I arrived in India on May 1, 2016 while the region was celebrating the Meenakshi Tirukalyanam festival. During my visit to Madurai, I was able to see the colorful culture of India. One of the places I visited was the beautiful Meenakshi Amman temple. Hindus have been visiting this temple since the 6th century. It's rooftops seemed to have touched the sky, and sunlight glimmered off the vibrant statues etched into it's walls. The sides of the temple are painted with an assortment of greens, reds, blues and oranges. The detailed gods, people, and Brahman are carved into the walls. According to some historians a group of Islamic invaders attempted to destroy the temple, but luckily to no prevail. The present structure was rebuilt between 1623 and 1655. This temple is a one of a kind experience that will leave you awe stuck.
My next stop was to South Korea in mid May 2016. Once landed, I headed to the Gaya Mountains to visit a famous Buddhist temple. The Haeinsa Temple was first built in 802. It is one of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea. One of the most interesting pieces of history in the temple is the Tripitaka Koreana. This is a Buddhist Scripture that is carved onto 81,350 wooden printing blocks. The temple sits in Gayasan National Park and it is nestled among serene plant and wildlife. Legend has it that the area around the Gaya Mountains does not experience disasters like fire, floods and wind. With it's peaceful, tranquil setting I could believe the legend too.
By June 3, 2016 I had arrived in Jerusalem, Israel. I was intrigued to visit one of the most holiest places in the Jewish religion. I headed to the Western wall, also known as the Wailing Wall. This limestone wall is the outer wall to the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. Jews and Muslims have feuded over religious rights in this area for centuries. I was amazed by the amount of people who came there to pray every Friday. Others were inserting prayers in between the limestone cracks. I marveled at the size and solid structure of the over 2,000 year old wall. I was able to pray at the wall, and hope for peace in this area.
By the end of June 2016 I was on my way to Hejaz, Saudi Arabia. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of millions of pilgrims to Mecca. Mecca is the holiest city in the Islamic religion due to it being the birthplace of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. The city was dry and populated with over a million people. Muslims came to pray five times a day at the shrines and mosques located around the city. At the center of the Al-Masjid al-Haram mosque sits the Kaaba. The Kaaba is a granite structure with a limestone and marble floor. The religious present is ever felt in this city and fascinating to me.
The last destination in my travels was the magnificent Vatican City. I arrived there on July 4th, 2016. The architecture of the cathedral along with the central plaza left me speechless. Beautiful statues of Roman warriors, and God himself rested at the peak of the amazing structure. The interior was just as breathtaking as the outside. Dazzling murals were slung upon each of the marble walls. The central decor was a sight to marvel at. Light poured in from all sides, illuminating a thrown in the middle of the cathedral, in which the Pope himself might have sat in. The Vatican City will forever be remembered as one of my favorite travel destinations.