders require a lot of historical appreciation—make some efforts to read up, or at least hire a good guide.
However, if you’re a postcard traveler who are more into sightseeing than history, well… just don’t put all your eggs in one basket—plan a few side visits around the area, don’t make the Seven Wonders your main course. There’s a reason why the Pyramid is the only one of the seven that makes a cameo on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
Which among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World have you visited? How’s your experience?