Journey among legends

Photo courtesy Ivan Bertona, Unsplash!

For years, Alona and her son, Andrei, took English lessons together.  Now that he is at university, Alona continues her English lessons alone.  Here she shares their wonderful adventure together in Italy this past summer.

THIS summer, my son and I went on a bus trip along an absolutely incredible legendary route. From the capital of Ukraine we left for Lviv, Ukraine—a very beautiful old city, which at different times belonged to different states. From there we went to Poland. The city of ancient legends Krakow met us with wonderful weather and the beautiful Wawel castle. It was the first real castle I ever visited. Everything looked like something from a fairy tale: unconquerable walls, tales of the dragon Smok and brave knights.                                                                                                                                                                                   

     But that was only the beginning!  Next was the Austrian Salzburg. For people like me, residents of the forests and steppes of Ukraine, views of the medieval fortress of 1077 were breathtaking. The landscapes were so beautiful that each photo can be hung on the wall or printed in a magazine. These were the kinds of places that inspired Mozart. The architecture of the city makes a wedding cake out of every home.                                                                 

     We had not managed to collect all our impressions and recover from what we saw when we were already brought to Italy. There, such a stream of miracles fell upon us—such fantastic excursions—that the first evening when we discussed our day, we remembered with great surprise that we saw the leaning tower of Pisa that day! But the memory had completely faded and was lost in the background of the Uffizi Gallery and the masterpieces of sculpture and architecture that we saw in Florence: Rafael and Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci and another 5,000 pieces of art from different artists and eras. This is a city that is able to fall in love with itself at first sight! 

     I thought that after such impressions I could no longer be surprised and take in new wonders. But ahead of us was the Great City—Rome.  From one word “Colosseum,” the goosebumps run over your skin. Suddenly, before my eyes appeared pictures from the battles of gladiators and terrifying battles with wild animals. Then something even more amazing: you learn of the construction of the building, its technical abilities and speed of construction, something that surprises even modern builders. In just 7 years, 2500 years ago, a double amphitheater was built for 50,000 spectators. On hot days, an awning was pulled over it. Water through aqueducts allowed not only the audience to drink freely, but also to bring water to fill the arena to make it possible to arrange a naval battle on ships! Numerous rooms with elevators were arranged under the arena that allowed animals and people to suddenly appear in the arena. Imagine that all spectators could leave the Coliseum at the same time in just 5 minutes. The Romans were incredible builders of temples, roads, water pipes and sewers. All this still works. 

     Rome treats tourists and residents of the city with delicious water from ancient aqueducts for free. And this water fills incredible Roman fountains. Here, instead of sparrows, green parrots fly between palm trees and local pine trees.  Here are prepared fantastic pizzas. Here each stone you see everywhere is filled with ancient history. And here was born the culture and language that significantly influenced most countries in Europe.                                                                                                                             

     Then there was Naples with its warm sea and intimidating Vesuvius. Of course, we could not help but visit Pompeii, the ancient city buried under volcanic ash. Fantastic murals and mosaics have been preserved for future generations thanks to that eruption. Most of the city is still under a layer of ash and soil, and continues to open its mysteries to archaeologists, historians, linguists, and just simple travelers.                                                                                                     

       The Vatican is a separate tiny country, but it is big enough to constitute a great story. The city is literally a treasure chest of miracles from around the world from ancient times to the present day. It is a sacred place for Catholic Christians. It holds words of knowledge hidden in ancient books. It holds masterpieces of art from which it is impossible to break away. 

     It was here that I first heard how a real organ sounds!  The sound carried me back to my childhood when I never dreamed I would be able to hear such a sound myself. My childhood passed in the USSR. Then almost none of its citizens could travel the world. When I was in art school at a lesson in my art history class, we were shown illustrations from magazines and books and told in what museums these masterpieces were stored. The teacher then said, “Most likely you will never be able to see this for real, so enjoy these reproductions.”  Now thirty years have passed and a lot has changed.  I myself came face to face with the beauty of the real frescoes of the Sistine Chapel and Pieta Michelangelo—touched to tears when I remembered my teacher’s words. —Alona


 ©preInterestEng. July 2013  §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff or used with permission.  §  To contact us: