Thanks and Goodbye

We’re in transit in Abu Dhabi and will hopefully be home soon.
The boys have been wonderful; we thank them for their optimism, inquisitiveness, resilience and thoughtfulness.
We would also like to thank their families, for entrusting us with the boys’ wellbeing and for giving them this great opportunity.
-Mr Fisher, Ms Christian and Mr Kenny

It’s a dangerous business: Stepping out your door

After what has been an amazing adventure, I write with sadness my last post. I will first account the events of our final day, and then give a parting word.

We began the day refreshed, ready for the journey that was to come. After meeting our gentle, Italian guide, we made our way via a ‘not so gentle’ railway, to the Vatican City.

The smallest country on earth, and the greatest centre of Catholicism in the world, is not as I remember. As a child the place was vast, exciting and mysterious. But my experience of it today was changed by the expansive crowds, and not so mysterious ‘shhhs’ of the Swiss guard.

To be fair, the architecture was as beautiful as ever. The museum housed some interesting sculptures, especially those of the classical world, and the Sistine chapel remained a lasting testament to Michelangelo’s brilliance.

St Peters \was as I recalled; even better in fact. Just knowing that  Pope Francis is the one who now walks these halls gives me a bit of hope. A progressive leader is what we need, and I believe, that Catholics, under the leadership of this humble South American, are what the world needs. Someone who isn’t afraid to realise a changing world, and who is brave enough to remember where he comes from, will be respected by me any day.

I then lost in one of the museum shops,  desperate to buy my grandmother the Rosary I had promised her. However, the ladies in the shop kept declining my intention to buy it!

“Soon… just wait”, they screamed, inshrill tones.

I even heard the word ‘impatient Australian’ muttered under their breath. But in the end it was worth it, I’m sure she will be happy with my purchase, as am I.

After leaving the Vatican we made our may to the old Roman parts of town. We walked through the forum, hearing the brutal tale of Romulus and Remus. I had a particular focus on Romulus’ aggressive nature, and easy indignation in killing his own brother. I am also amazed at how unkempt the place is. Our guide tells us that the Italian government has cut funding for women’s health, and cultural restoration, to add money to it’s sporting facilities. I’m all for sport, but that seems a bit harsh…

We then finally came to the Coliseum. It’s smaller than we all expected, and very crowded. Once we enter it’s a great experience, and is completely overtaken by photo taking. Quite a few boys recounted getting great ‘DP’ pictures: I’m happy for them.  It’s funny that such a popular tourist attraction, used to be a place of so much death. We soon forget that the Coliseum was a gladiatorial ring; literally a place where people kill each other for pleasure. Maybe I’m just a bit like my mumm, but that doesn’t seem all that satisfying.

I’ll give a final word, so I don’t end this journey on that grim note.

This tour has been amazing: a time of learning, friendship, experience, and mischief, and I’m so grateful for those mates I’ve made on these three weeks. (Shout out to Max and Jacob.)

For me the greatest award in traveling has been being able to experience the every day things for the first time, day in and day out. Seeing the simplicity in life from a different perspective is so refreshing. Whether It was watching a young girl dance to the voice of one Spaniard, or mustering the bravery to confront the Nazi past, I appreciate all that I have learn here. I aim to return home, live like I have lived in Europe, and just take things in a little more.

And remember what Bilbo used to say: ‘It’s a dangerous business,  going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept of to’.

I think what Tolkien was trying to say is: Get lost!

Get lost in love, food, music, friends, family, and history. Because if you don’t let yourself get lost in life, you will really take a step out of the door. In conversation with the boys on this tour, that is what they have learnt.

We just need to get lost, learn, remember, and reflect. Then everything we have experienced on this great trip will remain with us forever.

I’m signing off,

Ciao, Guten Tag, and goodbye.

