Stranger In A Strange Land


Rays of light, symbolically represented as hor...

Rays of light, symbolically represented as horns on the head of Moses (Michelangelo), can be a graphic symbol of Wisdom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “What’s your favorite part about visiting a new place — the food? The architecture? The people watching?”

What is it like for me to be a stranger in a strange land?

The first thing I notice and enjoy in a new place, a totally new place, not just a new town, is the light. Australia has a particular light, bright and full or air. Europe is a softer light and South East Asia has a light filtered by the high humidity except for that glorious hour late in the afternoon after the rain.

Then I notice the different buildings. It’s not just the architecture but the street advertising and furniture. To my eye the buildings in Australia are fairly monotonous. They were built by a first world country in the last hundred years and we have very little that is noticeably Australian. It’s only when you start going north up the coast of Queensland and you run into the classic Queenslander lifted high off the ground, girdled by wide overhanging verandahs and shuttered windows and doors. These aren’t storm shutters, they are built to shut out the world while letting the cool night air into the house.

My first trip to Europe was such a shock. I’d come from Sydney via a day in Bangkok where of course the architecture is anything but Australian – even the shopping centre architecture is totally different in Bangkok let alone all the other buildings, though I have to say our inexpensive hotel close to the airport could have been almost anywhere in the world – standard multi-storey concrete construction.

We the flew into Rome and it was late morning when we landed. It blew me away, the centre of Rome where we were staying overnight before catching the train to Florence was the Hotel California, half way between Santa Maria Maggiore and the train station.

I was only in Rome overnight so my plan was to go and see St Peter’s (without visiting the Vatican Museum) on my own and then the Trevi fountain the next day with Mum in the morning (so we could both throw our coins and ensure we one day returned to Rome) before flying out in the afternoon.

Standing outside the Hotel California it was sinking in to me what Europe and particularly Rome would be like – every building I could see (including the hotel behind me) had been built before the first building was constructed in Australia, indeed before James Cook explored the East coast of our country.

I was in heaven, total heaven. Everything looked new and fresh and different. The people spoke a different language and even in a different way, hands going every which way as it seems every word required a new gesture.

In the end after visiting St Peter’s I got a cab back and had it drop me at the Colosseum and I walked back to my hotel from there just enjoying the buildings and the people.

I had to stop off at San Pietro in Vincoli (one of the smaller of Rome’s Basilicas) to see Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. I’d read that this statue was almost the only completed portion of the tomb that he had been commissioned to build for Julius II before that Pope pulled him off that project so he could fresco a ceiling instead – a not unsuccessful project.

It was at San Pietro that I discovered that since the Church treats all the churches of Rome as working churches they leave them open all night (with the exception of St Peter’s) so I took the opportunity to explore a couple of other churches after dinner finishing up at St Maria Maggiore around about two in the morning where I was alone apart from a priest asleep sitting up in a pew near the middle.

So for me it’s almost the architecture I enjoy but it’s more than that, it’s the things around the buildings themselves – the advertising on the streets, the art inside and the people moving around them. I love and enjoy it all.

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8 thoughts on “Stranger In A Strange Land

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