Today’s entry opens up a new series for the blog, inspired by a book I received at work, a sort of welcome present, when I’d been there for six months. It’s called The Bucket List: 1,000 Adventures Big & Small and it was truly nice and a surprise. Periodically I flip through it and stop to look at many places even if I don’t have that destination as a goal, or if I know I’ll probably never make it there. Why? Because I like places, love to see them on maps and discover different things about them: traditional food, what they make or manufacture there, what that village, city or region might be known for, and so on.
So for these reasons (and probably others), this series doesn’t necessarily represent my bucket list, per se, hence the addition to its name as mapping out across the world: locales we might find worth learning even a little about, perhaps stumbling onto something, something people there do or make or care about, of value for ourselves. For instance, a very long time ago I read that before they embark on travel, Russians like to sit down for a few minutes in one spot. I no longer recall exactly the verbiage the document I’d read used to describe why they did this, or even in my own words why they maintained this tradition. For all I know it could even be an outdated one. Still, I remember liking it and adapting a bit to my own practice whereby I would contemplate life for just a few minutes and think about where I was headed: the physical place I traveled to as well as the road my choices and life were taking me down.
With that said, let us embark.
Locale: Persepolis, Fars Province, North of Shiraz, Iran
Hemisphere: Northern (from 300 north to 150 north)*
Latitude: 29.93550 N*
Longitude: 52.89150 E*
Time of Year: All year*
True Story: One time I invited a group of friends over for an impromptu gathering, to which they each brought an item or two. One popped open a bottle of wine whose label was marked Shiraz. Having been casually reading about Iran for a few years at that point, and knowing that Shiraz had been a wine-producing region, I asked, somewhat surprised, where she got the wine. I wondered aloud something about grapes perhaps being descended from those once grown in Iran.
“You nitwit,” she said, laughing. “It’s Australian.” Who knew? Well, many, I suppose, many people who are not me. As it turns out, the wine Khayyam praised is not related to the vine cuttings originating in France and brought to Australia, where their own industry was founded.
About the Destination: The royal city of Persepolis, about an hour’s drive north of Shiraz, dates to the Achaemenid Empire, the site likely chosen by Cyrus the Great (r. 550-530 B.C.). Made up of palaces built on an immense, partially-natural terrace, the site was the ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire. One theory pointed to its use within a seasonal capacity, perhaps for Nowruz, the Persian New Year observed at the spring equinox and still celebrated in modern Iran.
In 330 B.C., Alexander the Great invaded Achaemenid Persia with a goal of conquering Persepolis. His army was ambushed, but after thirty days the defenders were destroyed, possibly on information from a captured tribal chief who betrayed the Persians. Later, the Macedonians looted Persepolis and a fire, starting at the living quarters of Xerxes I, destroyed the site. While it may have been an accident, it is also a consideration that Alexander’s army took revenge for the destruction of the Acropolis in the Second Persian invasion of Greece.
The ruins of Persepolis rest in the foothills of the Kuh-e-Rahmat (Mountain of Mercy) and is ranked as one of the world’s greatest and most ancient archeological sites. According to the site’s UNESCO page, there are no modern reconstructions; the remains are all authentic.
My midnight musings: This is one site I would like to someday visit. I’ve been interested in Iran for a long time, for starters, and to walk amongst a setting as ancient as is this one could perhaps be one of the most humble undertakings of my life, because apart from demonstrating to me the small place I occupy in time, I would be further dwarfed by its absolutely colossal size and the jaw-dropping abilities of those who carved the reliefs, inscriptions, who built up the massive columns. Most of all, I would be reminded of who gifted these talents to the peoples of the world, and its unending expanse.
I also have heard over many years of the absolute hospitality of the Iranian people, who in my experience are people who also want to know everything they can about life and the world. I would love to talk to some on their magnificent poetic heritage, including Rumi, who says, “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” We differ on some points, he and I, but there is no denying his words inspire me to thought and I would love to discuss it with someone who knows even more about the great legacy he left than I do. I know, I know, there is Ferdowsi, how can I forget him? I don’t, not really, it’s just that Rumi got to me first, being one of the most widely-read poets in America, and his theme of unity, especially if applied to the vastness of the universe and minute nature of humans, could be quite a fascinating, even overpowering, thread to add to my contemplations, even if it does bring me down the road of philosophizing, a practice I have been trying to avoid for some time now.
*per information given within The Bucket List: 1,000 Adventures Big & Small