Jack

Roaming around Rome

Before I talk about the places we visited at in our first day of Rome I would like to do a quick recap about our final morning in Florence.With the end nearing we were all looking forward to arrive at Rome and discover the history that lies beneath it yet at the same time saddened to leave one of the most stunning cities in Italy, Florence. A 7am breakfast was shortly followed by a 5 hour bus trip from Florence to Rome. Just before we departed from the famous “Eschbacher” the only man fit to drive it the one and only Hans Peter, gave us emotional and thankful speech for the experiences we shared with him along with telling us we were the best tour group he has had in 10 years. I’m sure the countless games of mafia,trivia, raves and top quality banter that followed it are something that the boys won’t forget and will remember in a positive light.
But enough of that it was finally time for us to explore the beautiful city of Rome. With a big list of places to visit we decided to kick our day off with the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore a beautiful church with a ceiling and altar engulfed in luxurious amounts of gold and silenced with serenity. On our way to the Pantheon we stopped to observe the Altare della Patria also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio. It is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy, located in Rome, Italy. We then arrived at the Pantheon and analysed the architecture specifically the dome structure inside and ancient front ,discussed with our fellow peers who were the statutes inside of the pantheon along with sitting down and relaxing for a few minutes. We were then given an hour of free time to explore the Piazza Navona along with being stunned by its main attraction the “Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi” which was designed in 1651 by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for Pope Innocent X whose family palace, the Palazzo Pamphili, faced onto the piazza as did the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone of which Innocent was the sponsor. All of these famous historical sites landed the boys wondering about the history, architecture and purpose behind the buildings. Along with having strong historical meaning these buildings like many others are also beautiful pieces of art. imageOur day was coming to an end and 3 groups gave their presentations. I spoke about Mussolini’s March on Rome and then shortly after we headed to dinner. To end the night a group of boys then headed to see the Spanish steps after dinner. A big day today and an even bigger final one to follow. This tour has gone so fast and has truly been a life changing experience, to travel overseas for the first time with all of my close mates along with Mr Fisher, Mr Kenny and Miss Christian has been awesome to say the least. I’m saddened that this tour is coming to an end however I can’t wait to get back into routine, see my family and prepare for yearly exams but until then, ciao!

A Ghost and Two Museums

6/10/2015

We woke up to a beautiful, sunny day in Florence after the rain from the day before. We had our breakfast at the hotel then met outside for are trip to two museums: the Uffizi gallery (first) and the Accademia gallery (second). And after dinner we would have a special ‘horror’ tour of Florence. The walk to the Uffizi wasn’t long but the wait for the line was quite long and overall it took us just over an hour to get inside. Inside the museum were a range of beautiful paintings, sculptures and sketches from the Renaissance period (14th century to 17th century). We saw famous paintings such as the birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli.
We spent about an hour and a half in the Uffizi Museum before we had just over an hour of free time for lunch.

Afterwards we met up again to head to head to the Accademia museum. This is quite a famous museum, with its display of one piece of art. This is Micheglao’s David. This famous statue of the biblical figure, was made in 1504 and has made quite a name for itself. This artwork strays significantly from the portrayal of David’s physique in the bible. Rather than a relatively small boy, he is shown as a giant with the statue being four meters tall. And rather then a scrawny boy, he is portrayed as a man with the body of a of a well toned athlete. One other difference is his hair. As our tour guide from the day before mentioned, his hair was that of a typical florentine rather than a future biblical king. However despite the faults mentioned by critics, it still is an amazing piece of art. This wasn’t the only highlight thought, with many different prices often with large back stories.

After an early dinner that night we went to Ma’am’s Ghost Tour. This had many students sceptical but is was a very well rounded tour, covering the darker side of Florence’s history. Going for two hours and touching on many subjects from the Medici rise to power, family rivalries and violence and many other things. And as highlight for some people, especially those short on money, free gelato from including the flavour of the first gelato’s made in the world.

Overall it was a great day with lots to do and I was happy to be a part of it

Da Vinci and the Dancing Girl

Before I write of my Florentine experience, I’ll first just give a quick word on Venice.

Venice was different: touristy, wet, infested and crowded. It’s redeeming quality however was it’s extensive and interesting history. Maybe my experience was just colored by my traumatic sojourn at the hotel Iris. It was a stay that we all remembered; bed bugs, dry blood, but lots of fun.

