To Oxford June 23, 2012Posted by williamsessions in Travel Log.
Tags: England, Oxford
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Having reached the conclusion of the travel portion of our whirlwind European tour, we now settle down to life with traditionally styled classes at Worcester (pronounced “WOO-ster” and rhymes with “rooster”).
Classes run from Monday to Thursday and everyone has registered for whatever classes are appropriate for their major requirements. My schedule is two history classes with the same professor, back to back: “The History of Labor and the Industrial Revolution” and “Modern European Intellectual History.”
The rest of the blog posts here will highlight experiences from my travels on the weekends.
From the UK (where, regardless of what they say, they DO drive on the wrong side of the road), Cheers!
And Now, the University of Oxford August 10, 2011Posted by Joseph Mattingly in Travel Log.
Tags: England, Oxford, University of Oxford, Worcester College
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Word is that people think it’s really amazing when you tell them that you attended the world-famous University of Oxford, so that’s the story I’m going to stick with. When we rolled into Oxford, England, after a journey on the northern shores of continental Europe, through the Chunnel, and halfway through England, we got our first glimpse of our new home for the next month. Nearly two hundred Georgia Tech students converged on the campus of Oxford’s Worcester (rhymes with rooster, with a slightly shortened ‘o’ or ‘u,’ and in a Commonwealth accent) College to begin the next phase of the Oxford Summer Program. Before I go any further and make things any more confusing, you should know how the University of Oxford works. There are several (thirty-eight to be precise, I believe) colleges that are collectively referred to as the University of Oxford. Each college functions as its own unit, with students living and taking classes on their college’s campus, but they are all students of the University of Oxford. Students apply to U. Oxford and are sorted into colleges (like Harry Potter, but without mangy talking hats) where they remain for the duration of their studies. We were sorted, if you will, to the beautiful campus of Worcester College, but not as students of the University of Oxford. (Our official designation was conference guests.)
Oxford is a truly wonderful little town. Down the street from Worcester is the Eagle and Child Pub, which is notable as the location where Lewis Carroll and JRR Tolkien would meet and write stories that would captivate the minds of the slightly crazed and D&D fanatics, respectively. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t make unfair blanket assessments based upon my high school English teacher. It’s crazy to think that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Lord of the Rings were both crafted less than a mile from my Oxford residence. All of the colleges of the University of Oxford are like castles. Around each campus is a tall stone wall with a grand portal at the front where entrants are met by the porters, the college keepers. At Worcester, when one walks through the Porter’s Gate, he/she is met to the majestic sight of the sacred lawn. As music teacher Ron Mendola describes it, the sacred lawn “has existed for the sole purpose of being mowed twice a week for the last 700 years.” This means no walking on the sacred lawn. Surrounding this quad are an abandoned monastery (also about 700 years old), an 18th-century building, and a low, ivy-covered wall. It is really quite quaint.
Oxford (the city, as well as parts of the University) hold the distinction of being filming locales for the Harry Potter movies. Unfortunately, these are the venues in town that charge admission fees, so I was peer-pressured into losing money on seeing these locations (which at least turned out to be rather interesting). I was personally eager to see the University’s Queen’s College, where Daniel Faraday (LOST, anybody?) had his lab, but the college does not admit visitors.
In my opinion, though, the most interesting venues in Oxford are the free ones. Christchurch College (which is allegedly on its own time zone of GMT-0:05/BST-0:05) has beautiful meadows which lead down to the Thames and some of its tributaries. This makes for some enjoyable strolls on a sunny afternoon. Oxford also has its fair share of free museums, including the Ashmolean (a watered-down version of the British Museum in London), which is the oldest museum in the world, the Pitts River Museum, which supposedly inspired Diagon Alley, and my personal favorite, the Museum of the History of Science, which houses scientific artifacts like Albert Einstein’s black board.
Without a doubt, Oxford is a wonderful place to live, but, as you will see in upcoming posts, the real fun is elsewhere about England. Until then, cheerios!
Addendum: Other random pieces of trivia from my Oxford adventures. The first sub-4:00 mile was run on an Oxford track. The track itself is quite anticlimactic, with only a vague reference in the form of a cafe which may or may not actually exist. Boyle discovered his law and Hooke first observed the cell at the University, and there is a plaque on the High Street commemorating such.
Tags: Atomium, belgium, Brugge, Brussels, Ghent, Ghent Altarpiece, Oxford, Waffles
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Belgium is one of those countries I will not be making an extra effort to remember. For one, by the time we rolled into Ghent, I had been so graciously given the plague that had been circling around our bus. Also, it turns out that Belgium isn’t so renowned for exciting things to do or remarkable things to see. On top of that, it marked the end of the travel stage of the Oxford Summer Program, and most of us were getting tired of living out of suitcases.
We based our Belgium adventures out of the small town of Ghent. Our hotel was right across the street (probably best described as a widened cobblestone path) from St. Bavo’s Cathedral, which is most notable as the home of the Ghent (go figure) Altarpiece. The fact that we would be “sleeping across the street from the Ghent Altarpiece” caused our art teacher to go into a fit of excitement and hysteria. Checking into the hotel was no better. I was quite irked when I was told that I would have to wait to check in because they were still cleaning my room. This was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, well after the hotel check-in time, and I waited impatiently in the lobby for over an hour and was given the honor as the last one to check in. After stashing everything away in my room, which had a caustic stench of cleaning chemicals, I asked the front desk for the location of a laundromat, whereupon they sent me off to a vague location where, after walking for quite a while, I determined no such facilities existed. I was then sent about as far as you can walk without actually leaving Ghent to a laundromat. Fortunately, I now had clean, dry clothes, but unfortunately, it began to rain on the way back to the hotel. I was not amused at Mother Nature’s pitiful sense of humor. To add insult to injury, I was later informed that the front desk had dispatched other members of our group to a much closer laundromat that actually existed. Enough of that though…
Our first full day in Belgium took us on a quick stop across the street to see the Ghent Altarpiece, which was only slightly more impressive than the picture we had seen in our lecture slides. Immediately following, we boarded our bus where we were carted off to Brussels, where our Belgian bus driver was kind enough to give us a tour of his home city. I found the tour quite nice, except that I couldn’t hear parts of it (from the front of the bus, no less) because several members of the group were disrespectfully loud and generally annoying (and it only got worse). Then, our bus driver made the mistake of mentioning some bar that sold thousands of types of beer, or something like that, which the bus decided was an invitation to go drinking. So, en masse, the entirety of Travel Group 1 disembarked the bus and wandered through the streets of Brussels to find this bar. There, everybody (leaders included) except the bus driver and me, decided to indulge themselves in at least one very large beer stein. At this point, I was sufficiently uncomfortable that I left the wretched place to wander the streets of Brussels by myself. I did find a delicious, affordable panini shop where I had a very satisfying lunch. When the group eventually began arriving back at the bus, the situation started going downhill very quickly. One student simply never came to the bus, so one of the group leaders and a couple students went to find him and take a train back to the hotel. Many of the others were very much drunk, some to the point where they were vomiting on the bus or had passed out. From there, our bus driver took [the conscious among] us to his son’s house, where his son ran a chocolate business. For the sober, this was a fun way to experience the art of chocolate-making and to acquire some delicious Belgian chocolates.
The following day, we were given the opportunity to go to the quaint town of Brugge, which I happily accepted. Brugge was a nice Northern Renaissance city with fine window shopping, scenic restaurants, and, most importantly, affordable Belgian waffles. Mine was a delicious combination of waffle, sugar, a huge mound of strawberries, and a little more sugar. It was delicious.
Finally, it was time to leave for England and the University of Oxford. We loaded our bus onto the Chunnel train and made our way to the United Kingdom, where we could drive on the wrong side of the road and read signs in ever-familiar English (duh) units. More on that in my next post, though.
Crêpes, Croissants, Planes, and Paris August 5, 2011Posted by Joseph Mattingly in Travel Log.
Tags: france, Louvre, Oxford, Paris, Paris Air Show
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Bonjour, people. Paris holds the distinct honor on our trip of being the city in which we spent the most consecutive days (except, of course, Oxford, which doesn’t really count because that’s not really the travel portion of our trip), which, given the accommodations, was most certainly not the brightest idea in the world. That aside, it turns out that Paris is a pretty interesting city.
Getting to Paris ranks among the less desirable parts of the trip. After 14 hours on a bus (and in departure of Prague, no less), I came to the conclusion that ground-based transcontinental transportation is not my cup of tea. Nevertheless, since every cloud has a silver, faux-silver, or off-silver lining, we were treated to a nighttime view of the city of Paris and the Eiffel Tower as we rode into the city.
On our first day in Paris, we took a class trip to the Musee d’Orsay, a museum specializing in Impressionist and Realist art. Since I am not particularly enamored with either of those styles (I like Surrealism, Cubism, and ancient art), I found much more interesting my travel to and from the museum. Not willing to spend money on the faster, more convenient underground transportation and also wanting to see more of Paris, I traveled on foot to the d’Orsay. Along the way, I found the French Military Museum, most notable for housing the magnificent tomb of Napolean. I really wanted to see this, but there was an entrance fee, and it would not have been a wise use of my time since I had to rendezvous with the rest of the class at the museum at a certain time. It was here that I got my first good glimpse at the Eiffel Tower and the Seine. On the return from the d’Orsay, I decided to walk the entirety of the legendary Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which was a bit more of a task than I had expected. Starting at the Louvre end, I pushed my way through huge throngs of people toward the Arc de Triomphe. Along the way, I had a run-in with a Georgia Tech graduate who was on vacation that week. A bit later, I found myself at the end of the Champs where the Arc de Triomphe stands in the middle of what must qualify as the world’s most absurd roundabout. It turns out you have to walk underground to get to the Arc, which is a good thing, because there’s no way anybody could ever cross on level without getting hit by at least 50 cars. If pedestrian travel around the Arc was a video game, and getting there was novice difficulty, getting away would be classifiably mythic. There are no fewer than eight roads feeding into this nightmarish roundabout, and the one I needed to take to walk to the Eiffel tower necessitated crossing the most number of these feeder roads. I must stress that despite the fact the Eiffel Tower looks just like a pile of metal trusses, it is truly magnificent when standing beneath. The shear enormity of the structure is awe-inspiring. For those curious and not, I did not shell out the steep asking price to ascend to the top of the tower. Later that night, our music class went to a jazz club, which was interesting, but irksome to get to and from after dark.
The second day in Paris was dedicated solely to the Louvre. When one considers the amount of work in the Louvre, it is easy to understand why we would spend the whole day there. You may be happy or sad to note that I got my tacky tourist picture of the Mona Lisa. I’m not including it in this post, because it really won’t add any value, and it isn’t difficult to find nearly identical pictures elsewhere. The museum was enjoyable but tiring, and as it is just another museum with lots of art in it, I will leave it at that. On our way back from the Louvre, we stopped by Notre Dame, the famous Gothic cathedral where we were unable to locate any hunchbacks, whatever those are.
The third day in Paris, Sunday, June 26, was a completely free day where we could do whatever we wanted. For me, that was the Paris Air Show. That Sunday just happened to be the last day of the biannual Paris Air Show, and I, an aerospace engineer, had a 100% free day to attend. Talk about exciting. Tickets were €13 apiece, but I would argue they were worth a lot more than that. I would have gone out to the airfield (which was on the opposite side of Paris in relation to our hotel) first thing in the morning, but I had to pick up my ticket, which was only obtainable at one store on the Champs that didn’t open until noon that day. On top of that, the bus that stopped at the air show got stuck in the horrendous traffic of like-minded aerospace enthusiasts. The air show was fantastic in every way from the vendor displays (vendor, as in airplane salespeople, not popcorn salespeople) to the static aircraft displays to the live aerial demonstrations. They even had an ESA (European Space Agency) hangar and a couple rockets, including the Ariane V, on display. It follows, thus, that I was very disappointed when the time came to leave.
Our last day in Paris was given to a tour of the opera house, which was very similar to our excursion in Vienna, and the Pompidou museum, which is dedicated to modern art. By this point, we were all starting to get a bit tired of Paris and were ready to move on.
Paris was a lovely segment of our trip, and the Paris Air Show was definitely my favorite part. Going into the trip, I didn’t think I would like Paris so much, but I was pleasantly surprised, and I even left myself more things to do if I go back.
The Land of Haggis and Castles July 27, 2011Posted by rachaelcopeland in Travel Log.
