Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dear Europe: Places I Love

Dear London,

It’s not you…it’s me.

Brigham Young said, "If I were placed on a cannibal island and given the task of civilizing its people, I should straightway build a theatre for the purpose."

London, the theatre made you.

At the Globe Theatre waiting to see Romeo and Juliet .
London, I never really liked Romeo and Juliet, even my romantic mind thought it was ridiculous and a bit irresponsible. But London, you made me love it. We chose to get standing “seats” right by the stage. I could smell the actors. I’ve always thought Romeo was kind of an idiot but I was half in love with him by the end of the night. London, that was all you.

Really excited about Les Miserables

Nothing can beat “One Day More,” Enjolras waving the red flag, Gavroche’s sacrifice, or Valjean’s prayer.

London if you were once a cannibalistic island, it was your theatre that brought you to civilization.

Dear Paris,

Although you were dirty and I went through an entire bottle of hand sanitizer in your city alone, I really like you.

I love your food. Crepes, baguettes, cheese, pastries, what’s not to like?

One of many.

I also enjoyed discovering you while walking along the Seine River …

And watching the street painters…

And climbing the spiral steps to the Arc d’Triumphe... watch the crazy 12 lane round-about traffic below...absolutely no rhyme or reason.

Our legs were shaking from the 14 miles we walked that day and the 800 stairs we climbed in your city.

You offered me the Orsay Museum.

Sacre Cour through the giant clock at the Orsay

You fulfilled one of my life-long dreams when you opened the doors of the Louvre.

Through the glass pyramid

After being in the Louvre a bit too long...large museums can have this affect you.

The top of the Eiffel tower at Sunset probably helped you win me over, too.

Sometimes graffiti is O.K. When on the Eiffel Tower is one such occasion.

Dear Rome , Sienna, San Giminiano, Bergamo, and Florence,

I loved you because of the art:

Looking at the Sistine Chapel with binoculars

And the architecture:


Look at all of that Tuscan stone...On top of the Duomo in Florence

And the food:

1st course: bread, oil, and vinegar

2nd and 3rd courses: pasta and pizza

Dessert: gelato...times this by about 30 and you have my entire gelato intake

And the beauty of Rome:

Borghese Museum

And Tuscany :



And your fountains:

Throwing my three coins into the Trevi Fountain, ensuring I will come back.

I discovered I have a small obsession with fountains.

Be it drinking from...

Jumping in...
Discovering my inner Water Muse...

Or just looking at, I love your fountains.

And literally stumbling upon ruins:

Some homeless guy napping on ancient ruins.

Thank you for starting out my Chaco tan line.

Journal Entry for May 7, 2009: “No wonder Italy produced such great artists with this beautiful country to inspire them.”

Yup, I love Italy.

Dear Vienna and Salzburg,

Some parts of you were so picturesque. Drawing inspiration from The Sound of Music, as it took place in Salzburg, I will show you a few of my favorite things about you:

Bratwurst and spicy mustard:

Maribel Gardens :

The hostel we stayed at in Salzburg plays The Sound of Music every night. This is the garden where she sings “Do Rei Mi.” I am obviously Frauline Maria in the above picture.

Bike Rides:

The fortress that was always in the background:

Castles and gardens:
The Alps and surrounding hills:

And the rain. You brought relief to the heat with your rain and made me feel justified for buying an umbrella during that rain storm in Rome.

Other parts of you, however, were horrific.

Journal Entry for May 14, 2009: We just got done visiting Mauthausen Concentration Camp (the camp where Peter from The Diary of Anne Frank worked and died). It was so sobering. I don’t have a lot of thoughts or insights on it. I just feel sick. Physically sick. I honestly want to puke.
The small stones are a symbol of Jewish mourning.
We started at the bottom of the quarry where once-dignified men and boys would carry stones weighing 60-110 lbs stones. It’s funny, I just realized I have no idea what those stones were used for. Were they used to continue their torture? Were thy used to build up a fascist Germany? That would be torturous in and of itself, to know your suffering was being used to heighten others suffering.