So when our minds drifted to the hopeful thought of a new city, you can imagine what we expected. When we arrived in Florence, after our driver, Hans-Peter pulled of some Herculean maneuvers upon entry, our hearts jumped.

Florence was just as Scali described Italy: rebellious, beautiful and serendipitous.

Leather adorns the vibrant streets of the city, as salesman run up to us at every corner. I am struck by the generosity of the people here, young families ‘welcome’ us into their shops, offering heavy discounts with kind smiles. as Adam Miller is given an uncomfortable tap on the shoulder by a waiter; Italy is a very touchy place.

We then took a tour about the city. The important sites visited were the famous Duomo, extending into the sky, a remarkable feat of Brunelleschi’s engineering. We then walked about the galleries, where men like Dante and Michelangelo once comprehended their existence through art.

Florence has a heavy cultural weight, in every square a new ‘renaissance’ has occurred. Painters, singers and thinkers are the heroes in this city, not the militants (which is a nice contrast with Germany).

We were then generously given four hours free time by our teachers to explore this cultural centre. Max, Jacob and I, stumbled upon the Da Vinci museum, deciding to spend our time on something worthwhile. The museum was incredible, but I am convinced that Max Mckay only agreed to go inside because of his crush on the door girl.

Sorry Amira….

In all seriousness we were captivated by the themes of humanism and the ‘renaissance man’ that we encountered with Da Vinci. The museum presented a 40 minute light show with the great mans quotes and thoughts. We were struck by his capability as an all rounder, and were inspired by his example. We all wanted to be Da Vinci. We were particularly struck with his quote:

“I have wasted my hours. Do not do the same…”

With these wise words we were extremely proud to have made our spare time worthwhile. Maybe in future we too can become Da Vinci’s.

That night we had more free time. The three of us again got lost in a special moment. It was in an isolated square that we met the dancing girl.

Calm Spanish guitar was the backing track for a young girl of about 7, who danced in the moonlight. Her movements were elegant, reminding me of one of those ballerina’s you find in jewellery boxes. Every one in the square was captivated by this beautiful little dancer. The best part was that her mother was crying beside me, looking ever so proud.

For me that is humanism.

An appreciation of human aestheticism and movement. coupled with an ability to understand human emotion. Max remarked that these moments never come too easy. You just need to dedicate your hours to something worthwhile, and then, if you are lucky, you might just stumble upon your own dancing girl.

Jack

Venice was veryy nicccceeee…..

Venice was very nice.

*APPLE SONG PLAYS* and with a practiced and efficient action it’s off. I thump my head back onto my pillow where my face is greeted by a hard and lumpy surface. To my right MATT BRITT lies in the same dozy state, just with a better pillow. Surprisingly it’s raining in Venice

All of us have breakfast at a small yet cozy room. Our hopes high, expecting a big buffet and coffee machines. Instead we are all culture shocked as we are given a more traditional Italian breakfast, very small.

Despite this slow and somewhat depressing start our moods soon change. Our group started the venetian waking tour. Our guide Fiona was one of the best guides so far. She spoke in an informative and engaging manor. Using architecture, art and history she explained the city of Venice. We learnt about:
The once powerful venetian trade guilds
A timeline of Venetian power and influence
How Venice functions nowadays with emergency services using the canals but most transport is done by street.
How Venice is dealing with their city and it’s efforts in stopping the city from sinking.

After the tour the group was given a large amount of free time. During this time many people went to different museums and historical sites. Sharif, Lucas and myself first went to find a canal tour but we failed. We then went to the oldest coffee shop In Venice. Then we went up the tallest building in Venice, the Procuratoria.

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Lucas, Sharif and I all got great photos of the city from this high spot. After this each of us had whole pizza for lunch. With 1 hour and a half left I meet up with the guys from this morning where we explored the Venetian streets.

At 3:00 pm some of us stayed behind to visit the Saint Marc’s Chapel. But others where too tired and decided to go back to the hotel.