Tags: Oxford, Scotland
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It was the first free weekend we had in the Oxford portion of the program. Most people decided to stay around Oxford or go to London, but my best friend, Colleen Crouch, and I decided to go to Scotland! We planned out all the details down to our train times and our hostel before we left. One bit of advice I will pass onto anyone who is considering the Oxford Program or just traveling Great Britain in general: look into getting a BritRail Pass. You get unlimited train access for whatever number of days you wish. It is super helpful and incredibly flexible. I believe that I have been able to have twice as much fun on weekends because of the BritRail Pass.
At the last minute, we decided to take an earlier train into Glasgow and then make our way to Edinburgh. We hopped on our very first UK train (both exciting and nerve racking; we wanted to make sure it was the right one!). It did not take too long to get to Glasgow, where we checked into our hostel. Two quick tips on hostels: (1) make sure to bring ear plugs, and (2) bring flip flops to shower in. This was my first hostel experience, and it was actually a great one! I had my earplugs, which was useful with the seagulls outside. The cool thing about hostels is that most of them have a bar/hangout area on the bottom floor. There, you can meet a lot of really neat international travelers. We made some of our coolest friends in the hostels.
We left Glasgow the next morning on a whim when we decided to visit Inverness. That is the home of the Loch Ness Monster! Look on a map of Scotland and you can see how much traveling we did in this one day. We went from Glasgow to Inverness and then back down to Edinburgh. When we arrived in Inverness, we noticed immediately that it was a small, slightly tourist ridden, low key town. We also discovered that, although Inverness is situated next to Loch Ness (the lake), that by no means ensured that the lake was nearby.
We walked nearly half an hour through a residential section of town to get to the lake. However, when we made it to the shore, it was very worth it. Loch Ness is a beautiful area. The air feels so clean and the water looks incredibly deep. If you look on the map, Inverness is on the same latitude with northern Canada, but it still was not as cold as we expected. We made a short video of us “finding Nessie.” We had lunch at a cute little pub where we had our first taste of haggis! If you don’t know what it is, don’t look it up; just try it. It was delicious! I really enjoyed it.
Back on the train, we were headed to Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland. We met our new hostel roommates and discovered that they were from all over the world! They were from Austria, Chile, Brazil, France, and Japan! It was really neat to hear their stories and know their reasons for traveling. I loved getting the chance to make international friends, and I am glad we took advantage of our opportunity.
Edinburgh is a fantastic city. We started our day on the Sandeman’s New Europe walking tour. This company provides free tours in almost every major city in Europe. Please note that they are *FREE. They work on a tip basis, so I was always willing to give them some money since they did such a great job. Nevertheless, it is the perfect way to see an entire city if you are on a budget (and let’s face it, we are all college students. Saving some pounds here and there is always a plus). Our tour guide was hilarious and very informative. We saw every major site, including the castle, St. Giles Cathedral, the cemetery, the café where J.K. Rowling first started writing Harry Potter (!!), the school that Hogwarts was based upon (!!), and a lot of smaller landmarks around the city that the normal tourist would miss very easily. I obviously am a huge Harry Potter fan and a huge proponent of this tour company.
After the tour, we went up to Edinburgh Castle! Inside is a Scottish military museum, the Scottish crown jewels, a Prisoner of War museum, and a more exhibits. It was a really neat experience. I was expecting more of a castle feel inside, but I realized that castles are first and foremost a fortress, not a place for Disney princesses (sad day). When Colleen and I left the castle, it was raining, which is not surprising for the UK, but nonetheless it is a damper on the day. We visited the grave of Thomas Riddell (the name that was the inspiration for the character of Lord Voldemort). (109)
One thing that I have discovered during my travels throughout Great Britain: the people here are very, very nice. Maybe it is just luck that I have run into the nice ones or maybe it is that they all have cheery dispositions, either way I have had nothing but pleasant experiences with them. Colleen and I walked into a potato shop down a side street called Tasty Tatties (that’s what they call potatoes). We met the store owner who promptly informed us of things around town that we simply could not miss. He was super helpful and gave us great advice on Edinburgh. The potatoes were excellent as well!
One sight I wish we had made it to in Scotland is the Holyroodhouse Palace. It is the official residence of the Queen while she is in Scotland. We saw it from the outside, and it looked absolutely magnificent. One day I will definitely make it back. On that trip, I will also take one of the one-day Highland tours. I want to see more of the rural landscapes of Scotland, and that is the perfect way to go about it.
We finished up Edinburgh the next morning by walking to Calton Hill. It is the highest point in Edinburgh, and it provided astounding views of both the ocean and all of Edinburgh, from the castle to the Palace and the high-end shopping district and beyond. This is a location you cannot miss on a clear day. We grabbed breakfast at a café where the window pointed out right towards the castle. Tea and muffins were the perfect way to end our stay in Edinburgh and finish up our fantastic trip to Scotland!
One last note, you must try IRN-BRU!! It is a soft drink that is similar to cream soda. It is my new favorite, but unfortunately unavailable in America. It will have to be one of the many things I come back to experience.
ITALIA: gelato, pizza, and more gelato! July 17, 2011Posted by shinjinidas in Travel Log.
Tags: Florence, Oxford, Rome, Venice
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Italy was a lovely lovely country. I had visited Rome last year and had in fact met a President’s Scholar, who later became my PSMP mentor, at the Colosseum of all places! Our first stop was Florence, and what a quaint and cultured city that was. With such a rich cultural and artistic history, I was ready to be mesmerized by the world renown art, sculptures, and monuments, and was I! The birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence was the emblem of artistic intellectualism, and I experienced the beauty of the city through museums, the Uffizi, Bargello, to name a few. Of course, this was where my love for gelato was reignited.
One of my most memorable times in Florence was watching the sunset at Piazza Michelangelo, with several other eager tourists, and Oxford group students during dusk. Not only did we catch an absolutely gorgeous sunset, but we also viewed an awe striking skyline of the entire city! The Duomo, the baptistry, and the cathedral were all peaking brightly for us, and it was a beautiful night and a beautiful sight, one I will cherish. After Florence was the historical and political behemoth, ROME!
This was my second trip to Rome, and I have to admit, I think I loved it more this time around. Witnessing such crucial and important monuments, like the Pantheon, Colosseum, and the Roman Forum, up close was just mind boggling! In fact, we even saw what is commonly believed to have been the burial place of Julius Caesar within the Roman forum ruins. So much history, Rome had the foundation of future civilizations within its grasp, and to witness and revel in that glory was just inspiring and awe striking. Moreover, Rome has a very exciting big city feel, while still remaining relatively easy to navigate through. It really strikes the perfect balance for tourists. Of course, I gorged on yet more pizza and pastas here, not to mention more gelato. My last night in Rome culminated with an utterly delicious meal of fettucini with sausage, cream, and mushrooms, whose taste I can still remember! It was an absolutely fabulous time, not to mention, my one year anniversary since I met a few GT President’s Scholars within the colosseum as a rising freshman. Time flies!
My last and most absolutely favorite destination in Italy was without a doubt VENICE! This city is very special for a number of reasons. First, it being completely built on water was a point of intrigue and fascination for me. Moreover, the city is unnaturally and unbelievably gorgeous! We arrived amidst a few showers, but were in for great weather afterwards. Although our hotel was a tad too small without any form of internet, we were situated in an amazing and a prime location, near several hotspots, including of course McDonald’s, from which we outsourced several hours of internet connection. I enjoyed every minute of walking and shopping in Venice- in the evenings, the weather would just be perfectly cool with a light breeze, and I would browse through murano glass jewelry shops and admire the beautiful craftsmanship of Venetian artists. There were a slew of shops and bustling restaurants on the strip of street our hotel was located on, and I thoroughly loved exploring each and every one of these quaint stores.
What’s more, the city has one main center stage canal, called the Great Canal, which was so interesting to see, as Venice has no cars, surprise, surprise! This was a peaceful and much welcome realization, as I thought the tourists and residents were so much at peace with walking everywhere. Although the water surrounding every inch of the pavements and walkways was an utterly gorgeous sight, at times, the stench was unbearable, as pollution and sewage affect the quality very much.
