The Last Word

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Besides depleting the wallet somewhat, overseas holidays educate, rejuvenate, broaden one’s understanding of other cultures and frequently makes one appreciate home.

I recently had the pleasure of hosting a cruise of delightful National Seniors’ members from Amsterdam to Budapest. This river cruise, I believe, is something everyone should have on their ‘bucket list’.

I linked this trip with a cruise of the Greek Islands including a stopover in Kusadasi, Turkey, to visit the ancient site of Ephesus. The long flight back to Australia was broken with a three night stopover in Dubai, a city I had transited through without ever stopping to explore. In all I passed through 10 countries in five weeks, six of these on the river cruise.

One can’t help but make comparisons and ponder on the historical, political, social and economic influences that have moulded each country over time.

Visits to castles and palaces along the Rhine River clearly demonstrate the impact of wars. The devastation of war on infrastructure, buildings and the whole fabric of society is chronicled for the visitor to peruse and one can only lament the senselessness of the destruction caused in conflict. Fortunately, restoration continues and many of these beautiful buildings are being brought back to their former glory.

Visits to Slovakia and the Czech Republic provided a comparison with the Netherlands, modern Germany and Austria. There is no border control when passing into Slovakia and the Czech Republic from Germany and Austria, as all are members of the European Community. The streetscape from one side of the border to the other delineates the political border as clearly as the previous border crossing.

The after effects of Communism are clearly evident. Again there is some restoration taking place, however finance for such work is not as readily available as in other European countries with economies that have not been affected by communism. Many restored buildings have adjacent decaying buildings and it was noted that a number of these decaying buildings had stencilled signs saying ‘Please Restore Me’.

Although the Greek Islands remain very attractive tourist attractions, I found Athens very sad and quite depressing. The recent economic and political woes of Greece are sadly expressed in graffiti all over the city. Disenchanted immigrants from Albania also sadly express their views in the form of graffiti on the shuttered fronts of most shops and businesses. The cost of the graffiti clean-up in Athens will be enormous and one can only hope that time will see this proud nation restored to its former glory.

The destruction I have described is all a result of the actions of man. The final demise of Ephesus in Turkey was through natural disasters. The restoration of this site continues and will continue long past my lifetime. This site will always hold me in awe of the skills and abilities of architects, builders and sculptors of more than 2000 years ago!

The buildings of Ephesus contrast with the architecture and development of Dubai. The developments in Dubai will not have the lifespan of the Greek and Roman buildings but, in the modern context, are no less awe inspiring. To see man-made islands and the highest density of skyscrapers anywhere in the world or a five run ski field with double chairlift inside a shopping centre, while the temperature outside is 43 degrees, makes the mind boggle!

This article by David Carvosso originally appeared in the October/November 2014 edition of 50 something magazine.

Want to experience the cruise David describes in this article? Contact the friendly consultants at National Seniors Travel for more information.

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