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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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!


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

Dec 24, 2020

A Hindu island in the world's largest majority Muslim country, Bali is world-renowned for its natural and cultural beauty. But underneath the surfing and partying and rituals is the last bastion of an empire that once ruled all of Indonesia.

Gajah Mada was the prime minister for Queen Gitarja of the Majapahit dynasty, and together, they united the islands. That is, until a wedding massacre sent it all spiraling.

Tracy deLuca of the Results May Vary podcast describes her experience in Bali, where she got married! And we talk food, including sucking pig and fried rice.


Coedès, George. The Indianized States of Southeast Asia.
DK Eyewitness. Bali and Lombok
Lonely Planet Bali, Lombok and Nusa Tenggara
The Nagarakretagama

Odorico, da Pordenone. Cathay and the way thither: being a collection of medieval notices of China (Translated by Sir Henry Yule and Henri Cordier)
The Pararaton

Photograph by chensiyuan

Dec 7, 2020

(This episode has been re-recorded since its initial release.)

Back to Rome for a meeting with Hadrian, the roving emperor.  Sarah Yeomans, archaeologist and art historian specializing in Imperial Rome, comes by to discuss the peripatetic emperor and one of his most impressive monuments, the Pantheon: the best preserved Roman temple anywhere.  Sarah shares her experience visiting Hadrian's villa in Tivoli as well. 

Hadrian is a fascinating soul: bearded, homosexual, flaunting conventional wisdom, travelling to the farthest reaches of the empire just because.  On his travels, he bickered with philosophers, visited historic sites, and micromanaged architects. Cheryl Morgan, an author who studies transgender and intersex people in the ancient world, brings the story of Favorinus, an intersex philosopher with whom Hadrian famously had a conversation.

To eat, consider artichokes this spring, either alla Romana or alla giudia (Jewish-style), both Roman classics.

Nov 26, 2020

Some call him the richest person in human history. Whether that's true, Mansa Musa of Mali shook up the world with his gold-laden hajj through Cairo and his university in Timbuktu.

That city at the edge of the Sahara might seem like the furthest place on earth, but it was a remarkable center of learning, home to as many as 700,000 manuscripts.

Cody Michaels from the History Unwritten podcast comes by to talk about Musa, his gold, and his famous journey to Mecca, as well as how African history is so much more than what we're commonly taught.  Plus poulet yassa!


Baxter, Joan. "Africa's 'greatest explorer'" in BBC News

Bell, Nawal Morcos. "The Age of Mansa Musa of Mali: Problems in Succession and Chronology" in The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Coleman de Graft-Johnson, John. "Mūsā I of Mali" in Encyclopaedia Britannica

Hamidullah, Mohammed. "Echos of What Lies Behind the ‘Ocean of Fogs’" in Muslim Historical Narratives

Levtzion, N. "The Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Kings of Mali" in The Journal of African History

Mohamud, Naima. "Is Mansa Musa the richest man who ever lived?" in BBC Africa

Sogoba, Mia. "Mansa Musa: the Rejected Ruler of the Mali Empire?" in Culture of West Africa

Photograph by Francesco Bandarin

Nov 23, 2020

We go to the Greek island of Santorini to learn about the eruption that devastated the Minoan civilization of nearby Crete. Plus minotaurs, donkeys, Atlantis and Cretan cuisine!  Thanks to Margo Anton and Seth Ruderman for their help.

Nov 15, 2020

East vs West? Maybe. We're off to Iran to greet the rise of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, the world's greatest by this point in history. Between Cyrus and Darius, we'll deal with two Great rulers, but we've also got medieval Iranian love poetry, unappetizing royal banquets, Croesus making bad decisions, and kebabs! `

Even better, Yentl from comes by to bring her knowledge of Achaemenid Persia, as we climb the magnificent staircases of Persepolis.

Oct 22, 2020

It's a great wall. A really great wall. It also never really did its job.

Among those who so easily moved past the Great Wall were the Mongols, and Khubilai Khan, Mongol conqueror of China and founder of the Yuan dynasty, is perhaps the best known Chinese emperor, even though he's maybe the least Chinese of them all. Thanks, Marco Polo.

Joined by the phenomenal Chris Stewart of the History of China Podcast, we explore the wall, the Mongols, the Song Dynasty they vanquished, and Khubilai himself as he sat in his pleasure palace we know now as Xanadu.

