When I was staying at my grandparents’ house in Cleveland over break, I thought it would be fun to look through their old travel photos. As I flipped through the worn and yellowed pages of the photo albums my grandmother had carefully put together decades ago, I began to notice that many of the photos my grandparents had were uncannily similar to photos I have taken on my own trips — from Buenos Aires to Bangkok, several photos were even taken from the exact same angle. Comparing my grandparents’ photos to mine, it’s amazing to see how all of these famous sights around the world have changed, but also how they’ve stayed the same. (Furthermore, I got a kick out of seeing how striking the differences were in fashion, cars, and cameras back then.)
First of all, I’ll briefly introduce you to my grandparents, Barbara and Philip. My grandma is no longer alive, but my grandpa is currently 88 years old. My grandparents loved traveling and took my mom and her sister on many trips around the world back in the day. After my mom and aunt grew up, my grandparents continued to travel the world together and embarked on cruises from Southeast Asia to South America.
Many of my best memories of time spent with my grandparents are of our travels together. My mom inherited her parents’ love of travel and has continued to do so ever since. She is a member of an international organization that has conferences every two years in different cities around the world. She has taken me with her to these conferences since I was 2 years old, and, until 2006, my grandparents would accompany us on these trips to babysit me while my mom was doing conference things.
Looking back at many of our photos, I realize just how special these times I spent with my grandparents were. From taking me to the Joan Miró Museum in Barcelona, to Edvard Grieg’s house in Norway, to patiently waiting while I fingerpainted at kid’s aquarium in Amsterdam, my grandparents bonded with me in a very special way — something for which I will be forever grateful. Some of the photos in this post include pictures my grandparents took on their own trips, as well as photos they took years later when they went back to the same places on trips with me.
Anyway, onto the photos. Although the famous Obelisk in Buenos Aires hasn’t changed much in 16 years, the cars definitely have!
The office of the President looks slightly pinker.
Next up is La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, one of the most important cemeteries in the world, famous for housing the graves of the Duarte Family, including that of Eva Perón.
I found these photos of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and was surprised at just how alike they are. The top and bottom photos were clearly taken from very similar spots at Sugar Loaf mountain, while the middle photos were taken at Ipanema Beach (you can tell the wavy mosaic walkway is still very much there!)
Although these next two photos were not taken in the same countries, you can see that even our modes of transportation were identical 😉
Next is the Rialto Bridge in Venice, one of my favorite cities.
And views of St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace.
This isn’t a scenery photo, but I found in our house a box of postcards my grandma sent my mom over the years from her vacations — this is the postcard that corresponds to the above Venice photos from 1985!
It reads: Hi dear, We’re here — safe and sound. All our connections were on time. Venice is just as we imagined. Utterly charming. We got to our hotel by water taxi! The hotel is old (once a palace) and elegant and very comfortable. We’ve been doing lots of walking, that’s the best way to get around. We went sightseeing on our own yesterday and even got to a glass factory. It sure was good to get into bed last night! (I had a pretty round postcard to send — and then found the post office won’t take them.) Hope all is well. Love ya! Mom
Here is the Atomium in Brussels, Belgium. Also Manneken Pis, the fountain with the tiny peeing boy statue.
Paris still looks very much the same 44 years later. (But note the old fashioned car in the bottom photo.)
I really got a kick out of the next two photos. First is my mom as a kid with her sister next to the fountain in the Tuileries Gardens. Second is my mom years later next to the exact same fountain.
These two photos below are some of my favorites. Taken in the Hall of Mirrors at the Versailles Palace, first you can see my grandma taking a picture (with a super old school camera) of her, my mom and my aunt, then second is pretty much the exact same photo I took of mom and me over 40 years later.
My grandma and my mom must have been standing in nearly the exact same spot 44 years apart when they took these photos in London — hence the same black wire fence.
Here is a miniature village in Amsterdam. The first photo is from a trip my grandparents went on with my mom and aunt in 1969, the second photo is from the trip they went on with me and my mom in 2002.
Seeing the Little Mermaid and the Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark, 1971 vs. 2002.
Apparently my grandparents visited composer Edvard Grieg’s house in Bergen, Norway, twice! (7-year-old-me took the second Greig photo, which is why it’s so blurry.)
Bergen’s outdoor marketplace still going strong. (1971 vs. 2002)
Here is the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and its 272 steps. (Yes, we climbed up them all. It was painful.) Notice anything missing in my grandma’s 1981 photo? That would be the gigantic 140-foot-tall Lord Murugan statue that was unveiled in January 2006, we visited just six months later. Fun fact: it is the second tallest statue of a Hindu deity in the world.
The same statue at the Royal Palace in Bangkok, 1981 vs. 2007.
And the Forbidden City in Beijing.
The Great Wall and Shanghai’s Yu Garden, 1982 vs. 2005 & 2010. Although China didn’t change from 2005 to 2010, I certainly did.
Forbidden City lions, 1982 vs. 2005.
The Acropolis, 1974 vs. 2012. Fun fact: look closely at the 2012 photo to see us dripping in sweat — Athens was in the upper 90s that day.
The Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, still popular tourist destinations, 1980 vs. 2015.
My grandparents went out to the Great Barrier Reef off of Cairns, Australia, in 1980 and shot this pic of a clam underwater. My mom and I did the same thing in 2015 and I can happily report that the clam is still there. (JK, I know there are probably hundreds of clams.)
Onto Auckland, New Zealand, and my grandma’s resourceful 1980 version of panorama photos.
The Te Puia Maori Cultural Center in Rototua, New Zealand, is still looking very much the same 35 years later. Including its wood carving studio.
Near identical shots of the geothermal geyser.
Onto my favorite place, Queenstown, New Zealand! It’s nice to see the Skyline gondola still exists, as well as that small round strip of land.
Mountains haven’t moved. Trees haven’t moved.
Seals still chillaxing on the rocks at Milford Sound, New Zealand. Waterfalls still breathtaking as ever.
Not only are these photos wonderful memories for me and my family, but I love how they help make the world seem a little smaller. Often when traveling to new countries and continents and when visiting ancient sites, it’s easy to feel tiny and insignificant on the scales of both space and time. But these photos show that many places and destinations around the world are not changing — it’s the people who are changing. It’s comforting to see that much of the world is the same as it was 40 years ago, and probably will be 40 years from now. Looking at these photos, I also feel a new and special connection to my grandma — knowing that we both stood at the same spots and both marveled at the same sights.