It’s been a while since I wrote that last blog, and so much has happened since then that I could barely hope to account for it all. I have seen a vast amount of art, some which has truly moved me and some which I have simply had to pass by. I’ve tread the streets of Venice and Paris and have breathed in the fresh air of the Alps. I have also witnessed vestiges of the horrors that our species can inflict on each other at the Dachau concentration camp and in the mines and trenches of Vimy and Ypres.
And I would love to talk to you about all of these experiences next time we meet.
For now, though, I am more inclined to write about my experiences with the people who have made this time in Europe most memorable. What a great blessing it has been to get to know my classmates and leaders better through conversations, funny moments, shared museum fatigue, and academic growth. Even though we don’t always get along, it has been a great journey.
Besides these, I have also enjoyed the brief interactions with strangers along the way. Like sharing a bit of our culture with two Portuguese women in Italy over a bowl of homemade stew, or talking about literature with a German student name Axel on a train ride through Switzerland. And how fantastic was it to meet fellow Canadians working at Vimy Ridge, learning the history and importance of the battles that took place there from our nations’ perspective? Or just a few days ago, when we were able to share sandwiches with three hungry-looking men as we sat on the grass outside of a Belgian church; though they may have been drunk and were playful in the acceptance of the food, the sincere ‘thank you’ as we left spoke of the measure of good that had just been done.
It’s moments like these– people like these– that make travelling a real blessing. I think that if I were to focus only on the art, architecture and history of each place we have visited, I would be missing out on the most important experiences. Perhaps that is why I don’t know how to write well enough about those parts of the trip… though they have been important, they haven’t made my time in Europe what it is. People, relationships are key. And I think I’ve seen each country all the better by seeing it through the eyes of those I have met along the way. To each of these: thank you.