Cambodia is the closest you can get, today, to your own real life Indiana Jones movie. There, the temples of Angkor seem built into the fabric of the forest itself, bats flap their leathery wings in the vaults, and incense drifts down the empty colonnades.
The god-kings of Angkor were at the height of their powers from the 9th century until the 15th century.
In that time, they built the largest preindustrial city in the world in Cambodia: larger than Rome, larger than Alexandria, larger by far than London or Paris at the time.
Wealth was poured into ever more spectacular temples, replete with intricate carvings and statues.
In the fifteenth century, for reasons which still puzzle scholars today, the gigantic complex was left almost entirely abandoned – lost to the jungle.
Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia (via Wikimedia)
Early Western visitors, glimpsing the astonishing structures looming up amidst the trees, were left almost speechless.
For António da Madalena, Angkor was “of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world.”
Since the 19h century, a slow process of restoration has been taking place. While tourists flock to Angkor today, much of the site remains to be discovered, and the trees loom on all sides, ready to swallow the city up again.
Bruce Campbell stands near his Boeing 727 home in the woods outside the suburbs of Portland, Oregon.
In 1999, the former electrical engineer had a vision:
To save retired jetliners from becoming scrap metal by reusing them.
Bruce Campbell, is one of a small number of people worldwide who have transformed retired aircraft into a living space or other creative project, although a spokesman for the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association was unable to say precisely how many planes are re-used this way.
Founded in the 10th century, the ornate religious complex known as Fountains Abbey remained in active use for over 400 years and miraculously continues to stand in much its original form despite being denounced in the 1500’s.
The 70-acre site known collectively as Fountains Abbey was originally nothing more than some wooden church buildings resting on a verdant field.
The abbey was slowly expanded and converted to stone materials across its centuries of use, experiencing fires and destruction from religious opponents, each time rebuilding the abbey a bit greater.
At its height, the church complex was the largest and richest abbey in all of England, yet it was so large that it was also known to be in varied states of disrepair as no one seemed to be able to keep up the maintenance of the aging complex.
It wasn’t until Henry the VIII ordered the dissolution of all monasteries in the 1500’s that the abbey finally shut down.
After the mandated abandonment, portions of the site were destroyed, but the majority remained and over the ensuing centuries, a water garden was built around the ruins which would become almost as famous.
Despite the abandonment, the ruins ended up being fairly well maintained thanks to the care of the garden in which is was now simply a massive feature.
Thanks to this, the Fountains Abbey is the largest remaining abbey from its time and also the most well preserved.
While it is a popular tourist spot, it is also often used in television and film projects.