Dinner was good. We had pasta as entree with Turkey, salad and tiramisu to follow.

After dinner a legendary round of busking took place. On the river all the group joined in choir, singing “amazing grace” , “stand by me”, “uptownfunk” and any other song that the audience suggested and half the group knew the lyrics to. All in all our performance was mighty and loud, with the help of Jack Jacobs we where somewhat in tune . The few euros made from our effort where donated by the teachers, Rhys Hatten and some crazy Venetian.

Tired, we walked back to the hotel and went to bed.

A Doge of a Day

October 3rd Blog – By James Boutsalis and Charlie MoirIMG_3964 IMG_3965 IMG_3966 IMG_3969

Today was a fairly busy day with a bus ride from Salzburg to Venice, a ferry ride from the Venice mainland to the island, a walk, a short amount of free time in the afternoon, dinner, and some more free time after dinner.

 

The bus ride started at 7.45, which meant an early start was needed. We saw some beautiful views from the bus, such as the Alps and some nice country side. It was still quite cold and it drizzled most of the way to Venice.

 

After the long bus ride, we arrived at the ferry wharf in the early afternoon, where we left the bus and took a short ferry ride to our hotel for the next two nights, the Hotel Iris. We left our bags in the hotel rooms and it was quickly discovered that some of the rooms had not been prepared properly. We then walked to some shops where we were given about one hour to get a late lunch. Nearly every boy got pizza. After lunch we took a short walk around the islands to get a gist of the place and see some of the nice views and landmarks such as the St Mark’s Basilica and the Piazza san Marco, which was amazing but also packed full of tourists.

 

Dinner was in a different part of Venice to where we had lunch. It was in a restaurant next to the Grand Canal in a busy part of town. Most boys were not impressed by dinner. After dinner we were again given about one hour of free time to explore this new part of Venice; visiting shops, buying ice cream and even just walking around. We then returned to the hotel between 9.30 and 10. I remember being one of about fifteen boys all crammed into the lobby trying to use the Wi-Fi as it didn’t work in our rooms.

 

All in all, our first day in Venice will be one to remember.

“A Salzburgian Banana”

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(sorry that these images are rotated !!!)

To start the day we had breakfast at the hotel and then met our tour guide at 9am, his name was Horsht. He was quite an odd looking fella, a highlighted quote describing Horsht was “he looks like he is a walking puppet”, all credit goes to Max McKay.

We strolled around the ‘old town’ of Salzburg for 20 minutes or so, seeing various sites and being given extensive information on each place. A highlight from this section of the tour was entering the church where Mozart played his final piece before dying.

After touring the first side of the ‘old town’ we crossed the salt river which separates the two parts of the old town. The bridge we crossed was well known for having locks attached to the fencing. The reason for these locks was either a promise between couples or a promise between two people. After they would make this promise they throw the key for the lock into the salt river.

After crossing to the other side we walked more, learning more about the ‘old town’ of Salzburg.
On this side of town we definitely saw the highlight of the Salzburg tour, which was the birth place and house of Mozart. The house in which he was born had been turned into a museum which displayed various things like Mozart’s first Violin, family items of the Mozart’s, score sheets (music notation sheets) and some of his famous piano’s. The majority of boys seemed to be interested in this museum and sadly this was where we also ended our tour and departed from out rather queer guide, Horsht. During lunch Christian Maini bought some high quality Salzburgian bananas and is looking to sell them later on the tour, goodluck Maniac.

As hard is it was to depart from this intriguing guide, we gradually made our way back to our hotel for an extremely short stop as we would be traveling to the Ice Caves at 12:30pm.
We were then confronted by a rather hard pill to swallow, we would not have our noble bus driver Hans Peter to take us to the Ice Caves. Instead, Hans Peters boss, who also said his name was Hans Peter, though we later discovered his name was Norbert (understandable why he lied about his name).
The bus trip was a quiet one, boys quietly chatted with each other or listened to music whilst soaking up the mesmerising views of Salzburg’s mountains.

