6 Great Historical Places (That Are Dumb As Balls In 2020)
Some things grow more majestic and dignified over the years, like sequoias and Helen Mirren. On the other hand, time occasionally finds its sense of humor and straight up gives certain places the middle finger. Here are a few historically important sites to which time has been not merely unkind, but outright mean and sarcastic.
The Great Pyramids Are Best Viewed From A Pizza Hut Or KFC
Like all good celebrities, the pyramids know their good sides. Sure, it's possible to photograph them from an angle that makes them look like they're surrounded by nothing but peaceful sand dunes, but the reality is that you'll probably get the best look at them from ... the Pizza Hut across the street. If pizza isn't your thing, there's a KFC right around there too.
Despite being some 4,500-ish years old, the pyramids aren't immune to urban sprawl, and the city of Cairo has slowly encroached on the site. Today, one of the most peaceful ways to enjoy this wonder of the ancient world is from a vantage point on the second floor of the Pizza Hut while enjoying a deep dish Meat Lovers. See if you can spot the Sphinx too:
We can't say for sure what a bunch of ancient kings with serious god complexes would say about their tombs today, but we're guessing they never intended for them to be surrounded by city traffic and random fast food joints. And they probably wouldn't be too stoked to know that until recently, people climbed all over them, played soccer on the plateau they sit on, and made them an "open zoo" full of pack animals and unlicensed vendors foisting their wares on naive tourists. Who knows -- in the future, people might climb these nameless stacks of stones to gaze in wonder at the ancient temples to Colonel Sanders.
The Site Where Julius Caesar Was Killed Is Now Home To A Massive Colony Of Feral Cats
Even if you slept through most of high school, you probably recall that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by members of the Roman Senate, including his former bestie Brutus. Politicians really didn't mess around back then. Well, the location in which this world-shaking event took place is still notable 2,000 years later ... for being absolutely chock-full of cats.
Back in the day, the "Largo di Torre Argentina" was a large complex that included four temples, a theater, and the Senate house's infamous portico, aka the "Hey Caesar, Come Stand Here For a While, We're Definitely Not Going To Stab You" spot. Today that spot is frequented by Fluffy, Socks, and Boots, who couldn't care less about its history, but rather enjoy how warm the crumbling stones get in the sun. About 130 felines call the ruins home, and a group of volunteers feed them, get them spayed and neutered, and scrape up all hairballs. (We're guessing plenty of cats have given the humans an "Et tu, Brute?" look after the neutering part.)
Though the site has been neglected for centuries (thus the cats), it's now undergoing restoration. What does this mean for the feline residents? Not a whole lot, since the colony, which is itself considered historic, is actually protected by law. Ultimately, the cats will get to sun themselves on restored bricks instead of old ones, and will have much nicer columns to anoint with piss. Give us a musical about that, Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Queen Elizabeth II's Birthplace Became A Swanky Restaurant's Designated Smoking Area
It's hard to imagine a time when Queen Elizabeth II didn't exist, but she was born at some point -- specifically on April 21, 1926, at her grandfather's townhouse, located at 17 Bruton Street in London. And while the place looks very different today (it was rudely redecorated by some German bombs in the '40s), the Queen's grandchildren can still reflect on the importance of that location ... while rubbing shoulders with Rihanna and massively overpaying for Chinese food.
The address where the Queen sprung out of her mother's royal nethers is now home to a Michelin-starred restaurant called Hakkasan, which specializes in Cantonese cuisine. They also have a trendy Vegas nightclub and, for some reason, a fancy shoe line.
On the off chance you're looking for the place, there's a plaque on the building's exterior that marks it as the site of Queen Elizabeth's birth. So you can admire that as you waddle past in a food coma. Speaking of the plaque, the restaurant caused a public outcry some years back when they set up their outdoor smoking area directly beneath it. Apparently some felt it was disrespectful to have a constant stream of cigarette smoke exhaled in the general direction of the queen's seal, giving the vicinity that unmistakable "designated smoking area" funk.
That does seem pretty rude, but the queen will have the last laugh when the restaurant has crumbled along with the rest of human civilization and she's still around to dance on its ashes.
Edith Wharton's Childhood Home Is Now A Starbucks / Weight Watchers
In 1921, Edith Wharton became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature -- although she might be better-known today for inspiring a movie in which Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer silently lust for each other for 140 minutes. Wharton famously wrote about the Gilded Age, America's most fancy-pants era, of which she was a part. So we imagine she'd be pretty pleased to learn that her childhood home has become the site of not one but TWO of New York's most exclusive establishments: Starbucks Coffee AND Weight Watchers (sorry, "WW").
Yes, they have a Starbucks or two in New York now.
A Home Depot, Best Buy, and Lenny's are all also on the same block, so the place has clearly hit the high society trifecta. Right next to the Starbucks' entrance is a small bright red plaque marking the building as Wharton's childhood home. She'd surely recognize this as a greater honor than her three Nobel Prize nominations.
If not, she might at least appreciate the irony of having a weight loss support facility perched atop a place that serves 400-plus-calorie coffee concoctions.
The Memorial Marker For 50,000 Executed Londoners Is In The Middle Of A Busy Traffic Median
The Tyburn Tree wasn't an actual tree, but a massive gallows on the outskirts of London where public executions were carried out for the better part of 600 years. Who died at Tyburn? Lots of people. By some calculations, 50,000 necks were snapped there over the years, making it by far the most murderous fake tree in history.
Tyburn's victims included Catholic martyrs, "Gentleman" Jack Sheppard, and King-killer Oliver Cromwell, whose dead body was exhumed and "executed" after the monarchy was restored. So how does the site look today? How are we memorializing this patch where so many people (plenty of whom were innocent) were put to death? With a nice little marker for people to trample, litter on, or mark with their bodily fluids if they're coming back from the club.
The marker is embedded in a very busy traffic median at the junction of Edgware and Bayswater in London. The marker commemorating 50,000 people has probably been shat upon by about as many birds, and walked over by many times that many pedestrians who never give it a second thought. Oh well, it's probably best not to get too hung up on the past, anyway.
Marie Curie's Abandoned Lab Is Still Sitting In The Middle Of Paris ... And Still Radioactive
Marie Curie's legacy will live for millennia. Unfortunately, people have to live around that legacy. We've talked about how radioactive all of her belongings are, and the fact that her research notebooks must be stored in lead-lined boxes for the next 2,000 years or so. But what about her laboratory? Surely that's been made safe by now? Ha ha, nope! Ask again in a few hundred generations.
When Curie began working in her lab, the village of Arcueil was an ideal spot for scientific discovery -- south of Paris but within easy reach of the city, peaceful and quiet. Today Arcueil is a bustling suburb, full of housing complexes, businesses, and people. Oh, and a weird building that oozes deadly science. The place is so contaminated that the Arcueil Laboratory is often referred to as "Chernobyl on the Seine." The building, the soil, the plants, the air, the groundwater -- all radioactive. It's a massive, out-of-place eyesore that looks precisely the way a supervillain's lair would if you plopped it in the middle of a city.
How are officials dealing with the lab, which will be a "health threat for millennia"? The property is surrounded by a concrete wall topped with barbed wire, but that didn't stop thieves from stealing the building's copper wiring back in 2010 (see, this is why we need to teach kids about female scientists in school). Health officials do monitor the property. They test the river periodically, and they swear residents of the apartments a few feet away are perfectly safe. But they also know the site still contains traces of uranium isotope, which has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, so they've got some time to plan their next move.
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