This city was also the one in which I bought the most souvenirs! I fell head over heels in love with the intricate murano glass bracelets, and bought 3 very delicately handcrafted ones, the first with ruby red colored crystals, the second with emerald green colored crystals, and the third with sapphire blue colored crystals. Of course, a trip to Italy would be incomplete without delicious food, so on the last night, I treated myself to a plate of penne pasta with crab, salmon, and shrimp! This was mind blowingly delicious, and I have vowed to visit Venice in the near future with my family. This was an unbelievably gorgeous city, and its spirit really connected with me in a very special almost indescribable way. By far, my most favorite city on this trip, Venice has now has carved a niche into my heart!
Das Münchentrip July 2, 2011Posted by Joseph Mattingly in Travel Log.
Tags: Dachau, germany, München, Munich, Oxford
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After Venice, Munich was a welcome relief. A very modern city (mainly on account of the handsome bombing job the Allied Forces did in World War II), Munich was easy to navigate, had a distinctly Bavarian air about it, and gave me numerous opportunities to practice my fake German (mainly consisting of compounding long strings of words and adding “das” or “die” or “der” to the front). Bavaria is home to many cultural commodities of our global community, including the Bavarian Motor Works (BMW, though I think I saw more Volkswagens), large pretzels (yum!), cuckoo clocks, and the delectable Haribo gummy bears. As a nice house warming gift, the hotel gave every resident a nice little packet of Haribo gummy bears on their pillows, that is, everybody except the residents of my room. To say I was angry is a bit of an understatement, so I’m still pretty bitter about that. But, alas, Munich.
In what was probably an effort to validate all existing stereotypes about Munich, our art and music lectures were held in a beer hall. Like a Starbucks in the United States, beer halls and gardens (and whatever other assemblage they come in) can be found in densities of at least one every 200 meters. I think this gave a few of the students too many bad ideas. After our first set of lectures, we ventured across town in the rain (now accepted as a will-happen on any occasion) to the Glyptothek, a museum housing Greek and Roman antiquities, or, more simply, an old sculptures museum. There were some very interesting sculptures and mosaics there including statues from the pediment of a Greek temple and a gallery of marble heads awkwardly staring at the museum guest as he or she entered that particular hall. We had the rest of the day off, so I walked to the main city square where the city hall has a colossal cuckoo clock tower fondly known as the Glockenspiel. After standing in the rain to watch the clock come alive on the hour (for a whole ten minutes, too!), I wandered into the souvenir shops where my hopes of acquisitioning a much more modestly-sized cuckoo clock was shot out of the sky with the great multitude of consecutive digits on the price tag (100€, 500€, 1000€, 1500€, etc.). Similarly my hopes to acquisition a Germany men’s national football (real football, not that American game) team (a.k.a. the best in the world) jersey were brought down by the price tags. Fortunately, a bag of five giant pretzels only cost 1.19€.
The next day, our art adventures leaped forward a couple millennia to the Alte Pinakothek, a museum filled with lots of non-ancient (post-1400), non-modern artworks (pre-1900). At this point, it is difficult to say anything exciting about an art museum since I’ve already recounted several of these adventures, so I will refrain from any unnecessary commentary. Later that day, we were given the opportunity to visit the site of the Dachau concentration camp, one of the most infamous Nazi camps in World War II for what happened there. This was made especially surreal by the fact that earlier in the day I had walked past the building that was the founding place of the Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party (the Nazi Party). We saw the facilities were the Nazis’ prisoners lived and often died. I can remember feeling and overwhelming sadness and anger that something so horrible could ever be allowed to happen, especially in an otherwise civilized nation. Even so, Dachau as it exists today serves as a fitting tribute to a regrettable period in our human history, to the lives that were lost because of that, and the humanity we retain despite the strife.
^Click up there to enlarge!
For the two days we spent in Munich, I feel that we experienced a lot of Germany. Still, there was more I wanted to do. Sources tell me that a certain Deutsches Museum in Munich has a large collection of material pertaining to the great Wernher von Braun. (For those of you who aren’t aware, von Braun = my hero.) I guess Munich will just have to be one of those places I go back to at some point in my life. I’m already several cities behind my own schedule, so you’ll probably hear about Prague tomorrow. Until then, adieu!
Venezia and the End of Italy June 22, 2011Posted by Joseph Mattingly in Travel Log.
