Last week, my husband and I took a three-day trip to Mount Rushmore from southwest Missouri. On the way to and from, we ventured off the beaten path to see some less-visited sites. One of those was Carhenge.
Can you guess what it is? Yep, you’re right. It’s a Stonehenge made of cars.
And believe it or not, it’s been on the back-burner of our mental bucket list of places to see for several years now. So you can imagine our delight last Thursday when we learned (thanks to Google Maps) that we would be within a few miles of Carhenge when we passed through Alliance, Nebraska (pop. 8,500) later that afternoon.
I first heard of Carhenge right around the time I graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988. The project’s completion in 1987 made the news back then in the Midwest for a little while. Then gradually, the news died down, and it became another one of those odd-ball sights the Great Plains is known for.
Let’s get to it. Here’s a quick video of me simply rotating the camera around the central site:
The cars were at one time left in their original paint colors. But I would imagine that over time, the paint began to wear and/or the metal finishes began to rust, so a “Stonehenge gray” color was eventually applied to all. Works for me.
Here’s a photo of the site before the cars were painted gray.
The information sign below tells about the main Carhenge circle and some outlying sculptures made of found objects, farm implements, and auto parts.
Sign here, please.
While you can walk right up to the main sculpture, don’t write anything on the cars. If you feel the need to leave your mark, do it on this white car placed here specifically for that purpose.
Here’s another example of some of the outlying pieces around Carhenge. This is called Carnestoga after the old Conestoga wagons that at one time were the High Plains vehicle of choice.
Don’t forget to visit the small information center/gift shop at the site to drop in a donation and buy a souvenir. They have t-shirts, postcards, key rings, cold drinks, and a few snacks et al to make your Carhenge visit complete.
The bucket list
I can now cross Carhenge off my bucket list. If Carhenge isn’t on your bucket list, add it pronto. And then get thee to Alliance, Nebraska to see this funky testament to creativity and cars.
On our way to Mount Rushmore, we also took a quick two-hour tour of De Smet, South Dakota to see the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes. I’ll do a short post about that soon. Thanks for reading!
While you’re here, check out another post that celebrates the culture and art of the Midwest.
In March, I had the opportunity to visit The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, Missouri. Named for the city’s patron, Saint Louis IX of France, the structure, according to a tourist guide, “combines architecture of Romanesque style on the exterior with a wondrous Byzantine style interior.”
In other words, WOW.
Yes, I could bore you with a long list of overused adjectives that can’t possibly describe the grandeur of this unexpected delight. Instead, I’ll just get down to brass tacks and provide you with some details so you can surmise for yourself that Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, located in a bustling urban setting at 4431 Lindell Boulevard, is probably one of the Midwest’s best kept architectural secrets.
The dazzling mosaics are unmatched in the Western hemisphere and this one structure contains one of the largest collections in the world.
In 1997, Pope John Paul II designated the Cathedral of St. Louis as a Basilica in order to recognize its beauty and significance; since then, the structure has been known as The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. In 1999, Pope John Paul II presided over an evening prayer service at the basilica to conclude his trip to North America.
A view of the Central Dome
About those mosaics
41.5 million pieces of glass were used to decorate the hundreds of mosaic artworks that cover nearly every interior surface within the basilica.
Seven thousand different colors of tesserae were used.
Thirty-eight different shades of gold mosaic were used.
There are 83,000 square feet of mosaics within the structure.
Twenty-five miles of scaffolding were erected to complete the mosaics.
The exterior of the building was simply too massive to photograph on my iPhone. Here’s a better shot courtesy of <a href="http://A.reyestena, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons:
And now for the Narthex
A view toward The Historic Bay and Dome
The Sanctuary Dome and Baldochino
More sights within
Our visit lasted about an hour and a half. Due to our schedule, we didn’t have enough time to tour the Mosaic Museum located below the narthex. I did snap a few photos (see above).
The cathedral is located at 4431 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63108.
The cathedral’s visiting hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The Mosaic Museum’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Tours can be arranged for any size group. Tours are given Sundays at 1 p.m. and anytime Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If you’re ever in the area, definitely carve out an hour or so to see this marvel for yourself. It’s an awe-inspiring place of worship that’s worthy of your time when visiting St. Louis.
Got a thing for cathedrals?
Here’s a post from northern Italy about another one.
Thanks for reading! Check out my Italy (Venice) category for several more posts (Jewish Ghetto, the hospital, Calatrava Bridge, etc.) about Venice… a city I hope to visit a third time when travel opportunities return. I have a list of sights I still want to experience. Feel free to leave a like, make a comment and become a follower for more travel posts.
My next post: How to get from Delphi to Itea, Greece by bus
However, for some reason, I never devoted a post to Skopelos town, the largest city on Skopelos Island, and which is also known as the Old Town or the Chora. This post will remedy my negligence, and furthermore, in writing this, I’ve stumbled upon three more upcoming topics that need to be covered as well. These upcoming posts are listed at the end of this post, so press the Follow button and keep on reading.
If you’re unfamiliar with Skopelos…
Along with the islands of Skiathos to the west and Alonissos to the east, Skopelos Island comprises the Northern Sporades Islands. These small landforms are located east of the Pelion Peninsula in the inky blue waters of the Aegean Sea.
Skopelos covers 37 square miles.
According to our hosts at the Skopelos Foundation for the Arts, the island has a summer population of approximately 6,000 residents. That number decreases by half during the winter months.
According to skopelosweb.com, Stafylos, the first mythical resident of Skopelos was the son of Dionysus, the God of Fertility, Euphoria, the Vine and Wine, and his mother Ariadne, daughter of the Minoas, King of Crete. Relics of these mythological lives were excavated in 1936. The grave of King Stafylos was found in the town and its namesake beach that to this day is named Stafilos. Inside the grave, excavators found the king’s sword with its golden handle. Today, this sword is kept in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Read this post about the museum.
Now that I’m back home and reminiscing…
I do wish I had taken photos of all of the “normal” places in this town… such as when we visited the bustling pharmacy, the chic coffee bistros (such as Kahili’s Bakery) on the main drag, the Vodaphone store, the grocery store where the locals shop, the hardware store up the hill, the butcher on the back road, the post office.
But when you’re spending time in a place that’s off the beaten path a bit, you start to feel intrusive when you’ve constantly got your camera out shooting every little establishment. Yes, it’s expected in the more touristy areas, but not necessarily in those places that provide the basic needs of daily life.
And, yes, most of those places aren’t much to look at, by the way, but they do show you a little town that functions like most others… except that people call out to each other and wave more, or they stop and chat for a few minutes, or they just quit working in the middle of the day and just… stop. doing. everything.
This more social atmosphere, I am convinced, is afforded when cars aren’t in the mix. When you can’t seal yourself inside your car and drive right up to the door of your destination, and you are required to walk there on foot, you tend to mingle with people more. True, in Skopelos Old Town, there are cars, and scooters, et al, but they don’t dominate the scene. Just keep your eyes and ears open and you can walk safely anywhere.
We travelled to Skopelos so my husband could serve his three-week residency at the Skopelos Foundation for the Arts. He had applied for the residency in July of 2018 and had been accepted about a month later.
We didn’t really know much about Skopelos Island when we applied for the residency.
However, after his application was accepted, we began to do more research on the island that would be our home for three weeks the following summer.
We quickly learned that Skopelos Island was the shooting location of the 2008 movie, Mamma Mia! starring Meryl Streep.
While the island’s economy experienced a boom during that time, life on the island eventually returned to normal; today, Skopelos Island has retained much of its charm and non-touristy feel.
With the Mamma Mia! buzz long over…
And, based on our visit that is also long since over, I would agree that yes, Skopelos Island has much to boast about… incredible beauty, intriguing history, and a quiet small-town atmosphere. With the Mamma Mia! buzz in the past, Skopelos Island provides an authentic Greek island experience.
Part of that might be because there’s no airport like there is on Skiathos Island right next door. (In fact, being a regional hub of sorts, compared to Skopelos, Skiathos feels congested, chock full of tourist retail shops and restaurants. Follow my blog for a post on Skiathos soon.)
The good news: there’s no airport on Skopelos.
The bad news: there’s no airport on Skopelos.
To arrive on Skopelos means taking a ferry, and there are several types of watercraft at your disposal: freight ferries, passenger ferries, hydrofoils, water taxis, and more. Find schedules at this website.
We found that there’s no need to book ferry tickets ahead of time. Even though we were unsure what boat would work best for our schedule, the clerk at the ticket office knew. It was just easier to let them figure that out for us. And there really aren’t more than a couple of choices any day anyway.
The ticket office, which will have tickets and schedules for all the ferry companies, is located near where the taxis will drop you off from the airport. It won’t be hard to find. After unloading from taxi ride from the Skiathos Airport, our taxi driver noticed us scanning the street for the ticket office. As he sped away, he read our minds, gave us a loud whistle, and pointed us down the block. Sure enough, the ticket office was about 100 yards away.
Still, had he not whistled at us, we could also have asked anyone standing nearby. There were waiters, restaurant owners, and others eager to seat us for a cold drink at the several eateries that line the main street across from the ferry docks.
They were more than happy to help us find the ticket office as well. While it’s obvious their true motive is to fill another table in their establishment, they are actually very helpful and to me did not seem overbearing at all. They can call a taxi for you, hold your luggage, or direct you to their restroom.
For now, enjoy these photos from Skopelos Island and the its largest city, Skopelos Town.
Our host from the Skopelos Foundation for the Arts met us at the parking lot. At that point, we drove outside of the central business district to a grocery store about a mile away. We zipped along the narrow streets alongside scooters, trucks, motorcycles, and more compact cars.
Once we returned to our room, we unpacked, put the groceries away, and enjoyed the incredible view from our balcony. Sitting on our balcony during the day or at nighttime and watching boats and people, mere tiny dots way down below, come and go provided my favorite memories from our time on Skopelos.
It’s the little things, people.
My husband worked during the mornings in the studios at Skopelos Foundation for the Arts just up the hill from our studio apartment. During the afternoons, we would walk down, down, down the hill into the central business and residential district.
By the time we devoured lunch — Greek salads usually — and ventured down into the town, the cobblestone streets were quiet with the afternoon break that most businesses take. The streets were eerily vacant, and it compelled us to whisper our conversations, since we definitely had the feeling that people were napping inside their homes as we walked by.
It’s impossible to take a bad picture in Skopelos Old Town. Seriously.
Venetian influence and power can even be found here in the Old Town.
This wall in the photo above is the only remaining piece of the original Venetian Castle of Skopelos,which was repaired by the Venetians in the 1300s. In fact, we were amazed at how far Venetian influence extended from northern Italy and across the Mediterranean. When we visited the island of Crete a few weeks later, we would tour another Venetian Fortress and also walk atop Heraklion’s own Venetian Wall.
I’ll include this photo of a chapel in the Old Town in this post, but there are literally hundreds more on the island.
Follow along for a future post about this and other beautiful Greek Orthodox churches.
You can’t visit Skopelos and not meet a feline friend.
No rushing allowed…
Eventually, it became time to leave Skopelos after our three-week visit. We were glad we planned to spend enough time there to visit the grocery store a few times, walk downtown nearly everyday for various needs, and just to feel as if it was our home-away-from-home.
We would love to revisit the town someday–whether it’s just the two of us again perhaps with a group of students from the university where my husband teaches. In fact, I would even like to experience Skopelos in the winter months when the population plummets. I know it would be a drastic difference, but I would still like to experience it.
Thanks for reading! Even though it’s been several months since our visit, I’m still finding topics to revisit and write about. In the words of Anais Nin, writing lets you taste life twice.
This unexpected mosaic tucked into a corridor in the San Marco sestiere of Venice, Italy will take your breath away. Even the wrought iron barrier is beautiful and provides a contrasting frame for this photo taken by my daughter in June 2019.