You can't get a better deal in the world than the British Museum...exceptional pieces of world history from all around the world for free (sacking the Greeks and Egyptians, though )
On another note, Auschwitz-Birkenau museums in Poland were something surreal. Truly shocking and once in a life experience. You have to be really strong not too shed a tear or two there
I mean, a room full of the original shoes the prisoners left before entering "the shower", another room full of their original hair, another one full of their suitcases...
On a similar note, the Tuol Sleng/S21 prison in Phnom Penh and the nearby Killing Fields are both experiences that will leave you reeling. I usually don't like audio guides but all visitors to The Killing Fields are given an audio guide and then people are free to follow the "trail." It's kind of nice because you listen to accounts from survivors and even hear old recordings (some of the perpetrators!) Everyone walks around in silence, which really is as it should be and ensures that the place maintains its solemnity. You can enter the Wat where many bones and skulls are kept and see trees from which palms were stripped and used to cut people's throats. You can even see the tree which living babies' heads were dashed against
It's just so far beyond harrowing and at the same time an incredible insight into our species. It's an eye-opening experience. I think Cambodia is without a doubt the most special country I've been to in Asia, if not the whole world.
I like the point you raised about treasures having been taken from other countries to the west, especially Western Europe. What do people think of this?
I think in many cases, it was outright theft but in other cases I think people had a genuine interest in preserving treasures that they felt might be lost, damaged or destroyed. I deplore virtually every action taken by Colonial Britain (and many of its opportunistic colonialists/business people) but in the case of the Elgin Marbles...I'm not so sure. I always think of how badly damaged the Parthenon was when it was shelled by the Venetians (damned Venetians!) It wasn't the Greeks fault that the Turks were storing gunpowder in the Parthenon. How could they protect their cultural assets whilst being oppressed! It is said that the roof of the Parthenon was largely intact until that attack but nothing remained after, columns fell or were damaged and it is also said that a lot of the achitraves, triglyphs, metopes and much of the frieze was damaged or destroyed!
I think efforts should be made to return much of what was taken. Elgin did his job, he preserved his "marbles" but now they should be returned. There's no reason not to really.
Love this statue in Athens:
, on Flickr
, on Flickr