Home » Inside SafeNet » Travel Stories: Kathryn Sampson
Travel Stories: Kathryn Sampson
March 16, 2011, 09:55 am EDT
Kathryn traveled to Europe with her father and I think this is a perfect travel article as we ponder what has happened in Japan-what will remain thousands of years from now and will we have somewhat of an impact on our future generations.
Thank you Kathryn for allowing us to ponder those deep questions. Take a look at her blog:
When I graduated from college, my father agreed to take me to London for a long weekend. It was, and still is, one of the most memorable trips of my life.
Our first stop was St. Paul’s Cathedral. I really wanted to go up to the Whispering Gallery; 99 feet from the floor of the cathedral, which doesn't sound like a lot until you start climbing. The stairs wound round the tower like a lighthouse. But it was worth the effort as once you are there you can whisper into the wall, you can hear it all the way around the gallery. It was like a scene in a movie where the main character is being haunted by voices. (Think Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when he can hear the snake behind the walls.) At first, the tourists were timid and embarrassed to try the acoustics. Then the guard started encouraging people to play with the Gallery by whispering instructions for the patrons to follow. My father and I sat together on one of the benches to catch our breath and my father started making critical comments about the guy’s ensemble and joking about what he must do all day. That’s when a voice floated around the Gallery. “There are no secrets in the Whispering Gallery,” it said. Startled, we both looked up and saw the guard tip his hat to us.
Next, we hopped the tube to Westminster Abbey. I didn't realize that most of the Kings and Queens were buried there. Not to mention the graves and tributes to many famous writers, scientists, and explorers. The tombs, monuments, and effigies were absolutely amazing. Some were incredibly ornate and others were as simple as a stone slab. Then there were several that seemed to be lost in time; smooth granite slabs where the writing was worn away from centuries of pedestrians.
Elizabeth I's tomb has her lying in effigy on a massive stone bed. The guide said she is buried with her sister Mary and there's a plaque that says something about separation in life and may the Protestants and Catholics be united. It was so very cool. Then Mary, Queen of Scots is buried on the exact opposite side of the Abbey as if to balance the church. Then there was the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, front and center with highest of honors and sincere reverence. It was very striking with the black granite, gold inscription, and contrasting red flowers framing the whole thing.
But the most amazing thing to me was the area containing the stalls of the Knights of the Sacred Order of the Bath, or something like that. There were these wooden seats, originally intended for a choir, with very intricate carvings on the posts and a coat of arms displayed on a metal plate. The plates ran from the very recent to the very ancient. On top of each seat, or stall, was a knight's helmet, or something similar, with different colored banners. Two rows of these stalls on either side of the Hall with a King Henry at the end and a very ornate ceiling in the middle.
Finally, the highlight of my trip was seeing the original Beowulf manuscript. Over in a dark corner of the British Library the thousand year old treasure sits right next to an original copy of The Canterbury Tales. Two of the most important pieces in English Literature; the oldest surviving document in any European language and the oldest piece of literature in recognizable and comprehensible English were in the same case!
With everything I had seen over the weekend, I wondered what their creators would have thought of their survival. Did they have that far of a vision? As human beings are we even capable of comprehending the importance of the things we do? Fire, War, Natural Disasters can destroy so much of our efforts. In a thousand years, what will remain? Like the scene in The Day After Tomorrow, if you could save one thing, what would you preserve for future generations? What do you think would give them the best understanding of our culture? Our time here is very finite, and yet, at that moment, I felt so very connected to people long since gone. We are but pieces of this living, breathing, ever changing culture. But what are we working towards?
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