From the quarry we climbed up the “stairs of death.” These were the stairs the prisoners would climb to relieve their load. I climb stairs to heighten my enjoyment and comfort. They climbed stairs to survive. At the top of the stairs I climb I find rewarding experiences and beautiful memories. They found vicious guards and cold, ugly surroundings.
At the top of the stairs is a view over beautiful Austrian hills and forests. It was such a stark juxtaposition to the grey cinder walls and barbed wire of the work camp.
It’s interesting to me that the place didn’t have an evil or bad feeling or spirit around it. It was calm, somber, and even though terrible things and awful sufferings were carried out there, there were some feelings of peace and rest. I felt sickened and saddened, yet somehow peaceful. Christ must impart his Spirit there as an act of mercy. I have a hard time believing that Christ has not opened his arms and salvation to those who suffered and died there. It’s also interesting to me that Christ covered not only the suffering that took place there, but also those who imparted their cruelty.

We toured through the barracks, the washroom and the bathrooms. We then walked through exhibits with pictures, facts, and artifacts. I paused at a homemade chess set, drawings and journals, made by prisoners to pass the time and drudgery. It’s so interesting that people have a will to survive and create no matter their circumstances. As we were walking up the path to the camp I wondered what kind of person I would have been: someone who jumped off the cliff, someone who just survived, or someone who inspired others to survive.
After the exhibits we walked downstairs where I was expecting more exhibits when I turned a corner to another room. Instead I found ovens. It literally hurt my heart. We then walked through rooms leading to the gas chambers. The rooms were so cold and scary. I was scared just walking through; I can’t imagine the fear that took over the prisoners when that became part of their life and part of their story. In the gas chamber there was a lone plaque with a picture of a handsome young man. His name was Stefan. That was when I lost it. It was already real to me, but it became personal then. I just stared at his young face and cried.
There were pictures of younger boys at another part in the museum. It was so sad to me that even if they lived, they would never fully recover.
There were some shoes in a case. One pair particularly caught my eye. It was a pair of women’s sandals. Those shoes had a life, had a story. When she was young her dreams and aspirations didn’t include living, suffering, and dying in a concentration camp.

I don’t have any sort of conclusion to my thoughts other than my life is so blessed and privileged. Seeing Mauthausen makes me want to increase the kindness, love and charity I show and give.

After this experience no one in our group said a word. For twenty minutes all I heard was the scratching of pens as we wrote in our journals.

Dear Munich,

My love for you can be summarized in three pictures:

1) Great art. My favorite was the Neue Pinakothek Museum (New Picture Gallery)

2) Talented street musicians. We walked your streets at night for this reason alone.

3) Is a caption necessary? (Please note those are two half-gallons of Nutella)

Dear U.S.A.,

I love you even though you took my Nutella at customs.

I enjoyed and appreciated every place in Europe, but I am glad you are my home.

Love, Ande


Neighbor Jane Payne said...

Dear Ande,


My heart hurt after reading about the concentration camp. Thank you for capturing that sobering part of history to remind me of what we learned.

I love seeing Europe through your eyes. Especially that Eiffel Tower picture!


Renny said...

you have me in tears. That is a good thing though. Thanks for the perspective.

Susan said...

Thank you Ande for posting all of this. So wonderful!!

Cali said...

I devoured that. I had NO idea it was so long until I scrolled back through it all to leave a comment. How can that long of a post be read in so short of time? I loved your perspective. I loved seeing what inspired you and where. I'm glad you threw the three coins... because I'm going when you go back.

Tiffany Fackrell said...

I loved this post, almost like I was there with you. Although, the concentration camp description had me in tears, the saddest part was that the U.S.A. took your that is a sad!! Bummer!

Rebecca said...

I feel like I actually lived in Europe through you. And you totally look liked you belonged there Gorgeous. Your pictures were phenomenal. I've never seen a hot dog like that! Stroke of genius to take binoculars to the Sistine chapel I'm relieved to know that even an art stud like yourself can go bonkers looking at so much "museum". Remind me to take you with me if I ever go to Europe!!!

Rebecca said...

p.s. better yet, write a Europe tour guide book, I'd be sure to buy it!

Michelle said...

Ande, you make me want to love art more than I do! You have some really neat pictures though. I have the same one from the Musee d'Orsay looking out through the big clock. Bless that museum. You're making me want to go back so bad!

Anonymous said...

Very cool, Ande. Post more often, please. Love, BRENDA

Julie said...

Ande! I love all your pictures, insights, and love for Europe! I would love to see Tuscany. It looks so beautiful, old, and Italian! Can't wait to see you and hear more. (Because I know that for every picture you posted there were 10 more you didn't!) We went to Dauchau a few years ago and they had a huge pile of shoes. I cried there.

Darla said...

Dear Ande,

Thank you!! What a post.. I love seeing through your eyes.. What a great experience you had!!!

Your friend,

Oliver said...

I wish I had gone.