Tiny Costa Rica has 5% of Earth’s biodiversity, but only 0.1% of the world’s land. In fact, fully 25% of Costa Rica’s land is in protected areas, like national parks and conservation areas. With about 800 different species of birds in Costa Rica, it’s a bird-watcher’s paradise and any nature lover’s dream getaway. Start your week right with this video of early morning in Costa Rica, which showcases the incredible beauty of the country’s coastline.
Puccni’s opera La Bohèmefirst debuted in 1896 and has become one of the most frequently performed operas worldwide. Set in Paris in 1830, the opera follows the lives of four starving artists, the poet Rodolfo, painter Marcello, musician Schaunard, and philosopher Colline. Mimì, a seamstress who lives in a garret above the artists’ apartment, meets Roldolfo by chance when looking for someone to light her candle, which has gone out. They quickly fall in love, but as often happens in opera, Rodolfo becomes jealous for no reason, breaks Mimì’s heart, and then realizes his folly. But it’s too late – Mimi has become ill with consumption and dies at the conclusion of the drama.
Here, watch Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sing the tender aria Sì, mi chiamano Mimì– “Yes, they call me Mimì,” as she introduces herself to her new neighbor, Rodolfo, during Act I of La Bohème.
Fallen in love with Mimi yet? We have, so we’ve set a date with her this December during our Shining Stars at the Met experience. The best part? You can come too! Click here for more.
The Aurora Borealis (also known as the Northern Lights) is a vibrant, otherworldly light display that has to be seen to be believed. Named for the Aurora, the Roman goddess of dawn, and Boreas, the Greek term for “north wind,” the Northern Lights have been drawing enthusiastic spectators since humans have lived within sight of this celestial phenomenon. Here, see a time-lapse video of an Aurora Borealis display.
Want to see for yourself? We’ll teach you about the relationship between electricity, the ionosphere, and the Aurora, and we’ll even provide the cold weather gear. Limited space available on our Northern Lights of Canada program this September, so book soon! Fall is one of the best times of year to see the Aurora.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of all the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and is the only one still intact. As the burial chamber for the fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, it took an estimated 20,000-30,000 workers to build over a 20 year period.
Here are a few more facts about the iconic architectural marvel:
1. The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure for over 3,800 years, until Lincoln Cathedral’s spire surpassed it around 1300AD in England.
2. It is estimated the Great Pyramid consists of more than 2.3 million limestone rocks, unless it was built on top of a substantial core of rock. While this is possible, scientists still aren’t certain.
3. Contrary to popular belief, the pyramids were not built by slaves. They were actually workers who lived in the surrounding villages. While no ancient artwork already discovered depicts female workers, archaeologists have found the skeletal remains of women which show evidence of heavy lifting of stone. Therefore, it has been concluded that women may have had a part in the building of these massive structures.
4. You can enter the tomb of the Great Pyramid, but you’ll have to the use Robbers’ Tunnel dug by workmen employed by Caliph al-Ma’mun around AD 820. Recently, the entrance to the Pyramid has been restricted to groups of 100 morning and afternoon. The reason for this involves the moisture in our breath. When we exhale, the moisture creates salt within pyramids and tombs resulting in damaging cracks.
5. Under the leadership of Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquties, photography inside the pyramid is now strictly forbidden.
Do you think the amount of visitors to the Pyramids in should be limited in order to preserve them?
Witness the sheer magnitude of the Great Pyramid with your own eyes on our Egyptian Odyssey tour.
The Red Army Chorus, the official performing group of the Russian Armed Forces, includes a mens’ choir, orchestra, and dance ensemble. While famous for their performances of classic Russian folk songs, they also sing a variety of operatic and popular material. The ensemble began touring Russia in the late 1920′s under the direction of Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov, who also wrote the National Anthem of the Soviet Union. During WWII, the Red Army Chorus gave more than 1,500 performances for troops at the front. The group also runs a choir school and ensemble for boys, which tours with the mens’ group.
Today, enjoy a video of the Chorus performing “Kalinka,” a classic Russian folk song, where the singer attempts to woo a woman by comparing her to a snowberry, a raspberry, and a pine tree. And they say romance is dead!
Like what you hear? Join Smithsonian Journeys and travel to Russia for a private performance of the Red Army Chorus in St. Petersburg, one of many special elements of our Imperial Russian Waterways tour.