For part 1, click here.
Pythagoras’ home – Samos, Greece
Pythagoras’ achievements may have been entirely his own, or they might have been the compiled findings of his entire order - we really don’t know. What we do know is that the name of Pythagoras was used to publish and popularize some of the most revolutionary ideas of all time, mathematical insights that gave us not just improved engineering and technology, but an appreciation for the importance of mathematics. In 1955 the town of Tigani, on the island of Samos, was renamed Pythagoreio in his honour. Today you can visit Samos and its exquisitely preserved architecture, tour the former Pythagorean compound, and learn the history of all the great thinkers who came to learn at the great man’s academy. From Plato to Aristarchus, everyone understood that Pythagoras would be a fixture of history for millennia to come.
Area 51 - Nevada
Few things capture the nerd imagination like conspiracy, and nothing says conspiracy like Area 51. Whether or not the rumours of government cover-ups and secret weapons tests are true, Area 51 is definitely a real place, a military base in the desert of New Mexico. The famous incident at Roswell, New Mexico, which supposedly saw an alien craft crash to Earth, is consistently linked to the presumably nefarious characters within the guarded fences of Area 51. Approaching the site will reveal an ever-increasing density of nerd focused shops and businesses, tour guides and private museums. An entire industry has sprung up around Area 51, and regardless of whether you believe the hype, the sheer energy of it is sure to entertain.
Hotel Sidi Driss - Matmata, Tunisia
Hotel Sidi Driss is an oddity in the movie-tourism trade. This is no polished experience from Universal Studios, shrink-wrapped and sanitized for the minimum possible impact. Far out in the Tunisian desert, Sidi Driss functions roughly as it did in the Star Wars scenes that made it famous – it is a functional living space carved into the rocky face of the desert itself. The hotel is a series of caves, sparse and echoing and totally authentic. Take a quick walk in almost any direction and you’ll encounter Tunisian desert-dwellers living in much the same way. The fact that the site is also Luke Skywalker’s childhood home is just icing on the nerdy cake.
Known as the Akihabara Electric Town, this district of Tokyo is world famous for its giddy selection of computer and electronics parts, and for the utter abandon with which it tries to appeal to the nerd demographic. From Japanese anime to Western videogames to obscure European operating systems, Akihabara is a haven for anyone looking to buy unique and often astonishing pieces of nerd culture. This is the closest thing that exists to a computer bazaar, and travellers often set aside several days just for wandering its many hundreds of twisting, shop-lined avenues.
Warhammer World – Nottingham, England
World of Warcraft may be the most profitable videogame of all time, but the majority of its beloved setting and atmosphere actually come from a much older page in the annals of nerd culture – Warhammer. The creators, Games Workshop, have built a large-scale base for the legendary brand, Warhammer World, and placed it in their hometown in England. Admission is completely free, even during an event or live performance, and features a workshop for dedicated nerds to paint and modify their game pieces. The business is also known to showcase works in progress and false starts, parts of the Warhammer lore that are totally inaccessible to those who don’t make the pilgrimage to the heart of the real world of Warhammer.
Googleplex – Mountain View, California
Google has made something of a name for itself on the backs of its employees, though perhaps not in the usual sense – Google’s employment practices came to light after an irreverent article detailing their practice of buying massages for their workers. Since then, the wonders of the Google employment contract have become the stuff of legend, and the so-called Googleplex is a source of constant jealously. They provide meals and transportation to their employees, even bicycles for those who need to zip around the grounds at speed. The grounds themselves are dotted with fountains and dinosaur statues, little plazas and open park areas for pleasant lunch-time activity. This programmer’s dream has become a tourist destination all its own, and Google runs regular tours – so the nerds can see exactly what they’re missing out on.
Kennedy Space Center – Merritt Island, Florida
The Kennedy Space Center has been used for every manned NASA mission since it was built in 1968. This is the launch pad from which man first set foot on the surface of another celestial body, and when we eventually set foot on Mars, the Kennedy Space Center will likely be the launching point again. The famous Cape Canaveral command centre is the site of most tours, but most of the facility is available for travellers looking to root out every scrap of space trivia. Make sure to plan ahead before visiting – if you time the trip correctly, you might get to watch as NASA launches a satellite, or a rover, or perhaps someday even a ship full of humans bound for a walk on an alien planet.
These days, nerd conventions are almost too numerous to list. From E3 (for videogames) to ComicCon (for comics) to GenCon (for board games) to PAX (for nerds in general), the Western world is positively teeming with large-scale nerdy get-togethers. Just search for your area of greatest interest – it’s almost certain that somewhere there is a gathering of like-minded obsessives just waiting for the chance to get together and gush about their shared interests. Always be sure to book tickets and hotels well in advance, or you may find yourself making a long journey to and from your convention centre, each day.
The Computer History Museum – Mountain View, California
This is the site of the world’s largest collection of computing artifacts, from Charles Babbage’s difference engine (from which all computers spring) to the technology of Google’s Street View service. The museum puts a strong emphasis on education, displaying numerous audio and video explanations of the history, science, and engineering behind the most impactful human invention since the wheel. Large-scale histories of chip design sit beside more personal stories of the development of computer chess programs. Their This Day in History exhibit makes it clear just how quickly the industry has progressed, day by day, and the place as a whole makes it clear that that progression has really only just begun.
ConQuest - Landesbergen, Germany
If you were reading this list and wondering, “What’s the nerdiest place in all the land?” then look no further. It happens but once a year, in the relatively rural township of Landesbergen, Germany, but the all-out nerd extravaganza that is ConQuest is well worth the wait. This is one of the largest Live Action Role Playing events in history, with over 5,000 participants and 1,500 “live-action NPCs,” extras who stay in character and keep the proceedings in an appropriately medieval tone. For five days, nerds can take to the fields and tents of recreated history (and just-now-created fantasy) to barter and drink mead, or slash and make war. From lightning spells to trebuchets, ConQuest is the place to be if you crave the utter abandon of nerdery as only the Germans can deliver it.