This week’s Indie Challenge prompt is specifically about Eastern Europe. But since I wrote about that in a previous Indie Challenge post, I’m going to answer the “more general” part of the prompt: how much does knowing about the history of a place inspire your future travels?
I was a Classics major at William and Mary. Well, okay, I double-majored (the other was Anthropology), but one was Classics. Therefore, a good portion of my college career was spent learning about and researching the history and culture of ancient Greece and Rome.
This has definitely influenced me in where I decide to go when I’m in Europe. I’ve actually been to Italy before, as I’ve mentioned. But that was in high school, and while at that point I was already a Classics nerd (I’d been taking Latin for a while – the Sibyl’s Cave as featured in the Aeneid was kind of a highlight of the trip as we had just translated that part), I hadn’t learned a lot about Ancient Rome yet.
But now, I know a lot more. Instead of just having heard a bit about Pompeii (okay, and translating a passage about it), I’ve now taken a whole class about Pompeii, with a bit of Herculaneum thrown in. This all culminates in a strong desire to go back. I need to see these places with fresh, more knowledgeable eyes. And I need to do it soon, before I forget everything (even now I’ll have to refresh my memory a bit). Between that and my need to eat Italian food – must have authentic pesto in Genoa – it’s put Italy on the list of countries that’s making the cut for Europe.
I also studied Ancient Greece – in fact, I learned more Greek history than Roman. However, I think we’re going to have to miss Greece this time around, sadly. The Schengen visa is convenient but it certainly does limit our time in Europe. So we’re focusing on three countries (and our stomachs are kind of guiding us in the direction of cheese) in the Schengen area – Italy, France, and Spain. That doesn’t mean we won’t have a day or two elsewhere, just that an in-depth look at Greece is not in the cards.
If you can go to places you know the history of, you should. It both gives you great context for the sites you’re seeing and adds visual elements to your historical knowledge, which will probably help you remember it. Conversely, you should also research the history of the places you go. It makes your experience much richer – that random building over there that people are taking pictures of will have a story instead of just looking cool! For me, then, history is an important part of travel.
What historical site do you most want to see?