I first heard about this place on a TV show, I think it was Ancient Aliens :)
So when I found out we'd be going past this anyway, I thought it would be cool to check it out for ourselves and see if this really is something that was accomplished with the help of methods not known currently.
It was built over the span of 28 years in the first half of last century, by Edward Leedskalnin. How this short, frail looking man moved stones weighing several tons by himself is the main source of mystery here, and things like magnetism and supernatural forces pop up in references.
Ed actually lived on site in the tower, very spartanic.
This is the quarry where all the stones come from. It is located just beside the castle. And this was the main reason I came to the conclusion that there was nothing strange going on in the construction of this place. The stones, even though they were extremely heavy, did not have to be moved very far. They did also not have to be moved very high either, the tallest structure is the living tower and is 2 stories high.
What people overlook is the time this guy had at his disposal to build this place. He had nothing else to do and he had 28 years!
Leaving Florida we headed to Atlanta, Georgia to meet Nanette, Simone's friend. She kindly put us up for our time in Atlanta and took time to show us around. Thanks!!
Our first meal was a home cooked meal on the first day we got there, it was yummy!
On the second day we headed to the Steamhouse Lounge for an evening meal. Conlin, Nanette's boyfriend with a keen interest in the culinary, recommended this place for its lobster bisque. And boy was it good! Simone had the cup size, I tried it in a bowl. Soooo good!!
I also had to try the crab dip. It was so nice I almost forgot to take a photo :)
As my main I had the shrimp and scallop nachos.
And Simone had the lobster roll with hush puppies on the side.
Then after you get shown through to a room with various Coke historical items you get shown a rather disturbing video in the main movie theatre. It felt like we were visiting some kind of cult and were shown the first in a series of indoctrination videos. It honestly served no purpose other than making kids establish the link between happiness and Coke. When the video was over, we just looked at each other and our expression was "WTF did we just watch???"
After this disturbing experience (and one you can NOT skip), you are left to explore the rest of the exhibition for yourself.
The vault, where the recipe is kept.
I came across this display. Do the colours and shape of the background remind you of something?
It reminded me of the Pepsi logo!
Part of the bottling display.
Arguably the best part of the entire exhibit is the tasting floor, where you can taste Coke products from all over the world. Like water melon soda from China, Mezzo Mix from Germany and heaps of others. I think it was over 80 different flavours altogether.
It's worth a visit if you're in Atlanta, however they should lower the entry fee of $16 per person.
Located right next to the World of Coke is the Georgia Aquarium. At the time of writing this, it is the largest aquarium in the world, according to the interwebs. So we went. When I read during my research that they keep whalesharks there, I did feel a bit uneasy ethically, as I have refused to go to places like Sea World, where Orcas are kept in captivity. I don't believe that animals of that size or who travel thousands of kilometers each year should be kept in captivity. My standpoint on this is supported by the fact that these animals have actually lower lifespans in captivity than they have in the wild.
Anyway, yes, seeing the 4 (!!!) whalesharks in the tank was impressive. It's also wrong. In the past, two whalesharks have died in captivity here and there is evidence that the current 4 are not doing too well. No surprise when they cannot feed properly like they do in the wild, where they swim with their mouth open and feed on mainly plankton.
Simone's favourite shark :)
2 of the 4 beluga whales.
One of the evenings we went to Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian Steakhouse that offers all you can eat. You have a red/green sided card you turn over if you want to get meat or want to stop. Waiters with different kinds of meat on giant skewers always walk around the dining room. I did not take photos as we didn't get dishes as such, but we got our sides and then of course whatever meat we want.
The lamp chops especially were absolutely delicious. A little on the salty side, but oh so tender and juicy!
After our stay in Atlanta we went north, through North Carolina into Tennessee to go to Gatlinburg for our visit to the Smoky Mountains.
Gatlinburg was neat. Yes it's a total tourist town where Americans go for a weekend away. But it's still charming and has some neat stores. And it's only minutes away from the Smoky Mountains.
Pic dump! We visited at the right time to see the fall colours of the trees, which were amazing. Simone had not seen a proper autumn before, so for her it was even more special.
This is Clingmans's Dome, a lookout that enables 360 degree views of the mountains.
Our car mascot Stuart :)
Brunch in Gatlinburg at the Pancake Pantry.
After our two nights in Gatlinburg we drove on to Franklin and Louisville on our way to Chicago.