There's hot pot, Olivia Newton-John references, two different typhoons, and more fun than you can shake a bottle of fermented mare's milk at.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "Kubla Khan, or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment."
de Rachewiltz, Igor. tr. The Secret History of the Mongols: A Mongolian Epic Chronicle of the Thirteenth Century
Keay, John. China: a History

Photograph by Severin.stalder

Sep 24, 2020

Chartres Cathedral and its magnificent stained glass represent perhaps the greatest achievement of the High Gothic. Its story is linked to that of Blanche of Castile, one of France's most powerful queens, and her son Louis IX, later Saint Louis.

In this episode, we talk architecture, stained glass, and the use of color with listener and medieval studies scholar Chris Shanley. You'll also hear about how Blanche set Louis up for success, which he kinda sorta achieved.

And because we all need some comfort food, let's cook up a croque madame.


Ball, Philip. Universe of Stone: Chartres Cathedral and the Invention of the Gothic
Branner, Robert ed. Chartres Cathedral
Horne, Alistair. Seven Ages of Paris
Scott, Robert A. The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral
Rick Steves France
Williams, Nicola. Lonely Planet France
Wilson, Christopher. The Gothic Cathedral: The Architecture of the Great Church, 1130-1530

Photograph by Wikipedia user PtrQs

Aug 27, 2020

When you think of Ethiopia, you might think of famine in the 1980s. You might not think of a millenia-old culture, one of the powers of the ancient world. The ancient capital of Aksum, possible home of the Lost Ark, sits below mighty obelisks, testaments to the wealth still hidden below the city.

In the middle ages, under the auspices of king Lalibela and with the alleged help of angels, workers carved remarkable churches by digging down directly into the rock. These rock-hewn churches still host Orthodox services, providing a powerful sense of faith.

Listener Callum Barnes appears to discuss his travels in Ethiopia, from trying to see the Ark to being offered raw beef at a wedding in Addis Ababa. Plus making injera, the famous spongy bread that centers Ethiopia's wonderful cuisine.

Carillet, Jean-Bernard and Anthony Ham. Lonely Planet Ethiopia & Djibouti
Henze, Paul B. Layers of Time: a History of Ethiopia
The Kebra Negast

Photograph by Chuck Moravec

Aug 6, 2020

In 1204, Christian crusaders sacked the world's largest Christian city, destroying or pillaging countless artifacts, books, and works of art. Some of those works of art ended up in the Most Serene Republic of Venice, for which 1204 represents the beginning of her dominance of the Mediterranean world.

The story of how a canal-lined city in a marshy lagoon became a superpower and how cross-wearing soldiers wrecked Constantinople is a sometimes shocking tale, one that only makes sense when you consider the Sunk Cost Fallacy. We've already spent time, money or energy; we should just keep going.

Vlad Zamfira from Wonderer's History Podcast joins us to discuss Venetian history and their role in the calamitous Fourth Crusade, while Kate Storm from talks about her favorite city and how to escape the crowds.

And of course, we'll talk about tiramisu. I think we can all agree we need some of that right about now.


Hardy, Paula. Lonely Planet Venice & the Veneto
Herrin, Judith. Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire
Madden, Thomas F. Venice: a New History
McCart, Melissa. “The Mysterious Origins of Tiramisu, the Dessert That Took the ‘80s by Storm” in Eater
Norwich, John Julius. Byzantium: the Decline and Fall
Phillips, Jonathan. The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople
Rick Steves Venice

Photograph by Bjoern Eisbaer
Music by Antonio Vivaldi, performed by the Wichita State University Chamber Players, John Harrison, soloist.

Jul 23, 2020

The abbey on the lonely island rises from the tidal bay like a castle out of a Disney movie. Mont-Saint-Michel is one of France's best known sites, with a history to match.

Some of that history connects with the story of one of medieval Europe's most renowned women: Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Married first to King Louis of France and then King Henry of England, she and her family would both reach incredible heights and fail spectacularly, all while leaving stories that would echo throughout time.

Maura Kanter from Historically Badass Broads talks about Eleanor and Louis, while Christine Caccipuoti from Footnoting History discusses her life with Henry and their sons.  Listeners Emma and Laura reminisce on their visits to the Abbey.

There's love, lust, disappointment, war, peace, murder, plausible deniability, and some truly horrible, horrible people. And crepes!

It's the longest episode yet, but hopefully you'll find it worthwhile!

