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Wonders of the World

Wonders of the World: the podcast that visits the great places on Earth to tell the story of our people, our civilization, and our planet.
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Wonders of the World
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Now displaying: 2021

Please visit the show's official page at wonderspodcast.com

May 28, 2021

It's one of the most glorious seascapes on earth: thousands of limestone pillars rising from the bay, clothed in jungle green. Listener Emma Browning, who was literally just there, shares her experiences cruising among the islands and even shares the real-life sounds of the bay.

When I say Vietnam, most Americans expect an episode on the US-Vietnam War of the 1960s, but no, I'm going to discuss another superpower's invasion of the land of the Viet and their subsequent failure against Vietnamese resistance and guerilla warfare.

Yes, the Yongle Emperor is getting Robert McNamara'd into submission, this time by Vietnamese nobleman turned freedom fighter Lê Lợi  There are magic swords, marketing guys with water metaphors, and so much more.

Finally, we get my personal story of Vietnamese catfish. And in honor of that, I give you cá kho tộ, catfish caramelized in a clay pot. It is maybe my favorite thing to eat ever.

Sources:
Filek-Gibson, Dana. Vietnam (Moon Guide)
Goscha, Christopher E. Vietnam: A New History
Kiernan, Ben. Viet Nam
Stewart, Iain. Lonely Planet Vietnam
Viet Vision Travel “Vietnamese Legend: The Lake of the Restored Sword”

Photograph and audio samples courtesy of Emma Browning

May 13, 2021

It's unfathomably huge.  The Forbidden City, a city within the city, and the Yongle emperor's crowning achievement, is almost too big to comprehend.  8,886 rooms, nearly 135 football fields in area, it's huge.

The Yongle Emperor also sent out Zheng He and the Ming Treasure Fleet to exert China's superpower influence across Asia and even to Africa. 

Chris Stewart from the History of China podcast returns to talk about the Forbidden City and the great naval voyages, while listener Jesse Oppenheim returns to discuss visiting the palace as well as sharing some Beijing taste treats, like Mao's favorite braised pork belly.

Sources:

Bedford, Donald. China (DK Eyewitness)
Fodor's Essential China
Haw, Stephen G. A Traveller's History of China
Humphreys, Andrew. Top 10 Beijing
Keay, John. China: a History
Wood, Michael. The Story of China: The Epic History of A World Power From the Middle Kingdom to Mao and the China Dream

Photograph by Asadal

May 10, 2021

A Star Wars special!

For May 4, 2021, I contributed a mini-episode for the No Redeeming Qualities podcast's annual Star Wars Day special.  To spare you having to listen to 30 minutes of grown men complaining about the sequel trilogy, I'm offering this to you.

In the early days of the Clone Wars, separatist forces were on their way to conquer Ryloth, an important trading point in the outer rim. One man would lead the Republic garrison: Jedi Master Ima-Gun Di.

While on Ryloth, Master Di would visit the remarkable Floating Rock Garden, a uniquely powerful place, where the force of the wind makes the impossible real. And if you're on Ryloth, only the best Gruuvan Shaal Kebabs will do.

Sources:
Star Wars: Clone Wars, episode 3.3 - "Supply Lines"
Monroe-Cassel, Chelsea and Marc Sumerak. Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge: The Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook
The Holocron wiki for Star Wars Combine online simulation

Apr 22, 2021

A majestic pavilion crowned in blue, the Temple of Heaven stands as one of the crowning architectural triumphs of the Yongle Emperor, a man responsible for three wonders.

In this episode, we trace the origins of the Yongle Emperor.  Chris Stewart from the History of China podcast appears to take us on a whirlwind adventure that took his father from being an orphaned beggar in Anhui to emperor of all China. In the process, we discuss his rather unique brand of paranoia, and the path by which his son proved himself to be a chip off the old block.

In addition, listener Jesse Oppenheim returns to discuss visiting Beijing and the Temple and of course, eating Peking Duck, which you can't make at home. So instead we try zhajiangmian.

This one gets a bit crazy! Enjoy!

Sources:

Bedford, Donald. China (DK Eyewitness)
Fodor's Essential China
Haw, Stephen G. A Traveller's History of China
Humphreys, Andrew. Top 10 Beijing
Keay, John. China: a History
Wood, Michael. The Story of China: The Epic History of A World Power From the Middle Kingdom to Mao and the China Dream

Photograph by John Joh

Apr 1, 2021

The largest brick castle of its day sits along the delta of the Vistula, a testament to the power and prestige of the order of crusading knights who built it.  The Teutonic Order, from their castle at Marienburg, sought to Christianize and "civilize" the heathens of the Baltic.

In this episode, we'll investigate the knights' relationship to its neighbors, Poland and Lithuania, united under the crown of Władysław Jagiełło, and the great but stupid war that broke out between them.

