On the Trail of the Big Domes

There are so many jaw-dropping places to go in the world, sometimes to narrow it down you've got to get somewhat arbitrary. Like those silly "10 (or 100, or 5) places to see before you die" travel lists. Seriously? Says who? According to what criteria?  We're all just making this stuff up. Really, everybody needs to come up with their own, personalized travel list, and figure out how to vet it.

(While I'm saying what everybody needs to do, may I repeat my overwrought plea? Travel! Now that I'm beginning to seeing the world, I believe there is nothing more important.)  

My 2013 itinerary is already booked solid with a crazy, mixed-up list of places: Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Quebec, Spain, Morocco, and the Philippines. But next year! I love how next year shimmers on the horizon with unplanned possibilities.

Here's a likely prospect: Bijapur, inland from Goa in southern India. I just read an article about it (read the Saudi Aramco World article here) and learned that it's full of ruins and restored architecture dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. It is a luscious mishmash of Hindu and Muslim style, with creeping vines and 300+ year old baobab trees. And get this: in Bijapur is one of the world's largest stone domes: a little smaller than St. Peter's, a little bigger than Hagia Sofia's. 

Say what? 

 

 Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. Photo by Ashwatham at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, Karnataka, India. Photo by Ashwatham at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

I've seen the domes at Hagia Sofia and St. Peter's. Those are major tourist deals (quoth MOTO, Master Of The Obvious). It is my opinion that organized religion has done more harm to the world than any other single thing. (Well, now I've veered a bit off-topic, I suppose.) That said, the architecture and art that religion has inspired is undeniably awe-inspiring. Learning about world history and the art of any era necessarily involves visiting important churches and mosques.

 

 Inside the Hagia Sofia, Istanbul. Photo by Kim Kash

Inside the Hagia Sofia, Istanbul. Photo by Kim Kash

 St. Peter's dome. Oh, sorry, no, that's a solid gold skeleton enfolded in a pink marble drape, at the entrance to a crypt in St. Peter's Basilica. Photo by Kim Kash.

St. Peter's dome. Oh, sorry, no, that's a solid gold skeleton enfolded in a pink marble drape, at the entrance to a crypt in St. Peter's Basilica. Photo by Kim Kash.

 Here it is, a slice of St. Peter's dome. Photo by Kim Kash

Here it is, a slice of St. Peter's dome. Photo by Kim Kash

Of course, these domes aren't the only reason people go to Istanbul and Rome, but they are very important pieces of architecture by anyone's estimation. Why isn't Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur on the same list? According to the article, "The city of Bijapur lies far off the usual tourist itinerary in south-central India--so far, in fact, that it was only connected to the nation's standard-gauge railroad network in the last decade."

I want to see this. The 2014 wish list has begun. Other travel suggestions?