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  • Steven Hansen

They Survived the Test of Time



Don’t be surprised if somebody wishes you “Happy Old New Year!” on Saturday. That’s because the official first day of the year on the Julian calendar is January 14. And even though most of the world has kept track of time using the Gregorian calendar since 1582, some countries still observe the Old New Year. Others celebrate both new year dates – a great way to double-up on the holiday merrymaking!


“Out with the old and in with the new” is the perennial New Year’s theme, no matter which date you choose. The saying is a kind of “good riddance,” perhaps, for a year that didn’t live up to its promise. And a welcome to new and rewarding opportunities over the next 12 months – a new job maybe, a lover, a personal goal achieved.


While our minds are focused on bright new things ahead, it’s also a fun time to look back and take note of a few of the oldest things in our world that have managed to survive the passage of many new years of yore. Here's a dozen of our favorites.




1. Oldest Lake

Lake Zaysan, located in Kazakhstan, is thought to have formed around 65 million years ago, toward the end of the Cretaceous period. Back in the day, dinosaurs likely cavorted here, and today the lake is home to 23 different species of fish and many different bird species live along its marshy shorelines.



2. Oldest Mountains

South Africa’s Makhonjwa Mountains is the oldest mountain range in the world, thought to have formed between 3.2 and 3.6 billion years ago. The mountain range's extreme age and exceptional preservation have yielded the oldest known examples of gold and fossils representing some of the oldest undisputed signs of life on Earth. Scientists have dubbed the area the "Genesis of life.” The mountain range was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site List in 2018.



3. Oldest Public Park in the United States

Boston Common, the gracefully beautiful greenspace in the middle of the historic capital city of Massachusetts, was created in 1643, making it the first public park in America. In its early days, the Common was used as a public cow pasture until overgrazing nearly ruined it. It was later used as a burial ground, military drilling field, execution site, and public gathering place. It was finally converted to parkland in 1830. It’s best known to tourists these days for the idyllic Swan Boat rides around the pond in the Public Garden section -- the first botanical garden in America -- that have been in operation since 1877.



4. Oldest Bar

Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Ireland, has been recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest bar in the world. It opened in the year 900 AD by Luain Mac Luighdeach as an inn providing comfort to travelers making their way across what was then a desolate center of country. The town of Athlone eventually grew up around the inn. Whiskey served at the inn was produced by monasteries nearby. One of the friendliest bars around, Sean’s is open until 11:30 pm every day and offers its own brand of blended and single malt Irish whiskeys.



5. Oldest Living Tree

“Pando,” is a Quaking Aspen tree (Populus tremuloides) that spreads across 108 acres in Fishlake National Forest, Utah. It is estimated to be around 10,000 years old and is considered one of the oldest – and heaviest (6,614 tons) -- living organisms on earth. Unlike most other trees which are individuals, Pando looks like a grove of individual trees, but they are actually 40,000 genetically identical branches (aka “stems”) of the single tree. The tree was identified in 1976 by researchers Jerry Kemperman and Burton Barnes. It was dubbed Pando in 1993 by University of Colorado/Boulder researcher and professor Michael C. Grant.



6. Oldest Apartment House in the U.S.

The oldest apartment house in the U.S. is the Pontalba Buildings rowhouse in Jackson Square, New Orleans. The Parisian-style 1850 complex in the French Quarter was the first in town to feature ornamental iron balconies – now an icon of old New Orleans architecture. Rents today range from $2,800 to $4,650 monthly, but vacancies are rare, and the waiting list is long.



7. Oldest Multi-unit Dwelling in the U.S.

The oldest continually inhabited multi-unit structure in America is the adobe building at Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, home to Tiwa-speaking Native American families for approximately 1000 years. The main part of the present building group was most likely constructed between 1000 and 1450 AD. About 150 people live in the building full time. The units are passed down from one generation to the next and individual families are responsible for keeping the abobe surfaces of their dwellings properly maintained. Electricity and running water are not allowed within the Pueblo walls.



8. Oldest Terrestrial Animal

Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise living on the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, celebrated his 190th birthday in January 2022. He is believed to be the oldest currently living terrestrial animal on Earth. His estimated age is based on the fact that he was fully mature when he was brought to St. Helena from the Seychelles in 1882 as a gift to its then-governor.



9. Oldest American Resort

The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, is considered the oldest resort in America. The original lodge opened in 1766 near the therapeutic hot springs for which the small town is named. The lodge was expanded to into a European-style spa in 1832. Today, the resort boasts 483 guest rooms, an outdoor thermal pool, an ice-skating rink, two championship golf courses, a water park, and ski resort. The Homestead is known for its Gold Brick Sundae dessert that features Virginia bourbon-soaked chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream.



10. Oldest Candy Store

The oldest candy store in the world is appropriately named The Oldest Sweet Shop in the World. The shop has been open since 1827 and is located in North Yorkshire, England, in a building dating back to the 1600s. Here, you can still find old fashioned sweets such as humbugs, aniseed balls, pear drops, and jelly babies along with more recent additions “retro sweets” including cola bottles, popping candy, and kola cubes. Most of the traditional sweets they sell are made in the original way – boiled in copper pans and using candy molds that are often 100 years old.



11. Oldest Book

The world's oldest multiple-page book, called the Golden Orphism Book, is believed to date to 500-600 BC. It was written in the long-lost Etruscan language. The book contains six bound sheets of 24 carat gold, with illustrations of a horse-rider, a mermaid, a harp, and soldiers. The illustrations are related to the ancient Hellenistic religion of Orphism practiced in ancient Greece. Adherents lived an ascetic life and believed that after death they would spend eternity alongside the esteemed prophet and poet Orpheus and other heroes.


The small manuscript was discovered in 1955 during digging for a canal along the Strouma river in southwestern Bulgaria. It was donated to Bulgaria’s National History Museum in Sofia.



12. Oldest Road in America

The Albany Post Road was officially established in 1669 when the Dutch colonists in New Amsterdam (New York) created a post road based on trails used by the Wappinger/Wicopee tribes of Native Americans. Most of the original road has been widened, paved over, and re-named, but a 6-mile stretch of the original dirt road still exists outside the hamlet of Philipstown in the Hudson River Valley. That section, called the Old Albany Post Road, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.




Video: Envato Elements; photos (from top): Lake Zaysan, Dmitry A. Mottl - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0; Makhonjwa Mountains,Tonny Ferrar/Unesco.org; Boston Common/Public Garden, Boston.gov; Sean’s Bar, Athlone, Sean’s Bar; Pando tree, Western Aspen Alliance; Pontalba Buildings, Upperpontabla.org orrr Wikimedia/Creative Commons; Taos Pueblo, John Mackenzie Burke - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0; Jonathan Tortoise, Sthelenatourism.com; Omni Homestead Resort, OmniHotels.com; The Oldest Sweet Shop in the World, Yorkshire.com; Golden Orphism Book, National History Museum of Bulgaria; Old Albany Post Road, Daniel Case, Wikipedia.

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