99 places to go

well at least that’s the challenge I saw upon reading Daniel Smith’s 100 Places You Will Never Visit, one of the titles I’ve finished in a recent reading marathon that is bringing my 2014 total toward respectability. I’ve been to one, and if I can get there on a whim (albeit with a tour group), they can’t all be that inaccessible.

While the majority of the military sites are of no interest to me, from a history lover’s point of view, I loved this book. The vignettes about each location tell you enough about each to pique your curiosity without getting too detailed. While it skewed American, I like that he included a range of international locations. My only complaint was that in ebook conversion, the photo captions were rendered almost too small to be legible and increasing font size had no effect as they were treated as part of the image.

Contained herein are 100 places that are, to a greater or lesser extent, in the public sphere but physically off-limits. While the reasons for their being closed to us vary from case to case, they collectively exemplify the enduring struggle between what we would like to know about and what others feel it is right or safe for us to know about.

While I definitely agree with his premise, I think he went a bit too over the top. Some of these are so “secret” they’ve become little more than cliches. So much is known about them that I wonder what there is to be gained from actually visiting. I have a sad feeling that when/if locations such as Area 51 are declassified, the information will be underwhelming. There were a fair number about which I’d never heard though, which was pretty cool.

Officially a British Indian Ocean Territory, Diego Garcia has served as a strategically-important base for US military operations since the early 1970s.  

Oddly, the only reason I’d even heard of Diego Garcia was some of the tin hatting around the disappeared Malaysian Airlines flight.

 Oh and the one I’ve been to? That’s the DMZ which I did on a whim, on a trip to Korea in January 2002 that was equally a whim.

   The DMZ remains a swathe of land in which danger is ever present.… [Panmunjom] is the only place in the DMZ where visitors are allowed, it should be noted that only approved tour groups are accepted, and visitors must sign a waiver that begins: “The visit to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjeon will entail entry into a hostile area and the possibility of injury or death.

Yep. Death.
I clearly hadn’t done a ton of research before joining the tour group or I might have thought twice.

I found the DMZ to be a historically fascinating place, albeit a bizarre one. It’s every bit the propaganda that the northern side is accused of being.

  The full truth may come with the declassification of government files in decades to come, but might equally rest with the dead under the sea.

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