Once we arrived at the Ice Caves we hopped off the bus and embarked on our journey to the top of the mountains. It was about a 15 minute walk to the cable cart that took us to the top of the mountains. The weather was warn but beautiful, it made the beautiful river between the mountains glisten, it really was crystal clear. Though some boys were worried about the cable cart we all made it to the top without a scratch. At the top we could see so far that alps were visible, it was purely beautiful.
We still had another 15 minute walk until we reached the entrance to the Ice Caves.
The teachers were extremely keen to reach the top as they took off to the top, a lot of boys didn’t realise this and then were late to reach the entrance and we missed out original tour. Luckily we only had to wait 5 minutes or so until we could get another one.

We then met our young energetic German tour guide Bronie. He told us some of things we needed to know before entering the cave, he also told us it was a freezing -12 degrees inside the cave. A few boys were given lanterns as it was pitch black inside the cave. Just before entry into the cave Nick Jackson challenged Max McKay to a game of odds (the odds were 1 in 50). The challenge was for Max to wear nothing but a T-Shirt inside the cave for 15 minutes, the odds of this were 1 in 50, Max and Nick both said 2, so Max lost and had to wear a T-Shirt for 15 minutes inside the cave which was sadly funny.

Our experience in the Ice Caves has been of the highlights of the trip. The ice stalagmites and stalactites (icicles) formed amazing shapes that could be made out as things such as; sharks, women, polar bears and elephants.
Learning about how the Ice Caves were discovered and turned into a tourist attraction was interesting and intrigued a lot of boys. The Ice Caves are 42km long, which is the length of a marathon, luckily we only covered the most beautiful part of the cave which was approximately 1km in length. Bronie was a great tour guide and seemed to really enjoy his part times job whilst studying at university. Bronie also gave the boys a chance to sing some the acapella songs in the cave that they had been practicing, this was an awesome experience and a great memory of the tour.

After the tour was over we walked back down the the mountain taking some breath taking photos of the incredible natural landscape of Salzburg.

Once reaching the bus we travelled back to the hotel, once again a silent bus ride as most boys were exhausted and slept.
Once back at the hotel, we were given the option of free time of quietly resting in the hotel. In this free time boys wandered the ‘old town’ and relaxed.

At 7:30pm we headed for dinner in the same restaurant as the night before. We once again had soup as an entrée, then for out main we had macaroni and cheese, which was rather bland but some boys enjoyed it, for desert we had chocolate cake with cream.

From 8:30pm until 9:30pm we had free time which was rather boring as the town was extremely quiet and didn’t have much nightlife. At 9:30pm boys lethargically staggered back to the hotel and crashed out for the night.
Though their was rumours of a notorious poker game that went down to the wire between Nick Jackson and Will Tsioulos.

Overall, a great day but extremely tiring, tomorrow we will be heading to Venice by bus and vaporetto which is exciting.

Thanks for reading,
Jacob Turl, Harry Angelos.

Goering up a mountain


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Upon a brisk breakfast at 8am, the boys leftthe hotel for an adventurous journey to the Obersalzberg region; renowned for its magnificent views and infamous Nazi mountainside retreat. The bus trip proved to be one of great remembrance for the boys, with the sustained presence of spectacular mountains detailed by a myriad of trees, that were made prevalent by slanting cliffs that overhang hidden rivers, that in all proved to be more than enough stimulus to fight off the urge of sleep!

This enthrilling bus trip was met by an even more enthrilling trip to the Dokumentation Obersalzberg, an excellent and comprehensive Third Reich museum, with a focus on the Obersalzberg region in relation to the Nazis. Impressively, the museum was built upon an authentic WWII air raid shelter, with the boys given the option the explore the shelter at leisure. Unfortunately, many of the walls were vandalised by previous ´explorers’, but the experience still remained unique and immersive.

