[Outlook]Taking a cue from Europe’s cities

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[Outlook]Taking a cue from Europe’s cities

I decided to go on a trip to Europe with my family even though it would take a long time and be quite costly. It is difficult for my family to spend quality time together even though we live under the same roof. During the trip, we had three meals a day together, went sightseeing and talked a lot. By spending time together, we began to understand and love each other more. We now have many memories to treasure.
We arrived in Prague, Czech Republic, first. The city was built by Emperor Charles IV of the Holy Roman Empire in 1346. It still has most of the things from that time. The roofs and walls of many houses were orange or brown. The city is orderly, and houses were built of the same height so they did not block the view of the hills.
We saw the Prague Castle, aesthetic buildings, beautiful parks with cozy benches and lampposts. These made people feel that the entire city is a work of art with a theme and harmony. We could see why Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart loved the city dearly, and why the city produced countless artists such as Franz Kafka.
After Prague, we went to Verona, Italy. Verona is where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet lived. Every summer, Verdi’s opera plays in the Roman Amphitheater. We watched Nabucco, along with other audience members from around the world. After that, we traveled through Florence, Rome and Paris before arriving in London.
The European cities we visited were different from one another. But they had one thing in common.
They have preserved their unique characteristics and beauty. Even though it was vacation season, musicals, concerts and ballets played in theaters.
Small concerts were performed in every corner of the cities so we could hear beautiful music as we walked down the street.
We passed by small towns and through the countryside, and everything looked well-organized.
As I was traveling through Europe, I remembered what William Boyd, an expert in education, said. He said when people in Athens walked on the street, they were seeing the world’s greatest artworks on both sides of the road. In springtime, they could watch tragedies in their designated seats at the Theater of Dionysus, from morning til night, Boyd said.
There was no other time in history that inspired such rich and diverse passions.
That was the era when just being alive provided an education, he concluded.
A city’s environment and surroundings affect the people living in it in terms of their disposition, values and lifestyles.
In a beautiful and intellectual environment, people lead a beautiful wisdom-filled life.
Ancient Greece gave birth to the Western culture of today. It influenced science, art, philosophy, religion, architecture, politics and education. According to Boyd, the most important reason why ancient Greece had a strong influence on Western culture is not only because the ancient Greeks excelled in these fields but also because their lives and surroundings were artistic and educational.
Our journey ended and we arrived in Seoul. I found the mountains surrounding Seoul, the winding Han River and the vast fields very beautiful. It is hard to find anything like the capital area’s unique scenery anywhere in Europe.
But Seoul’s houses and buildings are of all different sizes and shapes. Signs cling to buildings shouting out loud. It is hard to find order and beauty in the city.
We might not have had the luxury of caring about the city’s beauty because it was hard to even survive in the past.
But now that Korea is the world’s 13th-largest economy, let’s make our surroundings beautiful and comfortable to live in.
Let’s build more parks where people can walk, exercise and perform concerts. Let’s renovate roads and buildings so that the wind will blow through gently and waters will run smoothly.
Let’s change signs of all sizes and shapes so that they do not damage the aesthetics of the city.
If that is hard to do in Seoul, we should be able to make beautiful and educational new satellite cities. It would be very nice to live in a beautiful city.

*The writer is a professor of education at Hanyang University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Cheong Jean-gon
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