All posts by Jack JACOBS (Student Year 11)

Stanmore Year 11 Fletcher Student

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.


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.