Barber, Richard W. The Devil's Crown: A History of Henry II and His Sons
de Torigny, Robert. The Chronicles of Robert de Monte 
Owen, D.D.R. Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen and Legend
Steves, Rick. Rick Steves France
Weir, Alison. Eleanor of Aquitaine: a Life
Williams, Nicola. Lonely Planet France

Photograph by Amaustan

Jun 25, 2020

A quick break from the wonders narratives to answer many questions about Drew, the show, the wonders, food, travel and more!  Find out which wonders missed the list, why there won't be a WotW cookbook, and why Drew has issues with "synergy" and "win-win" scenarios. Plus a new Demetrios Poliorcetes!

Jun 11, 2020

The greatest of squares throbs with life: the scent of spiced, roasted meat, the cacophony of voices and drums, the visual rainbow of color. The Djemaa el-Fna is everything and more. Its history reflects the great medieval golden age of Morocco under the Almoravid and Almohad dynasties, a golden age for prosperity but not necessarily for culture.

Both dynasties began as fundamentalists determined to bring back religion to the libertine cities, and both eventually fell victim to cosmopolitan delights. But the story of Ibn Tumart and the Almohads has much to teach us about the intensity of extremism.

The always brilliant Nitin Sil from Flashpoint History returns to discuss the rise and fall of the Almohads and their legacy in Spain, Morocco and beyond. And listener Jesse Oppenheim also comes back to discuss visiting the square. Plus there will be tagines!

Photograph by Michal Osmenda

Apr 23, 2020

The Cambodian jungle hides one of the world's largest pre-industrial cities: Angkor. Highlighted by its magnificent main temple, Angkor Wat, the city's other monuments testify to the prosperity of the Khmer empire. Those other monuments, many still semi-ruined by the jungle, make for even more compelling travel than Angkor Wat itself.

From Suryavarman's exploits in battle to Jayavarman VII's countless Buddha-like faces, Angkor's kings led a society built on pushing back the jungle, until the jungle finally won. 

Listener Jesse Oppenheim joins us to discuss visiting Angkor, learning from guides who survived the Khmer Rouge, and fighting through instagramming yogis.  Plus, of course, food.

Photograph by Gisling

Apr 2, 2020

Perhaps America's most famous landscape, Monument Valley and its fantastically shaped red-streaked buttes have starred in countless films and television shows. But its story truly hearkens to the people who have lived here for centuries: the Navajo, and before them, the Ancestral Puebloans.

In this episode, we'll discuss how the Ancestral Puebloans rose and then collapsed, victims of social breakdown in the face of climate change, and how the legacy of colonial oppression lives on in the dish most commonly associated with the Navajo: fry bread and the Navajo taco. But despite those setbacks, the culture of the indigenous southwest lives on strong to this day.


DuVal, Linda. “THE WRITING ON THE WALL; The Southwest: Mysterious and beautiful, the ancient petroglyphs and pictographs etched on canyons throughout Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Nevada speak to the eye and the soul.” in the Baltimore Sun (Arizona and New Mexico)

Kohler, Timothy A., Mark D. Varien, Aaron M. Wright and Kristin A. Kuckelman. “Mesa Verde Migrations: New archaeological research and computer simulation suggest why Ancestral Puebloans deserted the northern Southwest United States” in American Scientist

Newitz, Annalee. “Conservatism took hold here 1,000 years ago. Until the people fled.” in the Washington Post.

Schwindt, Dylan M., R. Kyle Bocinsky, Scott G. Ortman, Donna M. Glowacki, Mark D. Varien and Timothy A. Kohler. “The Social Consequences of Climate Change in the Central Mesa Verde Region.” in American Antiquity

Woodhouse, Connie A., David M. Meko, Glen M. MacDonald, Dave W. Stahle, and Edward R. Cook. “A 1,200-year perspective of 21st century drought in southwestern North America” in PNAS

Photograph by wikipedia user Supercarwaar

Mar 19, 2020

At the southern end of Arabia, Yemen was once rich from trade and frankincense.  By the 11th century, it had fallen off the map, but two strong queens led it back to prosperity, particularly Arwa Al-Sulayhi, whose reign did more for Yemen than 350 years of men who followed. There's assassins, executions, heads on pikes.

Among Arwa's accomplishments was refurbishing the Great Mosque of Sana'a, Yemen's  capital, whose medieval old city features gingerbread-like skyscrapers. Despite the horrors of war, Yemen perseveres.