Tags: Four Seasons, gondolas, Italy, Oxford, Venezia, Venice, Vivaldi
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So, Venice. I’ll keep this short and sweet since I don’t have too much to say about our final Italian destination. Of all the Italian cities we stayed in (Florence, Rome, and Venice), Venice was definitely my least favorite, which is kind of funny since most everybody else thought it was the best. For me, Venice was nothing more than a set of bridges linking distinctly non-gridded alleys, as well as a heat and humidity sink, with very little in the affordable attractions department.
In Venice, we went to two art museums, the Accademia (yes, another one of those) and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The Accademia had a lot of interesting art (interesting in its colossal size), but nothing spectacular. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a museum dedicated to modern art. I appreciated the Spanish art (Picasso, Dali, and Miró), but the rest didn’t do much for me. We were also treated to a concert interpretation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which was quite excellent, possibly the high point of Venice.
Our last in the Venice area was actually used to explore not-so-nearby Padua to see the Arena Chapel, a religious building painted by the early Renaissance artist Giotto, and Maser to see a really nice villa designed by the Italian architect Palladio. This trip was an interesting break from the regular and gave us the opportunity to walk on the beautiful Italian countryside.
To resolve any questions I know you, my ever-diminishing fan base, might have, no, I did not go on a gondola ride. Because of the prices involved, nobody wanted to go with me, so I did not partake in that distinctly Venetian tradition. I promise I’ll get Munich posted soon, so stay tuned for more exciting European adventures.
All Roads Lead to Roma June 18, 2011Posted by Joseph Mattingly in Travel Log.
Tags: Italy, Oxford, Roma, Rome
Friends, Romans, countrymen–lend me your ears! For everyone wondering why I didn’t make this post in Venice, and also for those who didn’t, it is because Venice most decidedly has one of the worst communications infrastructures on the planet. (Sorry folks, no postcards.) Rome has definitely been the most interesting part of the trip thus far because of its *minor* historical significance as the cradle of western civilization and the fact that the Romans revolutionized engineering (see previous post). So let’s just say I was excited to go to Rome.
It was in Rome that I came to the realization that the things I like about Italian food may not, in fact, be Italian. I was thoroughly confuddled by the lack of anything alfredo with anything on any of the menus in any of the restaurants. All the pastas and all the pizzas seemed to include a certain pomodori ingredient. That means tomato, a flavor I find repulsive. This made Italy significantly less exciting for me and significantly more so for everyone else. Enough of that, though.
Our first day in Rome, we discovered the Pantheon, a magnificent piece of Roman art and engineering that fell into the hands of the Pope before it fell into the hands of history. Instead of standing a magnificent marble-clad building with a grand bronze dome and magnificent Roman statues, the Pantheon is now a large hunk of concrete gutted of its proper interior and refitted to be a Catholic worship space and the eternal resting place of the artist Raphael. We also went to the Borghese Gallery, a Cardinal’s house (seeing a trend yet?) turned art museum with some very famous statues and a very big (several acres), very nice front yard.
The next day, we made the journey to the Vatican City, which consequently is the first country we haven’t vanquished in a war yet, to visit the Vatican museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. (Catholic-ness for the win!) To put it bluntly, the Holy See is loaded. Its interior walls and ceilings are painted by all the great artists and the rest of the empty space is filled with sculpture and such that might best be described as highly sought-after. On top of that, St. Peter’s, which clocks in at the biggest Catholic church in the world, is a magnificent piece of art dripping in fine carving and gold leaf. It was quite visually spectacular.
The last day in Rome was dedicated to the Roman ruins, the obvious thing to do when in Rome. Our first journey was to the Coliseum, which was quite exciting to see. I was quite shocked, however, at its size; I was expecting a ruin exceedingly massive. Indeed, the Coliseum is massive, but it could probably still fit comfortably inside Bobby Dodd (or for the folks back in the homeland, the KFC Yum! Center). Right across the street was the ruins of the Roman forum area. As we ventured through the massive complex, we saw what remained of the Temple of Romulus (later converted into, you guessed it, a church), the forum, and the curia (home of the Senate and place of expiration for Gaius Julius Caesar). It was a fantastic way to spend the morning, but I would really have liked to see the remains of the circus maximus and Via Appia (in true nerd form), but nobody else seemed to share that sentiment.
So it sounds like I’ll have to go back to Rome again at some point in my life, but the first experience was definitely a great one. I’ll post Venice in a day or two, so stay tuned for more exciting stories! Ciao.