Travel to broaden students’ minds

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Travel to broaden students’ minds


On July 6, 2005, the atmosphere at Sotheby’s auction house in London was highly palpable as the auctioneer, bringing down his hammer, shouted, “Sold for 18.6 million pounds!”

The figure, around $30 million, was the highest auction price at Sotheby’s that year. The artwork by Antonio Canaletto (1697-1768) depicted a Venetian quay. Although Canaletto is unfamiliar to most Koreans, he is one of the most popular Italian painters in Europe, well known for his 18th-century landscapes of Venice. His international fame is attributed to the “Grand Tour,” which was all the rage in Europe from the mid-17th to the early 19th century.

A Grand Tour was a long-term tour of Europe undertaken by the European upper classes, especially children of British aristocrats and the neo-bourgeoisies. The purpose of the tour was to learn culture, art, manners and languages in various European countries. The major destinations of the stays varied from several months to years. In Paris, they learned sophisticated etiquette and languages of the upper-class society of France, and looked around the remains of ancient civilization in Rome and Pompeii. They expanded their artistic horizons on the Renaissance and classic arts in Florence, Pisa and Venice, enjoying friendship with scholars in Amsterdam, Berlin and Heidelberg.

A favorite place for travelers was Venice. They purchased Canaletto’s paintings in large quantities to preserve their memories for a lifetime, as these works contained detailed depictions of Venetian landscapes. This explains why his paintings found their way to art galleries throughout the whole European region.

It took a huge amount of money to undertake the Grand Tour. In addition, aristocrats were never alone. At all times they were accompanied by at least two private teachers and served by three or four servants. They carried bedclothes, entire sets of silverware and portable toilets on their wagons specially manufactured for traveling purposes. The travelers attended balls, held drinking sessions and visited brothels. However, they didn’t forget the lofty purpose of their tour. Peter I of Russia made a rough outline of national reform during his three-year tour to the Netherlands, Britain, Germany and Austria. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s sudden travel to Italy in 1786 is credited as the starting point for raising German literature of classicism to a higher position.

Mid-June is the busiest season for mothers who are zealously preparing their children for final tests and drawing study plans for the summer vacation. Many families won’t have any time to spare for travel due to their hectic schedules.

Rather than solely focusing on raising academic results, why don’t we plan a special Grand Tour for our children?

Albert Camus said, “Travel is a precious and sincere learning to lead us to ourselves.”


The writer is a deputy economic news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Na-ri [windy@joongang.co.kr]

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