And listener Rafał Źukowski drops by to talk about visiting the castle, other sights in Northern Poland, and of course food!

Sources:

Bousfield, Jonathan. DK Eyewitness Poland
Čapaitė, Rūta. “The Topic of Health in the Letters of Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania and His Contemporaries.” in Lithuanian Historical Studies
Emery, Anthony “Malbork Castle - Poland” in The Castle Studies Group Journal No 21
Palmer, Alan. The Baltic: A New History of the Region and Its Peoples
Sunkara, Lavanya. “Take A Look Inside The World’s Largest Brick Fortress In Poland” in Forbes
Urban, William. The Last Years of the Teutonic Knights

Photograph by Gregy

Mar 15, 2021

A bonus episode introducing the new host of Wonders of the World

Mar 15, 2021

Its gold walls reflected in the pond at its feet, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji, is glorious in any season. It was originally the retirement villa of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, former shogun and patron of the arts.

How Yoshimitsu was able to be shogun is a story from some decades before, a story of betrayal, revolutions, and lots of samurai warriors committing ritual suicide.

Listener Jaime discussing seeing the temple in various seasons, as well as the experience of visiting Kyoto itself. Also, somehow Drew makes it through an entire episode on Kyoto only mentioning geisha once, and that's in the opening song lyrics.  They make up for it with all the good food, including okonomiyagi, "Japanese pancakes".

NB: Drew makes an important announcement at the end of the episode.

Sources:

Dougill, John. Japan’s World Heritage Sites
Miller, David. Samurai Warriors
Milner, Rebecca. Lonely Planet Japan

Photograph by Pedro Szekely

Feb 20, 2021

Stunning medieval monasteries perched on infinitely steep precipices, the monasteries of Meteora are sanctuaries in the sky. But what happened in Byzantium to convince monks to seek solitude in such forbidding locales?

Stories of the collapse of Constantinople typically focus on the end, in 1453, but the fall really begins much earlier than that, fueled in many ways by the sheer incompetence of John V Palaeologos, the second longest serving Roman emperor, whose reign was a constant barrage of humiliations. He managed to be put in prison on four different occasions!

While we explore this fascinating loser, listener Roberto describes his trip to see the great monasteries in north central Greece, and we discuss dolmades, stuffed grape leaves.

Sources:

Fodor’s Essential Greece
Gibbons, Herbert Adams. The Foundation of the Ottoman Empire: a History of the Osmanlis up the the Death of Bayezid I (1300-1403)
Herrin, Judith. Byzantium: The Surprising Life of A Medieval Empire
Luttrell, Anthony. “John V's Daughters: A Palaiologan Puzzle.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers
Norwich, John Julius. Byzantium: The Decline and Fall
Treadgold, Warren. A Concise History of Byzantium

Photograph by LucT

Jan 28, 2021

Nestled in the mountains of southwestern Andalucia, Granada's magnificent Alhambra palace represents the last hurrah of Moorish architecture in Spain, but what a last hurrah! Delicate and intricate, the Alhambra feels like something from a dream.

This episode, I talk about Muhammad V, who survived a coup, exile, murderous intrigue and cruel allies to inspire and create the most splendid part of the Alhambra. Fun with assassinations!

And I'll talk about my favorite food on earth: jamón ibérico. And tortilla española for the vegetarians. The Alhambra is my favorite place on the list, and I hope my enthusiasm comes through.

Sources:

Fernández-Puertas, Antonio. “The Three Great Sultans of Al-Dawla Al-Ismā'īliyya Al-Naṣriyya Who Built the Fourteenth-Century Alhambra: Ismā'īl I, Yūsuf I, Muḥammad V (713-793/1314-1391).” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. 7, no. 1, 1997, pp. 1–25.
Irving, Washington. The Alhambra
Lowney, Chris. A Vanished World: Medieval Spain's Golden Age of Enlightenment
Menocal, Maria Rosa. The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created A Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain
Noble, Isabella. Lonely Planet Andalucía

Photograph by Oscarmu90

Jan 14, 2021

It was the world's tallest building, 632 years after work started: an exercise in persistence. Cologne Cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece.

Cologne itself is a good place to tell the story of the 13th century's great disaster: the Black Death, and the social upheaval it brought, including the pogroms that swept through the Rhineland.

Willem Fromm of the History of Cologne podcast brings a local perspective to his home city, its magnificent cathedral and its 2000 years of history. And beer! And potato soup!

Sources:

Di Duca, Marc. Lonely Planet Germany
Kelly, John. The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time
Orent, Wendy. Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World's Most Dangerous Disease
Ozment, Steven E. A  Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People
Rick Steves Germany
Photo by Nikolai Karaneschev

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