Charlie from the Almost Forgotten podcast joins us to discuss Arwa and other historical figures that we've forgotten. Plus saltah!


Daftary, Dr. Farhad. Sayyida Hurra: The Isma‘ili Sulayhid Queen of Yemen
Mackintosh-Smith, Tim. Yemen: the Unknown Arabia
Mernissi, Fatima. The Forgotten Queens of Islam
Walker, Jenny. Lonely Planet Oman, UAE and the Arabian Peninsula
Wintour, Patrick. “Yemen civil war: the conflict explained” in the Guardian

Music by Mohamed al-Kouek, Kamilia Anbar Yakout, and Mohamed Hmoud al-Harithy

Photograph by Maria Gropa

Jan 16, 2020

It's the world's greatest comic strip. The Bayeux Tapestry, technically an embroidery, documents the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest.

We explore this cheeky document and tell its tale: the story of 1066, that most crucial year in English history. It's the tale of Edward the Confessor, powerful earl Harold Godwinson, one-man military machine Harald Hardrada, and William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy.  There's battles, invasions, and an insane amount of luck, and the Tapestry covers it all. Or rather the parts it wants to cover.

I've wanted to tell this story since I started the podcast. I hope you enjoy it. Plus, there's an apple pie at the end you won't want to miss.


Bridgeford, Andrew. 1066 : the hidden history in the Bayeux Tapestry

Harper, Damian and Catherine Le Nevez. Lonely Planet Road Trips: Normandy & D-Day Beaches

Howarth, David. 1066: the Year of the Conquest

Marren, Peter. 1066: the Battles of York, Stamford Bridge & Hastings

Morris, Marc. The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England

Rick Steves France

Wilson, David M. The Bayeux Tapestry

Dec 25, 2019

It's our bonus holiday episode!

Nestled in the mountains along the border of North Macedonia and Albania sits Lake Ohrid, a deep, blue lake as old as time. On its shores, in the town of Ohrid, Samuel, tsar of the First Bulgarian Empire, directed his kingdom's last hurrah against the mighty Roman Empire to his east. His opponent: Basil II, known now as the "Bulgar-Slayer."  I guess you can figure out how this goes.

Eric Halsey of the Bulgarian History Podcast gives his thoughts on Samuel and his brothers and the epic confrontation with Basil, while Allison Greene from Sofia Adventures and Eternal Arrival shares her experience of visiting Ohrid, whose Byzantine-era churches charm and whose lakeside boardwalk invigorates.

And we talk about Macedonian food, including ayvar, a red pepper spread-slash-dip that pairs with everything.


Crapton, RJ. A Concise History of Bulgaria

Evans, Thammy. Macedonia: the Bradt Travel Guide

Herrin, Judith. Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

Knowlton, Mary Lee. Macedonia

Norwich, John Julius. Byzantium: The Apogee

Michael Psellus. Chronographia

John Skylitzes. A Synopsis Of Byzantine History, translated by J. Wortley

Photograph by Silfiriel

Nov 11, 2019

THIRD ANNIVERSARY BONUS EPISODE! People often ask me where they should go when they visit the US. Having been to all 50 states (plus DC and Puerto Rico, which should be states), I can actually answer this. And in this not-at-all-serious episode, I try to answer that question.

Being a nerd, I created a spreadsheet and complex formula tanking each state in terms of natural scenery, historical sites, charm, cuisine, and debauchery.  I share the top ten on this episode.

For the full list, check out the website:

When you disagree, and you will, drop me a line or pick a fight on Twitter (@wonderspodcast).

Oct 10, 2019

Europe and North America are drifting apart, and where the plates diverge, an underwater volcanic mountain range has formed.  It peeps above the ocean in several spots, the largest and most magnificent of which is Iceland.  Iceland's underground magma and mountaintop glaciers have conspired to create a wonderland of fire and ice, the perfect setting for the development of a remarkable medieval culture.

In this episode, Noah Tetzner from the History of Vikings podcast joins us to discuss the settlement of Iceland, their literature (the sagas), their government, and their expansion to Greenland and North America.

There's Flóki, the raven-carrying discoverer who gave Iceland its name.  There are Ingolf and Leif, the oil-and-water brothers who first settled the island.  There's Aud the Deep-Minded, noblewoman and matriarch.  There's Þorgeir Þorkelsson, who had to make a choice that would change Iceland forever.  And there's Erik the Red and his son Leif, who set out to find new lands to the west.

