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Culture Cramming: Art History for the Mildly Interested Traveller

Culture Cramming

Whether you are the type of traveller who goes on Mediterranean cruises, backpacks across Peru, or lives abroad in Ireland, you have probably experienced a moment where you are standing in front of an incredible ancient ruin, pyramid, or medieval cathedral and have no idea what the hell it is.

You stand in awe and look up and down the length of that amazing historical structure, and you take in its beauty, and then start to wonder what its story is. Who built it? What does it mean? What was it used for? How long has it been there?

No matter where we are in the world as travellers, we will happen upon monuments of deep beauty and significance and unless we have a PHD in Art History we cannot possibly know all there is to know about each one. However, we can have a deeper and far more interesting experience when viewing these ancient sites if we take the small effort to learn the basics.

A religious structure, historical castle, or landmark monument that we see on our tour across Asia or Mediterranean cruises is so much more interesting to explore when you know a bit more about what you are looking at.

For those of you who are groaning that travel should be fun and that if you wanted to study you would have gone back to school, don’t worry. Learning about the history of the place that you are visiting doesn’t have to be hard or boring, trust me!

Culture Cramming - girl learning about culture Here are a few ways you can cram a bit of culture into your holiday and make visiting historical sites just informative enough to be interesting:

  • Do some light reading before your trip. You don’t have to slog through a textbook, but perusing a National Geographic or a big coffee table book with nice pictures is a good way to get a feel for the artwork and traditional architecture of the region you are visiting.
  • Learning history? There’s an app for that! Actually, there are several apps that you can download on your phone that will tell you the stories behind major travel attractions, so if you end up in Athens on your Mediterranean cruises you can let your iPod or phone tell you all about why the Acropolis is so amazing.
  • Ask the locals. People are usually happy to share their culture with you, and will give you a lot of interesting information about the place you are visiting.
  • Take a guided tour. If you have a while in a city, such as when you stop in port during Mediterranean cruises, then take the time to go on a walking tour. It is a great way to get around and see the sights in a short time, and your guide will tell you lots of interesting titbits of information about the local area.
  • Bring the camera with you. If you are curious about the meaning or function of a particular sculpture or architectural feature and there is no one around to ask, take a photo and either look it up online or ask a knowledgeable guide later on. It’s better than trying to describe something you have never seen before!

Learning about the culture and the history of every place you visit on your Mediterranean cruises doesn’t necessarily mean being super geeky about it.

Even if you are just mildly interested and take the time to learn a bit of information, it will make your travel experience so much more meaningful and enjoyable!



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