Saturday, July 27, 2013

View from High Places

A New York Times correspondent is reported to have asked George Mallory, the famous English mountaineer as to why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. His reply is considered as the most famous three words in mountaineering - "Because it is there". Mallory is credited with having taken part in the first three British Mount Everest expeditions in the 1920s. He and his partner Andrew Irvine disappeared somewhere on the North-East ridge of the mountain when they were about 800 feet from the summit. Mallory was in his prime and 9 days short of 38 years when he disappeared. Their actual fate was not known until May Day in 1999, when their bodies were discovered.  Whether the two actually reached the summit or not is still being speculated. If they actually did it, it was nearly three decades before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did it on 29th May 1953. Tenzing's grandson Tashi Tenzing (daughter's son) climbed the summit in 1993. Tenzing's son Jamling  Norgay, along with Edmund Hillary's son Peter Hillary, also climbed the peak in 2003 making it three-in-one in the family. They indeed reached great heights!

Man has always cherished reaching great heights physically and have a view of the surrounding from "High Places". In our part of the world, one can always see a temple, small or big, on every noticeable peak. The objective behind these constructions were probably more to motivate people to climb hills and keep fit rather than seek divine intervention. Modern civilization has made it a point to construct high rise buildings or towers and establish an observatory there to have a 360* view of the surroundings.  We can also go the top of such buildings or towers to have breathtaking views of the world below. We need not carry the burden of oxygen cylinders or suffer the exhaustion of climbing in ice clad surroundings. The observatories levy a cost for the services of the lift and using their facilities.

 One of the first such view we had was in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.  The magnificent Steel Arch standing on the banks of the mighty Mississippi river is a great sight even to look from a distance.  It has a viewers gallery at a height of 630 feet from which one can have a beautiful sight of the Mississippi river on one side and the city buildings on the other. Going in the elevator up to the gallery is itself a thrilling experience. The movement to the top of the arch is through a cabin designed as a combination of train, tram and lift. The picture alongside (taken from the internet) provides a view of the arch during the night.  A visit to the city of St. Louis is incomplete without a view from the Steel Arch Gallery. Please CLICK HERE to read about details of this arch and our visit there.

Another memorable "View from High Places" we had was from C N Tower, Toronto, Canada.  We got this opportunity on the drive back from  Niagara Falls.  The 553 meter (1815 feet) structure is a concrete communication and observation tower completed in 1976 at a cost of 63 million Canadian dollars. Construction of the tower was a successful venture and the loans were repaid in 15 years.  It gets the name from the "Canadian National Railway Company" that constructed it. It has 147 floors and elevators take us to the top of the tower in less than a minute: 58 seconds to be exact. From the observation towers one can see up to a distance of over 100 kilometers and even the mist rising from the distant Niagara Falls. The revolving restaurant at the top of the tower is a great attraction and takes a full round in 72 minutes.  The 360* view from the observation tower gives a wonderful view of the Lake Ontario and the surroundings. A picture given alongside (taken from the internet) gives a view of the tower from the lake. The tower is a key symbol of the city of Toronto.

City of New York is full of skyscrapers and viewing galleries. Empire State Building has been a landmark for the city since 1931. A view of the city from the observation gallery on the 86th floor of this building gives a full 360* view of the city and its many buildings around it. The building stands 1,250 feet (381 meters) and has 102 stories. Height with Antenna is 1,454 feet (443 meters).  Its statistics simply amaze us.  The building was constructed in the times of "Great Depression". The building was opened within 14 months (March 1930 to May 1931) from the time its construction started! It was completed four months ahead of schedule and at a much lower cost than originally planned. Super fast elevators take the visitors to 80th floor in seconds. After changing elevators for moving up to 86th floor we reach 86th floor viewing gallery. There are hundreds of tall buildings around it and the view is to be seen to be believed. For a payment of 5 dollars a visitor can get a handheld radio device and can hear an interesting commentary that explains the view ahead from different view points. Books are also available to illustrate the buildings and scenery that one sees from different angles in the observatory. Our visit to this gallery in August 2005 is still fresh in memory.

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France has mesmerized millions of visitors over the years. Constructed to commemorate the 1889 world trade fair held in Paris, it stands 324 meters (1,063 feet) tall and offers a panoramic view of the city and its surroundings.  It is said to be the most visited paid monument in the world.  The lift system takes the visitors to three different levels and the visitors gallery at the third level is always full of visitors. Once a visitor reaches this level, he/she would like to stay and keep on looking around for a long time. "Visit Paris at least once in your life time", an uncle used to stay. A visit to Paris means a visit to this wonderful tower also. The picture alongside (taken from the internet) gives a view of the tower and the fountains nearby.  Our visit to the tower in July 2008 is always a cherished memory.

Seattle is one of the most beautiful cities in the Pacific North-west and "Space Needle" is the city's official landmark. It was constructed for the World Fair of 1962 held in this city.  It is a 605 foot tall privately owned structure.  As the coastal area is sensitive to earthquakes, special precautions have been taken to make it quake resistant.  It has withstood a 6.8 Richter Scale earthquake in 2001. Constructed in 1960s at a cost of 4.5 million US Dollars, it underwent a renovation in the year 2000 at a cost of 20 million US dollars. Its elevators move at a speed of 800 feet per second and take the visitors to the 502 feet high observation deck in a flash. There is a revolving restaurant at the saucer-shaped top. The New Year fireworks from the tower is a fantastic event and worth watching. If you plan for a wedding in the Pacific North-west, Space Needle is the place to go as this has been a venue for numerous weddings. The picture given alongside (taken from the internet) gives a beautiful view of the city and the bay. It you want a view of the city of Seattle without actually going there, click on this link: http://www.spaceneedle.com. Our visit to the tower in December 2010 was on a Full Moon Day.  We went to the gallery in the evening just before sunset and could see the view before sunset as well after moonrise. It was indeed an unforgettable experience.

We narrowly missed the view from the famous "London Eye" due to time constraint during our visit there in July 2008.  But it was compensated by the visit to "Singapore Flyer" last month.  Details of that has to wait for another day.

Most of these places offer ticket sales on the internet and the tickets purchased are valid for one year.  A proper planning will ensure a smooth visit to these "High Places" and provide a pleasant sight seeing.