Stockstill: Europe offers intrigue, beauty at every turn

October 27, 2012

I am pleased to share my endeavors from various parts of Europe including Paris, Venice, Rome and Istanbul. Although the rubble that lies about in ancient parts of Greece whisper tales of old and give one an earnest desire to research their origins, the cultures I was fortunate enough to experience over the past few weeks will stick with me until my residence on the Earth is at its end.

The first stop in my European adventure was in Rome, where monuments various in size filled the streets in every direction. My group and I were lucky enough to stay in a hostel only a few blocks from the grand Coliseum, which we first encountered under a night sky where lights surrounded the structure and made it glow as if it were a star at its peak. The next day found me roaming the city aimlessly, where every turn exhibited a piece of the world’s rich history. Beautiful and elaborate fountains, such as Trevi and Triton, can be heard and seen everywhere around the city, and large obelisks reach for the clouds in the center squares. St. Peter’s Basilica proved to be as magnificent as portrayed, and even though it was full of curious bystanders, it still housed an aura of divinity. Walls and ceilings were covered in spectacular paintings and any void in such was decorated with bronze and stone statues.

The second stop on our 10-day trip was in Venice, where canals and gondolas overpowered streets and cars in quantity. The city was a maze with tall buildings, none shorter than three stories, surrounding you and leaving little remnants of a sky above. The food in Venice, as well as Rome, contained flavors and scents strong enough to make you forget about any home-cooked meals, and desire a plate every minute. Pizza and pasta proved its reputation legitimate even in the most unappealing places and at any cost.

Paris was our last stop during our fall break and it served well as our conclusive host. Our first adventures took place at night, where I found myself sitting in a pew inside Notre Dame and watching a seasonal symphony. Once the concert let out and we were tired of searching for a tavern that played baseball games, which ultimately failed, we retired to our hostel only to wake up a few hours later and carry on with our excursions. That day we visited a couple museums and took an elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower, which could certainly fulfill anyone’s yearning for adrenaline, heights and beauty. On the last day, I visited Notre Dame again to see its beauty in daylight. Gargoyles were keeping a watchful eye over the perimeters of this Gothic building, with its intimidating and rather eerie design. After this I walked to the Luxembourg Palace, which was surrounded by the most extravagant and extensive garden I had ever seen. Before that I visited the Opera Garnier, possibly the world’s most famous opera house, where decadent halls were filled with what resembled gold and crystal. My last stop in Paris was at the Louvre, where I approached many great pieces of art including the “Mona Lisa.”

As a class, we traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, this past week to perform field research on some of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empire’s most prized creations. Mosques towered above the city in an immaculate fashion, which only added to the already dominating presence of the Muslim religion. I was previously blind to the traditions of Islam but one could not help but feel strong admiration for the dedication shown by these faithful practitioners.

After three weeks of little retreat from the road or sky, I am back in Aegina, only to reminisce on my previous experiences and wonder when I will be able to have them again.

Mathew Stockstill, of Smithton, writes monthly about his experiences as a

student in Greece.