In addition, listeners Brian Conn and Quinn Campagna describe their recent trips to the island and all the glorious natural wonders to see. And we'll have hot dogs (really), fermented shark meat (really), and Icelandic yogurt, or skyr, after a dip into the hot springs.



Ari Þorgilsson, The Book of the Icelanders

Averbuck, Alexis.  Lonely Planet Iceland

Barraclough, Eleanor Rosamund.  Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas

The Book of Settlement (Landnámabók), translated by Thomas Ellwood

Ferguson, Robert. The Vikings: a History


Haywood, John. Northmen: the Viking saga, AD 793-1241

Konstam, Angus. Historical Atlas of the Viking World

Laxdæla Saga, translated by Muriel A. C. Press

Magnusson, Magnus. Vikings!

Rick Steves Iceland

Roberts, David.  Iceland: Land of the Sagas

The Saga of Erik the Red, translated by J. Sephton



Music includes “Gjallar,” “Fólkvangr,” and “The Vikings” by Alexander Nakarada
Music promoted by
Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Photograph by Andreas Tille

Sep 19, 2019

Carved by glaciers during the Ice Age, Norway's more than 1100 fjords are spectacular. The sea enters narrow valleys with high cliffs laced with waterfalls. This rugged seacoast nurtured ancient Norway and its ruthless seafaring raiders: the Vikings.

The Vikings came out of the north like a thunderbolt to ravage the coastlines of Europe, but the people of medieval Scandinavia were so much more than just Vikings. 

In this episode, Lee Accomando of the Viking Age Podcast talks about Harald Fairhair, legendary first king of united Norway, and his sons Håkon the Good and the excellently named Erik Bloodaxe.  Lee has a soft spot for Erik's sorceress wife Gunnhild.

Listener and patron Kjartan Bærem talks about his homeland, and tells us which fjords are most worth visiting. We also discuss various lamb dishes before curing our own salmon: dill-scented gravlax.


Alcuin. Letter to Ethelred, King of Northumbria

Alcuin. Letter to the Bishop of Lindisfarne

Ferguson, Robert. The Vikings: a History

Greshko, Michael. “Famous Viking Warrior Was a Woman, DNA Reveals” in National Geographic.  September 12, 2017.

Ham, Anthony. Lonely Planet Norway

Haywood, John. Northmen: the Viking saga, AD 793-1241

Konstam, Angus. Historical Atlas of the Viking World

Magnusson, Magnus. Vikings!

Nozari, Elaheh.  “My Biggest Accomplishment of 2018 Was Making My Own Gravlax” in Bon Appetit. December 13, 2018

Rick Steves Scandinavia

Sturluson, Snorri. Heimskringla

Music includes “Gjallar,” “Fólkvangr,” and “The Vikings” by Alexander Nakarada
Music promoted by
Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Photograph by TomasEE

Aug 29, 2019

You've seen the Pyramid on countless tourism brochures, but what do you really know about the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá and it's magnificent pyramid? Did you know it's built over a cenote, a natural water-filled sinkhole? Have you heard the legend of the Toltec king from Central Mexico who might have conquered the city in 987?

To help explore the answers, Robert Bitto from the Mexico Unexplained podcast appears with his take on the mysteries of the pyramid. We also talk about the Spanish archbishop who first described the city after having burned nearly all Mayan writings and the wild rush that was 2012, the apocalypse that didn't quite come off.

Join us for some cochinita pibil as we talk about the Yucatán!


Carlsen, William.  Jungle of Stone: the True Story of Two Men, Their Extraordinary Journey, and the Discovery of the Lost Civilization of the Maya

Fehrenbach, TR. Fire and Blood: a History of Mexico

Hecht, John. Lonely Planet: Cancún, Cozumel & the Yucatán

Landa, Diego de.  Yucatan Before and After the Conquest

Onstott, Jane. National Geographic Traveler: Mexico

Prado, Liza and Gary Chandler. Moon Handbook: Yucatán Peninsula

Schele, Linda. The Code of Kings: the Language of Seven Sacred Maya Temples and Tombs

Stephens, John L. Incidents of Travel in Yucatan

Weaver, Muriel Porter. The Aztec, Maya, and Their Predecessors: Archaeology of Mesoamerica

Webster, David L. The Fall of the Ancient Maya: Solving the Mystery of the Maya Collapse

Music by Los Tres Reyes, Los Montejo, Victor Manuel Aarón Sánchez, and Hidalgo Tzec Haas

Photograph by wikipedia user Cocojorgefalcon

Aug 15, 2019

Sometimes a wonder which no longer exists is worth an episode. In the 9th century, the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad created the Bayt al-Hikma, the House of Wisdom, a great library which served as the starting point for a remarkable intellectual program. There, hundreds of scribes translated as many Greek, Persian, Indian and other documents that they could, and these widespread translations fueled new advances that would make Baghdad the Silicon Valley of the 9th and 10th centuries.  Men like al-Khwarizmi, the Father of Algebra, and al-Kindi, the Philosopher of the Arabs, changed the world.