After a very much reluctant leave from the Dokumentation Obersalzberg, the boys embarked onwards to Hitler’s famous Eagle’s Nest, a holiday retreat given to Hitler as a 50th birthday present. The journey began with a perilous bus trip up a hazardous mountain path. However, the bus driver proved to be more than adept, and hence we arrived promptly, and intact, for the brass elevator that would take us up to the Nest itself.

The panoramic views that the boys were instantly met by were nothing but memorising, with every angle from the Nest arguably the ‘perfect postcard’ where one could not linger in admiration. Hitler’s treasured retreat has since been converted into a cosy restaurant, where the presence of top Nazi officials dining along the likes of Albert Speer and Heinrich Goering, has, unfortunately for the ‘fuhrer’, been replaced by American tourists enjoying an incredibly overpriced meal.

Whilst the Nest remained impressive for the boys, many did not linger around, but rather chose to scale further up the mountain in the fever of exploration. For some, this meant a timely walk up to a stunning peak marked by seating and camera bearing tourists. For others, this marked an opportunity to test the hiking integrity of their white-soled sneakers, and pursue further up the mountain, where the marked ‘path’ became less and less convincing. Whilst I will not comment on the safety of such a hike, what I will comment on is that the isolation, furthered by the extraordinary views, marked an incredibly special moment for the those boys, that will certainly be remembered in the times to come.

Regardless, the trip up to the Nest proved to be tiresome for all the boys, and hence they were all eager to return to Salzburg. However, with this return came the option of free time, and with that, the majority of the boys ceased to be exhausted, and opted to venture out to explore the foreign streets of Salzburg’s Old Town, that for some, included a well-spent purchase of Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

After free time came dinner at a local restaurant, where afterwards the boys returned back to the hotel, for a leisurely end to an eventful day.

München’ on The Third Reich

We piled onto the bus at nine o’clock, our bus driver looking suave as ever in his black sunnies and famously decorative Jumper. We had started our long journey to Salzburg, making two important stops on the way, the first being Dachau concentration camp. A brief yet compelling visit left us in awe of the scale of human misery dealt by the Nazi regime. A memorial stands where once prisoners were held for roll call, watching intently over the shuffling gravel that lay there now. Leaving Dachau we headed for Munich, home of beer drinking and Nazism alike. Arriving a few hours into our journey we had lunch, taking in the scene of a city gearing up for Oktoberfest. Men in feathered caps and lederhosen strolled up and down Marienplatz Square.

 

Soon after, we assembled outside the town hall, it was here we were introduced to our rather enthusiastic british tour guide Geoff/jeff also in black sunnies, and it was so. After berating us about the ashes as any brit would do, he took us on a tour of the various beer halls which just seventy years before held early Nazi party rallies and speeches. The sites of the infamous ‘Munich Beer Hall Putsch’ and Hitler’s failed ‘March on Berlin’, which ended a pathetic two hundred meters from a Nineteenth century plaza in Munich, which was narrated by a thick English accent. And it was so.

 

We were asked if our group were yanks by a street musician wearing lederhosen, who upon hearing that we were Australian he broke out into song about kangaroos in a thick German accent. Continuing on our tour we walked to the Munich rally grounds just meters from the SS headquarters, now the site of museum, we would finish our tour just outside Hitler’s offices and the head of the NSDAP. We thanked our tour guide for his insight into the rise of Adolf Hitler from pudgy Austrian child to struggling artist homeless artist to wounded soldier to genocidal maniac. Seconds later, we were greeted by our extraordinarily punctual bus driver Hans Peter, greeting us, sunnies on and beaming smile, at precisely 4:20pm.

 

On the final leg to Salzburg, the enthusiasm of the boys reached a fevered pitch. We were almost done with this journey, the best hits of the 90’s played from down back. Upon getting to our hotel, we dumped our bags and sauntered off to dinner, a mere ten minutes from where we were. Dinner was finished and after half the boys went the right way out, the other half was met with much disappointment from Mr Fisher, in the end the boys cited the Nuremberg defense, that ‘we were only following orders’. We then got back to our rooms for a bit of banter then bed. Quite a chill day all in all

 

And it was so.

Jackson Streeter and Aiden Brennan