I learned a lot on my tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum. However, the thing that resonates the most with me is that the Romans were so advanced. The floor of the Colosseum was wooden, covered in Egyptian white sand and hid an elaborate underground system for the storing of animals which would pop up through trap doors.
I closed my eyes and I could hear the roaring of the crowd, urging warriors to battle on. I opened them to see the worn marble where wealthy men and senators would sit. I walked the many steep, angled steps where people were placed based on their status and looked down upon what was once the greatest spectacle the world has ever known.
This past week marked my third trip to the capital of being yourself, Amsterdam. This visit was a bit different than the last couple, in the fact that I was traveling with her as opposed to any other dude that I’m friends with. Also, for the first time, I was interested in being a tourist. While Sam, Pat, and I had seen this city many times before, none of us recalled actually knowing anything about the city. So with that, the four of us ventured towards Museumplein, where some of Amsterdam’s rich history resides. After catching glimpses of other museums, the Rijksmuseum and it’s quaint yet vibrant gardens called upon us and we heeded.
As we entered, we were given far too many options and decided to take it on in chronological order. In the 1100s we immediately grouped into pairs, with Sam and Pat venturing ahead while she and I took our time going over every subtle nuance available. We made our way through religious art, both graphic yet simultaneously beautiful and deep. We climbed the steps to the 1600s where beautiful stained glass marked the men who were so integral to the creation of a national museum and the rich art and educational culture of the time. The 17 and 1800s showed us the glories of the Dutch through war paintings, collections of weaponry through the ages and treasure both stolen and earned through battle. Hours passed as we made it from exhibit to exhibit with the only thing that prevented us from continuing our adventure into the 20th century was the closing of the museum.
To this point, my Dutch education merely consisted of pills, strobe lights and walking home at dawn. While a different brand of education altogether, the two seem to harmoniously coincide into a beautiful experience. I suppose it took traveling with a different person or even a different type of person to open my eyes to the many aspects that not only this city, but the world as a whole contain.
We are so often told that our hard work will eventually pay off. It’s nice when that gratification is seemingly instant. Climbing what seemed like hundreds after hundreds of steps, ascending to the top of Montmartre, she and I sat at the foot of Sacre Coeur and all of its glory. The real treasure, however, can be found if you simply turn around. The Parisian sprawl appearing to be so accessible, coupled with that instantaneous feeling that you can conquer it all, only to be reminded how truly small you really are in the magnificent eye of the capital.
The sky set a perfect blue opposite the still beaming 8pm sun. Clouds majestically sitting over the chateau, lined on each side by well manicured forests. There are no days like this anywhere else in the world.
Versailles, as vast and imposing as it may be, it warns you and cradles you like your own home. For all it’s grandeur and luxury, all you need to know about it is that in its little nooks, you are safe from the revolution.