Dr. Ali A Olomi, frequent guest, friend of the show, and host of Head on History, appears to discuss the House of Wisdom, the thinkers who worked there, and the caliphs who helped make it happen, like Harun al-Rashid and al-Mamun. 

In the process, we'll cover murderous kings, "true crime" mysteries, civil wars that really were brother vs brother, medieval machines, brilliant alchemists and mathematicians, and the guy who gave us the three-course meal and toothpaste. Plus we revisit masgouf, Iraq's favorite grilled fish.


Bobrick, Benson. The Caliph's Splendor: Islam and the West in the Golden Age of Baghdad

Hann, Geoff et al. Iraq: the Ancient Sites & Iraqi Kurdistan: the Bradt Travel Guide

Kennedy, Hugh. When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World: the Rise and Fall of Islam's Greatest Dynasty

Lyons, Jonathan. The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization

Morgan, Michael Hamilton. Lost History: the Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists

Thousand and One Nights

Photograph of Mustansiriya Madrassa by Taisir Mahdi

Jul 4, 2019

On the western fringe of Germany, near the Dutch and Belgian borders, sits Aachen, favored city of Charles the Great, or Charlemagne. He was King of the Franks in the late 8th and early 9th centuries, and through conquest and economic success, he unified much of Western Europe. Crowned Emperor of the Romans on Christmas Day, 800, he could be considered the father of Europe.

Or he might just have been incredibly lucky.

Travis Dow from the History of Germany Podcast joins us to discuss Charlemagne, his conquests, reforms, and buildings, including his great chapel in Aachen, one of the best examples of early medieval architecture.  In its central octagonal chapel, you can still see Charlemagne's simple marble throne, where many future German kings would be crowned.

Of course, there's lots of talk of food, from currywurst to döner kebabs, but Aachen is famous for its own special spicy cookies, Aachener printen, as well.  And there's the story of Pippin, which is not at all as the musical described it.


Barbero, Alessandro. Charlemagne: Father of a Continent

Lonely Planet Germany

Schillig, Christiane. "Wider den Zahn der Zeit: Der Dom zu Aachen" Monumente Online: Magazine of the Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz 

Schneider-Ferber, Karin. Karl der Große. Der mächtigste Herrscher des Mittelalters

Wilson, Derek. Charlemagne

Photograph by Jim Linwood

Jun 6, 2019

In the soft volcanic rock of Cappadocia, eroded by wind and water into fantastic shapes, ancient peoples carved dwelling places.  By the Byzantine era, locals created vast underground refuges: places to hide from raiders and foreign armies.  They painted murals on rock-cut churches, exemplars of medieval Roman religious art.

In the 8th century, this art, both here and around the empire, became the centerpiece of a spirited controversy: iconoclasm.  Some, particularly the emperors Leo III and Constantine V, believed that people's venerating religious art was causing God to forsake the empire. Others disagreed.  The argument would have far-reaching consequences for the empire and for history.

Iconoclasm initially ended under the guidance of Irene, the first ruling Empress in Roman history. She was ruthlessly efficient, as seen by her treatment of her son. She's one bad mother....

Listeners Krister and Jacob Törneke come by to discuss visiting Cappadocia, where cave churches and underground cities should the mark of the medieval Byzantines and where the natural landscape inspires jaw-dropping amazement.

Plus, they talk about the Cappadocian Turkish food, including ayran, a salty yogurt drink that goes perfectly with meat kebabs, even if it sounds repulsive.


Brownworth, Lars.  Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization

Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner

Herrin, Judith.  Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

Lonely Planet Turkey

Norwich, John Julius. Byzantium: the Early Centuries

Theophanes. Chronographia

Treadgold, Warren.  A Concise History of Byzantium

Photograph by Gerardo Lazzari

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