It is said that history is a symphony of echoes. Einstein’s equation says that time is like a river that speeds up meanders and slows down. When we travel we come across those two concepts combined and receive some surprising answers. Different places give us a different perspective of what time means in the context of the places we discover and their history.
Table Mountain in Cape Town, is the core of the city, the city sits beneath it as if in a basket. The mountain doesn’t have any forbidding presence, it is is a comfort, a real everyday presence that give reassurance and motivation to the city. Not for nothing are Capetonians known by some as the “mountianhuggers”. The cloud formations that fall from it at evening are affectionately known as the table cloth. Table Mountain is here now and today, it does not occur to anyone that it is history and that its origins are 300 million years old.
The Arenal volcano, in Costa Rica, is a real live volcano and the sense of time in that piece of nature, and its history, tend to be measured by the last time there was an eruption, 1968. The excitement of a real life volcano might induce some of us to wish it was more recent. 48 years is the sense of history and time that many create around it. But the real history is that it has been erupting for 7000 years. Time has shrunk.
The city of London is a place where the past and the present have melded together with history to live in the present. The church of All Hallows by the Tower dates back to 675 and is still a church today where people worship. Time there is a history lesson nothing more. London is filled with old places still used sitting alongside the most modern places that befit one of the great cities of the world.
At the other end of the spectrum is the ancient kingdom of Angkor and the ruins of its various temples, dating back to 11th century and now simply a place of ghosts, (and tourists), a place where nature has imposed itself in the intervening years and taken back what belonged to it originally in some places. We learn the history, but don’t live it and we marvel that such things could exist nearly 1000 years ago. There, time is very real and not in any way compromised.
Finally the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, in that country, are as old as Angkor but there is a big difference. In truth no one is compltely certain as to who built Great Zimbabwe. The African oral tradition of history has allowed parts of that history to disappear in the telling of it, and so we are left with a place that hangs in the air in time, with no real reference point as to why and when.
Our perception of history and its echoes, bend and shape the sense of time in the places that we journey to.